PhD students present first-year research papers that explore everyday things

A year of research and hard work has culminated with first-year research paper presentations for three PhD students in the W. P. Carey Department of Information Systems. The research reports provide an in-depth look at Uber, online labor markets, and movie releases to find out how they affect people, businesses, and processes.

The primary focus of the doctoral program is on preparing students to become scholars, according to the Doctoral Program Handbook. The first-year paper is a crucial part of the PhD training program and a good assessment of the students' potential to succeed in their academic careers, said Associate Professor of Information Systems Benjamin Shao. The doctoral program committee is evaluating the papers to determine if they pass the program requirement.

The three students, all originally from China, chose topics that interest them and immersed themselves in the multi-faceted research process, which includes brainstorming, data collection, analysis, and writing.

An Uber assessment

Ziru Li looked at Uber, the ride-sharing and car service mobile app, and examined how the service affects traffic congestion. Uber and similar companies have grown in popularity tremendously over the past few years. Li’s question in her first-year paper was how this new trend is changing the transportation industry and how the data might be used to help decision makers.

Her extensive research shows Uber does, in fact, ease traffic congestion.

Li said the ride-sharing services’ original business model has disrupted many traditional transportation industries. Uber has fundamentally changed the mechanism to facilitate the matching of demand with supply in real time, she said.

Li plans to continue her research work and go into academics once she completes her PhD.

A look at online labor markets

Chen Liang focused on online labor markets — two-sided platforms that connect employers with freelance contractors. The idea for her first-year paper stemmed from a conversation with her advisors about a new monitoring system on a popular freelance website and the effects of that monitoring system. They had different theories about the outcome, so Liang decided to dig further.

“My paper investigates whether the implementation of an IT-enabled monitoring system mitigates moral hazard in online platforms and the consequences thereof,” she said.

Liang said the unique digital infrastructure of these online labor markets is transforming the way companies and workers interact. Websites, like the one that sparked Liang’s interest, are at the forefront of this phenomenon, she said.

“Our results suggest that IT-enabled monitoring systems have a significant effect on alleviating moral hazards, reducing agency costs, and intensifying supply-side platform competition,” she said.

Several conferences have already accepted the paper for discussion and review, Liang said. After graduation, she would like to be a faculty member at a top research school.

Money makers in the movies

Xueyan Yin has always been interested in the entertainment industry. “I love to watch movies,” she said. ”I go to the theater almost every week to watch new releases.”

During her regular visits to the box office, she noticed that some movie studios vary the theatrical window — the amount of time after a film comes out in the theater and the time before it is released on video. Yin wanted to find out if the timeframe affects the film’s revenue.

Her research found that contrary to what most movie studios believe the theatrical window does not influence box office revenue, video sales, or pirated copy downloads. Yin also learned that both box office and video sales increase the longer a movie plays in the theater.

Yin said she enjoys digging into the topics that interest her and hopes to become a teacher and independent researcher after receiving her PhD. “I love to talk and teach,” she said. “I enjoy communicating with students about their different opinions in life.”

Each student received assistance and guidance from their advisors in the W. P. Carey School of Business.

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