This page outlines the basic requirements and timeline for the Communication and Information Sciences Ph.D. program. Please refer to the CIS Policy Document and the Graduate Division pages for details of the academic policies, degree requirements, etc. on which this summary is based.

Major milestones

The following are the major milestones of the CIS program. Each is a prerequisite for the milestone following.

1. Meet area exam, coursework, and research paper requirements.

  • Pass three secondary and one primary area exam, publish or obtain faculty approval of a research paper, and finish CIS 701, 702, 703 and an additional research methods course.

2. Pass your proposal defense
3. Pass dissertation defense
4. Turn in final revised dissertation with signatures


By the end of the ...

  • first year: you must attempt at least one area exam
  • second year: you must pass at least two area exams and submit a research paper for publication or review
  • third year: all area examination and research paper requirements should be completed
  • fourth year: you must complete all required coursework and pass your proposal defense
  • seventh year: you must successfully defend your dissertation

Generalized timeline

This timeline is provided as a general guide to meeting your degree requirements. Many students will progress faster than this timeline, but no student should progress slower.

Every semester:

First year:

  • Take whichever of CIS 701, 702, or 703 are offered
  • Take whatever courses you need to prepare for exams
  • Attempt at least one exam by the second semester, though you are encouraged to take more
  • Through coursework, the CIS 720 seminar and the personal contacts you make as a student, familiarize yourself with as many faculty and research areas as possible

Second year

  • Take whichever of CIS 701, 702, or 703 are offered if you missed one
  • Take whatever courses you need to prepare for exams
  • Take sufficient area exams to pass two by the end of your fourth semester
  • Ideally you'd pass them all now, and combine the Third and Fourth years of the timeline below!
  • Identify a tentative advisor and research area, and enroll in CIS 699 to work with them to develop appropriate research topics for your proposal.
  • Submit a research paper for publication or review by the summer that ends the second year.

Third through Fourth year

  • Take whatever courses you need to prepare for your dissertation research or remaining exams
  • Complete initial program requirements:
    • Complete all area exam requirements by the end of your sixth semester
    • Have a research paper accepted for publication or approved by faculty
  • Form I should be completed when passed
  • Identify a faculty member who will be your dissertation chair. This may or may not be the same faculty member who you worked with to develop the publishable paper. In consultation with your dissertation chair, choose committee members from eligible faculty, and discuss your proposal plans with each of them
  • Finish your literature review for your proposal

Fourth year (or third if you are fast):

  • Conduct a pilot study if needed
  • Write or revise your proposal
  • Defend your proposal (See student advice on Dissertation Proposal)
    • Obtain approval of committee from CIS Executive Board and CIS Chair three weeks in advance
    • Give draft proposal to committee two weeks in advance
    • Advertise defense to CIS list two weeks in advance
    • Only two attempts are allowed
    • Form II is signed when passed
  • Begin your research!

Fifth through Final year (no more than Seven):

  • work on empirical aspect of your dissertation
  • Begin and complete work on analytic aspect of your dissertation
    • Discuss this work regularly with your advisor and committee members as it progresses
  • Finish writing your dissertation
    • Try to get feedback from advisor and committee members as it progresses
  • Defend your dissertation  (See student advice on Defending the Dissertation)
    • Committee consent to schedule defense and announcement information given to CIS Chair three weeks in advance
    • Dissertation given to committee at least two weeks in advance
    • Defense advertised via graduate division and CIS lists at least two weeks in advance
    • Form III signed when passed
  • Revise and format your dissertation and get remaining signatures on cover sheet

Graduation semester

  • The deadline for filing for graduation is typically the first few weeks of the semester
  • The deadline for final defense is typically mid-semester
  • The deadline for turning in dissertation is typically 2/3 through semester
  • Don a gown and walk, Doctor!


Students may be put on probation for violating the Student Conduct Code, or for inadequate progress, including the following:

If a student is not removed from probation by the end of the semester after the semester in which the student was placed on probation, the student may be dismissed from the program. Extensions require documented exceptional circumstances and approval of the CIS Executive Board.