Area exams are scheduled once each semester, based on student requests (due within the first few weeks of the semester) and subject to faculty availability and approval. Each exam is written by a faculty committee and the exam content, structure and preparation process is at the discretion of the committee members. Generally, exams reflect topics covered in suggested courses and texts and articles suggested by course instructors, area coordinators, and examination committee members.

Secondary examinations test students' basic knowledge in the specified area of study. Primary examinations evaluate students' ability to conceptualize, plan and evaluate research in the specified area of study. 

For current exam information, contact the chair of the exam committee or the CIS chair.

Following exams can be taken as secondary and primary.


Social Informatics (SI)

Students are required to take at least one of the following courses before taking the secondary exam, or two courses before taking the primary exam: ICS 668 Social Informatics; ICS 669 Social Computing; COM 634 Social Media. For the primary exam, students will also be required to enroll in CIS 699 under the faculty member of their choice, who will guide the student in studying the required readings.

Exam Committee: Dan Suthers (ICS, chair), Rich Gazan (ICS/LIS), Wayne Buente (COM).

Data Science – beginning as of 9/2018

Data science is an applied field so that rather than assessing student’s proficiency using written examinations, the data science examinations will be project-based. The student is required to

  1.     Complete CIS 702 and CIS 705 (Data Science Fundamentals) in preparation for the exam area.
  2.     Take at least one semester of CIS 699 with any CIS faculty member in order to work on a data science project.
  3.     Present the data science project at CIS 720
  4.     Submit the project report (8-10 pages) to the exam committee for grading

Both secondary and primary examinations will follow the above format. The project report for the secondary examination must demonstrate proficiency in all areas of the data science body of knowledge. The criteria for assessing the primary examination will be research-oriented: the project report needs to demonstrate a contribution to the body of knowledge of data science and/or to the application domain of the topic studied.

Depending on the student’s specific focus, various faculty will be involved in the exam. Dr. Lipyeow Lim (ICS) will teach CIS 705 and serve as exam chair.  Other faculty might include David Chin (ICS); Rich Gazan (LIS); Jenifer Winter (COM), Kelly Bergstrom; Liz Davidson (ITM), Randy Minas (ITM), Dan Port (ITM).

Digital Business Transformation (DBT)

This exam area focuses on applications of IT in business firms and organizations, including approaches to project management, IT governance, business process and system design, and IT-enabled organizational change. Students without a recent MBA should take BUS 625 Managing Information Technology for Strategic Advantage. Other courses relevant to the secondary exam include ITM 683 Data Analytics and Business Intelligence and ITM 680 Project Management. Students desiring a primary exam should take ITM 704 Doctoral Seminar in Information Systems and/or prepare via CIS699 directed reading mentored by an ITM department faculty member

Exam Committee: Liz Davidson (ITM, chair), Tung Bui (ITM), Bo Xiao (ITM) .

Human-Computer Interaction (HCI)

The HCI exam committee requires that students take an HCI course before taking the area exam. Relevant courses include: ICS 464 Human Computer Interaction, ICS 664 Human-Computer Interaction II, ICS 667 Advanced HCI Design Methods, ICS 668 Social Informatics, and LIS 677 Human Dimension in Information Systems.

Exam Committee: Martha Crosby (chair, ICS), Scott Robertson (ICS), Dan Suthers (ICS), Luz Quiroga (ICS/LIS) and Jan Stelovsky (ICS).

Information Policy & Planning (IPP)

COM 660- Communication Planning is the prerequisite to take this exam, and it will be offered every spring semester. COM 633- Information & Communication Technologies is relevant. Students need to contact the exam chair the semester before to discuss creation of a primary list. The examinee is responsible for drafting a substantial draft list under supervision of the committee, which is due at the start of the semester when taking the exam (so that it can be further refined).

Exam Committee: Jenifer Winter (chair, COM), Hanae Kramer (COM), Rich Gazan (ICS/LIS)

Information Systems and Services (ISS)- retiring as of 5/2017

This exam encompasses how information systems work, and how they work for people and communities. Topics include: Storing, querying/searching, and updating of all types of data (structured, unstructured, text, graph, multimedia etc.); Relevance ranking; User modeling / Information filtering / Personalization; Bibliometrics/scientometrics; Knowledge and metadata management (including semantics and ontologies); Indigenous knowledge systems; Service evaluation; Information integration and fusion; Data mining and big data analytics.

Prep course(s):
CIS 702 Communication/Information Technologies.

ICS 624 Advanced Data Management and LIS 663 Database Searching are also recommended.

Exam committee: Rich Gazan (ICS/LIS; Chair), Wayne Buente (COM), Vanessa Irvin (LIS).

Provisional Exam Areas

Following exams are offered under the provisional base and are under review for the permanent status. They can only be taken as secondary exams.

The Community Engagement Doctoral Exam (CEDE)

CEDE is a secondary examination within the CIS PhD Program. As such, this exam tests students’ general knowledge at a level sufficient to teach a course in the topical area of 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. The course, LIS 630 Community Engagement, is the recommended preparation for this exam.

Previous CEDE Exam Reading List (2015).

Exam Committee: Vanessa Irvin (LIS, chair), Andrew Wertheimer (LIS), Luz Quiroga (LIS/ICS), Wayne Buente (COM).

Information Assurance (IA)

Information Assurance is a new exam area introduced in Spring 2013. Only the secondary exam is currently offered. Students are required to take at least one of the following courses before taking the secondary exam: ICS 425 Computer Security and Ethics; ICS 426 Computer System Security; ICS 4XX (permanent number pending) Secure Development; ITM 431 Networking; ITM 433 Cyber Security; ICS 623 Data Security.

Exam Committee: Martha Crosby (ICS, chair), Peter-Michael Seidel (ICS), Barbara Endicott-Popovsky (ICS/U of Washington).