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The PhD Journey: Four Truths You Should Know

  Jul 7, 2017

The pursuit of Doctoral Studies can either turn out to be a fulfilling journey in practice and academic rigor, or a daunting and an infuriating endeavor. These outcomes are pegged on a few significant elements crucial for the successful completion of one’s Doctoral Studies. In conversation with Professor Africa Ariño an acclaimed academician, here are four truths you should know as you plan to pursue your doctoral studies.

  • Identifying a good University and an excellent research supervisor

When embarking on your PhD journey it is very important for one to carefully select the institution of study based on the research vigor of the University and the faculty available for the supervision of your Doctoral research. An important aspect to take note of, is that research areas that align with the core focus areas of the institution and the available faculty interests are easier to gain admission on.

Some universities such as Strathmore require doctoral candidates to develop concept papers as part of the application process. A concept paper requires one to provide an overview of the research in relation to pre – existing work in your field of study, some elements of the literature review and the pre -existing gaps that your study is going to fill. The concept note should be able to elicit interest to both the institution and the faculty of choice. It should convince them of the viability of your said area of study.

  • Your research is king but your course work is queen.

Most institutions select course work material for the candidates to cover. In most cases, the course work is highly customized with an end goal of refining and polishing the candidates’ scope of work.  Candidates should make use of this opportunity to select elective units that are based on their research areas.  Writing ones PhD paper without a deep understanding of the said study area can be a daunting task.

  • Examinations are also a significant aspect of your studies

Candidates will also be expected to write comprehensive exams based on their course work. Most institutions use the candidates’ score in those examinations to gauge their intellectual competence of the area under study. Some universities have these examinations as prerequisites to writing a theses proposal and eventually the thesis paper.

  • Research

Research is the core constituent of doctoral studies and hence a significant area to excel in. Here are a few pointers that you should give a keener look to, as you embark on the journey;

  1. It won’t be easy – A PhD is an intellectual stretch aimed at advancing one’s understanding of a subject matter. In doing so, scholars are expected to contribute to the pool of knowledge in the studied field. Staying motivated and maintaining a focused mindset is pivotal in overcoming all the hurdles that may come along during one’s studies.
  2. It’s a skin toughening experience – Critics and feedback on your paper are essential in improving the quality of your work. This should be welcomed and encouraged even when the feedback is not as positive.

Strathmore Business School will be hosting its inaugural PhD Open Class Session in Business Management for individuals interested in pursuing their doctoral studies in the said field on 8th July 2017 from 7:00am – 10:00am. Click here to register.

About Professor Ariño

Dr. Ariño received her Ph.D. in Management from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). She is professor and head of the Strategic Management Department at IESE Business School, University of Navarra (Spain). In the past, she served as Deputy Dean for Faculty, and as Director of the Ph.D. Program.


She is specialized in Strategic Alliance Management, particularly in their structural design, process issues and evolutionary aspects of the inter-partner relationship. Her research has been published in first world level academic journals such as Organization ScienceStrategic Management JournalJournal of International Business Studies, and Journal of Management, among others. Also, she is author of numerous contributions in publications aimed at a managerial audience, such as California Management Review or The Academy of Management Executive. She is the co-author of the book Entrepreneurial Alliances (with Jeffrey J. Reuer and Paul Olk), co-editor of two other volumes: Strategic alliances: Governance and contracts (with Jeffrey J. Reuer) and Creating value through international strategy (with P. Ghemawat and J.E. Ricart).

Dr. Ariño is the Academic Director of the Research Centre on Globalization and Strategy at IESE Business School. She is Associate Editor of Academy of Management Discoveries and Global Strategy Journal, and serves or has served as a member of the editorial board of Strategic Management JournalJournal of International Business StudiesJournal of Management, and European Management Review.  Click here to read her full profile.


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