The Comprehensive Examination is an integral component of the PhD Program. 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.
Areas to be Examined
The concentration areas covered in the comprehensive exam includes a selected course area as well as Methodology Analysis. The student must identify the concentration area from the following list:
- Artificial Intelligence/Knowledge Management/Decision Support Systems
- Database/Data Mining
- Health Informatics
- Human-centered Computing
- Systems and Software
The department publishes reading lists for each of these concentration areas and for the areas of Methodology Analysis and for General Information System knowledge. Students are expected to be very familiar with the articles on the selected concentration area and may be asked questions on the research methodology courses they have taken.
Students planning to take the examination in a given semester must notify the Graduate Program Director through email by the Friday of the first week each semester. All students taking the exam are given the same integrative question. This question is intentionally broad in order to allow each student a degree of latitude in answering the question. Each student is to answer the integrative question individually; that is, examinees are not to discuss the question or possible answers among themselves or with any faculty member.
The answer to the integrative question must be original work and not contain material previously written by the students for other assignments (although past work can be cited).
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 only the Graduate Program Director for a clarification of the question, it is important to realize that understanding the question and possible approaches to answering it are part of the examination. Students must submit their answers by email to the Graduate Program Director on the required submission date.
Along with the answer to the integrative question, each examinee must also submit at the same time a dossier that includes:
- List of courses taken: Using a departmental form the student will list the five area courses and two methodology courses he/she has taken. This form must be filled out and included in the dossier;
- Self-assessment including strengths and weaknesses;
- Copies of all papers (published as well as unpublished course papers)
N.B.: Once the integrative question is released to those who are taking the examination, examinees may not withdraw from the examination. Students who do not submit their answers on the submission date receive an automatic Failure on the Comprehensive Examination.
Following the submission of the answer to the integrative question, each student is given an Oral Examination. This must be taken in the same semester when the student answered the integrative question. The oral exam is approximately a two-hour closed exam. The student may bring notes, papers, and any other materials to the oral examination.
The comprehensive exam committee for each student is a three member committee. Two members are faculty from the concentration area selected by the student. The student is to ask faculty members to serve on the comprehensive exam committee. The examinee’s mentor is excluded from the committee. The Graduate Program Director appoints the third committee member from faculty serving on the Graduate Program Committee.
The Oral Examination begins with the student giving a presentation on the answer to the integrative question. The presentation should not exceed thirty minutes. Following the presentation, the comprehensive exam committee examines the student on the answer to the integrative question, the selected concentration area and methodological analysis. In addition, the student should be prepared for in-depth and detailed discussions on all the papers on the respective readings lists; that is, the general Information Systems knowledge, methodology analysis and the selected area reading list. While the student should be extremely competent in understanding and discussing these papers, the student should augment these readings by appropriate additional papers. The student should also be prepared to discuss the research that was the focus of the Independent Studies courses.
The examination committee notifies the examinee within 24 hours concerning the outcome of the Comprehensive Examination. The comprehensive exam result is a numeric score ranging from 0 to 10 with 5 being the lowest passing grade. The student is notified of a PASS (grades of at least 5) or FAIL (grades less than 5). Since the mentor will not be present during the exam, there will be feedback to both the mentor and the student. In case of failure this feedback will document the failure points so that the student and the mentor can plan forward.
Students who fail the examination may attempt the exam a second time. Failing the examination a second time results in dismissal from the PhD program.
New Comprehensive Examination Time Table (Effective Spring 2015)
June 1: Reading lists for the following academic year will be announced.
- August 1: Last day to email IS Graduate Program Director about intention to take the exam in Fall semester along with name of mentor and primary area.
- August 15: Integrative question is emailed to the examinees. (N.B. After this date the student cannot withdraw from the examination). Students should also email the Graduate Program Director names of two committee members as well as the dossier (excluding the answer to integrative questions).
- September 8: The students are notified by the Graduate Program Director the name of the third committee member.
- September 15: Answer to integrative question is submitted.
- October 6: The last day for completing Oral examinations. In case that date is in the weekend, the following Monday will be the last day.
- January 2: Last day to email IS Graduate Program Director about intention to take the exam in Spring semester along with name of mentor and primary area.
- January 15: Integrative question is emailed to the examinees. (N.B. After this date the student cannot withdraw from the examination). Students should also email the Graduate Program Director names of two committee members as well as the dossier (excluding the answer to integrative questions).
- February 8: The students are notified by the Graduate Program Director the name of the third committee member.
- February 15: Answer to integrative question is submitted.
March 8: The last day for completing Oral examinations. In case that date is in the weekend, the following Monday will be the last day.