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University of Pittsburgh    
2018-2019 Graduate & Professional Studies Catalog 
  Jul 14, 2024
2018-2019 Graduate & Professional Studies Catalog [Archived Catalog]

Information Science and Technology, PhD

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PhD Degree Requirements

There are three stages of admission to the doctoral program: (1) admission to graduate study when the student first matriculates, (2) admission to doctoral study following successful completion of the preliminary examination, and (3) admission to candidacy following successful completion of the comprehensive examination and the approval of the dissertation proposal. A minimum of 48 credits, including 30 course and seminar credits beyond the master’s degree, and at least 18 dissertation credits are required. Students without a master’s degree will be required to take a minimum 24 additional credits of coursework or seminars, for a total of 72 credits beyond the bachelor’s degree. Students who did not take the prerequisite courses as part of earlier studies should expect to complete admission requirements or equivalent courses.

Graduate degrees are conferred only on those students who have completed all courses required for the degree with at least a 3.3 GPA. Courses numbered below 2000 do not meet the minimum requirements for doctoral study, although they may be taken to supplement a doctoral program.

Preliminary Examination Requirement

The Preliminary Examination is composed of an oral presentation related to a research oriented publication. In preparation for the preliminary examination, which is usually taken in the third semester of study, PhD students will complete the following course work.

  • Four graduate-level courses, one in each of the following areas: Research methods, foundations, design, and information
  • Six credits of independent study focused on a research project, which will result in an original, publishable quality research paper (the basis for the preliminary exam)
  • Three doctoral seminars (9 credits) are required, including an Introduction to Doctoral Program (INFSCI 3005 ). Advanced doctoral seminars will be focused on single research themes.

While the preliminary examination can be taken before the completion of the core courses and doctoral seminar, the preliminary examination requirement will not be considered satisfied until all core courses and doctoral seminars are completed.

Research Project and Paper

During the first year of doctoral study, under the direction of your advisor (or another full or adjunct member of the department graduate faculty), students will design and complete a research project. The project should reflect only those activities undertaken during the first year of study. A previous master’s thesis or other work completed prior to the start of doctoral study may not be submitted for this requirement. While much research involves working in a larger team, your role in the project and in writing the paper should be significant. You must be the primary author, and ideally you will be the sole author. You should seek a project or a part of a project in which you take the lead in conducting the research and writing up the results under the direction of your advisor. However, unlike a dissertation or thesis, the research paper submitted for the preliminary evaluation may include co-authors. In this case, the role of each co-author should be clearly stated in writing by the student and submitted along with the research paper. Furthermore, the paper may be integrated with other work and later submitted for publication with a longer list of authors.

Comprehensive Examination Requirement

The comprehensive examination requires successful completion of the preliminary exam. The student will choose three areas of concentration and three faculty members for the comprehensive examination committee, one of whom is the advisor. In preparation for the comprehensive exam, it is expected that the student will complete 3 credits of advanced statistics. Once the committee and the topic areas are selected, the student will prepare an activity and reading list with the advice and approval of the committee members. The student will then conduct whatever preparation is necessary. When the student is ready, he/she will inform the advisor who will ask each member of the committee to submit one or more questions to the advisor. The advisor will be responsible for constructing the exam with an appropriate balance over the three topic areas. The student will be given the questions and allowed one week to prepare written answers to the questions. After review of the written answers, an oral examination will be scheduled. The oral questions will cover the answers on the written examination, and more broadly, knowledge of the material in the three areas of concentration. The result of the comprehensive examination will be a pass or fail. If a student fails, they may retake the exam one more time.

Candidacy and Dissertation Requirements

Doctoral students are required to take a minimum of 18 dissertation credits as a part of their study. Dissertation credits should be taken during terms when a student is actively working on the dissertation. In any term in which a student is enrolled for dissertation credits, the student should meet with their advisor on a regular basis to monitor that appropriate progress is being made towards the completion of the dissertation proposal or the dissertation. The specific activities in a given term should depend on the current stage of the dissertation process. In addition to writing the proposal and dissertation itself, other appropriate activities may include reviewing the literature, programming, prototyping, running preliminary studies, writing grant proposals, preparing journal articles related to the dissertation or presenting preliminary results at conferences.

Once the comprehensive examination is successfully completed, the student is officially a doctoral candidate. After becoming a doctoral candidate, the student can propose and defend a dissertation topic.

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