Focus Areas

CIS PhD students choose one primary focus area and two secondary focus areas in which they will be given comprehensive exams. The program was established with eight focus areas representing intersections of the interests and expertise of the four sponsoring units. Over time, focus areas have evolved to keep the program relevant to current concerns and faculty and student interests. Also, students may propose a customized secondary exam in an area not covered by the standard focus areas. Presently we have seven focus areas offering primary and secondary exams, plus three pilot areas offering secondary exams only:

Biomedical Informatics

Biomedical Informatics, an emerging interdisciplinary field, is comprised of Bioinformatics (which finds itself at the intersection of Biology and Computer Science and includes Genomics, Proteomics and related fields), and Medical Informatics (which finds itself at the intersection of Medicine, Public Health and Computer Science).

Communication & Information Theories

Comm Theory is concerned with historical and current theories about the role of communication and information in personal, cultural, social, political and economic realms.

Communication Policy & Planning

Comm Policy/Planning is concerned with models for the formation and implementation of communication policy and planning in world, national, and local arenas that bring about or inhibit social, economic, and technical development in communication systems and their environments.

Human-Computer Interaction

HCI is concerned with the design, evaluation and implementation of interactive computing systems for human use, and with the study of major phenomena surrounding their use.

Information Systems and Services

The ISS (formerly Information Storage & Retrieval) focus addresses all aspects of organizing, retaining and retrieving information, including file storage and indexing methods; information retrieval and search strategies using controlled subject vocabulary queries, free text searching, citation indexes and impact factors, and page rank algorithms; personalized information systems including user modeling and user profiles; and information filtering systems.

Management Information Systems

Management Information Systems (MIS) addresses the technical and social dimensions of emerging information technologies (IT) in business contexts, including organizational and social aspects of IT, IT architecture and business alignment, information assurance, security, systems development, governance of global outsourcing, and electronic commerce.

Social Informatics

Social Informatics as defined elsewhere (e.g., and is quite broad, encompassing most of the focus areas of the CIS program. In the CIS program, the Social Informatics area is distinguished by a focus on how technology supports interaction and other associations between people, and how people appropriate that technology for social purposes. Interest in this area is driven by interest in new applications, but the area is defined by phenomena and issues we can expect to continue as the applications and technologies change. These more enduring phenomena include: how technology enables the formation of new social entities, and the transformation of existing social entities; how ideas emerge, move around and are transformed in socio-technical networks; and how individuals and social systems interact and transform each other. The interactions or associations studied in Social Informatics can be at different scales including dyads, "groups," "communities," or loosely associated networks of persons. The emphasis is on the interplay between features of the technology and social phenomena.

Pilot Areas

Information Assurance

The safety and security of information is paramount for the health and sustainability of organizations. While historically information assurance and cybersecurity focused heavily on technical solutions, today’s view of information assurance is highly interdisciplinary, requiring solutions from fields as diverse as psychology, sociology, business, economics, and the law.

History of Information

(Contact Exam Chair Andrew Wertheimer for more information)

The history of information is a wide scholarly area including the emerging disciplines of print culture history, book history, manuscript culture, history of reading, media history, publishing history, history of communication, journalism / mass media history, history of scholarly communications, archives, libraries, and information systems, as well as the history of the computing and the Internet. This new Secondary exam was first offered in Spring 2015. The next course to prepare for this should be LIS 612 in Spring or Fall 2017 with Dr. Wertheimer (Chair, LIS). Other Exam Committee Members include: Noriko Asato (LIS), Rich Gazan (ICS).

Community Engagement

(Community engagement explores how information professionals in libraries and other settings collaborate with community members and organizations. We consider theory and practice emphasizing critical analysis of policies, services and trends. This is a new secondary exam introduced in fall 2015. LIS 693: Community Engagement is the recommended preparation. Exam Committee: Rae-Anne Montague (LIS, chair), Vanessa Irvin (LIS), Luz Quiroga (LIS/ICS). )