Areas of Specialization and Course Requirements

This section provides a brief description of each of the three areas of specialization within the department and lists the required courses for each area.  Beyond these required courses, students have the flexibility to construct a set of courses that supports their progress towards the completion of a dissertation. The particular program of study adopted by the student should be developed in consultation with the student’s advisor.

Decision Processes (DP)

DP focuses on making choices when faced with ambiguity, uncertainty and conflicting views and motivations of the principal stakeholders. This specialization gives students a theoretical basis and applied orientation for studying the behavior of individuals, firms and policymakers. Students are guided by formal, normative models of how decisions should be made by individuals and groups, based on economic and statistical decision theories, as well as by descriptive analyses of how decisions are actually made, drawing on recent work in cognitive and experimental psychology as well as experimental economics.

In addition to the departmental core course and Wharton Statistics requirements, DP students are required to take two economics courses (most often ECON 681-682).  Beyond these requirements, students typically take courses in statistics, economics, marketing, psychology, and organizational behavior.  These courses are offered by the OID Department, Wharton’s Management, Marketing, and Statistics Department, as well as Penn’s Psychology Department.

The qualifying exam in DP typically draws from material covered in OIDD 900, along with that covered in the students’ core economics and statistics sequences.

Information Systems (IS)

The IS track covers a broad range of research interests.  Students interested in information and decision technology (IDT) focuses on the analytical and information technology-based methods for managing complex organizations.   Those interested in information strategy and economics (ISE) focus on understanding the strategic aspects of information and information management.

In addition to the department core and core statistics sequence, all students focusing on IS are required to take a year-long microeconomics sequence (ECON 681-682 or ECON 701- 703).

Beyond these required courses, IS students typically pursue courses that support their specific research interests.  Those with an interest in IDT concentrate on the theory, development, and application of computer-implemented technology for solving problems.  As such their coursework may include courses related to knowledge discovery and data mining, computation of equilibria, and logic modeling, to name a few.  These courses may be offered by the OID Department, Wharton’s Marketing or Statistics Department, Penn’s Computing & Information Science Department, and other departments across the university.  Students with an interest in ISE take additional courses on the methodological and theoretical foundations in economic theory, statistics/econometrics, and information technology. The qualifying exam for IS students typically draws from material covered in OIDD 955, along with that covered in the students’ core economics and statistics sequences.

Operations Management/Operations Research (OM/OR)

OM / OR focuses on the processes that define an organization’s outputs, as well as the methods commonly used to analyze these processes.  Students specializing in OM are interested in a wide range of functions and organizational types, including operations strategy, product design, process design, technology management, capacity planning, inventory control, supply chain management and service system planning.   Students interested in OR focus more on the application of mathematical models to these areas.

Because a strong knowledge of OR tools is an important foundation for much of OM research, OM / OR students are required to master the same set of coursework.  In addition to department core courses and the Wharton statistics requirement, OM / OR course requirements are as follows:

  • A year of microeconomics (ECON 681-682 or ECON 701-703)
  • Optimization and mathematical programming (OIDD 912 and OIDD 910)
  • Stochastic models and dynamic programming (OIDD 930, OIDD 931, and OIDD 934)
  • An advanced course in operations management (OIDD 941)

Beyond these required courses, OM / OR students take a wide range of methodologically-oriented course offered by the OID Department and Wharton’s Marketing and Statistics Departments,  as well as the Economics Department and other departments around the university.  Many OM / OR students take a sufficient number of statistics that they obtain a Master’s in Statistics on their way to completing an OID Department Ph.D.

Examples of tools courses that students can take include the following: advanced linear programming (OIDD 913), advanced nonlinear programming (OIDD 914), game theory (ECON 713), integer programming (OIDD 916), queuing theory (OIDD 932), and research methods (BEPP 900 or MGMT 953).

The qualifying exam in OM / OR typically draws from material covered in OIDD 930, OIDD 931, and OIDD 940.