Apr 21, 2024  
Graduate Catalog 
Graduate Catalog

Computer and Information Sciences, All Tracks, Ph.D.

The Computer and Information Sciences (CIS) (formerly Integrated Computing) doctoral program is housed in the Donaghey College of Engineering and Information Technology. Faculty, curriculum, and resources for this program come from two departments: Computer Science and Information Science.

This degree is designed to promote strong multidisciplinary collaborations across several computing disciplines whose bodies of knowledge influence and intertwine with each other. The following track areas are offered:

Computer Science

The mission of the Computer Science track of the Ph.D. is to provide high-quality research and educational experiences by maintaining a balance between theoretical and experimental aspects of computer science. The primary focus of the Ph.D. track is the development and demonstration of research skills in all aspects of computing. The track also provides the opportunity to concentrate on a specific subject area within a discipline. With information technology extending its reach into more and more application domains, students are increasingly interested in focused education that may draw from several areas. We have designed a track that allows you to obtain an in-depth education in specific aspects of computer science and related fields. The track encourages interdisciplinary research among faculty, students, and research associates. It is the unique interdisciplinary combination that distinguishes our Ph.D. track. The department facilitates a collegial atmosphere that is conducive to the intellectual and scholarly pursuits of faculty and students.

Information Science

Information Science makes sense of the data that people gather through information technology. The Information Science track of the Ph.D. in CIS focuses on the theory, applications, technologies, and systems that classify, manipulate, store, retrieve, and disseminate information. This track seeks to expand human and technical capabilities in a world where information is of central importance. As with the other tracks, graduates will have a Ph.D. in CIS, but with an Information Science track. Graduates in this track will most likely focus their doctoral research on data, information, and knowledge, how to manage and manipulate it, and what to do with it, rather than on developing novel hardware or tools for software development. They will become deeply immersed in the knowledge, skills, and technologies needed to design and develop systems for better storage, retrieval, and use of information. Graduates will be equipped to go on to challenging information technology careers in business, academia, and government. The Information Science track is available both on-campus and online through UA Little Rock Online (https://ualr.edu/online) with only three campus visits required for Candidacy Examination, Oral Research Proposal, and Oral Dissertation Defense. 

Information Quality

Established as part of the Information Science Department in 2006 by the UALR Donaghey College of Engineering and Information Technology (EIT) in collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Chief Data Officer and Information Quality (MIT CDOIQ) Program, the UALR Information Quality track is dedicated to providing a state-of-the-art curriculum for information quality education, contributing new ideas to the information quality body of knowledge, and establishing partnerships with the industry, government, and professional societies. Information quality (IQ) is an emerging discipline concerned with maximizing the value of an organization’s information assets while also minimizing risk, and assuring that the information products produced by the organization will create value for the customers who use them. Graduates of the track are prepared to pursue a variety of industry careers such as Chief Data Officer, Leader for Enterprise Data Strategy and Innovation, and Director of Data Governance, as well as research and teaching roles in higher education. The Information Quality track is available both on-campus and online through UA Little Rock Online (https://ualr.edu/online) with only three campus visits required for Candidacy Examination, Oral Research Proposal, and Oral Dissertation Defense. 

Admission Requirements

Applicants for the Computer and Information Sciences program must meet the requirements of the UALR Graduate School in addition to the following criteria:

  • A bachelor’s degree or higher from an institutionally or regionally accredited institution. Students whose degree(s) are in an appropriate scientific discipline, such as engineering, mathematics, computer science, or technology area, will be the most prepared to enter and successfully complete this program. Students should have an over-undergraduate GPA of at least 3.0 (4.0 scale) for their last 60 credit hours.
  • GRE test scores are taken within five years of application. The desired combined quantitative and verbal score on the GRE is 301 or above (on a 336 scale), with minimum scores of 142 and 144 on the verbal and quantitative sections, respectively. Computer Science and Information Science tracks have an additional minimum score requirement of 156 for the quantitative section. In addition, applicants should demonstrate their ability to communicate complex ideas clearly and effectively either through a strong score on the GRE Analytical Writing Component (e.g. 3.0 or above on a 6.0 scale) or through samples of their written work.
  • Three (3) letters of recommendation Official college transcripts including grades and curriculum for undergraduate and (if applicable) graduate studies
  • Written statement by the applicant regarding the reasons (e.g. interests, relevant experience, and goals) why he or she should be considered for this Ph.D. program
  • Resume detailing any professional work experience, published papers, or presentations

Note: All application materials must be submitted directly to the UALR Graduate School.

Integrated Computing track areas may vary in their adherence to the admission criteria stated above. The CIS Steering Committee will evaluate the compatibility between the applicant’s background, research interests, and communication skills vis-a-vis the doctoral program when making admission decisions and may decline to recommend for admission an otherwise qualified applicant based on a lack of fit with the program.

Conditional Admission

The CIS Steering Committee may recommend conditionally admitting for one semester a promising student who has less than the specified requirements for admission. These students may be required to take prerequisite coursework at the undergraduate level as part of the terms of their conditional admission. The conditional student must fulfill the admission requirements outlined by the specified time frame to be admitted fully (e.g. student may be required to maintain a B or higher in their first 9 hours in the program). The performance of such students will be evaluated after one semester and a decision made to 1) continue conditional status, 2) grant full admission to the doctoral program, or 3) dismiss the student from the program.

Consecutive Enrollment Requirements

All students admitted to the program must be enrolled for consecutive fall and spring semesters until they have met the 75-hour course requirement of the program. Summer enrollment is optional. Those students who have met the 75-hour course requirement of the program, but who have not met other program requirements for graduation must be enrolled consecutively every semester including summer semesters until all requirements are completed. Enrollment consists of registration for courses including at least one hour of dissertation credit. A student who is not consecutively enrolled after one semester is considered inactive and must apply for readmission to the program. Exceptions can be granted by the program coordinator for military duty, medical disability, or other extenuating circumstances, provided the student makes a written request documenting the reason for taking a leave of absence from the program.

Program Requirements

The program requires a minimum of 75 hours beyond the baccalaureate degree. Specific requirements depend on the track area chosen and are detailed in this section. A minimum of 33 credit hours of coursework is required from 5000- and 7000-level courses with a maximum of 12 credit hours for 5000-level courses. These 33 credit hours of coursework must include 6 credit hours of General Core classes, 12 3-credit hours of Primary Track courses, a minimum of 12 credit hours of electives, and 3 credit hours of seminar courses. No more than 3 credit hours of Independent Study coursework and no more than 6 credit hours of Special Topics coursework can be applied towards the 33-hour requirement. The student’s plan of study must be developed in conjunction with his/her doctoral advisor and filed with the graduate program coordinator. Students must possess the prerequisites for all core and track courses in their intended area of study. Students may be required to take additional courses to gain the necessary prerequisite knowledge.

The general core addresses the theoretical and methodological underpinnings common to all tracks. It is designed to provide the necessary breadth for all students in the program and consists of the following:

  • CPSC 7311 Software Engineering, for Computer Science track
  • CPSC 7382 Systems Analysis and Design, or IFSC 7310 Information Systems Analysis, for Information Quality and Information Science tracks.
  • IFSC 7321 Information Science Theory and Practice, for all tracks

Each track core consists of four courses designed to give students the necessary depth in their specific area of concentration. In addition, students select at least 3 elective courses based on input from their advisor to further enhance their course portfolio. Electives can be selected from core courses of other tracks, non-track CPSC/IFSC/INFQ/SYEN graduate courses, or other graduate courses appropriate to the student’s research interests from the fields of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics.

A minimum of 42 credit hours in the 9000-level doctoral research/dissertation is required. The research must be substantial and must extend the state of the art in the student’s chosen emphasis area through theoretical development, design or process improvement, or experimental technique. Because the program is interdisciplinary in nature, students are expected to demonstrate scholarship and exhibit depth of competency in at least one of the track areas of the program and an understanding of the critical issues that extend across multiple track areas. If a student receives one C in his/her courses, he/she will be warned in writing that his/her academic performance is unacceptable and that his/her status will be reviewed by the CIS Steering Committee which will suggest corrective action. A student receiving two Cs or either a D or an F in his/her courses will be dismissed from the program, pending review by the CIS Steering Committee.

Seminar Requirement

All Ph.D. students are required to register for the 1 credit hour Integrated Computing Seminar for 3 semesters. This credit hour will count toward the overall program’s minimum requirement of 75 credits. The seminar is designed to promote beneficial synergistic and collaborative relationships between students and faculty across the track areas through the dissemination and discussion of research that cuts across computing and information boundaries. In addition, students are required to complete Responsible Conduct of Research, an online research ethics course (Citiprogram.org), to gain awareness and understanding of ethical principles and situations in their disciplines.

Transfer of Credit

Graduate credits may be granted for equivalent course work from other institutions, exclusive of thesis or other exit project credits, with the approval of the appropriate program coordinator and the Graduate School dean. Such credit must be no more than 5 years old and must have a letter grade of B or higher. Students interested in requesting a credit transfer should discuss the request with their doctoral adviser and appropriate graduate program coordinator.

The request must also be approved by the graduate program coordinator and the dean of the Graduate School before the transfer of credit can be granted. In some cases, students may be required to balance their transfer credit with a corresponding increase in research hours. The student’s advisory committee will determine which transferred credit hours with be counted toward the degree based on the applicability of the courses selected for dissertation work and the student’s educational goals.

Research Adviser

Each student will choose a faculty member to be his or her mentor through the doctoral program. Students should formally declare a research adviser preferably at the end of the first semester but not later than the second semester. New students will be advised initially by the program coordinator of the student’s chosen track area. Through interactions with faculty, most students should have selected a doctoral adviser to guide them through their course work, preparation for the qualifying exams, and dissertation process by the end of their first two semesters.

Examination Committees

The research pursued toward the Ph.D. degree is monitored by two committees: 1) Qualifying Examination Committee (QEC) and 2) Doctoral Examination Committee (DEC). The role of these committees is to monitor and help direct a student’s academic and research program. The QEC comprises three (3) faculty members in the program, not including the student’s research advisor. The QEC members are nominated by the student and approved by the Program Coordinator. 

Qualifying Examination

The purpose of the qualifying examination is to determine whether the student is ready to pursue research in his/her area of interest and possesses the competency and knowledge desired of a doctoral candidate. Only students, who have at least 4 semesters of graduate work completed, including the core courses, are allowed to take the Qualifying Examination a maximum of 2 times. It is an oral examination conducted by the Qualifying Examination Committee (QEC). The oral examination is considered to be passed if all members of the QEC vote “yes” on the competency and knowledge level. Note: In any discrepancy the appeal process of the university holds. 

The DEC should be formed by the student in consultation with his or her research adviser after the student has successfully completed his or her Qualifying Examination. The DEC shall comprise a minimum of 4 members with the student’s dissertation adviser serving as the committee chair. The chair and at least 1 other member must hold Full Graduate Faculty Status, hold a doctoral degree, and be a full-time faculty member of either the Department of Computer Science or the Department of Information Science. The third member must also hold Full Graduate Faculty Status and a doctoral degree but can be a full-time faculty member of any UA Little Rock college, school, or department. The fourth member(s) can be anyone holding graduate faculty status approved for dissertation committee service including Affiliate Graduate Faculty Status. The graduate program coordinator must approve and document the DEC’s constituency after its initial review by the CIS Steering Committee. The student will make an oral defense of his or her dissertation to the entire committee, after which the committee will vote to pass or fail. The student will pass the oral defense if a majority of the entire committee votes to pass. In the case of a tie vote, the chair of the department in which the student is enrolled will cast the deciding vote regardless of whether the chair is, or is not, a member of the student’s DEC. If a student fails the oral defense, the student’s advisor may reschedule a second oral defense. If a student fails the second defense, the student will be dismissed from the program.

Dissertation Proposal

Following the completion of the core courses and Qualifying Examination, candidates will write a dissertation proposal and submit it to their Doctoral Examination Committee detailing their intended research plan and objectives. Candidates must make an oral defense of their proposal to their DEC. Candidates should allow for ample time between the dissertation proposal and the dissertation defense (typically one to two years depending on the student’s background). In any case, the final dissertation defense cannot be scheduled less than 7 months (210 days) after the date of the student’s successful dissertation proposal. The dissertation subject must be a scholarly contribution to a major field of computer and information sciences in the student’s track area, consisting of new important knowledge or a major modification, amplification, or interpretation of existing significant knowledge.

The candidate’s dissertation proposal must be given to the DEC at least 2 weeks in advance of the meeting with the committee. The candidate must orally defend the rationale and research procedures for the proposed doctoral dissertation. Candidates must receive unanimous approval from the DEC to meet the proposal defense requirement. Candidates who fail the proposal may be dismissed from the program. The results of the proposal examination must be filed with the program coordinator at the conclusion of the proposal defense.

Dissertation Defense

In order to complete the requirements for the Ph.D. degree, students must prepare and successfully defend a written dissertation in accordance with the format and procedure dictated by the UALR Graduate School. Students will orally defend their completed Ph.D. research to their Doctoral Examination Committee. The date and location of the defense must be publicized at least two weeks in advance. The first part of this final examination will be open to the public. In the public session, the candidates will make a presentation of their research results. The second part of the dissertation defense will be a closed session during which the candidate will be examined by the DEC in private. The dissertation defense will follow the guidelines established by the UALR Graduate School. The examination can be wide-ranging, but it will usually utilize the student’s research as a starting point. At the completion of the dissertation defense, the doctoral advisory committee will vote to either pass or fail the student. If one negative vote is received from committee members, it is considered a failure of the exam. Supervisory of examining committee report forms must be filed at the conclusion of the defense with the graduate program coordinator.

Publication Requirement

In order to complete the requirements of the Ph.D. degree, a student must be listed as a first or second author of at least one published, peer-reviewed research paper related to the student’s dissertation and approved by the student’s dissertation committee. The publication may be in the proceedings of a national or international conference or a national or international journal approved by the student’s dissertation committee. Official notice of acceptance for publication of papers not yet appearing in print is sufficient to satisfy the requirement.

Authorship credit should be based only on substantial contributions to:

a. Conception and design, or analysis and interpretation of data; and 

b. Drafting the article or revising it critically for important intellectual content; and 

c. Final approval of the vision to be published 

Graduation Requirements

Summary of graduation requirements:

  • Successful completion of an approved program of study with a minimum GPA of 3.0.
  • Successful completion of qualifying examination orally.
  • Successful completion of a proposal and oral defense.
  • Successful completion of a dissertation and oral defense.
  • Successful completion of seminar and ethics requirements.
  • Successful completion of the publication requirement.

Required Courses for Computer and Information Sciences Emphases

A list of courses used in the various tracks of the CIS Doctoral Program along with descriptions is provided on the following pages. Additional elective courses can be found in the Master of Science in Systems Engineering, Master of Science in Computer Science, and Master of Science in Information Quality sections in this catalog. Other courses may be approved in consultation between the student and his or her doctoral advisor.

Graduate Assistantships

A limited number of graduate assistantships that support teaching and research opportunities are available to qualified full-time students. Tuition is paid for 9 credit hours, and a stipend is provided for living expenses. Students must pay registration fees, buy textbooks, and purchase any necessary support materials. For more information about assistantships, the online application process, and other financial assistance opportunities, visit the CIS website at ualr.edu/eit. A student supported by a graduate assistantship must be a registered full-time student taking at least 9 credit hours during each of the fall and spring semesters and is prohibited from any other employment.

International Students

International students whose native language is not English and who do not have a degree from an institutionally or regionally accredited U.S. institution of higher learning must demonstrate proficiency in written English via the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). Applicants’ scores should exceed 550 (paper-based test), 213 (computer-based test), or 79 (internet-based test). Applicants with scores close to the required score for their test format may be admitted provisionally upon the recommendation of the CIS Steering Committee to the dean of the Graduate School and allowed to fulfill the TOEFL requirement as specified in the Graduate School admissions policies.

For applicants whose native language is not English and who are seeking financial support via a teaching assistantship, the student must demonstrate proficiency in spoken English via a score of 80% or higher on the American English Oral Communication Proficiency Test (AEOCPT) or a score of 5.0 or higher on the Test of Spoken English (TSE).