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 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.
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, which include an original written research contribution component and an oral examination component on the student’s primary area of focus. The student must file the 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. The student will also give an oral presentation of his/her research contribution. The committee will decide the length of the written examination.
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.
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. Ordinarily, the chair of this committee will be the student’s advisor(s), who must be a CIS Ph.D. faculty member and will ensure 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.
The Graduate Student Representative must be a graduate facutly member outside of the student’s department. The Student can ask a faculty member to serve in this capacirty or the Graduate School can appoint a graduate school facutly member to this role. The Graduate Student Representative must be an associate or full tenured graduate faculty member.
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:
- Take 12 credit hours of core courses (see Graduate School Catalog for courses and course descriptions)
- 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:
- Take 9 credit hours of core courses (see Graduate School Catalog for courses and course descriptions)
- 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.