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University of Pittsburgh    
2018-2019 Graduate & Professional Studies Catalog 
  Dec 02, 2023
2018-2019 Graduate & Professional Studies Catalog [Archived Catalog]

Information Science - Telecommunications Focus, PhD

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PhD Degree Requirements

The Telecommunications PhD program requires a minimum of 72 credits beyond the Bachelor’s degree. The 72 credits must include the required courses (or their equivalent) for the MST degree at the University of Pittsburgh. Also included in the 72 credits are:

  • 12 credits of required courses
  • 12 credits of doctoral seminars
  • 6 credits of minor courses
  • At least 18 credits of dissertation research and writing

48 of the 72 credits must be advanced coursework beyond the MST degree (or its equivalent).

Graduation depends upon meeting the minimum credit requirements and all other requirements. Graduate degrees are conferred only on those students who have completed all courses required for the degree with at least a 3.3 GPA. Grades of C or lower are unacceptable for graduation credit.

All students who are candidates for doctoral degrees are governed by the regulations of the University Council on Graduate Study, which establishes minimum standards for graduate work throughout the University as well as by those regulations established by the iSchool faculty.

Residency Requirements:

Full-time study on campus is considered most beneficial to students, but it is recognized that students may have off-campus responsibilities as well. The PhD degree, therefore, can be completed by a combination of full-time and part-time study. Three terms of full-time study are required, two of which must be consecutive and must be taken after successful completion of the preliminary examinination. Full-time study is defined as nine or more graduate credits per term.

Preliminary Examination Requirement

The preliminary examination, according to Regulations Governing Graduate Study at the University of Pittsburgh, is held:

…to assess the breadth of the student’s knowledge of the discipline, the student’s achievement during the first year of graduate study, and the potential to apply research methods independently…. The evaluation is used to identify those students who may be expected to complete a doctoral program successfully and also to reveal areas of weakness in the student’s preparation.

The Telecommunications and Networking faculty has clarified further that the overall objectives of the preliminary examination are:

  • To test the PhD students for breadth of knowledge
  • To evaluate their skills, and their ability to apply them
  • To evaluate their ability to do research, and

The prelim will consist of undertaking a research project, submitting a research paper, and an oral presentation and defense. For more details, see

With the successful completion of the preliminary examination, the student is fully admitted to doctoral study in telecommunications. The Program Chair will notify the student, in writing, of admission to doctoral study. After admission, the student must complete the remaining coursework including doctoral level seminars; probability and statistics, research design, and information science course requirements; and the residency requirement.

Comprehensive Exam

The student must satisfactorily pass a comprehensive examination designed to assess mastery of the general field of telecommunications, acquisition of both depth and breadth in the area of specialization within the field, and ability to use the research methods of the discipline. The purpose of the comprehensive examination is to assess the student’s ability to understand a subarea of telecommunications in depth. In order to do research, a student must be able to read, understand, present, and criticize research papers in the field. It is also important that the student be able to explain such papers in depth to someone who is unfamiliar with that area. Thus, this examination centers on the development of a tutorial as well as a lecture in which the student must explain the subject to the satisfaction of the faculty. From a learning perspective, this provides the student with an experience of structuring and explaining a technical topic in detail. It is expected that a student has completed the minimum 30 credits of coursework before taking the comprehensive exam.

Candidacy and Dissertation Requirements

Doctoral students are required to take a minimum of 18 dissertation credits as part of their study. After successfully completing the comprehensive examination, the student will select a dissertation advisor and a committee. Then, the student in consultation with the dissertation advisor, must prepare a dissertation proposal which is then presented to the committee in a public session. The dissertation committee must unanimously approve the dissertation topic and research plan before the student may be admitted to candidacy for the doctoral degree. When the proposal has been successfully defended, the chair of the student’s dissertation committee shall notify the Chair of the PhD Committee, the Telecommunications Program Chair, and the Dean of the School of Information Sciences that the student has achieved formal candidacy.

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