Ph.D. in Computing and Information Systems 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:
- Department of Computer Science
- Department of Software and Information Systems
- Department of Business Information Systems and Operations Management
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 during their first fall semester. This course will be jointly taught by CIS Ph.D. Faculty in all the tracks and it provides new students an overview of the CIS research areas and opportunities at UNC Charlotte.
If 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. Graduate 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. Students are not required to be enrolled in ITSC 8110 and ITSC 8699 simultaneously.
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. Graduate Program Director.
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 be at least 3 CIS Doctoral Faculty members, which is composed of their research advisor who chairs the Committee and 2 other committee members. The Qualifying Exam Committee should be approved by the Track Coordinator.
Each student must pass a qualifying exam, given and evaluated by the student’s Qualifying Exam Committee. The purpose of the Qualifying Exam is to ensure that the student will have sufficient capability for doing dissertation-level research leading to a Ph.D. degree.
Each student much finish the required core courses and must prepare a written research survey that describes the research area the student is expected to do his/her dissertation research in. Copies of the research survey must be provided to the committee at the time of filing the Qualifying Examination application, which must be at least two weeks prior to the exam. The student must present the research survey and defend it in a manner accepted by the Qualifying Exam Committee. Prior to the oral defense of the research survey, the student’s advisor is required to submit a written evaluation of the student’s research and academic progress to the Qualifying Exam Committee, with a copy also provided to the Concentration Coordinator. The Qualifying Exam will be graded on a Pass/Unsatisfactory basis, based on the corresponding rubrics by the Qualifying Exam Committee. A pass decision must be unanimous.
The student must pass the Qualifying Examination in at most two attempts within three years of the date of first enrollment into Ph.D. study at UNC Charlotte. A student who fails the Qualifying Exam twice will be terminated from the Ph.D. in Computing and Information Systems program.
After passing the qualifying exam, students are required to create their Dissertation Committees. The Dissertation Committee is comprised 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. The chair of this committee will be the student’s research advisor(s), who must be a CIS Ph.D. faculty member and will ensure that the composition of the committee is appropriate. The dissertation committee must include a minimum of four Doctoral Faculty members. This committee is led by the student’s research advisor, who acts as the chair, and also includes two graduate faculty members, along with one Graduate Student Representative. This representative should be a graduate faculty member from a different department than the student’s. The student has the option to request a faculty member to fulfill this role, or alternatively, the Graduate School may assign a graduate school faculty member to it. It’s required that the Graduate Student Representative holds a position of either an associate or full tenured graduate faculty member.
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.
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.
The day of the defense, students must bring grading rubrics and the Graduate School Dissertation Proposal Defense form to their defense. It is the responsibility of the research advisor to ensure all documentation is signed and submitted to the Director of Graduate Studies for processing.
A doctoral student advances to Ph.D. candidacy after the dissertation proposal has been successfully defensed. 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’s Ph.D. Dissertation Committee at least three weeks before the public defense. Doctoral candidates must also upload their dissertation to iThenticate to ensure that the candidates are properly citing sources used for their dissertation. 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 from the Dissertation Committee. A student who fails the defense of a dissertation twice will be terminated from the Ph.D. program.
The day of the defense, the doctoral candidate must bring grading rubrics, the Graduate School Final Defense form, the ETD form, and the candidate’s dissertation cover page to the defense. It is the responsibility of the candidate’s research advisor to ensure all documentation is signed and submitted to the Director of Graduate Studies for processing.
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.
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.
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.
Track Specific Additional Degree Requirements
Computer Science track
In addition to the general CIS Ph.D. requirements, Computer Science track students must also:
- Students must earn a minimum of 3.5 GPA in core courses.
- Take 12 credit hours of core courses
- Group A (6 credit hours from the following courses)
- ITCS 8107 – Formal Languages and Automata (3)
- ITCS 8114 – Algorithms and Data Structures (3)
- ITCS 8132 – Modeling and Analysis of Communication Networks (3)
- ITCS 8156 – Machine Learning (3)
- ITCS 8165 – Coding and Information Theory (3)
- Group B (6 credit hours from the following courses)
- ITCS 8120 – Computer Graphics (3)
- ITCS 8150 – Intelligent Systems (3)
- ITCS 8160 – Database Systems (3)
- ITCS 8166 – Computer Communications and Networks (3)
- ITCS 8182 – Computer System Architecture (3)
- Group A (6 credit hours from the following courses)
- Take at least 6 credit 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
- Take at least 30 credit hours of coursework approved by the student’s Research Advisor(s). At least 9 credit hours of graduate coursework must be taken at UNC Charlotte (Exceptions to minimum course hour requirements may be granted by the Department Graduate Committee upon the recommendation of the student’s Dissertation Committee. Such a request should only be granted based on overwhelming evidence that the student has excellent background knowledge to conduct high quality research in Computing and Information Systems)
- Complete at least 18 credit hours of dissertation research
Software and Information Systems track
In addition to the general CIS Ph.D. requirements, students must also:
- Students must earn a minimum of 3.6 GPA in core courses.
- Take 9 credit hours of core courses
- ITIS 8180 – Foundations of Health Informatics (3)
- Approved substitutions : ITIS 8010, Special Topics, Health Informatics
- ITIS 8200 – Principles of Information Security and Privacy (3)
- Approved substitutions : ITIS 8167, Network Security or ITIS 8210 Access Control and Security Architecture
- ITIS 8400 – Principles of Human-Computer Interaction (3)
- Approved substitutions : ITIS 8011 Interaction Design Studio or ITIS 8350 Rapid Prototyping Design Patterns
- ITIS 8520 – Network Science (3)
- Approved substitutions : ITIS 8500, Complex Adaptive Systems or ITIS 8530, Systems Dynamics
- All substitutions must be approved by academic advisor and track coordinator:
- Each student is allowed one CS track qualifying course as a substitute for one SIS qualifying course.
- ITIS 8180 – Foundations of Health Informatics (3)
- 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
- Take at least 30 hours of coursework approved by the student’s Research Advisor(s). At least 9 hours of graduate coursework must be taken at UNC Charlotte (Exceptions to minimum course hour requirements may be granted by the Department Graduate Committee upon the recommendation of the student’s Dissertation Committee. Such a request should only be granted based on overwhelming evidence that the student has excellent background knowledge to conduct high quality research in Computing and Information Systems)
- Complete at least 18 hours of dissertation research
The coursework requirements of this track depend on the chosen unit and complementary discipline. Students are required to complete the core requirements of the chosen unit and select a minimum of two graduate courses from a complementary discipline with the approval of their advisors.
Business Information Systems and Operations Management (BISOM)
Students in this concentration are required to take the mandatory CIS courses. Those enrolled in this concentration must take a minimum of 36 credit hours of course work approved by the research advisor(s). For specific courses, please contact the Graduate Program Director for BISOM.
For more detailed information and the necessary forms, please go to CIS Ph.D. Program.