Ph.D. Computer and Information Science

The Ph.D. CIS degree requirements include at least 36 credits of coursework beyond the Bachelor’s degree and at least 24 dissertation credits.  Students in the Master’s to Ph.D. must first complete the 30 credit hour Master of Science in Software Engineering or the Master of Science in Computer and Information Science degree.

The PhD program does not accept transfer credits.  Students may use up to 4 credits from a previously completed master’s degree to meet the cognate course requirements for the degree. 


Students earn a Ph.D. CIS degree in three stages:

  1. Qualification 
  2. Candidacy 
  3. Dissertation and Defense

Step 1: Qualification

In addition to fulfilling the following coursework requirements, a Ph.D. student must have:

  • a 3.5/4.0 GPA overall and a 3.5/4.0 GPA for all CIS courses to sign up for these exams
  • A working relationship with a CIS faculty member as a research advisor
Breadth Requirement

The breadth requirement is satisfied by taking three courses (9 credit hours), one from each of three of the four concentration areas below. All Ph.D. breadth courses must be completed with a grade of B+ or better within 3 full terms (1.5 years) for a full-time student with a relevant Master's degree or 4 full terms (2 years) for all other full-time students.  Courses taken at another university that are equivalent in level and content may fulfill one or more of these requirements.

Depth Requirement

The depth requirement is satisfied by taking four courses (12 credit hours).

At least one and at most two of these courses can be CIS 791 – Advanced Guided Study for Doctoral Students (see below). The remainder of these courses must be in the same concentration area, below, and must be different from the courses taken for the breadth requirement. Each of these Ph.D. depth courses must be completed with a grade of A- or better, and may not be completed via equivalency. At least one of these courses must be 600-level.

Mathematics Requirements

CIS 505 (Algorithm Design and Analysis) must be taken within the first two semesters after enrollment in the Ph.D. CIS program. The other required mathematics course must be among the following:

  • MATH 504: Dynamical Systems
  • MATH 5055: Integral Equations
  • MATH 512: First Course in Modern Algebra
  • MATH 514: Numerical Solutions of Partial Differential Equations
  • MATH 515: B-Splines and Their Applications
  • MATH 516: Partial Differential Equations
  • MATH 520: Stochastic Processes
  • MATH 525: Mathematical Statistics II
  • MATH 551: Advanced Calculus I
  • MATH 552: Advanced Calculus II
  • MATH 554: Fourier Series and Boundary Value Problems
  • MATH 555: Functions of a Complex Variable with Applications
  • MATH 558: Introduction to Wavelets
  • MATH 562: Mathematical Modeling
  • MATH 583: Discrete Optimization
  • MATH 584: Applied and Algorithmic Graph Theory
  • MATH 592: Introduction to Topology
  • STAT 530: Applied Regression Analysis
  • STAT 535: Data Analysis and Modeling
  • STAT 545: Reliability and Survival Analysis
  • STAT 590: Topics in Applied Statistics

These latter mathematics courses can be used to meet the cognate course requirement.

Elective Requirement

The remaining CIS coursework must be chosen from the concentration area courses, below (*indicates a course in the planning stages).

1. Data Management

CIS 534  The Semantic Web

CIS 569  Wireless Sensor Networks

CIS 536 Information Retrieval

CIS 583 Signal-Based Data Management

CIS 556  Database Systems

CIS 586  Advanced Data Management Systems

CIS 562 Web Information Management

CIS 658 Research Advances in Data Management


2. Data Science

CIS 555 Decision Support and Expert Systems

CIS 5700 Advanced Data Mining

CIS 5570 Introduction to Big Data

CIS 581 Computational Learning

CIS 559  Principles of Social Network Science

CIS 585 Advanced Artificial Intelligence

CIS 568  Data Mining

CIS 679 Research Advances in Computational Game Theory and Economics

CIS 579  Artificial Intelligence

CIS 685 Research Advances in Artificial Intelligence


3. Systems and Security

CIS 527 Computer Networks

CIS 563 Modeling of Computer-Based Systems

CIS 535  Programmable Mobile/Wireless Technologies

CIS 571  Web Services

CIS 537 Advanced Networking and Distributed Sys.

CIS 574 Compiler Design

CIS 544 Computer and Network Security

CIS 578  Advanced Operating Systems

CIS 546  Wireless Network Security and Privacy

CIS 584  Advanced Computer and Network Security

CIS 548  Security and Privacy in Cloud Computing

CIS 647 Research Advances in Networking and Sys.

CIS 552  Information Visualization for Multimedia and      Gaming



4. Software Engineering

CIS 553  Software Engineering

CIS 580 Data Analytics in Software Engineering

CIS 565  Software Quality Assurance

CIS 587 Computer Game Design and Implementation I

CIS 566  Software Architecture and Design Patterns

CIS 588  Computer Game Design and Implementation II

CIS 575  Software Engineering Management

CIS 678  Advances in Software Engineering Research

CIS 577  Software User Interface Design


Directed Study

A commitment from an approved CIS Faculty to act as one’s research advisor is a requirement of the qualification stage.  All students who aspire to receive a Ph.D. must demonstrate potential for conducting original research. This is accomplished by completing either three or six credit hours of a research-oriented directed study (CIS 791 – Advanced Guided Study for Doctoral Students) prior to the Preliminary Exam. These must be taken while in residence on the UM-Dearborn campus.

Ph.D. students must complete all credits of CIS 791 within their first two semesters (Fall/Winter) of the Ph.D. CIS program.

Ph.D. Research Seminar

This seminar will be offered in the fall and winter semesters.

Continuous attendance will be required of all program students, including those at the pre-candidacy level. The focus will be on reports by students on the status of their research projects. Occasional presentations by guest speakers will also be included. This seminar will have no credit hours. Passing the course will be based on participation and attendance.

Ph.D. Research Methodology Seminar

This course must be completed within the first two semesters after enrolling into the program. The seminar will include the required training in responsible conduct of research and scholarship. This seminar will carry no credit hours. Passing is based on participation and attendance, with the exception of the Responsible Conduct of Research and Scholarship Training module of the Methodology seminar, for which a test will be required.

Cognate Credits

At least 4 credit hours of coursework must be outside the computer and information science area. The second mathematics class (see above) can be used to satisfy all or part of this requirement. Other ways of satisfying this requirement are:

  • Completion of at least four hours of approved cognate credits, which must be from outside the CIS department. The minimum acceptable grade for a cognate course is a B.
  • Completion of a University of Michigan Master’s degree, which includes a cognate component. This coursework must have been completed no more than 5 years before admission to the CIS Ph.D. Program.
  • Completion of a relevant Master’s degree from another university which had coursework that meets the expectation of the program cognate requirement, without transferring the credit to the transcript. This coursework must have been completed no more than 5 years before admission to the CIS Ph.D. Program. These courses do not apply toward the minimum 18 (or 36) credit hours required for the degree and do not appear on the University transcript.
Qualifying Exam

There are two qualification exams, and they should be taken in sequence: the Curriculum Exam and the Research Exam. To take these exams, a student must have an overall and CIS GPA of at least 3.5 and will be given two attempts to pass each exam.

Once all the requirements for Qualification have been met, a decision whether the student is qualified to continue in the Ph.D. Program is made by vote of the CIS Faculty in attendance.

Curriculum Exam:

The goal of this examination will be to ensure that students have a good understanding of the fundamentals of Computer and Information Science in the broad area of their research. The examination committee will be selected from the Graduate Faculty by the Ph.D. Program Committee. The examination will include the following steps:

  1. Three computer and information science graduate-level courses are selected by the student, during the first semester of the program. One course should be in the area of the student’s research. These courses are then approved by the student’s Ph.D. Program Committee.
  2. For the course in the student’s research area, an hour long written examination on the course material, together with the underlying undergraduate material, is taken by the student. For students who do not pass this examination the first time, an additional oral examination is conducted.
  3. For each of the remaining two courses, if the student receives at least an A- in this course, the written exam is waived. However, if the student receives a grade lower than A- in this course, an hour long written examination on the course material, together with the underlying undergraduate material, is taken by the student. For students who do not pass this examination the first time, an additional oral examination is conducted.

Preliminary Examination:

The student’s ability to conduct independent research is evaluated through a written report of a project done in CIS 791, followed by a 90 minute oral exam by three faculty members, none of whom can be the student’s research advisor. The student should prepare a 45 minute presentation, followed by up to 45 minutes of questions. Examiners will be given the written report on the directed study at least one week before the examination, and each examiner will submit a written report on the examination. The student must submit four copies of the written report to the CIS Graduate Chair at least one week before the qualification exams begin.

Step 2: Candidacy

The decision to admit a student to Candidacy is based on the following,

  • The CIS Qualification process has been completed successfully
  • Completion of at least a 4-credit cognate course with a grade of at least B

A student must apply for candidacy by submitting the appropriate forms to the CIS Ph.D. Program Director before the term in which the student plans to become a candidate. Candidacy is not awarded automatically; it must be applied for.  The achievement of candidacy is considered an important milestone in a Ph.D. student's progress. A full-time student with a relevant Master's degree is making satisfactory progress if candidacy is achieved after 3 full terms (1.5 years) and must be achieved after 4 full terms (2 years). Other full-time students are making satisfactory progress if candidacy is achieved after 5 full terms (2.5) years and must be achieved within 6 full terms (3 years). Part-time students are making satisfactory progress if candidacy is achieved after 7 full terms (3.5) years and must be achieved within 8 full terms (4 years).

Step 3: Dissertation and Defense

Dissertation and Defense for the CIS Ph.D. requires the following:

  • Identify a research advisor and agree on an appropriate topic
  • Identify a doctoral committee
  • Submit and defend a proposal for the doctoral research content
    • Dissertation Proposal Examination
  • Do the research and write the dissertation
  • Submit and defend the dissertation
The Dissertation Committee

The Dissertation Committee will consist of the chair and at least three other members. The student’s dissertation advisor will serve as chair. Of the additional members, two must hold at least 50% appointment as tenured or tenure-track faculty of the Computer and Information Science Department, with at least one being a member of the graduate faculty. The third committee member must be from outside the department: a faculty from another department or another university or an expert from industry.

The composition of the Dissertation Committee has to be approved by the Ph.D. Program Committee.

Dissertation Proposal Examination

The next important step of the Dissertation and Dissertation Defense stage will be the Dissertation Proposal Examination.  The main objective is to ensure that the proposed research topic, as well as the student’s background and relevant knowledge, are of sufficient strength.

The examination will consist of a written Dissertation Proposal and a presentation open to the public by the student. The examination will be conducted by the Dissertation Committee formed by the Ph.D. Program Committee. As a rule, the Dissertation Committee will continue overseeing the student’s work to the stage of final dissertation defense.

Dissertation Defense

After the initial requirements are met, the student may proceed with the dissertation research and the writing of the dissertation. The dissertation should document the original contributions made by the candidate as a result of independent research. This research work should be of archival quality. In advance of graduation, the dissertation must be approved by all the members of the student's dissertation committee. To obtain this approval a student must submit a written copy of the dissertation to the dissertation committee and defend the research work at a final oral examination open to other faculty, students, and the interested public.

Copies of the dissertation, approved by the student’s research advisor, must be provided to the committee at least two weeks before the oral defense. Copies of the dissertation given to the committee should be in final form and must meet campus dissertation guidelines.

Dissertation committee members are required to submit written evaluations of the student’s dissertation prior to the oral defense. The dissertation committee members must be present at the dissertation defense. Since the defense examination includes the formal public presentation of the dissertation research, it will be publicized throughout the college and the university. The time between passing the Dissertation Proposal Examination and the dissertation oral defense should be at least 14 weeks.

Publication of Research

The CIS Ph.D. program is designed to give a student a comprehensive and in-depth knowledge of the computer and information science field, as well as training in research methods. Therefore, based on the student’s dissertation research, the student is required to have submitted at least 1-2 quality papers to a top-quality, peer-reviewed, professional conference or journal in the field, prior to scheduling the final oral examination. For this purpose, the department will develop a list of acceptable top-quality conferences and journals in all of our research areas.

Time Limit for Completing the Degree

The CIS Ph.D program has a time limit of 7 years. Students are expected to complete the degree within five years of achieving candidacy, but no more than seven years from the date of the first enrollment in the CIS Ph.D program. Students who have not completed their degree within the seven-year limit may petition the CIS Ph.D Program Committee for an extension of time to degree with a plan for completion. A student who does not complete the degree after two years of extension may be returned to pre-candidacy status and required to meet candidacy requirements again.

Computer and Information Science

CIS Building
Back to top of page