Doctor of Philosophy in Information Systems

Admission Requirements | Program Requirements | Course Requirements | Our Doctoral Students | Frequently Asked Questions

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, including the following:

  1.  All significant work/papers written that year
  2.  A statement of learning specific to the program of doctoral study
  3.  A statement describing future plans (areas needing more course work and preliminary dissertation areas, if available)
  4.  A list of all courses
  5.  A list of all grades received
  6.  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 for evaluation. 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. Doctoral students need to attend at least four out of five lectures of the open seminar to be able to take the comprehensive exam.

Courses: Doctoral students are required to complete two methodology courses, five area courses, and two independent studies. Please visit the course requirements page for more information.

Comprehensive Exam: Doctoral students are required to pass a comprehensive exam. Through this examination a doctoral student demonstrates the requisite knowledge of the discipline as well as the competencies that are necessary to continue doctoral studies by conducting original research. For details of the exam, please visit the comprehensive exam page. Normally a student should pass the exam by end of second year (up to one year extension can be asked).

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 requirements in the same semester when they take the exam. If a student fails to finish comprehensive exam within the allowed time,  then he or she will be considered to automatically have taken the comprehensive exam and failed in each subsequent semester. 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.

Proposal Defense and Candidacy: Doctoral students are required to defend their proposal. The format of the defense is similar to dissertation defense: the student needs to choose a mentor (chair of the dissertation committee) and form a dissertation committee, conduct preliminary research, write a dissertation proposal, and defend the proposal in front of the dissertation committee.

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 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.  After passing the proposal defense, the student will be admitted into candidacy and can register in IS 899. Before proposal defense, the student needs to register in IS 898 instead (billed at 1/3 rate).  A student must be admitted to candidacy within five years after admission to the doctoral program.

Dissertation: Each doctoral student will conduct and report on a significant original research project under the guidance of his or her dissertation advisor.  This research must be completed and defended within four years of admission to candidacy. Students must register for at least two (2) semesters of 899, and continue to register for 899 until degree completion. While two semesters is required, there is no maximum number of 899 courses for which a student may enroll.

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.

A typical doctoral program might appear as follows:

For student’s with a master’s degree…

Year 1 Fall Spring
Methodology Course Methodology Course
Area Course Area Course
Independent Study Independent Study
Open Seminar

First Year Dossier Review

Year 2 Fall Spring
Comprehensive exam
IS 898


Second half of year 2 – year n IS 898
Proposal defense
IS 899
Dissertation defense

For student’s without a master’s degree…

Year 1 Fall Spring
Methodology Course Methodology Course
Area Course Area Course
Area Course Area Course
Open Seminar

First Year Dossier Review

Year 2 Fall Spring
Area Course  Comprehensive exam
Independent Study  IS 898 (pre-candidacy research)



Year 3 – Year n IS 898
Proposal defense
IS 899*
Dissertation defense


*A minimum of 2 semesters of IS 899 is required.