Focus Areas

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.

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.

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.

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. 

Data Science (DS)

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.

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.

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.

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).

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.