PhD Requirements

The doctor of philosophy in computer science is above all a degree of quality that is not conferred simply for the successful completion of a specified number of courses or years of study. It is a degree reserved for students who demonstrate both a comprehensive understanding of computer science and an ability to do creative research. Each PhD student will produce a significant piece of original research, presented in a written dissertation and defended in an oral examination. The expected level of quality is such that one or more conference or journal articles could be based on the research described in the dissertation. Along the way students will likely generate several other research papers, many of them co-authored with their dissertation advisor and other graduate students. 

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The structure of the PhD program described here is intended to facilitate the process of learning how to do research. Throughout the program students will take courses intended to build a foundation of knowledge that is essential for advanced research. During their first year in the program, students begin with work on a directed research project under the close supervision of a faculty member. In the middle stages of the program, students will take fewer courses and spend most of their time building a foundation of knowledge in their research area and learning how to identify and solve open problems under the guidance of the Dissertation Advisory Committee (DAC). The final step is to propose an independent research topic, conduct the research, and then write and defend a dissertation.

Academic Advisor 

The Graduate Program Coordinator will assign an academic advisor to each student admitted to the PhD Program. The academic advisor does not have to be in the student's potential research area. In fact, it is recommended that in the first few years in the program the academic advisor not be the student's eventual dissertation advisor in order to provide a different perspective for the student. A student can change his or her academic advisor by making a request to the Graduate Education Committee (GEC). Towards the latter years of the PhD program, it is common for the academic advisor and research advisor to be the same individual. 

Division of Graduate Studies Policies (Extremely Important) 

It is essential that all PhD students be familiar with GradWeb and the Division of Graduate Studies policies through careful review of the Graduate Studies website. For example, they should note the Doctoral Policy and Procedures pertaining to time limit, residency and continuous enrollment. Students who have any questions about these matters should consult with the Graduate Program Coordinator. 

Course Requirements 

PhD students who enter the program without a master's degree in computer science are required to take 48 credits in graduate classes. They must also meet the breadth and depth requirements.

Breadth and Depth Requirements

PhD students may be awarded a master's degree after completing all of the MS degree requirements and applying for graduation. 

PhD students must earn a minimum grade of B- and an overall GPA of 3.5 in the six courses they use to satisfy the breadth and depth requirements. 


PhD students must take an additional 24 credits of graduate-level courses, 12 of which must be from 600-level courses. Courses numbered 510, which appear on the approved course list, may be included in any 500-level credits. For graduate level courses taken in other departments on campus, a petition to the Graduate Education Committee is required. 

Students who enter with a master's degree may petition the Graduate Education Committee to waive any of the above course requirements, indicating how their prior graduate work corresponds to the above courses. See the Graduate Program Coordinator for the petition. 

Minimum Annual Enrollment 

Prior to candidacy, all PhD students are expected to enroll in at least six credits worth of 600-level courses each year. These six credits can be any 600-level course used to complete the breadth, depth, or elective requirements, as described above. Note that Research (CIS 601), Dissertation (CIS 603), and Readings (CIS 605) cannot be used to satisfy this requirement. After candidacy, PhD students are encouraged to continue participating in 600-level courses. 

Directed Research Project

Each student must complete a directed research project under the close supervision of a faculty member. The goals of the Directed Research Project (DRP) are two-fold. One is to give a PhD candidate an early opportunity for a research experience under supervision of a faculty committee. The other is to give an early assessment of the candidate's research potential in the department's environment. To achieve these goals, the DRP is to be completed in a timely fashion (see DRP timeline). 

The scope of a DRP should be somewhere between an undergraduate honors and a master's thesis. A desired result of a DRP is a publishable paper or a departmental technical report. 

A DRP consists of the following components: literature review, research, possibly software artifact, written report in the form of the DRP final paper, public presentation of the results, and the exam by private questioning from the committee members. 

Formation of the DRP Committee: The student and the faculty sponsor agree on a project, committee members, timeline and deliverables The DRP committee consists of the faculty sponsor and two other CS faculty members, one preferably outside the immediate project area. A faculty member of another department with a "participating" appointment in the CS Department can count as one of the two CS members.

The DRP Contract: The student writes up a DRP contract that includes project description, DRP committee members, time line and deliverables (about 2-4 pages), attaches a copy of the APPROVAL FOR THE DRP CONTRACT FORM with signatures, and submits it to the GEC for approval by turning it in to the Graduate Program Coordinator. This form can be obtained from the Graduate Program Coordinator. See DRP timeline regarding submission of this form.

Research Credits: The student will register for 4-6 credits of 601 Research during each of the terms in which the research will be conducted, possibly for less in the initial and/or final term of the project. See DRP timeline for deadline for completion of the DRP.

The DRP Paper: The DRP paper reports the results of the student's research project in a professional format and style. Two weeks prior to the scheduled presentation, the student must submit the paper and other deliverables to the DRP Committee.

The DRP Presentation and Questioning: The student, in consultation with the faculty sponsor, must schedule the DRP presentation through the Graduate Program Coordinator who will confirm and notify the faculty and graduate students. The DRP presentation is a public talk given in the department. It is followed by private questioning of the student by the DRP Committee and other faculty members. At the end of the exam, the DRP Committee agrees on the outcome of the DRP.

Possible Outcomes of the DRP: The possible outcomes are:

  1. Pass, with distinction,
  2. Pass,
  3. Conditional pass (e.g. perform some remedial work pertinent to the project) or,
  4. Fail.

A conditional pass will have a specified deadline for completion of the remedial work. Failure of a DRP could result from one or more of the following: not completing the DRP in a timely fashion; not fulfilling the contract; inadequacy in the quality of work performed; inadequacy of the written report and/or oral presentation; inability to answer questions pertaining to the project.

In case of a fail for the DRP, the student could be asked to leave the program or may be given the option of undertaking another DRP. The DRP can be repeated at most once, and the second DRP must be successfully completed within three quarters of residence following the decision.

The results of the DRP are indicated on the RESULTS OF THE DIRECTED RESEARCH PROJECT FORM, each committee member signs, and the form is then returned to the Graduate Program Coordinator. The student then must submit their DRP report to CS archives.

DRP Timeline

APPROVAL FOR THE DRP CONTRACT FORM must be submitted by week eight of spring term in the student's first year.

RESULTS OF THE DIRECTED RESEARCH PROJECT FORM indicating completion of the DRP must be submitted according to the following schedule. This schedule presumes fall admission to the Ph.D. program. For off-cycle admission, the student should consult with GEC for precise deadlines.

Student's academic background at admission Time limit
M.S. in computer science End of fourth quarter
All others End of sixth quarter

Following the completion of a DRP, the student forms their Dissertation Advisory Committee (DAC), chooses an area of research, and begins the process of preparing for the Area Exam. The milestone should be completed about one year after the DRP.

Dissertation Advisory Committee

Ph.D. Students will form a Dissertation Advisory Committee (DAC) immediately upon completion of their DRP. The student's research advisor will be the chair of the committee. Just as with the DRP, the other two members of the committee are CS faculty, or one CS faculty and a faculty from another department with a "participating" appointment in CS. An outside member is optional for the early stages, but should be part of the Division of Graduate Studies mandated Dissertation Committee. (See the Division of Graduate Studies Doctoral Dissertation Committee Policy). The main role of the DAC will be to advise students during the phase of the Ph.D. program between the passing of the DRP and the scheduling of the dissertation defense. The DAC will take primary responsibility for evaluating student progress. Students will meet with their DAC at least once every academic year. Two weeks before the annual review meeting the student will fill out an annual review form and write a short research paper and submit both to their committee members. The annual meeting will include a private oral presentation at which the student will give a summary of their research and their goals for the coming year. There will be a short question and answer period, followed by a closed session where the committee will discuss the student's progress. The chair of the DAC will write a report and submit it to GEC.

Annual DAC review meetings must be scheduled before the fifth week of Winter Quarter, and held by the end on Winter Quarter.  Holding the DAC prior to this deadline is encouraged.

The Area Exam (formerly known as Oral Comprehensive Exam)

In consultation with the Dissertation Advisory Committee (DAC), the student further defines their research area. This is described in a written study plan, which defines the area and contains a reading list. During the preparation period, the student should consult their advisor periodically to monitor progress. As an end result, the student writes a position paper. This paper should describe the research area, its main methodology and results, as well as the sub-area of the student's future research. After the paper is approved by the DAC, the student gives a public presentation covering the area as presented in the student's research paper, after which he or she will be quizzed by the DAC members. Upon completion of the talk, have the form signed by all DAC members and the head of GEC, and return it to the Graduate Program Coordinator. The student then must submit their Area Exam to CS archives. Find timeline details and other important information about this process on the CS Intranet.

Dissertation Proposal, Research, and Defense

The final phase in a student's PhD program is the dissertation. During this phase, the student forms the Dissertation Committee in consultation with his or her advisor, identifies a significant unsolved research problem, carries out the research required to solve the problem, and then writes and defends a dissertation. Find all dissertation requirements on the CS Intranet.

Limits of Financial Support 

Time limits: PhD students are eligible for GE funding from the CS department (henceforth referred to as "departmental support") during their first five years of graduate study at the University of Oregon. Eligibility is not a guarantee of funding. See the rules for yearly application for GE funding after the first two years in the program. 

For students who enter the MS program at the University of Oregon and then transfer to the PhD program, the five years of eligibility includes all time in the graduate program, including the MS program. 

This limit applies regardless of other funding a student may receive during the first five years of graduate study at the University of Oregon, including GE-R (research) support from CS and any kind of support from outside the department. 

While students are eligible for five years of departmental support, PhD students should typically find GE-R support in their research areas after the first two years. Moving from departmental support to grant-supported research assistantships both accelerates the progress of PhD research and makes department-funded GE positions available for incoming students. 

The time limits specified above pertain only to departmental support from department funds. If a student is grant supported, he/she may receive financial support beyond the five year eligibility limit. 

Annual Review

Students are reviewed on an annual basis (as outlined in section VII), and reappointment is subject to satisfactory academic performance and progress, as well as satisfactory performance in their GE-Teaching role. Failure to meet the deadlines for the DRP, Area Exam, and PhD Proposal are possible grounds for suspension or termination of financial support. 

In early spring term, the Dissertation Advisory Committee will report to GEC the quality of each student’s work. At this time, any areas of concern or commendation are discussed. These results are communicated to students via an official letter discussing their performance.

Office Space and Computer Accounts

Office space for unsupported PhD students is not guaranteed. Office space will not be given to students after they have completed their degree. Graduating students can continue their computer accounts, as alumni, for one year.