CIS PhD students choose one primary focus area and two secondary focus areas in which they will be given comprehensive exams.

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:

Social Informatics

Social Informatics as defined elsewhere (e.g., and is 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.

Data Science

Data science is a new field that addresses opportunistic but ethical users of the vast data stores created through widespread digitization of human activities. Data science includes indentifying or acquiring sources of digital data, analyzing data automatically or semi-automatically, and using data analytics to inform business or policy decisions or advance scientific discovery. Data governance activities include acquiring, cleaning, using or reusing, publishing, and managing data stores for these purposes.

Information Policy & Planning

Information Policy/Planning is concerned with models for the formation and implementation of information 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.

Digital Business Transformation

The Digital Business Transformation area addresses the radical changes in industries, business models, and service offerings that are emerging in the digital economy, including emerging and transformed service delivery models with digital platforms, IT architecture, application development and API (application programming interface) ecosystems, governance of IT resources within and between organizations, cybersecurity, and organizational and social changes resulting from these technological developments.

Health Informatics- redesigned starting from 9/2018

Health 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), Medical Informatics (which finds itself at the intersection of Medicine, Public Health and Computer Science), and Health Informatics (the use of health IT in management of Health systems).

Communication & Information Theories

- on hiatus as of 5/2017-

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.

Information Systems and Services

- retired as of 5/2018-

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.

Research areas under development

- offered as provisional exam areas-

The Community Engagement

Community engagement explores the processes of researchers and professionals collaborating with stakeholders and organizations to build sustainable relationships that benefit community members.
We consider theory and practice from library science, information science, and any interdisciplinary areas that emphasize critical analysis of organizational policies, community-based services and socio-cultural trends.


Information Assurance