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Human-Centered Computing Comprehensive Review Policy

dsc_0025The Comprehensive Examination is an integral component of the PhD Program. Through this examination a doctoral student demonstrates the requisite breadth and depth of knowledge of the discipline as well as the competencies that are necessary to continue doctoral studies by conducting original research.

The Human-Centered Computing (HCC) Comprehensive Review consists of a Comprehensive Examination and a Portfolio Review.


Doctoral students in the HCC program are required to complete three semesters of the HCC 810 seminar before they can participate in the Comprehensive Review. They have to complete the Comprehensive Review by the end of the 6th semester of their studies. Thus, students should complete the review between their fourth and sixth semesters.

The student has to notify the HCC Graduate Program Director (GPD) by email by Friday of the first week of the semester during which (s)he intends to complete the Comprehensive Review. In the same email the student should also notify the GPD about the two selected HCC Concentration Area Reading Lists.

Comprehensive Review Committee

A three-member comprehensive review committee will be appointed for each semester. This committee will write the general reading list Comprehensive Examination questions, evaluate the answers, coordinate the writing and evaluation of the Concentration Area questions, and evaluate the Comprehensive Review Portfolio.

Comprehensive Examination

Content Areas and Reading Lists

The HCC Comprehensive Examination covers both the Core HCC reading list and the Extended HCC reading lists as well as Methodology. The five reading lists are:

Core Human-Centered Computing Reading List (30 items, same as the IS PhD Program’s HCC Comprehensive Review Reading List)

Human-Centered Computing

Four Concentration Area Reading Lists (15 items each):

  1. Accessibility, Health & Wellness
  2. Human Factors Engineering
  3. Human Information Interaction
  4. Social Computing

Updates to the reading lists are announced by June 1 for the Fall semester and September 1 for the Spring semester.

All students should read the Core HCC Reading List. Students are responsible for selecting two of the four HCC Concentration Area reading lists and notifying the Graduate Program Director about these by email by Friday of the first week of the semester during which they plan to take the exam. Students are expected to be very knowledgeable regarding the articles on the Core HCC and the two selected HCC concentration area reading lists. They are also expected to integrate material into their exam answers from the research methodology courses they have taken.

Written Exam

Students will take the exam during the second month of the semester. All students will take the exam on the same day and at the same time. The exam session will take four hours. Students will have access to all articles (in print format) and personal notes. Students cannot access electronic files or the Internet during the exam. Students cannot access the Internet during the exam. The students will receive three questions to reflect the three reading lists. They will type their answers on a computer provided by the Department.

Students are expected to adhere to the UMBC Policy on Academic Integrity. The answers to the questions must be original work and not contain material previously written by the students for assignments or other purposes. The student is free to cite material from the reading lists.
In answering the question, each student is free to make any reasonable assumptions and should clearly state these assumptions as a prelude to the answer. While an examinee is free to ask the GPD for clarification of a question, it is important to realize that understanding the question and possible approaches to answering it are part of the examination.

The written exam will be evaluated by the Comprehensive Review Committee.  Please note that anonymity is not guaranteed during this process.

Portfolio Review

Exactly two weeks after the exam, each examinee must also submit a portfolio that includes:

  1. Name of advisor
  2. List of courses taken and grades achieved
  3. Self-assessment of progress so far including strengths and weaknesses
  4. Copies of all papers (published as well as unpublished course papers)
  5. Dissertation plans

In order to develop a successful portfolio, students are recommended to demonstrate how their learning has grown since starting the graduate program, offering evidence from their completed assignments, projects and publications.  This should be done in a reflective fashion.  Students are recommended to place emphasis on developing the self-assessment of progress and plans for the intended dissertation.  Both should be explained in sufficient detail.  Contributions to knowledge should also be described.

The portfolio will be evaluated by the Comprehensive Review Committee. The HCC GPD has the right to requests revisions to the Portfolio and to defer decision if a revision was necessary

Comprehensive Review Outcomes

The students will receive a pass/fail evaluation on both the Comprehensive Exam and the Portfolio Review. A student can pass both sections, fail the exam but pass the portfolio review and vice versa, or fail both sections. If a student fails either the Comprehensive Exam or the Portfolio Review, they will have a second chance to complete the failed portion of the review the next semester. If they fail again, they will be dismissed from the doctoral program. If a student fails both the exam and the portfolio portions of the review on their first try, they will have one chance to retake both. If they fail one or both sections on the second try, they will be dismissed from the program. The HCC GPD will notify the student about the outcome of their Comprehensive Review by the end of the semester, unless the decision was deferred because of a required revision to the dossier.


  1. June1/September 1: Updates to reading lists announced
  2. Friday of the first week of the semester: Notify GPD about intent to participate in review and about the selected HCC Concentration Area reading lists
  3. Second month of the semester: Students take the written exam within a two-week period
  4. Two weeks after the written exam: Submit portfolio
  5. End of semester: Notify students about the outcome of the exam