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Doctor of Philosophy in Information Systems

The Ph.D. program offered by the Department of Information Systems is a research degree program. The program is designed for students with a bachelor’s or master’s degree from a variety of disciplines. However, additional courses may be required based on the student’s educational history. The doctoral program is intended for serious students who desire to make significant scientific research contributions to the field of Information Systems. Students are admitted to the Ph.D. degree program in the Fall and Spring semesters.While course work is required, it is important to understand that satisfactorily completing course work is not the goal of a doctoral program. A doctoral candidate is required to produce a publishable doctoral dissertation based upon the candidate’s original research. The dissertation must necessarily advance the body of scientific knowledge that underlies the discipline of Information Systems.

Consequently, it is essential for doctoral candidates to develop a rapport and mutual interests with a member of the faculty. It is expected that doctoral students develop their own research agenda or become intensely involved with a faculty member’s research. The latter may include assisting a professor in planning and conducting research as well as analyzing the results.

A critical component of a doctoral candidate’s development is the dissemination of scientific information. Doctoral candidates are routinely expected to author by themselves or co-author with their professors and fellow students scholarly papers for submission to scientific journals and conference proceedings. Doctoral candidates should also be prepared to present these research results at various national and international conferences.

For students enrolled before fall 2016, they should complete the course requirements* and comprehensive exam by the end of their sixth semester in the PhD program. Normal progress, as illustrated below, would result in both the course requirements and comprehensive review being completed during the fifth semester of study. In the case of medical or other unexpected situations, students may petition the Graduate Committee of the Information Systems Department for an extension that would allow the completion of these requirements to be delayed beyond the sixth semester.

For students enrolled in fall 2016 or after, they should finish the comprehensive exam by the end of their second year (e.g., if the student first enrolled in the program in Fall 2016, Spring 2018 is the last semester to take the comprehensive) in the program. Students are encouraged to take the comprehensive exam earlier if possible. Students are allowed to finish course requirement at the same semester when they take the exam. If a student fails to finish comprehensive exam within the allowed time, each semester beyond the allowed time will be considered as a failed attempt. In the case of medical or other unexpected situations, students may petition the Graduate Committee of the Information Systems Department for one-semester extension for up to two times. To ask for an extension, a student needs to submit a written request with reasons of why the extension is needed to the student’s mentor and GPD by July 1st for fall (the last semester the student supposes to take the exam) and December 1st for spring. The student also needs to send to the GPD and mentor a dossier summarizing the student’s progress in the program (the dossier includes the same items as the first year dossier). The student’s mentor will state whether they support the request and forward that to GPD. The graduate committee will then decide whether to approve the request based on the student’s written request, whether the study has made satisfactory progress in the program, and the mentor’s input. If a request is denied, the student has to take the exam before the deadline. If a student takes the exam but fails for the first time, the student is allowed to retake the exam in the next semester without asking for an extension.

The deadlines for the Ph.D. Program are February 1 for Fall and September 1 for Spring. All application materials must be on file in the IS department for expeditious review – incomplete files will be kept open for the following semester admission decisions.

 

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Non-degree seeking students can obtain application materials from the Graduate School’s website. Upon admission, non-degree students can take up to 2 IS courses with permission. However, permission to register is dependent upon seat availability.

Academic Admission Requirements:
  1. The majority of successful applicants have an undergraduate GPA well above 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale).
  2. All applicants must submit GRE Aptitude Test or GMAT scores.
  3. All applicants are expected to read, speak, write, and understand the English language fluently. Those whose native language is not English are required to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). The only exception to this requirement is for students who have earned a post-secondary degree from an accredited university in the United States. The minimum acceptable combined TOEFL score is 550 (written), 213 (computer based) or 80 (iBT-Internet based). Students who have received post-secondary degrees from an U.S. institution and whose native language is not English may be required to demonstrate proficiency in English. (The TOEFL code for UMBC is 5835. The Information Systems Department does not have a designated code.). We will also accept IELTS (International English Language Testing System) scores, the minimum acceptable total score is 6.5.
  4. Statement of Purpose (included in the online application). Please elaborate on the following: what research area you are interested in, why, and what are your career goals
  5. Three letters of recommendation
  6. Official transcripts of all post-secondary schools (Electronic Transcripts: If you are submitting transcripts electronically, please forward to Kathie Nee (nee@umbc.edu) for domestic applications and to Kathy Ruth (ruth@umbc.edu) for international applications.

The IS PhD program builds on an understanding of the design, development, analysis, and use of computer-based information systems. Successful applicants will have demonstrated aptitude and/or interest in one or more of these areas. In addition, applicants should have or be willing to acquire the necessary competence in statistical analysis, experimental design, programming, databases, and computer networks in order to conduct sophisticated research at the doctoral level.

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Program Requirements:

An admitted doctoral student is strongly encouraged to identify a mentor by the end of the first semester in the program. All doctoral students must have a mentor and a tentative committee by the end of their second semester in the program. During the student’s first year of doctoral work, if they have not already identified a mentor, all course scheduling must be approved by the Director of the Graduate Program to ensure compliance with the program. The Director of the Graduate Program will function as an advisor to first year doctoral students unless they have already designated a faculty mentor.

Doctoral students are also expected to attend all research seminars, doctoral proposals and dissertation defenses, and any colloquia with guest speakers as part of their learning experience.

First Year Dossier: At the end of the doctoral student’s first year, a dossier must be prepared which includes all significant work/papers written that year, a statement of learning specific to the program of doctoral study and a statement describing future plans: areas needing more course work and preliminary dissertation areas, if available. The dossier should include a list of all courses, grades received, and the name of the student’s advisor who may or may not chair ultimately the student’s dissertation committee. The dossier should be submitted electronically to the Graduate Program Director. The dossier will be evaluated by the Graduate Program Director. The purpose of the review is to assess the student’s progress in the program, and to determine if the student should proceed into the second year of doctoral study. The student will be informed by email if their progress is satisfactory, not satisfactory and needs specific improvement, or is not satisfactory to continue.

Open Seminar: New doctoral students are required to attend the Open Seminar, which presents the different research areas in the IS department. The Open Seminar is not a course – it is a set of lectures and it is offered once a year (preferably during the Fall semester) to introduce new doctoral students to research areas in the department. Successful completion of the open seminar, which is evaluated as part of the first year dossier, is a prerequisite to the comprehensive exam.

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Minimum Course Requirements:
  1. The student’s mentor can add more course requirements to the ones below depending on the student’s level of competence, research productivity, and progress
  2. Doctoral students must complete the required two (2) methodology courses during their first year of study.
  3. In addition, doctoral students must take 5 area courses (details below).
  4. All doctoral students must take two Independent Studies.
Methodology Courses:
  1. Two methodology courses are required
  2. Any relevant IS 800 level class may be taken with the approval of the student’s mentor or the Graduate Program Director.
  3. Any relevant graduate non-IS 600/700/800 level courses may be taken with the approval of the student’s mentor or the Graduate Program Director.
Area Courses:

Doctoral students must take five (5) courses, called “area courses” from the research areas of the IS department according to the following rules:

  • At least two courses must be taken from the student-selected primary research area (mentor suggests the remaining ones)
  • IS 600, 610, 613, 650, 651 and 652 are not to be taken for credit in the Ph.D. Program
  • At least two courses taken must be at the 700 or 800 level
Artificial Intelligence / Knowledge Management Courses:
  1. Any relevant IS 800 level class may be taken with the approval of the student’s mentor or the Graduate Program Director.
  2. Any relevant non-IS 600/700/800 level courses may be taken with the approval of the student’s mentor or the Graduate Program Director.
Database / Data Mining Courses:
  1. Any relevant IS 800 level class may be taken with the approval of the student’s mentor or the Graduate Program Director.
  2. Any relevant graduate non-IS 600/700/800 level courses may be taken with the approval of the student’s mentor or the Graduate Program Director.
Health Informatics Courses:
  1. Any relevant IS 800 level class may be taken with the approval of the student’s mentor or the Graduate Program Director.
  2. Any relevant graduate non-IS 600/700/800 level courses may be taken with the approval of the student’s mentor or the Graduate Program Director.
Human-Centered Computing Courses:
  1. Any relevant IS 800 level class may be taken with the approval of the student’s mentor or the Graduate Program Director.
  2. Any relevant graduate non-IS 600/700/800 level courses may be taken with the approval of the student’s mentor or the Graduate Program Director.
Systems and Software Courses:
  1. Any relevant IS 800 level class may be taken with the approval of the student’s mentor or the Graduate Program Director.
  2. Any relevant graduate non-IS 600/700/800 level courses may be taken with the approval of the student’s mentor or the Graduate Program Director.
Miscellaneous Courses: (NOTE: This is not a research area – however students may use one of the courses below as their 5th course)
Independent Studies:
  1. Doctoral students must take two (2) Independent Study courses
  2. The first independent study with the mentor and the second either with the mentor or with another faculty member based on the mentor’s approval.

MS degree: Ph.D. students who have successfully completed 30 credits are awarded a MS degree

Students with earned MS degrees: Doctoral students with previously earned Masters degrees may be excused from a maximum of six (6) courses, but must complete at least two courses at the 700/800 level at the Information Systems department. The student’s mentor must approve the course waivers.

Comprehensive Exam Policy

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Comprehensive Review Reading List

After a doctoral student passes the comprehensive exam can prepare the proposal defense, and can register in IS 898 courses.

Following a successful proposal defense, the doctoral student becomes doctoral candidate and can register for dissertation courses (IS 899).

Notes:
  1. Doctoral students must maintain a B average, (i.e., 3.0 GPA).
  2. Graduate students may be recommended for dismissal after earning three Cs (this includes C+, C, or C-), one D or one F in any graduate level course.
  3. Doctoral students may not count courses that are audited as part of the Ph.D. program and may not take courses under the Pass/Fail option.
  4. All graduate students should also consult the University Graduate School Catalog which contains the University’s regulations and procedures for earning degrees.
  5. Doctoral students should especially note the Graduate School’s regulations on University residency requirements.
  6. IS 600, 610, 613, 650, 651 and 652 are not to be taken for credit in the Ph.D. Program.
  7. A PhD dissertation proposal must be pre-approved by the mentor and submitted to the dissertation proposal committee at least three weeks prior to the proposal defense.
  8. A PhD dissertation must be pre-approved by the mentor and submitted to the dissertation committee at least one month prior to the final defense.
  9. A PhD dissertation or proposal committee must satisfy the following conditions: 1) the committee should have at least five members; 2) at least one member should be external to the Department of Information Systems; 3) at least three members are from the Department of Information Systems; 4) the largest number of members (not necessary majority) must be from the Department of Information Systems (e.g., if your committee has six members, then you can have three from IS department, two from place A and one from place B).
A typical doctoral program might appear as follows:
Fall Spring
Year 1 Methodology Course Methodology Course
Area 1 course Area 1 course
Area 2 course Area 2 course
First Year Dossier Review
Year 2 Area 1
IS 801 Comprehensive Exam
IS 801 IS 898
Proposal Defense
Year 3 – Year n IS 899* IS 899*
Dissertation Defense

*NOTE: Completion of IS 899 requires a minimum of 18 credit hours

If you need any further information, please contact Shannon Keegan (keegan@umbc.edu).

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