Computer and Information Science Department Ph.D. Program

Fall 2014 Policies

  1. Overview

    The doctor of philosophy in computer and information science is above all a degree of quality that is not conferred simply for the successful completion of a specified number of courses or years of study. It is a degree reserved for students who demonstrate both a comprehensive understanding of computer science and an ability to do creative research. Each Ph.D. student will produce a significant piece of original research, presented in a written dissertation and defended in an oral examination. The expected level of quality is such that one or more conference or journal articles could be based on the research described in the dissertation. Along the way students will likely generate several other research papers, many of them co-authored with their dissertation advisor and other graduate students.

    The structure of the Ph.D. program described here is intended to facilitate the process of learning how to do research. Throughout the program students will take courses intended to build a foundation of knowledge that is essential for advanced research. During their first year in the program, students begin with work on a directed research project under the close supervision of a faculty member. In the middle stages of the program, students will take fewer courses and spend most of their time building a foundation of knowledge in their research area and learning how to identify and solve open problems under the guidance of the Dissertation Advisory Committee (DAC). The final step is to propose an independent research topic, conduct the research, and then write and defend a dissertation.

    Academic Advisor

    The Graduate Coordinator will assign an academic advisor to each student admitted to the Ph.D. Program. The academic advisor does not have to be in the student's potential research area. In fact, it is recommended that in the first few years in the program the academic advisor not be the student's eventual dissertation advisor in order to provide a different perspective for the student. A student can change his or her academic advisor by making a request to the Graduate Education Committee (GEC). Towards the latter years of the Ph.D. program, it is common for the academic advisor and research advisor to be the same individual.

    Graduate School Policies (Extremely Important)

    It is essential that all PhD students be familiar with Gradweb and the Graduate School's policies through careful review of their web site. For example, they should note the Doctoral Policy and Procedures pertaining to time limit, residency and continuous enrollment. Students who have any questions about these matters should consult with the Graduate Coordinator.

    Course Requirements

    Ph.D. students who enter the program without a Master's degree in computer science are required to take 48 credits in graduate classes.

    Required Classes: Ph.D. students are required to take the core and cluster courses specified for the M.S. program, namely:

    • Core Courses (12 credits): CIS 621, CIS 624, CIS 630
    • Cluster (12 credits): a required course and two depth courses from a list of approved clusters.

    Ph.D. students must earn a minimum of B- and an overall GPA of 3.5 in the six courses they use to satisfy the core and cluster requirements.

    Electives: Ph.D. students must take an additional 24 credits of graduate-level courses, 12 of which must be from 600-level courses. Courses numbered 510, which appear on the approved course list, may be included in any 500-level credits. For graduate level courses taken in other departments on campus, a petition to the Graduate Education Committee is required.

    Students who enter with a Master's degree may petition the Graduate Education Committee to waive any of the above course requirements, indicating how their prior graduate work corresponds to the above courses. See the Graduate Coordinator for the petition.

    Minimum Annual Enrollment: Prior to candidacy, all Ph.D. students are expected to enroll in at least six credits worth of 600-level courses each year. These six credits can be any 600-level course used to complete the core, cluster, or elective requirements, as described above. Note that Research (CIS 601), Dissertation (CIS 603), and Readings (CIS 605) cannot be used to satisfy this requirement. After candidacy, Ph.D. students are encouraged to continue participating in 600-level courses.

  2. Directed Research Project

    Each student must complete a directed research project under the close supervision of a faculty member. The goals of the Directed Research Project (DRP) are two-fold. One is to give a Ph.D. candidate an early opportunity for a research experience under supervision of a faculty committee. The other is to give an early assessment of the candidate's research potential in the department's environment. To achieve these goals, the DRP is to be completed in a timely fashion (see DRP timeline).

    The scope of a DRP should be somewhere between an undergraduate honors and a master's thesis. A desired result of a DRP is a publishable paper or a departmental technical report.

    A DRP consists of the following components: literature review, research, possibly software artifact, written report in the form of the DRP final paper, public presentation of the results, and the exam by private questioning from the committee members.

    Formation of the DRP Committee: The student and the faculty sponsor agree on a project, committee members, timeline and deliverables The DRP committee consists of the faculty sponsor and two other CIS faculty members, one preferably outside the immediate project area. A faculty member of another department with a "participating" appointment in the CIS Department can count as one of the two CIS members.

    The DRP Contract: The student writes up a DRP contract that includes project description, DRP committee members, time line and deliverables (about 2-4 pages), attaches a copy of the APPROVAL FOR THE DRP CONTRACT FORM with signatures, and submits it to the GEC for approval by turning it in to the Graduate Coordinator. This form can be obtained from the Graduate Coordinator. See DRP timeline regarding submission of this form.

    Research Credits: The student will register for 4-6 credits of 601 Research during each of the terms in which the research will be conducted, possibly for less in the initial and/or final term of the project. See DRP timeline for deadline for completion of the DRP.

    The DRP Paper: The DRP paper reports the results of the student's research project in a professional format and style. Two weeks prior to the scheduled presentation, the student must submit the paper and other deliverables to the DRP Committee.

    The DRP Presentation and Questioning: The student, in consultation with the faculty sponsor, must schedule the DRP presentation through the Graduate Coordinator who will confirm and notify the faculty and graduate students. The DRP presentation is a public talk given in the department. It is followed by private questioning of the student by the DRP Committee and other faculty members. At the end of the exam, the DRP Committee agrees on the outcome of the DRP.

    Possible Outcomes of the DRP: The possible outcomes are:

    1. pass, with distinction,
    2. pass,
    3. conditional pass (e.g. perform some remedial work pertinent to the project) or
    4. fail.

    A conditional pass will have a specified deadline for completion of the remedial work. Failure of a DRP could result from one or more of the following: not completing the DRP in a timely fashion; not fulfilling the contract; inadequacy in the quality of work performed; inadequacy of the written report and/or oral presentation; inability to answer questions pertaining to the project.

    In case of a fail for the DRP, the student could be asked to leave the program or may be given the option of undertaking another DRP. The DRP can be repeated at most once, and the second DRP must be successfully completed within three quarters of residence following the decision.

    The results of the DRP are indicated on the RESULTS OF THE DIRECTED RESEARCH PROJECT FORM, each committee member signs, and the form is then returned to the Graduate Coordinator. Student is directed to submit DRP to CIS archives.

    DRP Timeline:

    APPROVAL FOR THE DRP CONTRACT FORM must be submitted by the end of the fourth term in residence or before the summer term in which departmental summer support is going to be paid to the student, whichever is earlier. Summer support is conditional upon submission of this form and approval by GEC.

    RESULTS OF THE DIRECTED RESEARCH PROJECT FORM indicating completion of the DRP must be submitted according to the following schedule. This schedule presumes fall admission to the Ph.D. program. For off-cycle admission, the student should consult with GEC for precise deadlines.

    Student's academic background at admission Time limit
    M.S. in computer science End of Fall quarter of second year
    All others End of Spring quarter of second year

    Once the Directed Research Project has been passed, the student should go to the Graduate School's web site and fill out the CHANGE OF GRADUATE MAJOR/CLASSIFICATION FORM to start the process of changing their classification from Y (conditional doctoral) to D (doctoral).

    Following the completion of a DRP, the student forms their Dissertation Advisory Committee (DAC), chooses an area of research, and begins the process of preparing for the Oral Comprehensive Exam. The milestone should be completed about one year after the DRP.

  3. Dissertation Advisory Committee

    PhD Students will form a Dissertation Advisory Committee (DAC) immediately upon completion of their DRP. The student's research advisor will be the chair of the committee. Just as with the DRP, the other two members of the committee are CIS faculty, or one CIS faculty and a faculty from another department with a "participating" appointment in CIS. An outside member is optional for the early stages, but should be part of the Graduate School mandated Dissertation Committee. (See the Graduate School's Doctoral Dissertation Committee Policy. The main role of the DAC will be to advise students during the phase of the Ph.D. program between the passing of the DRP and the scheduling of the dissertation defense. The DAC will take primary responsibility for evaluating student progress. Students will meet with their DAC at least once every academic year. Two weeks before the annual review meeting the student will fill out an annual review form and write a short research paper and submit both to their committee members. The annual meeting will include a private oral presentation at which the student will give a summary of their research and their goals for the coming year. There will be a short question and answer period, followed by a closed session where the committee will discuss the student's progress. The chair of the DAC will write a report and submit it to GEC.

    Annual DAC review meetings must be held before the fifth week of Winter Quarter.

  4. The Oral Comprehensive Exam (also known as Area Exam)

    The Oral Comprehensive Study Plan: In consultation with the DAC, the student further defines the research area. This is described in a written study plan, which defines the area and contains a reading list. The depth of the information in the study plan may vary greatly, depending on what the committee requires. The student should obtain the APPROVAL FOR THE ORAL COMPREHENSIVE STUDY PLAN FORM from the Graduate Coordinator, have it signed by all members of the DAC, the Chair of GEC, and return it and a copy of the study plan to the Graduate Coordinator. The study plan should contain a target date for completion of the oral comprehensive exam. Target timeline for the filing of the study plan is six (6) months after completion of the DRP.

    The Position Paper: During the preparation period, the student should consult their advisor periodically to monitor progress. As an end result, the student writes a position paper. This paper should describe the research area, its main methodology and results, as well as the sub-area of the student's future research. This will include a broad coverage of the research area (as determined from the reading list), what problems have been solved in that area, which ones haven't been solved, and a detailed summary of the issues covered in the reading list. The student may or may not have arrived at the particular research problem within the area that he or she intends to investigate for the final dissertation. This paper must be approved by the DAC, but does not have to be approved by GEC.

    The Area Exam: After the paper is approved by the DAC, the student gives a public presentation covering the area as presented in the student's research paper, after which he or she will be quizzed by the DAC members. Target timeline for the position paper and talk is six (6) months after acceptance of the study plan. Before the talk, the student should obtain the RESULTS OF THE ORAL COMP EXAM FORM from the Graduate Coordinator. Upon completion of the talk, have form signed by all DAC members and the head of GEC, and return it to the Graduate Coordinator. Student is directed to submit Area Exam to CIS archives.

    Possible Outcomes: (Must be unanimous agreement among the committee)

    1. Pass (or pass with distinction) and advancement to candidacy. The student is ready for independent research work.
    2. Pass with condition. The student must perform some remedial work pertinent to the project with a specific deadline. When the condition has been satisfied, the student should get the RESULTS OF THE ORAL COMP EXAM FORM back from the Graduate Coordinator, ask the chair of the committee to indicate that the condition has been fulfilled on the form and return it to the Graduate Coordinator.
    3. Fail. The exam can be retaken at most once. (In the rare instance when a student has changed his research area but has passed the comprehensive exam once, a new exam should not be required.)

    Advancement to Candidacy: The Graduate Coordinator submits an online advancement form to the Graduate School within two weeks after the Oral Comprehensive Exam.

    Oral Comprehensive Timeline

    APPROVAL FOR THE ORAL COMPREHENSIVE STUDY PLAN FORM must be submitted approximately six (6) months after the completion of the DRP.

    RESULTS OF THE ORAL COMP EXAM FORM indicating completion of the Oral Comprehensive Exam must be submitted approximately six (6) months after submission of the study plan.

    The following schedule gives maximum time limits for successful completion of the Oral Comprehensive Exam. Students falling behind this schedule may be considered as demonstrating unsatisfactory performance in the Ph.D. program. If this determination is made, the GEC will notify the student and the advisor in order to assess the situation.

    Student's academic background at admission Time limit
    M.S. in computer science End of Fall quarter of third year
    All others End of Spring quarter of third year
  5. Dissertation Proposal, Research, and Defense

    The final phase in a student's Ph.D. program is the dissertation. During this phase, the student forms the Dissertation Committee in consultation with his or her advisor, identifies a significant unsolved research problem, carries out the research required to solve the problem, and then writes and defends a dissertation.

    Formation of the Dissertation Committee: The university has strict requirements for the Dissertation Committee. Besides the three department members and one University of Oregon outside member, the department encourages an "external member" who shall be a leading researcher in the candidate's field, not at the University of Oregon. The proposed committee should be approved by GEC. When informed of the committee, the Graduate Coordinator will submit the information online to the Graduate School for final approval. It must be submitted to The Graduate School at least one (1) month after the Oral Comprehensive exam and in no case less than six (6) months before the dissertation defense.

     

    The Dissertation Proposal: When the student feels he or she is ready to start dissertation research, they submit a written dissertation proposal to their committee for approval. The dissertation proposal presents the research problems to be tackled, related research, research methodology, anticipated results, and work plan. The committee may request an oral presentation similar to the Oral Comprehensive Exam to allow the student to explain and answer questions about the proposed research. The APPROVAL FOR THE DISSERTATION PROPOSAL FORM should be signed by the members of the dissertation committee and the head of GEC and returned to the Graduate Coordinator. This form should be filed within six months of the completion of the Oral Comprehensive Exam. When the written dissertation is finished and approved by the committee, the student will schedule a public defense. THE CONFIRMATION OF AGREEMENT TO ATTEND FORM is done online in GradWeb by the Ph.D. student, and the APPLICATION FOR FINAL ORAL DEFENSE is initiated by the Graduate Coordinator, also in GradWeb. Once in the Oral Defense Module, the student is informed of the guidelines and deadlines for abstract submission and oral defense. In addition to the abstract copies that go to the Graduate School, the Graduate Coordinator should be copied. Once THE CONFIRMATION OF AGREEMENT TO ATTEND FORM is completed (online), the Graduate School will send a CERTIFICATE OF COMPLETION to the Chair of the committee.

    After the actual defense, the committee may accept the dissertation as defended, request minor changes, or require the student to make major changes and schedule another defense. The Chair of the committee should give the signed CERTIFICATE OF COMPLETION to the Graduate Coordinator to be sent to the Graduate School. Student is directed to submit Dissertation to CIS archives.

  6. Limits of Financial Support

    Time limits: Ph.D. students are eligible for GTF funding from the CIS department (henceforth referred to as "departmental support") during their first five years of graduate study at the University of Oregon. Eligibility is not a guarantee of funding. See the rules for yearly application for GTF funding after the first two years in the program.

    For students who enter the M.S. program at the University of Oregon and then transfer to the Ph.D. program, the five years of eligibility includes all time in the graduate program, including the M.S. program.

    This limit applies regardless of other funding a student may receive during the first five years of graduate study at the University of Oregon, including GRF (research) support from CIS and any kind of support from outside the department.

    While students are eligible for five years of departmental support, Ph.D. students should typically find GRF support in their research areas after the first two years. Moving from departmental support to grant-supported research assistantships both accelerates the progress of Ph.D. research and makes department-funded GTF positions available for incoming students.

    The time limits specified above pertain only to departmental support from department funds. If a student is grant supported, he/she may receive financial support beyond the five year eligibility limit.

    Annual review: Students on departmental support are reviewed on an annual basis (as outlined in section VII), and reappointment is subject to satisfactory academic performance and progress, as well as satisfactory performance as a GTF. Failure to meet the deadlines for the DRP, Oral Comprehensive Exam, and Ph.D. Proposal are possible grounds for suspension or termination of financial support.

    Yearly application: After the first two years in the program, students must apply on a yearly basis for departmental GTF funding. Requests for funding are submitted via email to the Graduate Coordinator during the academic term preceding that for which funding is desired. While the department will try to support all students who are making satisfactory progress in the program, we do not guarantee such funding. GTF funding after the first two years may be based on merit criteria related to academic performance and research productivity.

  7. Annual Review

    In early spring term, the Dissertation Advisory Committee will report to GEC the quality of each student’s work. At this time, any areas of concern or commendation are discussed. These results are communicated to the Department Head, who will then write official letters to the students.

  8. Office Space and Computer Accounts

    Office space for unsupported Ph.D. students finishing will be extended for one quarter. Exceptions to this policy should be directed to the Graduate Education Committee. Office space will not be given to students after they have completed their degree. Graduating students can continue their computer accounts, as alumnus, for one year.