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PhD Admission at HBS

Our PhD admission is committee-based. Although individual faculty members can have some input, the ultimate decision is made by the admissions committee. That being said, if you have general questions about HBS and its PhD program, feel free to email me.


I am generally interested in advising students on a wide range of macro-topics, from inequality and culture to history and strategy. In general, I read widely and would like to work with students on a variety of topics, including those topics that I have not studied. However, I am more selective when it comes to methodology: I mostly work with students who like to work with large quantitative data, as I have limited experience with qualitative research and lab experiments. I am also eager to work with students who use a more machine learning approach.


Lastly, you do not have to be at HBS to work with me. In fact, several of my coauthors are PhD students in other institutions.


Research Associate

If you are interested in working for me as a research associate, feel free to email me your CV and write a brief cover letter. You can work for me either part-time or full-time, although my full-time opening is very limited.


Research associates need to possess strong quantitative skills. We use mostly Stata for data analyses and occasionally python. You need to have a general understanding of statistics and causal inference. Of course, if you are highly committed to pursuing a PhD in this field, you can always learn these skills while working as a part-time research associate.


What is a PhD in management?

In short, management scholars study organizations and markets. But this is very broadly defined. For example, my first paper studies racial bias among NBA basketball coaches. At first I did not think this would constitute a management topic. But after speaking to a more senior colleague in the field, I decided to send it to management journal ASQ. The review process went very smoothly and none of the reviewers questioned the paper’s fit. Later, I realize that many scholars in business schools study a variety of non-business-related topics, such as the history of kinship ties, the cultural evolution of humor, and the landscape of scientific research.  My point here is that topics studied in business schools is much broader than what many would initially assume.


Perhaps because management research lacks a clear definition, its landscape is super confusing. I did my PhD in sociology, and it took me years to figure out the different subfields in management. So if you are new to this, let me give you a brief overview.


There are three subfields within management: Organization Theory (OT), Strategy, and Organizational Behavior (OB). Sometimes OT is also known as macro-OB and OB is called micro-OB. Although these subfields differ in their topics, level of analyses, and even methodological approaches, they also have considerable overlap. Very roughly speaking, OT studies how organizations behave at a more macro-level, such as how organizational practices influence individuals and how organizations interact with their institutional environment. OB explores more micro topics such as what incentivize workers and how to work in a diverse team. Strategy is generally concerned about the best firm strategy to improve performance.


OT and Strategy take place at a more macro-level and OB is more micro. Methodologically, most study OT and Strategy using either quantitative observational data or qualitative interviews/ethnographies, and most study OB using either smaller-scale surveys or online/lab experiments. Although these subfields are considered standalone fields, OT is heavily influenced by sociology, OB has closer ties to social psychology, and Strategy historically has some connection with economics. Sometimes entrepreneurship and international business are considered distinct subfields, although most studies on these are approached using either OT, OB, or Strategy theories.


To get a flavor of the type of research for each subfield, you can check out their top journals. For OT, I would recommend Administrative Science Quarterly; Strategy’s flagship journal is Strategic Management Journal; and many OB scholars like Academy of Management Journal. The other commonly mentioned top journals in management are the three “Sciences”: Management Science, Organization Science, and Strategy Science.


Almost all schools have Strategy and OB programs. OB scholars probably constitute the largest group by number, closely followed by Strategy scholars. In contrast, OT is a much more niched field: only some US and international schools (usually the very top programs) have a group of OT scholars. Thus, if you pursue the pure OT track, be prepared that there would be fewer faculty positions available down the road. What many have done is to combine their OT interest with another interest, usually Strategy or Entrepreneurship, and I have seen many folks who have successfully done that.

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