Program Overview

Doctoral students need to complete 32 credit hours course requirement, a research presentation, the field exam, and a dissertation to earn a PhD in Information Sciences. Students will work closely with their advisor to create educational experiences both within and outside the school that help them to prepare for their future research career. In addition to taking classes and carrying out individual research projects, all students are expected to attend talks, meet with international visitors, and participate in School-sponsored events. Due to these requirements, our PhD program cannot be completed online. English is the language of instruction of our School and the lingua franca of our discipline.

Course requirements

The Doctoral Program is a 64 credit hour research degree. All PhD students must complete 

After fulfilling the course requirements, students start taking thesis credits. A minimum of 32 thesis credits are required.

Research presentation

Each student is required to give a public presentation that demonstrates their research competency. This presentation can be given at the iSchool, at UIUC, or externally. 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.

Field exam

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.


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.

Preliminary exam

  • After the field exam is completed and passed, students write and defend a proposal of their dissertation research. Typically, the proposal includes a definition or statement of the problem to be addressed, a comprehensive review of the literature relevant to the proposed research and outline of the data and methodology to be used, and demonstrates the feasibility of the proposed work.

Final exam

  • Dissertations vary in methodology, length, and presentation according to the problem to be investigated. However, the content of the dissertation is expected to follow the proposal defended and approved by the Preliminary Examination Committee. The student delivers a final and complete copy of the thesis, and a public oral presentation to defend the dissertation.

For more information on PhD requirements, see the doctoral student handbook.