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:

Focus Areas

  • 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 …read more

  • 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.

  • 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 …read more

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Communication & Information Theories

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

  • 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).