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Our doctoral program is the oldest library and information science (LIS) doctoral program in the nation. It continues to grow and change in response to new social and technological opportunities for producing, disseminating, and accessing information. The program is research-oriented and interdisciplinary, and our doctoral students work in a broad range of areas.
A PhD in LIS opens up many possibilities for individuals from multiple disciplinary backgrounds. Graduates pursue careers in academia, public institutions, and private corporations. For example, recent graduates have joined the faculty at academic institutions such as the University of Michigan, Florida State University, University of Washington, University of Texas at Austin, and UCLA. Others have gone on to work in Research and Development labs at Microsoft, Google, and Yahoo!, and some fill key roles in academic libraries such as the University of Missouri at Columbia, Princeton University, and the University of Chicago.
The program seeks outstanding students who have demonstrated the necessary educational background, professional experience, scholarly potential and keen interest to conduct independent and exemplary research in the LIS field. Applicants who can demonstrate the intellectual capacity, leadership, communication and analytical skills, potential to contribute significantly to research and education in LIS, and the enthusiasm to do so at the highest levels are welcome to apply to this doctoral program. The admissions committee, known as the Doctoral Studies Committee (DSC), also considers the fit between an applicant's research interests and the research directions supported by the School and its faculty.
If you have any questions about our PhD program, or would like to schedule a visit, please contact us at ischool-phd [at] illinois.edu.
Funding Your Studies
The iSchool is generally able to offer support for four years. Continued support decisions depend upon remaining in good standing and making progress toward graduation. Students are assessed in annual reviews from the student’s annual review committee (Advisor and one other faculty member) and the Doctoral Studies Committee (DSC). Support usually takes the form of the following, which typically are awarded throughout a student's course of study, depending upon funding opportunities and school needs:
- Research assistantships (typically 50%, or 20 hours per week)
- Teaching assistantships (typically 50%, or 20 hours per week) and/or
- Fellowships, which are tied to the dissertation process and students may submit an application for the 4th year; fellowships are only available to students who have passed the dissertation proposal exam. Exceptions can be made, e.g., students may apply to start receiving a fellowship in the term in which they take the proposal exam. Any sub-set of a 12 month duration of the fellowship can be applied for, and the fellowship does not have to be received over 12 continuous months.
These forms of financial aid generally include full or partial tuition and fee waivers for 11 months (2 out of 3 months in summer). Students will owe additional fees assessed by the University of Illinois, approximately $550 (in Fall and Spring) and $300 (in Summer) (see http://www.registrar.illinois.edu/tf-rates-term for details).
Students should work with their advisors to express their assistantship interests to Executive Associate Dean Linda Smith, who coordinates assignments each term (fall, spring, summer) for the following term (spring, summer, fall). Financial support is awarded at the time of admission, and information about the overall support awarded will be included in the admissions letter. However, your form of financial support may vary from semester to semester. Please note: closely monitoring emails from Dean Smith about assistantship assignments in upcoming semesters is of crucial importance for finding
appointments suited to your needs and interests.
The Graduate Assistant Employee Orientation, which is offered through the Graduate College, provides orientation for teaching, research, graduate, and pre-professional assistants on terms of appointment, waivers, stipends and benefits (http://www.grad.illinois.edu/assistantships). We expect our students to attend this orientation. We also require our PhD students who TA to take FERPA training (https://registrar.illinois.edu/training-ferpa).
Students are expected to maintain satisfactory academic progress (minimum GPA 3.25 on a 4.0 scale) in order to be eligible for continued support. Students holding fellowships must register as full-time students (12 hours in Fall and Spring and 4 hours in Summer Session II). Those holding 50% assistantships awarded and/or administered by the school must be registered for at least 10 hours each semester during the academic year. Students with assistantships in the library or elsewhere on campus must follow the enrollment requirements of the units employing them. Students may seek additional opportunities in the forms of hourly funding or additional assistantships, but total assistantship appointments may not exceed 67% in order to remain eligible for full or partial tuition and fee waivers. See the Graduate College handbook for details, including restrictions on % time
employment for international students.
Graduate hourly positions are usually supplemental to assistantships at the doctoral level, and do not come with stipends or tuition waivers. See also Graduate College resources for seeking funding: http://www.grad.illinois.edu/funding-jobs.
The Doctoral Program is a 48-hour research degree where students work closely with their advisor to create educational experiences both within and outside the classroom that help to prepare the student for their future research career. Students will choose, but are not limited to, 36 hours of elective courses to provide the intellectual breadth and depth required for a solid LIS foundation. At least 20 of these 36 hours of electives must be taken in the iSchool. Students admitted without a master's degree must complete an additional 32 hours of graduate level course work to satisfy the requirements of the doctoral program. Courses are selected in consultation with the student's advisor.
|IS 587 History and Foundations of LIS (taken the first year)||4|
|IS 588 Research Design in LIS (taken the first year)||4|
|One additional methods course selected in consultation with the student's advisor||4|
|Completion of coursework||48 total|
Courses outside the iSchool: Up to 16 hours of electives may be transferred in from other departments at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with the approval of the Advisor and the Dean or Assistant Dean. However, courses or independent studies taken outside of the iSchool will not automatically count towards the degree. Prior to taking the transfer course, the student must fill out a form for the course to be recognized as part of his or her degree program.
Independent study courses: Courses of independent study may be taken for credit of 2 to 4 graduate hours. Of the 36 hours of elective courses, students may take up to 16 hours of independent study. The student's Advisor and the instructor must approve course proposals for independent study courses. Requirements for earning independent study credit are jointly agreed upon by the faculty member and student. For full details on independent studies, see the course catalog listing for IS592: Independent Study.
The Field Exam enables a student to demonstrate that he/she has read broadly in a significant sub-area of LIS, is able to discuss issues and understand connections in that sub-area, and is able to apply that knowledge in a manner that is typical in scholarly work and certify that the student has a sufficient breadth and depth of knowledge in the sub-area to pursue scholarly research, teaching, and practice. Members of the iSchool community can view previous reading lists here.
Each student is required to give a public presentation that demonstrates his/her research competency. It is likely that this will take place in the second or third year of a student's program, and can be given at any point in the program before the dissertation proposal defense. The venue for presentation must be approved by the student’s advisor as appropriate for the completion of the program requirement. Acceptable venues include but are not limited to:
- presentation at a conference or workshop
- an advertised public presentation (not given as part of any course)
- presentation as part of an iSchool seminar series
- other public presentations as approved by the faculty advisor and the DSC
The dissertation process formally begins with a public presentation and defense of a proposal and culminates in the public presentation, defense, and submission of the dissertation itself. The activities and procedures are outlined in more detail below. The dissertation process is governed by the University of Illinois and generally reflects conventions adhered to by other U.S. academic institutions.
Establish the Preliminary Examination Committee
Students establish a Preliminary Examination Committee in consultation with their Advisor. The committee is responsible for advising on the construction of the proposal as well as evaluating the final product. Committee members are chosen for their expertise in the research area, but may also be chosen to provide diversity of viewpoint, expertise in methodology, or coverage of an academic discipline. The committee must be constituted in accordance with the rules of the Graduate College. A minimum of four voting members is needed. At least three members must be members of the Illinois Graduate Faculty and at least two members must be tenured. One faculty member from a department other than the iSchool is strongly recommended.
There are two official positions for committee members on the Preliminary Examination Committee: the chair of the committee and the director of dissertation research. These are often the same person, and it is likely that the Advisor will fill one--if not both--of these positions. The chair is responsible for paperwork associated with the student's progress toward completion of the dissertation and for scheduling and chairing the oral defense. The research director is responsible for guiding the actual research process.
After the field exam is completed and passed, students write and defend a proposal of their dissertation research. The form and content of the dissertation proposal are negotiated with the Preliminary Examination Committee. Typically, the proposal includes a definition or statement of the problem to be addressed, a comprehensive review of the literature, and an outline of the methodology to be used. This document forms a blueprint for the dissertation itself and provides the student with an important opportunity to try out ideas and identify potential problems. The proposal serves as an agreement between the committee and the student about the research that needs to be done for the dissertation. For these reasons, doctoral students are strongly advised to work with their committee on drafts of the document, allowing sufficient time for reading and revising prior to the formal defense.
The research proposal must demonstrate that the proposed doctoral research is viable within a reasonable timeframe. For example, the student has (a) obtained the necessary permissions to use data, and that the data can be used to address the specified research question, or (b) tested survey
questions and established that there are a sufficient number of study subjects, or (c) obtained permissions to access historical materials required for the study. Pilot studies should have been conducted to lower the risk of particularly ambitious aspects of the proposed projects. If an IRB is required it should be drafted and if possible also approved before the proposal can be defended. In other words the proposal must demonstrate the feasibility of the proposed research plan.
When both the student and his or her Preliminary Examination Committee believe the proposal is ready to be defended, a formal application for the Preliminary Examination must be made to the Graduate College. The defense is a public oral examination open to all members of the iSchool and UIUC community. Attendance by iSchool doctoral students at this event is encouraged.
A copy of the proposal is made publicly available within the university: The student delivers a final and complete copy of the proposal to the iSchool front office for public view. An electronic copy can also be provided, e.g., on Box, and doing so is strongly encouraged.
The examination is generally scheduled for two hours and consists of the following parts:
- an oral presentation by the student, summarizing the problem and proposed methodology (~30 minutes)
- questions and comments from members of the committee
- questions and comments from other attendees (where time permits)
The chair conducts the examination, and recognizes members of the committee and attendees for questions. At the conclusion of the defense, the student and all observers are asked to leave the room while the committee determines the outcome of the examination. When the committee has come to agreement, the student returns to the room and is informed of the committee's decision by the chair (details in "rules" section). The defense is graded "pass," "fail," or "decision deferred" by the Preliminary Examination Committee. If the student does not pass the Preliminary Examination, the committee has the option of (1) deferring a decision for up to six months, (2) recording a failure but granting the student another opportunity, or (3) considering the failure to be final. These rules follow those outlined by the Graduate College (see http://www.grad.illinois.edu/gradhandbook/2/chapter6/committees-exams#prelim. At the iSchool, a second failure is considered final.
Establish the Dissertation Committee
Students establish a Preliminary Examination Committee in consultation with their Advisor. The committee is responsible for advising on the construction of the proposal as well as evaluating the final product. Committee members are chosen for their expertise in the research area, but may also be chosen to provide diversity of viewpoint, expertise in methodology, or coverage of an academic discipline. The committee must be constituted in accordance with the rules of the Graduate College. A minimum of four voting members is needed. At least three members must be members of the UIUC Graduate Faculty and at least two members must be tenured. One faculty member from a department other than the iSchool is strongly recommended. The committee can include one or more qualified members from other institutions who can contribute needed expertise to the committee.
There are two official positions for committee members on the Preliminary Examination Committee: the chair of the committee and the director of dissertation research. These are often the same person, and it is likely that the Advisor will fill both of these positions. The chair is responsible for paperwork associated with the student's progress toward completion of the dissertation and for scheduling and chairing the oral defense. The research director is responsible for guiding the actual research process.
Dissertations vary in methodology, length, and presentation according to the problem to be investigated. These details are decided in consultation with the Dissertation Committee members. However, the content of the dissertation is expected to follow the proposal defended and approved by the Preliminary Examination Committee. The proposal can be thought of as a contract for the work of the dissertation. Exceptions to this (i.e., a significant change in research topic, area, or method) must be discussed and approved by the Dissertation Committee.
When both the student and his or her Dissertation Committee believe the dissertation is ready to be defended, a formal application for the Final Examination must be made to the Graduate College. The dissertation defense is a public oral exam open to all members of the iSchool and UIUC community. Attendance by iSchool doctoral students at these defenses is encouraged.
A copy of the thesis is made publicly available within the university: The student delivers a final and complete copy of the proposal to the iSchool front office for public view. An electronic copy can also be provided, e.g., on Box, and doing so is strongly encouraged.
The examination is generally scheduled for three hours and has the following parts:
- An oral presentation by the student, summarizing the problem, methodology, and major findings of the research (~30-45 minutes)
- Questions and comments from members of the committee
- Questions and comments from other attendees (where time permits)
The chair of the committee conducts the examination and recognizes members of the committee and attendees for questions.
In the same manner as for the Preliminary Examination, at the conclusion of the defense, the student and all observers leave the room while the committee determines the outcome of the examination. When the committee has come to agreement, the student returns to the room and is informed of the committee's decision by the chair (details in "rules" section).
Results: Decisions of the Committee for the Final Examination are recorded on the Final Exam Result form. The voting members of the committee must make one of the following decisions:
- Pass the candidate. The candidate passes the final exam if the Director(s) of Research vote Pass and no more than one of the remaining Committee members votes Fail. The Committee will indicate on the Final Exam Result form if revisions are required. The Committee will sign the Thesis/Dissertation Approval form after the completion of the examination and the completion of any required revisions.
- Fail the candidate. The candidate fails the Final Exam if a Director of Research votes Fail or if two or more Committee members vote Fail. A program may, but is not required to, grant the student another opportunity to take the examination after completing additional research or writing, as recommended by the committee. However, a new committee must be appointed by the Graduate College. The new committee may, but does not have to, consist of the same members as the original committee. At the iSchool, a second failure is considered final.
- Defer the decision. If this option is chosen:
- the same committee must re-examine the student,
- the second exam must occur within 180 calendar days of the date of first exam, and
- the outcome of the second exam must be pass or fail.
Number of Attempts: After a fail result, a student will only be allowed to take the preliminary examination one additional time while working toward the completion of any one program of study.
iSchool doctoral dissertations must follow the requirements established by the Graduate College. Information about this can be found in the Graduate College Handbook and in the Thesis & Dissertation section of the Graduate College website (http://www.grad.illinois.edu/thesis-dissertation). The student is responsible for making sure that the dissertation meets the requirements of the Graduate College.
For both the preliminary examination and the final exam the following participation guidelines apply:
The committee chair, defending student, and at least one additional voting member of the committee must be physically present for the entire duration of the examination. If the committee has more than one chair, all chairs must be physically present; in these cases, no additional voting member is required to be physically present.
All voting members of the committee must be present in person or participate via teleconference or other electronic communication media for the entire duration of the final examination, and the deliberation and determination of the result.
Proposal and defense announcement posters
Intent: The goal with these posters is to create more visibility and awareness for these researchrelated events, and to foster our students' sense of responsibility for their research.
- Poster template available from PhD program director or Communications (currently Lisa Watkins, watkinsl [at] illinois.edu).
- Students fill in the content and send the poster for approval to their advisor (for content) and to Communications (for design), and cc the PhD program director. The short abstract that we ask for might also be helpful for the students for other purposes, e.g., job talks, being ready to give an elevator pitch on their thesis, etc.
- At least two weeks before the actual event, the student prints and posts the approved (by Communications and advisor) posters at approved locations: the wall across from the printing press, the window between the doors of the east end entrance door, and community boards (e.g., on the 2nd floor across from the help desk). These locations might change, the current ones were approved by Eric Hege, who will also coordinate with us on any changes if needed.
- We would also like to ask the student to hang a poster at a public board in other UIUC departments from where they have thesis advisors (if applicable). Students can also put a poster on public boards in other departments as they see intellectual fit if they want to. We can help to find locations if needed (let Communications or the Program Director know).
We plan to keep the posters from the final defenses in the building to showcase and celebrate our PhD students' major achievements and the research produced in our school (place to be decided).
How to Apply
- Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university, or a master's degree in library and information science or a related field.
- An applicant must have maintained a grade-point average of at least 3.0 on a 4.0 scale in master's-level coursework and in the last two years of undergraduate coursework, in which case GRE scores are not required. For those with a GPA below a 3.0 on a 4.0 scale, GRE test scores are required. However, if an applicant has a JD or a PhD degree, they would be exempt from the GRE requirement.
- International applicants whose native language is not English must submit evidence of having passed the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) with a score of 620 or higher (or 260 or higher for the computer-administered version; 104 or higher [at least a 25 in each section] for the IBT). The test can be administered in the student's home country but should be arranged at least one year before the applicant expects to begin the program. The IELTS test is also accepted with a minimum score of 7 in each section. The School's TOEFL code is 90. Language proficiency is also to be demonstrated through an interview with the Doctoral Studies Committee (DSC).
Materials Needed to Apply
Prospective students will need to apply to the Graduate College using the Web-based electronic application. To apply to our school, you will select "Information Sciences." Applicants must also submit the following:
- Statement of purpose
- Research Statement. The purpose of the Research Statement is to give applicants a chance to present a research problem or question that interests them and to propose how it might be investigated at the School. The Committee also uses the Research Statement to help it assess how well an applicant's interests coincide with those of the faculty and are likely to be accommodated within the School, to that end applicants should identify faculty members who have similar research interests in the research statement.
- Letters of reference. Letters of reference must come from three individuals who can speak to the applicant's potential for teaching, research, and productive scholarship.
- Transcripts. Official transcripts from the applicant’s educational institution(s) should be mailed to the School of Information Sciences at 501 East Daniel Street, Champaign, IL 61820-6211.
Information about resources to assist domestic underrepresented applicants is available from the Graduate College.
All applications are assessed by the Doctoral Studies Committee. The DSC then invites the most promising candidates for a phone interview, which enables the applicant and the committee to explore research connections in more depth. The phone interview is both evaluative (i.e. the committee assesses a candidate's ability to think analytically and communicate ideas effectively) and informational (i.e. the candidate explores their fit with the faculty, the School and campus environment and the local community).
Applicants will know by the end of February if they will be invited to interview for the program.