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University of Pittsburgh    
2023-2024 Graduate & Professional Studies Catalog 
  Jun 16, 2024
2023-2024 Graduate & Professional Studies Catalog

Library and Information Science, PhD

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Purpose of the Program

The Doctor of Philosophy in Library and Information Science program, in the Department of Information Culture and Data Stewardship (ICDS), prepares students for careers in research, education, and professional practice. The primary purpose of the PhD program is to develop an understanding of library and information science beyond the master’s degree, with particular emphasis on the conduct of original research, the production of significant research findings, and the contribution of such findings to public knowledge.

Admissions Requirements

The following are requirements for admission to the PhD in LIS Program:

  • Official transcripts from bachelor’s and/or master’s study.
  • Attainment in previous degrees of a preferred minimum of 3.00 average GPA (on a scale with A having a value of 4 points per credit). An international student’s quality point average will be calculated on the basis of equivalency from universities that use a different scale.
  • Participation in an interview (in person, by telephone or via video conference), after an initial screening of their application materials.
  • Submission of an application fee.

The Department of Information Culture and Data Stewardship welcomes applicants with bachelor’s degree and/or advanced degrees from diverse disciplinary backgrounds. We especially encourage applicants from historically underrepresented groups. Applications from prospective students are reviewed by the ICDS Committee on Doctoral Studies.

Students who are applying for financial aid should be aware that they must be admitted and meet financial aid deadlines to ensure consideration for funding.

Supporting Documents for Admission

As evidence of the ability to undertake doctoral work, the student’s application must be accompanied by:

  • Statement of Interest: Your statement of interest should be an essay of approximately 2000 words.  It should include:
    • Your academic and professional goals in relation to the Library and Information Science doctoral program.  What’s motivating your decision to pursue a graduate degree?
    • Potential areas and/or topics in which you expect to pursue dissertation research.  Which research interests you and why?
    • Describe prior research experieces, coursework, and/or projects that have prepared you for doctoral research.  Please explain the status of any published or unpublished research, thesis, code, visualizations, or other projects or contributions to the professional or scholarly literature, and other professional, community, or academic experience relevant to an assessment of your capacity to pursue research successfully.
    • Identify one or more ICDS faculty members with whom you want to work and why you have identified these faculty as potential advisors.
    • Optional: Feel free to describe the full range of experiences, whether educational, professional, social, cultural, or familial—whether oppertunities or challenges—that have contributed substantially to your decision to pursue a graduate degree.
  • Current curriculum vitae: A curriculum vitae that provides an overview of education, publications, work, and other activities.
  • Example of scholarly or professional project: One sample of scholarly researchm professional or academic writing,or a project.  Examples are a published article, grant proposal, undergraduate or masters thesis, conference presentation, community engagement work, code, visualizations, or professional, community, or academic project.  Please include a statement of context or description, including details on your contribution if the work is collaborative in nature.
  • Letters of reference: At least three references from persons in the academic and professional communities.  The ICDS Committee on Doctoral Studies may, on occasion, require additional references.

Credentials of prospective students are reviewed by the ICDS Committee on Doctoral Studies.

Students who are applying for financial aid deadlines to ensure consideration for funding.

Beyond the criteria and materials previously outlined for application submission, this program does not require specific coursework for admissions consideration.

Application Deadline

All admissions materials must be submitted by January 15th of each year for beginning studies in the forthcoming fall term and for consideration for financial aid.

Commencement of Study

PhD students may begin their studies only in the Fall Term in order to ensure a coherent program of study.


On-Campus English Proficiency Test:

Upon arrival, students who have not met the minimum TOEFL or IELTS scores will be given the on-campus administered English Language Proficiency Test. If remedial courses in English as a foreign language are recommended, the student must complete the remedial course during the first two terms of study. This may extend the length of the program of study.

Academic Advising and Plan of Studies

An advisor will be assigned to the student upon entering the program; however the student is free to select a different advisor for subsequent advising and registration. The PhD student should seek a faculty Program Advisor who is knowledgeable in the student’s major area of study. The advisor must be a member of the graduate faculty in the Information Culture and Data Stewardship Department who is able to spend the time and effort necessary for the advising role, will be available for examinations, and with whom a productive and comfortable working relationship can be established.

Program Advisor 

The advisor selected by the student for the period prior to the dissertation stage of the program is the Program Advisor. The Program Advisor and the Dissertation Advisor may be the same person, but the student has the option to select a different advisor for the dissertation. Upon agreement of the faculty member to act as the student’s advisor, the signed agreement is placed in the student’s folder. Any subsequent change of Program Advisor should be submitted in writing to the Chair of the ICDS Committee on Doctoral Studies and placed on record in the student’s folder.

Doctoral students are ultimately responsible for their own direction and progress through the program and are encouraged to seek advice from any member of the SCI faculty or other University faculty in this endeavor. The Program Advisor, however, is the one primarily responsible for providing guidance, insight, advice, information, explanation of University and School policies, and general assistance in the pursuit of the PhD degree. The Program Advisor will also approve those actions requiring a faculty signature.

The Program Advisor assists the student in:

  1. developing a plan for the program of study and
  2. arranging for the preliminary and comprehensive examinations. 


Degree Requirements

This PhD degree requires a minimum of 54 credits beyond the master’s degree with a total credit minimum of 72. A minimum of 36 credits must be taken in advanced course work. The student must receive a letter grade in each course taken in this 36-credit requirement, except for the teaching practicum course.

An additional 18 credits are required which must be applied to dissertation research and writing; however, regardless of the number of credits taken, no more than 18 credits for dissertation research and writing may be applied toward graduation. The grade for these credits will appear as an “S” on the student’s transcript. In order to register for, and successfully complete, dissertation credits, students must show evidence of work toward the dissertation by completing the “Dissertation Credit Tracking Checklist” and updating it at the end of the term.

The minimum of 36 credits of course work, all of which must be on the graduate level, must be distributed as follows:

  • 9 credits: 3000-level doctoral seminars offered by SCI
  • 6 credits: Courses in research methodology and statistics
  • 6 credits: Courses in cognate field
  • 9 credits: Courses may be:
    • 3000-level independent studies or doctoral seminars offered by SCI (maximum of 6 credits)
    • Additional 3000-level doctoral seminars offered by SCI
    • Additional cognate courses (up to 6 credits)
    • Additional research methodology courses
    • 2000 level courses in SCI (subject to approval by the students’ advisor)


Additional Requirements

GPA Requirement

PhD degrees are conferred only on those students who have completed all courses required for the degree with at least a 3.50 GPA.

Cognate Requirement

Doctoral students are required to devote some portion of their studies to work on other disciplines in order to broaden their perspectives and deepen their understanding of library and information science. To fulfill the cognate requirement, students are required to take a minimum of 6 credits and a maximum of 12 credits in some area of graduate study outside the field of library and information science. These credits may be from more than one department or school.

Students may enroll for all or part of their cognate course work at institutions other than the University of Pittsburgh, but only when prior approval has been obtained from the ICDS Committee on Doctoral Studies. Courses in the School of Computing and Information generally cannot be used to fulfill the cognate requirement. Cross listed courses may be counted as cognates if they originate outside the School. SCI courses may occasionally be approved as cognate courses if the subject matter is highly specialized and clearly distinct from the student’s disciplinary focus; students must petition the ICDS Committee on Doctoral Studies for approval in advance of registering for the course. Cognate areas and courses shall be selected with consultation and approval by the student’s advisor.

If a student has significant course work at the graduate level or an advanced degree in another discipline and desires that it be considered as the cognate field, the student has the right to petition the ICDS Committee on Doctoral Studies for exemption from the cognate requirement. A minimum of 36 course credits and 18 credits of dissertation writing and research will still be required for the PhD students who opt to petition for exemption from the cognate requirement. Such a petition should be submitted as early as possible, preferably in the first term, in order to plan a coherent program of study.

Research Methodology Requirement

Research methodology courses may include courses in statistical analysis, general research methodology, and specific research methods or research methods used in specific fields of study, for instance, historiography, ethnography, or case and field study. Doctoral students should work with their advisors to identify the appropriate research methodology courses. Research methodology courses may be taken within SCI or in another School.

Research methodology courses taken from schools outside SCI cannot be used to fulfill the cognate requirement. The research methodology course requirement must be fulfilled prior to taking the Preliminary Examination.

Teaching Practicum

A three-credit teaching practicum is required for all doctoral students in order to provide the student with teaching experience that may become part of the student’s professional dossier. The teaching practicum is usually taken after completion of two terms of study. The student is responsible for identifying an appropriate course related to his or her area of interest and obtaining the agreement of the instructor of record. Appropriate activities as part of the teaching practicum include involvement in course design, attendance at all class sessions, presentation of some course materials, office or tutorial hours, and involvement in grading. The student’s teaching responsibility should involve preparation and presentation of specific topics throughout the term, and sole responsibility for at least one class session. The teaching practicum is graded on a pass/fail basis.

Doctoral students may also fulfill this requirement by completing the University Teaching Practicum course offered through the Faculty of Arts and Science. The course, FACDEV 2200 , is graduate seminar designed for Teaching Assistants and Teaching Fellows who will be teaching a class independently for the first time.

Public Presentation Requirement

During the course of the PhD program, each student is required to make a formal presentation to faculty and students in the School or in another academic setting. The topic of this presentation may be a research project the student is engaged in or preliminary results of the dissertation project. This presentation may be a guest lecture in a course, a public colloquium, presentation sponsored by the Doctoral Guild or a presentation at an academic conference.

Documentation of presentation should be provided for inclusion in the student’s file. Attendance at colloquia is required of students in their term of residence, and is recommended throughout the PhD program.

Probation and Termination

All students pursuing the LIS doctoral degree are required to maintain a cumulative GPA of at least 3.5 after admission to graduate study for all course work applicable to the degree. Students are automatically placed on academic probation when their cumulative GPA falls below 3.5. The graduate faculty may choose to terminate students on probation for two consecutive terms. A cumulative GPA of 3.5 or better is required for admission to LIS doctoral study and for the award of the LIS doctoral degree. In addition, students must show adequate progress in the subsequent benchmark examinations and defenses.

Each student will submit LIS Doctoral Student Annual Progress Report in the spring term for review by the ICDS Committee on Doctoral Studies.

Residence and Registration Guidelines

The University’s Regulations Pertaining to Doctoral Degrees   contains myriad policies related to registration and residence. Students must review these regulations as well as those governed at the School level. In addition, PhD students should adhere to the following guidelines.

A student may not register for dissertation credits until the successful completion of the preliminary exam.

Full time dissertation study is achieved once all required courses (36 credits minimum) and all dissertation credits (18 credits of LIS 3999  minimum) are completed. Once the preliminary exam is successfully completed (after a minimum of 24 credits of coursework) students may begin taking a combination of dissertation credits and required credits until both requirements have been completed. Students may, with the approval of their dissertation advisor, register for up to 9 dissertation credits per semester until the 18 credits are achieved, but a combination of dissertation credits and required coursework can also be taken in each semester, so long as at least 9 credits of one or the other or both are taken in each fall and spring semester. If additional coursework (beyond the required 36 credits) is desired by the student or recommended by the advisor (for example, classes in statistical methods, programming, additional cognate courses, etc.), a mix of dissertation credits and such additional coursework may be taken as well (for example, 6 credits of dissertation and one 3-credit additional course, or 3 credits of dissertation and 6 credits of additional coursework).

Doctoral students who have completed all credit requirements for the PhD degree, including the 36 required credits and the 18 dissertation credits (54 credits total), have had their Dissertation Proposal approved, and are working full time on their dissertations, should register for “Full‐time Dissertation Study.” Enrollment in this course fulfills the University requirements for registration in the term of graduation.

International students studying on an F-1 visa must maintain full-time registration status on an exact and regular basis that is stricter than the residency rules required by the school as stated above. Due to federal immigration regulations, if the term preceding a student entering full-time dissertation status occurs during the fall or spring terms, the student must enroll full-time (9 or more credits). A “reduced course load” request cannot be approved by the Office of International Services (OIS) unless the request is made for the student’s term of graduation. Even if a student needs to complete only 6 credits before entering full-time dissertation status, federal regulations trump the school’s program requirements, and they must enroll full-time in all fall and spring terms excepting their term of graduation.

Preliminary Examination

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. (Pittsburgh, 2008)

Eligibility & Scheduling Expectations

All students should work with their faculty advisor to prepare for the Preliminary Exam. Following the Regulations Pertaining to Doctoral Degrees , students will take the Preliminary Exam in the term following the first year of academic study as scheduled by the doctoral studies committee chair. For example, students starting in the fall term would take the preliminary exam in the fall term of the following year. Students are expected to work with faculty mentors to determine the appropriate term to take the preliminary exam.

Failure to adhere to the required timeline will result in dismisal from the program.  Considerations for extenuating circumstances may be granted, but must be documented and approved by the Doctoral Studies Committee (DSC). 

Preliminary Examination Procedure

The DSC Chair, in coordination with relevant faculty advisors, will pick a date for the preliminary exam.  The date selected will be announced at least eight weeks before the beginning of each term in which there are doctoral students expected to take the exam.  Students should anticipate an examination date at the beginning of the term.  Students will be expected to submit their portfolio presentation two weeks before the scheduled exam date to the ICDS Department Administrator. Preliminary exams will only occur once a term, and only in the Fall and Spring terms.

All faculty on the DSC are expected to participate in the examination by reviewing student materials and attending the presentations.  The DSC Chair will begin the preliminary exam presentation session with a vote to attest an appropriate quorum of DSC membership is present. A quorum can be no less than two-thirds the DSC faculty.

Preliminary Examination Portfolio

The preliminary examination consists of several items: a course plan, a research prospectus, an example of a scholarly work, and an oral presentation to the DSC. 

Course Plan

The course plan should contain the following information:

  • A list of courses completed (with term)
  • A projected list of remaining courses (with anticipated term)
  • A brief (250 words max) self-assessment of how course selection has or will impact scholarship growth

Research Prospectus

The research prospectus describes the student’s continued research trajectory. The prospectus is a concise, direct narrative. It has four required sections, outlined below:

  • Concentration (500 word max) - This section should describe the research question(s), phenomena of interest, and/or problem being addressed. It should clearly and concisely describe the research area and community where the proposed work will make intellectual and scholarly contributions.
  • Justification (500 word max) - The justification for the work should be oriented towards the broader societal impact of the research. It should describe why the individual, community, or societal problem or phenomena that are being addressed have intellectual and scholarly value to society. The justification should directly explain the “so what” perspective on the proposed research.
  • Motivation (500 word max) - The motivation section should personalize the research trajectory. It should explain why the research is of interest to the student.  It should explain the background or context the student is bringing to the research. This section should add some personal narrative about what is driving the interest to pursue this research. This section should also connect to the course plan to describe what the student has learned or plan to learn, and how it has stimulated research interests.
  • Approach (1000 word max) -  The final section should describe the approach to the proposed research. This might include a discussion of the methodologies, theoretical frameworks, or tentative research design. This section should provide evidence of thought about the mechanics of the proposed research. The approach could connect to the course plan by referencing proposed coursework in a particular methodological or theoretical area. 

Example of Scholarly Work

A student is expected to be productive in scholarship from the start of their doctoral training.  To demonstrate achievement towards this goal, students will be expected to submit an item of scholarship as part of the Preliminary Exam portfolio. The scholarship should be in a format suitable for external presentation and/or dissemination. Acceptable examples include, but are not limited to, a published or submitted conference paper, journal article, or curated exhibition.   A faculty advisor may direct the student to submit a scholarship example in an alternative form or format.  The faculty advisor will communicate directly to the DSC a justification for this deviation. Submitted scholarship cannot be unmodified assignments from coursework, unless that assignment takes the form of scholarship that the faculty advisor recognizes as potentially publishable. Scholarship that is attributed to multiple authors is acceptable; the student must explain the nature and extent of the contributions of each co-author.

Presentation to the Doctoral Studies Committee

The oral presentation to the DSC should provide an overview of the structure and salient elements of the Research Prospectus. The presentation is expected to be 10-15 minutes in length. The presentation should include appropriate visual materials for effective communication. A 15-20 minute question & answer session with present DSC members will follow the presentation.  The total presentation session should last no more than 30 minutes.  The entire session will be private, only open to the doctoral student and the DSC faculty.

Preliminary Examination Outcomes

The DSC will use an established rubric to assess the student’s performance across all Exam elements (contact the department administrator for a copy of the rubric).  Individual DSC members will independently use this rubric, which will inform the discussion and vote.  A majority vote of the participating faculty will be used to determine the final outcome. In the rare case of a tie, the final determination will be made by the DSC Chair, ICDS Department Chair, and the student’s primary advisor.

A summary of the assessment and outcome will be completed within two weeks of the exam by the DSC Chair. The student should expect a clear description of the assessed strengths and weaknesses.  This summary will be sent to the student, advisor, and student’s permanent file maintained by Academic Records.

Upon successful completion of the preliminary examination, the student will be allowed to continue within the doctoral program.

If the overall performance on the preliminary examination is determined to be unacceptable by a majority of DSC members present for the Exam the student will fail. The summary assessment will clearly articulate a plan from the DSC for the student to prepare for re-examination. This may include specific types of courses, work products, or other elements necessary for the student to attain target criteria for passing the preliminary examination. Failure on the first attempt requires the Exam to be taken again the next term the Exam is offered. Failure to pass the Exam on the second attempt will result in dismissal from the doctoral program.

Comprehensive Examination


To be admitted to the comprehensive examination a student must:

  • Have completed 36 credits of study;
  • Be registered in the term in which the comprehensive examination is taken;
  • Apply in writing using the “Application to Sit for the Comprehensive Exam” form and with the advice and consent of a faculty advisor to the ICDS Department support staff at least six weeks before the scheduled exam time.

Full-time students should take the comprehensive exam in the fall or spring term of the second year. All students must successfully complete the Comprehensive Exam within 18 months of passing the preliminary examination (24 months for part-time students).

Comprehensive Examination Procedure

In the Information Culture and Data Stewardship Department, the Comprehensive Examination will have written and oral components, and will normally be offered in the fall and spring terms. Students will notify their advisor and the Chair of the ICDS Committee on Doctoral Studies of their interest in taking the Comprehensive Examination at least six weeks prior to the examination date, using the form provided. The dates for each student will be determined in consultation with the student and the student’s comprehensive examination committee.

Students will be examined in two areas:

  • A broad perspective in current issues in library and information science, or archival studies, and
  • The student’s designated research focus.

In the PhD Library and Information Science program, the following procedures apply:

  • The examination will be conducted by a 3-person committee: the student’s advisor and two faculty members chosen by the student and the faculty advisor. Faculty members chosen to serve on the committee must give their consent.
  • The examination will consist of two parts: a written, take-home exam over two weeks (three weekends) and an oral examination conducted by the student’s committee.
  • The written examination will consist of four questions, two in each of the areas of the examination. The student will choose one of the two questions in each area. Though the student is required to answer only two questions, there is the expectation that the response will be comprehensive and include a high level of analysis of the material. In terms of length, 12-15 pages would constitute a minimal answer for each question though longer papers are expected. The student will be given two weeks (including three weekends) to complete the written examination.
  • The second part of the examination will be an oral examination expanding on any points from the written work that the committee wishes to address or any questions arising from the broad, general area of interest. The oral examination (approximately two hours) will take place as soon as possible after the written component has been evaluated.


Comprehensive Examination Outcomes

The result of the comprehensive examination will be a pass or fail. If a student fails, he/she may retake the exam one more time. Students use the Comprehensive Examination Results Form to document this benchmark. Failure to pass the Comprehensive Examination on the second attempt will result in dismissal from the doctoral program.

Failure to pass the Comprehensive Examination within the required time frame of within 18 months of passing the preliminary examination (or 24 months for part-time students), will result in dismissal from the doctoral program.


Dissertation Advisor

Students must gain the agreement of a member of the ICDS graduate faculty to chair the Dissertation Committee that will advise on the area of research and the design of the study. The advisor’s agreement must be obtained and recorded in the student’s file. Any request to change the Dissertation Advisor must be submitted in writing to the Chair of the ICDS Committee on Doctoral Studies after discussion with the Dissertation Advisor. Students retain the right to change advisors with impunity. It is important for students to be aware of and sensitive to various issues, including: 1) the importance of mutual consideration in the relationship between advisor and advisee; and 2) the academic benefits of continuity in the relationship with a major advisor and other members of the dissertation committee.

Approval for the change and the selection of another Dissertation Advisor is filed in the student’s folder.

The student’s dissertation advisor:

  • Assists in choosing the members of the Dissertation Committee and in confirming the eligibility of all members selected;
  • Arranges with ICDS support staff to schedule the dissertation proposal presentation;
  • Reviews progress toward completion of the research;
  • Arranges with LIS support staff to schedule the dissertation defense;
  • Chairs the dissertation defense;
  • Secures appropriate signatures from Dissertation Committee members and assures that all required paperwork is submitted in accordance with the ICDS, School of Computing and Information, and University procedures.


Dissertation Committee

The Dissertation Committee, selected by the student and major dissertation advisor, shall consist of at least four members, with the majority being from the graduate faculty of the School of Computing and Information. At least one, but not more than two, should be from another School of the University. Work in the cognate area may provide the student with the opportunity to select an appropriate outside member for the Dissertation Committee from a discipline related to the student’s area of specialization. Upon the recommendation of the Dissertation Advisor, and with the approval of the LIS Committee on Doctoral Studies, a member may be appointed from outside the University. Outside members of the Dissertation Committee are not obligated to attend dissertation related events in person. If an outside person from another University or agency does attend in person, the ICDS Department is not responsible for covering any expenses involved in the attendance of the outside member at meetings. Finally, the major advisor proposes the members of the committee for approval to the ICDS Doctoral Program Chair and the Dean, using the Doctoral Committee Form to document approval of committee composition.

Meetings of the doctoral candidate and the Dissertation Committee must occur at least annually from the time the student gains admission to Doctoral Candidacy. During these meetings, the committee should assess the student’s progress toward the degree, discuss objectives for the following year, and project a timetable for completing degree requirements. Any language requirement relates to proficiencies necessary for successful completion of doctoral research. Depending upon the student’s program, proficiencies in modern languages, linguistics, and/or computer languages may be specified. The student’s Dissertation Advisor will determine the language requirement in consultation with the Dissertation Committee at the time the proposal is accepted.

Dissertation Procedural Requirements

The student must submit all forms, letters, and questionnaires related to the dissertation research to the ICDS members of the Dissertation Committee for approval before any such documents are publicly distributed.

The student is also responsible for meeting University requirements when human subjects are used in research. These requirements are enforced by the University’s Human Research Protection Office (HRPO) and the Institutional Review Board (IRB). The school has a faculty representative on the Institutional Review Board who may be contacted with questions of procedure.

Bibliographic style is best determined by the subject of the dissertation; a style manual of the student’s choice may be used for the content of the dissertation and must be applied consistently throughout.

The final approved version of the dissertation must be submitted electronically to the University. For the full instructions on the formatting and submission of Electronic Thesis and Dissertation (ETD), please visit the University’s ETD website and the  Graduation Procedures section of the SCI Current Student webpage.

Dissertation Proposal Defense

Prior to scheduling the dissertation proposal defense, the student must have completed all required coursework, and successfully completed the Preliminary and Comprehensive Examinations, which may not be scheduled in the same term as the dissertation proposal defense. Please complete the required form containing the scheduling information and the abstract.

The student should defend the proposal of the dissertation within 18 months of successfully completed the comprehensive exam (24 months for part-time students). All students must successfully complete the Dissertation Proposal Defense within 24 months of passing the Comprehensive Examination (36 months for part-time students). Failure to successfully complete the dissertation proposal defense within the required time period will result in dismissal from the doctoral program.

The student should work closely with the Dissertation Advisor during the preparation of the proposal for dissertation research. Only when the proposal is reviewed and approved by the Dissertation Advisor will the student initiate the proposal defense process. The proposal must be submitted to the members of the Dissertation Committee at least two weeks prior to the scheduled time of the proposal defense. The presentation portion of the proposal defense is an open event and will be announced to the faculty and students in the school. If scheduling problems for committee members occur, telephone conferencing may be used. Faculty discussion about the presentation is closed and only the members of the Dissertation Committee will participate.

The Dissertation Committee must unanimously approve the dissertation topic and research plan before the student may be admitted to candidacy for the doctoral degree. However, approval of the proposal does not imply either the acceptance of a dissertation prepared in accordance with the proposal or the restriction of the dissertation to this original proposal.   Please use this Report on Examinations form to document the results of the defense.


For admission to formal candidacy for the PhD in LIS degree, a student must have fulfilled the following requirements:

  • Passed the Preliminary Examination;
  • Completed a minimum of 36 credits beyond the master’s degree with a GPA of 3.5 or higher;
  • Passed the Comprehensive Examination;
  • Successfully defended the dissertation proposal and received permission from the Dissertation Committee to begin research.

When these steps have been taken, the chairperson of the student’s Dissertation Committee will notify the Chair of the ICDS Committee on Doctoral Studies, the Chair of the Information Culture and Data Stewardship Department, and the Dean of SCI that the student has achieved formal candidacy.


In accordance with the University Regulations Pertaining to the Doctor of Philosophy, each student must write a dissertation that presents the results of a research project carried out by the student. An appropriate research project involves a substantive piece of original and independent research, grounded in an appropriate body of literature, and employing systematic methods and procedures to investigate a defined question or problem. It is relevant to an identifiable field as it is currently practiced and provides a significant contribution or advancement in that field. It presents either a hypothesis tested by data and analysis, or an analysis of data supporting the development of a theory or leading to new or substantially improved insights. It is the responsibility of the student’s doctoral committee to evaluate the dissertation in these terms and to recommend the awarding of the doctoral degree only if the dissertation is judged to demonstrate these qualities.

Characteristics which a dissertation should demonstrate are:

  • The establishment of a historical context for the presentation of an innovative and creative approach to the problem analysis and solution;
  • A clear understanding of the problem area as revealed by analysis and synthesis of a broad literature base;
  • A well-defined research design;
  • Clarity in composition and careful documentation;
  • Results of sufficient merit to be published in refereed journals or to form the basis of a book or monograph;
  • Sufficient detail so that other scholars can build on it in subsequent work;
  • The preparation of the author to assume a position within the profession.


Dissertation Defense

The student should work with the Dissertation Advisor to decide the right time for dissertation defense. The student must obtain the Dissertation Advisor’s approval before initiating the dissertation defense process. The student is responsible for presenting one copy of the dissertation in final form to each member of the Dissertation Committee at least two weeks prior to the date of the defense. The deliverable format is to be determined by each individual committee member.

The date, time, location, and subject of the dissertation defense shall be publicized in The University Times four weeks before the defense is held. All members of the Dissertation Committee and such other persons as are interested may attend the final defense, but acceptance of the dissertation is determined by a vote of members of the Dissertation Committee. Only members of the Dissertation Committee may be present during the final deliberations and may vote on the passing of the candidate. A report of this examination, signed by all the members of the Dissertation Committee, must be sent to the ICDS Department Chair and to the Dean. If the decision of the committee is not unanimous, the case is referred to the Dean for resolution. The Chair of the Dissertation Committee should ensure that the dissertation is in final form before requesting signatures of the members of the committee.

A student who defends the dissertation, but with conditions to be met before the degree can be awarded, must meet those conditions within the required time frame:

  • Minor corrections (largely presentation, e.g., typographical errors) - to be completed within one calendar month, subject to approval by the Dissertation Advisor;
  • Substantial amendments (involving more significant revisions and/or additions, e.g., rewriting sections of chapters) - to be completed within three calendar months, subject to approval by members of the Dissertation Committee.

In both of the above cases, the student’s statute of limitations will automatically be extended if necessary for the period specified, without the need for a petition.

A student who does not successfully defend the dissertation, may revise and resubmit the dissertation for examination within the time frame allowed by their statute of limitations.

Students must be registered for at least one credit or full-time dissertation credit in the term in which they defend their dissertation.



The student must have successfully defended their dissertation and received final approval of the dissertation, including all corrections, by the Dissertation Committee. All students apply to graduate; receipt of the graduation application initiates a review of the student’s coursework, grades, and milestone completion. As well, an international student’s SEVIS record will be updated with a new “program end date.” Registration is required for a minimum of one credit (or full-time dissertation) in the term of graduation although exceptions may be approved by the Dean’s Office on a case-by-case basis. Finally, the student’s Dissertation Chair and the School’s Director of Records must approve the submission and publication of the Electronic Thesis and Dissertation (ETD).

For the full instructions on the formatting and submission of ETDs, please visit the University’s ETD website and the Graduation Procedures section of the SCI Current Students webpage.


Statute of Limitations

All requirements for the PhD degree must be completed in not more than 6 calendar years from the time of first registration (or 8 calendar years for part-time students). Students may, in extenuating circumstances, submit a formal request for extension of their statute of limitations or for a leave of absence from the program. Requests for either an extension to a statute of limitations or for a leave of absence are submitted through online forms; these forms are shared with the student’s advisor and then presented to the ICDS Committee on Doctoral Studies for a decision.

In all other matters of policy, see the University and School’s Catalogs, consult with the School’s Director of Academic Records.

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