What is Information Science?

Information Science is the study and design of information systems in applied, social contexts. This includes not only how to organize, analyze, categorize, manipulate, store, retrieve and protect data, but also how to design systems that serve the social, cognitive and emotional needs of the people who need to access and use information. Information scientists exist in every industry – including the tech sector, government, education, healthcare and finance – to help us better interpret and utilize data by applying principles of information ethics, archival science, social science and human behavior. Our doctoral program offers a comprehensive and interdisciplinary study of information science, data science and human-centered computing, while operating at the intersection of people, information and technology.

The PhD in Information Science is designed to develop skills and knowledge in two dimensions: First, the breadth that is necessary to understand the wide range of research methods and approaches common in interdisciplinary fields and, second, the depth of expertise to solve cutting-edge problems and advance scholarship in a chosen area of study.

Interdisciplinary Breadth

PhD students in the Information Science program achieve broad knowledge of interdisciplinary research through three common foundations courses, generally taken in the first year of the program:

  • Foundations in Information Science
  • Foundations in Data Science
  • Foundations in Human-Centered Computing

Students also take three required research methods courses that expose them to diverse ways of investigating phenomena in the world:

  • Research Statistics
  • Quantitative Research Methods
  • Qualitative Research Methods

In the first year, the seminar PhD Process and Practice introduces students to best practices in scholarship, teaching and professional service and allows for discussion of research life.

Disciplinary Depth

Two topical seminars and two specialization courses round out the PhD courses, which are usually completed in the first two years. The most important experience in PhD level education is the research that students conduct with faculty mentors and peers. PhD students have immediate opportunities to get hands-on experience with all aspects of research and publishing through participation in research projects with faculty advisors.

In addition to required coursework, PhD students meet three additional degree milestones: passing a candidacy exam, proposing their dissertation work and the dissertation defense.  

The length of time to complete the PhD degree varies by student. In general, our students aim to complete their degrees within four to five years, depending on the amount of time they can devote to the program. The degree has been completed in as few as three years but can take five or more.

In addition to working with an advisor and dissertation committee, our PhD students work closely with the PhD program director and PhD program manager throughout their degree program to devise their plan of study, apply for opportunities like scholarships and internships, and obtain funding for travel to conferences and meetings.