Degree Requirements

The Ph.D. Program in Computing and Information Systems (CIS) prepares students to be well-rounded professionals in the broad discipline of Computing and Information Systems. The degree of Doctor of Philosophy is granted for performance of original research resulting in significant contributions to the discipline's body of knowledge. Students are admitted into a track within the Program by one of the participating units. Currently, these units are:

The Ph.D. CIS program also has an interdisciplinary track in which CIS is applied to different disciplines. Students in the interdisciplinary track are admitted into one unit but are expected to complete some course work in a complementary discipline in addition to the minimum core requirements of their chosen unit. Students in the interdisciplinary track must have co-advisors from their chosen unit and the complementary discipline. The detailed requirements are provided below. Failure to satisfy the requirements may result in the student's termination from the program.

Minimum Hours

To earn a Ph.D. degree, students in all tracks must complete at least 72 post baccalaureate credit hours. This includes at least 18 hours of dissertation research and at least 9 hours of course work completed at UNC Charlotte. A limited amount of transfer credit is allowed (see below for details). We expect students to acquire a sufficiently broad body of technical knowledge in the discipline as well as a deep understanding of a specialized area. Such courses will be defined by the student’s advisor(s). Students are expected to excel in all course work. Graduation requirements mandate that students must achieve a minimum grade point average of 3.0 to graduate. Receiving more than two C grades or a grade of U in any course will result in a suspension from the program.

Introduction to Computing and Information Systems Research

First year students must take ITSC 8110 Introduction to Computing and Information Systems at the first Fall semester. This course will be jointly taught by CIS Ph.D. Faculty in all the tracks providing new students an overview of the CIS research areas and opportunities at UNC Charlotte.

Only when there is an unavoidable schedule conflict between ITSC 8110 and another Ph.D. level course that a student has to take, the student can make a request to take ITSC 8110 in the second Fall semester. Such a request must be justified and signed by the student's initial Ph.D. advisor and endorsed by the Ph.D. Program Director.

Graduate Research Seminar

Students must sign up for and received credit for the Graduate Research Seminar (ITSC 8699) every semester that they are in the Ph.D. Program until the semester after they pass the proposal defense unless they are enrolled in ITSC 8110.

If there is a legitimate reason that a student has to do part of his/her Ph.D. research in a different site during a regular semester, then he/she must first make a request to be exempted from taking ITSC 8699 for the period that he/she is visiting the other site. Such a request must be well justified and signed by the student's Ph.D. advisor and endorsed by the Track Coordinator. The period of exemption should not exceed one semester. Exceptions have to be approved by the Ph.D. Steering Committee.

Research Advisor(s) and Qualifying Exam Committee

Each Ph.D. student is assigned a temporary academic advisor(s) within a track when admitted to the Program. Before the end of their fourth semester in the Program students should select a Research Advisor(s) and, in consultation with their Research Advisor(s), form a Qualifying Exam Committee. The Qualifying Exam Committee should include at least three CIS Doctoral Faculty members, including the Research Advisor(s) who chairs the Committee. The Qualifying Exam Committee should be approved by the Track Coordinator.

Complete and submit the following form before the end of the 4th semester.
(Qualifying Exam Committee Agreement:word | pdf)

Qualifying Exam

Each student must select a primary area of focus within the chosen track and then pass a qualifying exam in that area, given and evaluated by the student’s Qualifying Exam Committee. The purpose of the qualifying exam is to allow the student to demonstrate that they are capable of doing Ph.D. level research leading to a dissertation.

The Qualifying Examination consists of two mandatory components: an original written research contribution component and a written examination component on the student’s primary area of focus. The student must file Qualifying Examination Application at least one month before the written examination takes place. Copies of the original written research contribution must be submitted at the time of filing the Qualifying Examination Application. The Qualifying Examination Committee will evaluate the research contribution in writing based on the corresponding rubric and grade it on pass/fail basis. At the discretion of the Committee, a student may be requested to give an oral presentation of his research contribution. The Committee will decide the length of the written examination and whether an oral component of the examination should be included. The grading is based on the corresponding rubric with the passing grade being 75.

The student must pass both the written research contribution and the exam components of the qualifying exam in at most two attempts before the end of their first six semesters of Ph.D. study at UNC Charlotte. Exceptional performance on one component cannot be substituted for a failure on the other component. If either component is failed, then only that component needs to be re-taken. A second failure of a given component will result in the termination of the student's enrollment in the Ph.D. program. It is expected that the student first take the qualifying exam by the fifth semester after they are enrolled to provide time for a second try should the first one fail.

Complete and submit the following form at least one month before the exam.
(Qualifying Exam Application Form: word | pdf)

The Qualifying Committee must complete and submit the following form after taking the exam each time before the sixth semester.
(Qualifying Exam Report Form: word | pdf)

Dissertation Committee

After passing the qualifying exam, set up a Dissertation Committee of at least four graduate faculty members, which include at least three CIS Ph.D. faculty members. This Committee may, but is not required to consist of the same faculty members as the Qualifying Exam Committee. Ordinarily, the chair of this committee will be the student's advisor(s), who must be an CIS Ph.D. faculty member and will insure that the composition of the committee is appropriate. Committee members from outside the university must be appointed Associate Graduate Faculty members at UNC Charlotte. The Dissertation Committee must be approved by the Track Coordinator. After identifying and obtaining the signatures of the CIS faculty who will be serving on the Committee, the Dissertation Committee Form must be sent to the Graduate School for the appointment of the Graduate Faculty Representative. This appointment may take as long as 4 weeks.

Complete and submit both forms below.
(Dissertation Advisory Committee Form: word | pdf)
(Dissertation Committee Form: word | pdf)

If there is a need to change committee members later, a formal written request must be first submitted to the CIS Ph.D. Steering Committee with a clear explanation of the rationale for change. Upon approval by the CIS Ph.D. Steering Committee, revised Committee forms (above) must be submitted.

Proposal Defense

Each student must present and successfully defend a Ph.D. dissertation proposal after passing the qualifying exam and within ten semesters since entering the Ph.D. program. The proposal defense will be conducted by the student's Dissertation Committee and will be open to the Ph.D. CIS faculty and students. The student shall provide copies of the written proposal to the Committee members at least two weeks before the scheduled defense. At the discretion of the Dissertation Committee, the defense may include questions that cover the student's program of study and background knowledge in the area of the proposal. The proposal defense will be graded as pass/fail according to the corresponding rubrics by the Committee. A pass must be unanimous decision by the committee members; otherwise the proposal defense fails. A student can re-take the proposal defense if he/she cannot pass it the first time and should consult the Track Coordinator before the second attempt. The second failed defense of a dissertation proposal will result in the termination of the student's enrollment in the Ph.D. program. It is expected that the student first take the proposal defense by the ninth semester after they are enrolled to provide time for a second attempt should the first one fail.

Complete and submit the following form once a proposal defense is scheduled after passing the qualifying exam and within ten semesters after entering the Ph.D. program. The request form shall be submitted along with a copy of the written proposal at least two weeks before the scheduled defense.
(Dissertation Proposal Defense Request: word | pdf)

The Dissertation Committee must complete and submit the following form after each the proposal defense. Submit changes required by the Committee on the proposal in a separate sheet.
(Dissertation Proposal Defense Report: word | pdf)

Ph.D. Candidacy

A doctoral student advances to Ph.D. candidacy after the dissertation proposal has been successfully defended.

Complete and submit the following two forms.
(Topic Approval Form: word | pdf)
(Application for Admission to Candidacy: word | pdf)

Dissertation

Each student must complete a research program approved by the student's Dissertation Advisor(s) that yields a high quality, original and substantial piece of research. The Ph.D. dissertation describes this research and its results. The dissertation defense is a public presentation. A written copy of the dissertation must be made available to each member of the student Ph.D. Dissertation Committee, to the Ph.D. Steering Committee, and to the UNC Charlotte Library at least three weeks before the public defense. The date of the defense must be publicly announced at least three weeks prior to the defense. The student must present the dissertation and defend it in a manner accepted by the Dissertation Committee. The dissertation will be graded as pass/fail based on the corresponding rubrics by the Dissertation Committee. A pass decision must be unanimous and must be approved by the Dean of the Graduate School. A student who fails the defense of a dissertation twice will be terminated from the Ph.D. program.

Complete and submit the following form at least three weeks before the defense is scheduled.
(Dissertation Defense Request Form: word | pdf)

The Dissertation Committee must complete and submit the following form after the defense.
(Dissertation Defense Report: CIS Ph.D. Exam - word | pdf)

Progress Report and Evaluation

By every January, each student is required to submit a written progress report for the previous calendar year and the advisor(s) is required to submit a written evaluation of the student, both to the Track Coordinator with a copy to the Program Director. A rubric is used for evaluation of progress. Failure to make satisfactory progress may result in discontinuation of the student’s graduate assistantship and suspension from the program.

Complete and submit the following form as required.
(CIS Ph.D. Progress Form: word | pdf)

Residency Requirements

Each student must satisfy the residency requirement of one continuous full-time year (i.e., two consecutive semesters with the student being enrolled for at least nine graduate credit hours in each semester) after being admitted to the Ph.D. degree program.

Transfer Credit

In accordance with rules of the UNC Charlotte Graduate School, students are allowed to transfer up to 30 semester hours of graduate credit earned at UNC Charlotte or other recognized graduate programs. In cases of applicants with records of exceptionally high quality, the CIS Ph.D. Steering Committee, at its discretion, may request that the Graduate School approve transfer credit beyond the limit set by the Graduate School. To receive transfer credit, students must file a written request and submit all necessary documents to the Track Coordinator.

Complete and submit the form below for transferring credit.
(Transfer Credit Form: word | pdf)

Software and Information Systems track

In addition to the general Ph.D. in Computing and Information Systems requirements, students must also:

1. Take at least 6 hours of Pre-dissertation Research (ITSC 8990) during the students' first four semesters under the direction of one or more CIS Ph.D. Graduate Faculty members. Students must take three of the following four classes. The GPA for these courses must be greater than 3.6. Advanced versions of the core courses can be used as substitutes upon permission from both the student’s academic advisor and the program coordinator. Core course requirements must be met during the first 30 credit hours within the program.

ITIS 8200 Principles of Information Security and Privacy

ITIS 8400 Principles of Human-Computer Interaction

ITIS 8520 Network Science

ITIS 8180 Foundations of Health Informatics

After consultation with student academic advisor, SIS track PhD coordinator could approve the substitute of one SIS core course in the SIS requirements with a course in the CS requirements. Each student can request at most one CS course substitute. Furthermore, for each required core course, a list of advanced courses has been identified as approved substitutes. To request such substitutes, a student needs to provide evidence that similar knowledge has been acquired in previous courses

  • substitute for ITIS8200(security): ITIS8167 and ITIS8210
  • substitute for ITIS8400(HCI): ITIS8011 and ITIS8350
  • substitute for ITIS8520(network science): ITIS8500 and ITIS8530
  • substitute for ITIS8180: no

2. Complete at least 18 hours of dissertation research