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.


Communication & Information Theories (CIT)

CIS 701 (Communication & Information Theories of Society) is the recommended preparation for the secondary exam. The primary exam involves additional readings. Please contact CIS Chair for more information. 

Community Engagement (CE)

Community engagement 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. 

Exam CommitteeTonia Sutherland (LIS, chair),Vanessa Irvin (LIS), Kelly Bergstrom(COM).  

Data Science - The exam is currently being revised. Please contact CIS Chair for updates.

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), Randy Minas (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: Scott Roberson (chair, ICS), Dan Suthers (ICS), Randy Minas (ITM).

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)

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).

In exceptional circumstances, students can petition the CIS Executive Board for a special secondary area examination other than those usually offered. The special area should (1) be a rigorous academic area, (2) be a generic area of study as opposed to an application area, (3) involve faculty other than CIS faculty, (4) not cover material covered in other examinations, and (5) follow the policies used in regular examination areas. (see The CIS Program Policies and Procedures document. 3.2)