Computer Science Department Ph.D. Program

Fall 2022 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 Program 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.

    Division of Graduate Studies Policies (Extremely Important)

    It is essential that all Ph.D. students be familiar with GradWeb and the Division of Graduate Studies 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 Program 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.  They must also meet the breadth and depth requirements, which are listed in the following link:

    Breadth and Depth Requirements

    Ph.D. students may be awarded a Master's degree after completing all of the M.S. degree requirements and applying for graduation.

    Ph.D. students must earn a minimum grade of B- and an overall GPA of 3.5 in the six courses they use to satisfy the breadth and depth 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 Program 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 breadth, depth, or elective requirements, as described above. Note that Research (CS 601), Dissertation (CS 603), and Readings (CS 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 CS faculty members, one preferably outside the immediate project area. A faculty member of another department with a "participating" appointment in the CS Department can count as one of the two CS 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 Program Coordinator. This form can be obtained from the Graduate Program 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 Program 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 Program Coordinator. The student then must submit their DRP report to CS archives.

    DRP Timeline:

    APPROVAL FOR THE DRP CONTRACT FORM must be submitted by week eight of spring term in the student's first year.

    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 fourth quarter
    All others End of sixth quarter 

    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 Area Exam. The milestone should be completed about one year after the DRP.

  3. Dissertation Advisory Committee

    Ph.D. 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 CS faculty, or one CS faculty and a faculty from another department with a "participating" appointment in CS. An outside member is optional for the early stages, but should be part of the Division of Graduate Studies mandated Dissertation Committee. (See the Division of Graduate Studies 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 scheduled before the fifth week of Winter Quarter, and held by the end on Winter Quarter.  Holding the DAC prior to this deadline is encouraged.

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

    The Area Exam 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 AREA EXAM STUDY PLAN FORM from the Graduate Program 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 Program Coordinator. The study plan should contain a target date for completion of the area 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 they 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 AREA EXAM FORM from the Graduate Program Coordinator. Upon completion of the talk, have form signed by all DAC members and the head of GEC, and return it to the Graduate Program Coordinator. The student then must submit their Area Exam to CS 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 AREA EXAM FORM back from the Graduate Program Coordinator, ask the chair of the committee to indicate that the condition has been fulfilled on the form and return it to the Graduate Program 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 Program Coordinator submits an online advancement form to the Division of Graduate Studies within two weeks after the Area Exam.

    Area Exam Timeline

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

    RESULTS OF THE AREA EXAM FORM indicating completion of the Area 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 Area 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 Seventh quarter 
    All others Nineth quarter
  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 Program Coordinator will submit the information online to the Division of Graduate Studies for final approval. It must be submitted to The Division of Graduate Studies at least one (1) month after the Area exam and in no case less than six (6) months before the dissertation defense.

    The Dissertation Proposal: When the student feels they are 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 Area 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 Program Coordinator. This form should be filed within six months of the completion of the Area 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 Program 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 Division of Graduate Studies, the Graduate Program Coordinator should be copied. Once THE CONFIRMATION OF AGREEMENT TO ATTEND FORM is completed (online), the Division of Graduate Studies 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. The student then must submit their Dissertation to CS archives.

  6. Limits of Financial Support

    Time limits: Ph.D. students are eligible for GE funding from the CS 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 GE 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 GE-R (research) support from CS 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 GE-R 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 GE positions available for incoming students.

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

    Annual review: students 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 in their GE-Teaching role.  Failure to meet the deadlines for the DRP, Area Exam, and Ph.D. Proposal are possible grounds for suspension or termination of financial support.

  7. Annual Review

    In 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 students via an official letter discussing their performance.

  8. Office Space and Computer Accounts

    Office space for unsupported Ph.D. students is not guaranteed.  Office space will not be given to students after they have completed their degree. Graduating students can continue their computer accounts, as alumni, for one year.