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PhD Curriculum

Degree Requirements and Process

The doctoral program is structured to help students develop both a general understanding of information and library science as a field and expertise in a specific research area. The program typically requires 3 – 5 years to complete. The process is as follows:

  1. Initial coursework
  2. 27-hour Review
  3. Annual Reviews
  4. Coursework Completion and Pre-Comprehensive Requirements
  5. Comprehensive exam
  6. Doctoral dissertation
    1. Proposal
    2. Dissertation work
    3. Defense


The doctoral program of study is rooted in a set of core themes and principles of information and library science but customized to the needs and interests of students and research strengths of the faculty.

Exceptionally well-prepared students will take a minimum of 36 hours of formal courses, reading courses, or directed research exclusive of the dissertation. Students who enter with no graduate background can expect to take additional hours of formal courses, reading courses, or directed research exclusive of the dissertation.

With faculty advice, the student will choose appropriate graduate courses from those listed in the SILS catalog and from The Graduate School’s catalog. All courses offered for credit toward the degree must be at the graduate level.

Doctoral students are required to take INLS 881 which presents a wide range of research questions and examines multiple methods of investigation used to explore these areas of research.

Along with INLS 881, students are also required to take a course in statistics, a course in theory development, an advanced research methods course, and a professional seminar in IS Research and Teaching. In addition, six credits of INLS 994 (Doctoral Dissertation) are also required by the Graduate School.

Strongly Recommended Courses

It is strongly recommended that students include coursework in theory development, advanced research methods and research practica (INLS 988 – Research in Information and Library Science).

Other theory or research methods coursework will depend on student interests and dissertation topics. Mastery of relevant methods and theories can be accomplished by graduate level courses or workshops inside and outside the University or by small group or individual tutorials offered by members of the SILS faculty.

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27 Hour Review

Typically held at the end of the first year, this review is conducted by a committee chaired by the student’s adviser and consisting of all faculty who have taught the student. The committee assesses the student’s mastery of specific subjects, as well as the ability to identify research opportunities and the means to address the associated research problems. The student is informed of any deficiencies identified by the review along with suggested strategies for improvement. In the case of severe deficiencies a student might be counseled to leave the doctoral program.

Annual Reviews

At the end of each subsequent academic year, the student prepares a statement of progress and presents it to the adviser and associate dean. The statement should include a list of papers written that year, a summary of coursework completed, a statement of research interest, reflection on progress in the program, and an outline of plans for the coming academic year. Continuation in the program is dependent upon a satisfactory review.

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Coursework Completion and Pre-comprehensive Requirements

Normally, full-time students should complete their coursework within two or two-and-a-half years. It is considered unsatisfactory progress if a full-time student has not completed coursework within three years, with no other signs of progress. Part-time students are expected to progress at a comparable rate, based on their individual circumstances. Before taking the comprehensive exam, students must:

  • Present two papers that were submitted for publication
  • Complete all coursework requirements
  • Develop a literature review of the research area of interest

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Comprehensive Exam

Upon or near completion of coursework, the student will develop a statement in preparation for the comprehensive examination that  will  include an overview  of  his/her research  interests; a  literature review specifying areas of theory, research, and methodology that relate to his/her research interests/ questions; and, to the extent possible, a brief  dissertation  prospectus. After acceptance of the written comprehensive examination package by the examining committee, the  oral exam will be conducted. It will have the same  scope as  the comprehensive examination package.

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Doctoral Dissertation

Registration for Dissertation Hours (INLS 994)

  1. Fill out the SILS Class Enrollment Request Form
  2. Upload a copy of your learning contract to the form
  3. Agree to the honor code statement and hit submit
  4. The form will routed to the appropriate people for approval
  5. Once your request has been approved, you will be registered for INLS 994.

Dissertation Proposal

Upon successful completion of the comprehensive examination, the student in consultation with the adviser forms a dissertation committee and prepares a dissertation proposal to present to the committee.

Normally, a student will complete and defend the proposal, or make substantial progress toward that point, within six months after completion of the comprehensive exam. It is considered unsatisfactory progress if a student has not shown substantial progress one year after completing the exam.

Doctoral Dissertation

Successful completion of a doctoral dissertation represents an original contribution to knowledge involving identification and definition of a researchable topic, application of an appropriate research methodology, organization, and analysis of data relevant to the topic under investigation, and a presentation and interpretation of the data that meets the standards of scholarly work.

Dissertation Defense

A final oral examination in defense of the dissertation, which is open to the University community, is also required. This is administered by the student’s dissertation committee, which normally includes at least one scholar from outside the program.

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Note on Residency

Students may enter the doctoral program on a full-time or part-time basis. It is highly desirable for a doctoral student to be in residence at the University during the entire program, or at least during the year in which the proposal for the dissertation is prepared. All doctoral students must meet the University’s residence credit requirement prior to or concurrently with taking the oral portion of the comprehensive exam. All requirements for the degree must be completed within eight years from the date of first enrollment in the program.

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