Originally published on August 29, 2016

I received the following query:

“I have a total nine years of work experience in knowledge management. I have worked in consulting, IT, and the finance sector in knowledge management, presales and social media. I have worked on several knowledge repositories, user behavior, Web 2.0 technology, search technologies and open source software for content management. My educational credentials: Master’s in Documentation and Information Science, Master of Arts (Statistics), Bachelor’s in Library and Information Science.

I am extremely keen on pursuing research on knowledge management, primarily on social media/digital marketing/information retrieval/user behavior. I am still thinking of a suitable area of research at the moment. I would be really obliged if you could suggest a few good universities where I can pursue a PhD in knowledge management.

I would also like to know about the scope of knowledge management overall in the academic world. What are the areas that are presently picking up in the universities?”

I replied and asked some colleagues to do so as well. Here are the replies.

1. My reply:

A Ph.D. in knowledge management is not generally available. Most KM graduate programs award a master’s degree. Look under “Universities” on KM Training for links to graduate programs.

2. Professor Hazel Hall PhD MA BA FCLIP FHEA

“Your research interests align closely with those of the academic staff and research students within the Centre for Social Informatics at Edinburgh Napier University. To find out more about PhDs in our group and how to make an application, please see my site.”

3. John P. Girard, Ph.D.

“I recommend you take a look at Bangkok University.”

4. Vincent Ribière, Ph.D., D.Sc.

“My colleagues will get back to you with more detailed information on the application process for our program. We currently have 45 PhD students enrolled.”

5. Michael Sutton, PhD

“I am a Dissertation Chair at Grand Canyon University, and a Dissertation Coach at two other universities. I have very high expectations of my doctoral candidates. A specialization of some sort is required, depending upon one’s interest in Organizational KM, KM Systems, KM Engineering, KM Strategy, KM Marketing, KM in Management, KM in Info Science, KM & Innovation, KM & Intellectual Capital, etc.

Today, many universities are willing to fashion a PhD around KM, but it will normally be in a more traditional field, since KM is multidisciplinary. I support, assist, and help seriousindividuals interested in furthering their high education.”

6. Murray E. Jennex, Ph.D., P.E., CISSP, CSSLP, PMP

“I’m going to take a different approach to this answer. First, I examine many KM Ph.D. dissertations from universities around the world as I am the editor in chief of the International Journal of Knowledge Management and the co-Track Chair of the Knowledge, Innovation, and Entrepreneurial Systems at the Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences. I’m also associated with the Bangkok University program.

To me, looking for a Ph.D. program in KM is not all that useful and as Stan said, most terminal KM degrees are at the Master level. The reason for that is that a Ph.D. is a research degree, meaning that at many universities once you get the Master degree in KM and wish to go on, you would do your Ph.D. level seminars in how to do research and then do a dissertation in KM. This is what most universities do when asked about a Ph.D. in KM. It is what I did for my Ph.D. although I got it back in 1996 and my university called it Organizational Memory, OM. Still, I have a Ph.D. in MIS with the dissertation in OM making it essentially a Ph.D. in KM.

I know this sounds convoluted, but what it means is that the Ph.D. program was situated in the IS discipline so that at the Master level I took courses in database, systems analysis, networking, etc. In 2016 students would take much of the same but also add courses in social media, security, etc. The specialty of the Ph.D. is decided by the topic of the dissertation. This is the same for data analytics, security, etc. Most universities have the generic Ph.D. with the dissertation deciding the focus.

That said, what I suggest is look for KM researchers and see what universities they are at. In Germany my research partner, Dr. Stefan Smolnik, leads a very good KM research group at the University of Hagen. Another very good research group is with Dr. Ronald Maier in Austria, and Dr. Alexander Richter is starting one at the University of Copenhagen. There is another group in Sweden and a good group in Finland. All these are centered on the traditional Ph.D with the research dissertation in KM.

The value of this approach is you need to decide what you want out of your KM, and you seem to be focused on social media. Many universities support this.”

7. Arthur Shelley, PhD, MSc, BS

“It is good to see you getting a variety of great advice from some wonderful people. One of the basic essences of KM is to ask good questions of experienced people.

I advise the best way to approach a PhD is to start doing some research and find something that you are deeply interested in researching further. It will become apparent during your exploration who the experts are in the area of research you are most interested in and you should then approach the relevant experts seeking to study with them (demonstrating your interest in their work and what you question you would like to research). The research question you seek to explore needs to be your own and something you have a passion for as it will occupy 3–4 years of your life. If you are not deeply interested in it, you will struggle to keep it as a high priority (which it needs to be for good research and your interest/enjoyment of the learning).

Typically, here is Australia a PhD candidate needs to prepare a detailed research proposal in order to be accepted to enroll in a PhD. This investment in prework is not lost as it is all able to be included. The Universities do this to ensure the candidate is serious about the endeavor and also to get some idea about the quality of the student for entry purposes.

Different universities (and countries) have very different rules about PhD study. In some countries it is very expensive to complete a PhD (especially of you are not a citizen of that country) and in other countries it is free for citizens. In Germany one can study for free (perhaps even get an allowance to do so), but in Australia it would cost a lot unless you had a sponsor or a scholarship.”

8. Dr. Shantanu Ganguly, M.Sc, M.LibSc, MBA, PGDCA, PhD

“That is very interesting advice from across the globe on KM. Based on your profile, I have following suggestions:

  1. Why do you want to pursue a PhD in KM? Do you want to be faculty or just to prefix the “Dr.” word? If you want to continue in the corporate sectors only and not as faculty, then I would suggest leave aside your PhD, as it’s of no use.
  2. Go for some specialized courses on “Big Data Analytics”, Social Media Analytics and their usage in Business Decision Making Process. Currently KM has gone into different levels such as KM suite or SECM (Social Enterprise Collaboration Model).
  3. I would suggest going for a PMP course, which aligns with your KM assignments.”

9. Dr. Randhir Pushpa

“A PhD in KM is not a value-add in industry. If it is a burning desire to learn more on KM and contribute to this field, then it makes sense.”

10. Manesa K K, Ph.D. (IIT Kharagpur)

“A Ph.D. in Knowledge Management can be pursued as a specialization within a certain stream of management since the concept of KM is very overarching and multi-disciplinary in nature. Your background, as per my little understanding, happens to be in taxonomy and aspects related to codifying & organizing knowledge in a scientific manner.

In order to define the scope of your research, it would be ideal to consider gaps in existing research that have limitations in promoting a structured way to capture, share and reuse of knowledge in a certain industry (for instance banking). Or, you could also explore the dynamics of structured/unstructured knowledge sharing and reuse in a virtual world where the source of knowledge could be anonymous.

Nevertheless, whatever be your area of research, you will need to identify a base stream like finance, marketing, human resource management or operations as the context within which you would pursue the study of knowledge management. Many universities worldwide do not offer a Ph.D. program in Knowledge Management as separate/independent stream of study.”

I also answered two questions in Quora about KM research topics:

Topics for graduate research in KM

  1. What are effective ways to get people to overcome their reluctance to ask questions openly?
  2. What are effective ways to motivate people to share and reuse knowledge, including formal goals, recognition, rewards, and gamification?
  3. What are effective ways to help people move from using email for everything to using it for what it does best, and using other tools for what they do best?
  4. How can the glut of information flow be managed more effectively so that people can pay attention to the things that matter the most and not be distracted by other noise?
  5. How can cognitive computing be used to optimize searching, sharing, and paying attention to important information?
  6. Define a set of metrics that have been used effectively to actively monitor and improve KM programs and enterprise collaboration
  7. Prove or debunk the 90–9–1 rule of thumb for participation and community engagement
  8. Prove or debunk the value of maturity models for knowledge management, enterprise collaboration, and related areas
  9. Prove or debunk the validity of computing the return on investment (ROI) of knowledge management and enterprise collaboration
  10. Prove or debunk the value of best practice replication and lessons learned databases

See also this thread in the SIKM Leaders Community.

Knowledge Management Author and Speaker, Founder of SIKM Leaders Community, Community Evangelist, Knowledge Manager https://sites.google.com/site/stangarfield/

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