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School of Information Sciences—Information Science and Technology

The School of Information Sciences (iSchool) offers a Master of Science in Information Science (MSIS) and a PhD in Information Science. In addition, the iSchool offers Certificates of Advanced Study in Information Science to post-bachelor's and post-master's level students who wish to continue their education. Students may also pursue a joint degree between the iSchool and the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs.

Research Focus

Members of the faculty are active researchers with funding from governmental and/or corporate sources. Both master's and doctoral students have an opportunity to work with faculty on research projects, and doctoral students conduct independent research for their dissertations. Some major areas of research interest are systems analysis and design, information retrieval, database and networking, human-centered computing, social computing, intelligent systems, geoinformatics security assured information systems, big data analytics, and cognitive science.

Contact Information

Information Science Program
School of Information Sciences
135 North Bellefield Avenue
412-624-3988 or 800-672-9435
Fax: 412-624-5231
E-mail: isinq@sis.pitt.edu
www.ischool.pitt.edu/ist

The MSIS Degree

Connecting people, information, and technology is the mission of the School of Information Sciences. The Master of Science in Information Science (MSIS) degree builds on that mission by preparing students for careers as information professionals, including systems analysts and designers, database developers and managers, information security experts, and more. This 36-credit program can be completed in three semesters (depending upon course schedules) of full-time study or as many as four years of part-time study. For more details about this program, please visit www.ischool.pitt.edu/ist/degrees/msis-program.php.

Our Curriculum

The curriculum has been designed to provide our students with a rigorous program that is also flexible, so that the specific needs of individual students can be met. The MSIS Program offers several options to carefully target your studies. For those not ready to specialize, the School allows you to design a course of study under the direction of your advisor that meets your individual needs, while conforming to the general distribution guidelines found in the MSIS Plan of Study. Many students use this option to sample multiple areas of the curriculum, such as cognitive systems, human-centered computing, systems design and implementation, networks and security, and database management. The program has developed a series of specializations, in consultation with industry, that ensure that students have the critical expertise in specific areas in high demand by employers.  Specializations are described here.

Admissions

Applicants for graduate study must have earned a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university with a scholastic average of B (3.0 on a 4.0 scale) or better. The program seeks students with diverse interests and abilities; an undergraduate computer science major is not a prerequisite. Although many successful students have entered the program with a background in mathematics, engineering, or computer science, many other outstanding students entered with undergraduate degrees in business, music, history, philosophy, or chemistry.

Prerequisites

Prerequisites for admission to the Master of Science in Information Science (MSIS) program include one 3-credit college course in each of the following:

  • A structured programming language
  • Statistics
  • Mathematics—discrete mathematics or calculus

Students who lack some of the prerequisite courses may be admitted provisionally pending completion of the prerequisites during the first 12 credits of study. Any coursework that the student is asked to meet as a condition of their admission must be completed with a grade of B or better.

Graduate Record Examination (GRE)

All Master of Science in Information Science (MSIS) applicants are required to submit a recent score (within three years of the date of application) on the Graduate Record Examination as part of their admission credentials. Scores on all three sections (verbal, quantitative, and analytical) of the General Section should be submitted. While submission of the GRE scores are preferred, a recent and strong performance on the GMAT will be accepted in lieu of taking the GRE exam. The University code for the GRE is 2927. The program code is 0404.

International Applicants

There are different documentation requirements for international students. They are described here.

English Language Proficiency

Graduate students must possess sufficient knowledge of English in order to study, to understand lectures, and to participate successfully in class discussion without being hindered by language. The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) must be taken if the applicant's native language is not English. The institution code for the University of Pittsburgh is 2927 and the department code is 90.

A minimum score of 550 (paper-based), or 80 (Internet-based) on the TOEFL is required for admission to graduate study in this program. The requirement to take the TOEFL may be waived if the applicant has received a degree from an accredited institution in the United States.

Prior to registration, students with TOEFL scores less than 600 (paper) or 100 (Internet-based) will be given the on-campus administered English Language Proficiency Test. If remedial courses in English as a second language are recommended as an outcome of the test, the student must complete the remedial course during the first two terms of study.

Students may choose to take the International English Language Testing System exam (IELTS) in place of the TOEFL. Students must receive a score of Band 6.5. Students who do not achieve a score of Band 7.0 score or better will be given the on-campus administered English Language Proficiency Test. If remedial courses in English as a second language are recommended as an outcome of the test, the student must complete the remedial course during the first two terms of study. Other admission requirements vary depending upon the chosen program.

 

Application Fee

Submission of an application fee as determined by the School of Information Sciences is required of al applicants. . This fee is non-refundable.

Deadlines

Admissions occur on a rolling basis throughout the year. See the iSchool's Web site for Application Deadlines.

School-Based Financial Assistance

The Graduate Information Science and Technology Program awards School-based financial support on the basis of qualification to full-time graduate students with full admission status (all prerequisites completed). Please visit www.ischool.pitt.edu/ist/degrees/financial-aid.php for the most current information.

Academic Advising

Each student is assigned an academic advisor at the time of admission to graduate study. These assignments are made primarily on the basis of the student’s background and interests as shown in the application. The student may at any time elect to change advisors—any such change requires the consent of the new advisor and must be reported to the program. Forms for changing advisors are available at the school's administrative offices, Fifth Floor, IS Building.

At the time of initial registration, the student is encouraged to fill out a Plan of Study and discuss it with their advisor.  The Plan of Study forms are available here. A Plan of Study is a series of courses designed to meet the minimum exit competencies judged by the faculty to be necessary for employment as an information professional. All Plans of Study must have the approval of the advisor and will be used to ensure that the student has met all requirements for graduation.

Statute of Limitations

The master’s degree must be completed within four years of the first term in which courses were taken after admission. The normal full-time course load is 9 to 12 credits per term; thus, a full-time student will complete the program in three or four terms. The normal part-time course load is 6 credits per term, which permits the part-time student to complete the program in six terms. The faculty, in response to a student petition, may approve exceptions to the four-year limit if extenuating circumstances exist.

Registration and Residence Requirements

To maintain active student status, students must register for at least 3 credits during one of the three terms of the calendar year. It is recommended, however, that part-time students register for at least 6 credits during two of the three terms of the academic year to maintain reasonable progress through the program. In addition, international students are responsible for meeting the registration requirements dictated by their visa.

MSIS Degree Requirements

A minimum of 36 credits is required to complete the MSIS degree. Basic course requirements are as follows:

  • 6 credits of course work in the Formal or Applied Foundations area (INFSCI 2000 required unless exempted by advisor)
  • 18 credits of course work in the Systems and Technology areas (INFSCI 2500 required)
  • 6 credits of course work in the Cognitive Science or Cognitive Systems areas with INFSCI 2300 recommended as the first course
  • 6 credits of electives--students may pursue a thesis or a practicum as one of the elective options.  Students should know that a thesis is not a requirement of the MSIS degree

Certificate of Advanced Study in Information Science

The iSchool provides several options for advanced study in information science beyond a bachelor’s or master’s degree. The Certificate of Advanced Study (CAS) offers a highly-concentrated curriculum on the theory and application of the most current information field trends.

Students can follow a 15-credit or 24-credit plan of study.

15-credit post-bachelor's certificates

15-credit post-master's certificates

* eligible for Committee on National Security (CNSS) Certifications

 

Course work must be completed within a period of four calendar years from the student's initial registration in the certificate program. Students interested in the CAS should consult this Web site

The PhD in Information Science Degree

The Doctor of Philosophy degree provides research-oriented graduate study and professional specialization in the science of information. The candidate must give evidence of superior scholarship, mastery of a specialized field of knowledge, and demonstration of ability to do significant and relevant research. Students interested in the PhD degree should consult this Web site.

The candidate for the PhD program should also have a broad knowledge of the field as a profession as well as a specialization in an area of major interest. Every candidate should possess a strong background in the foundations of information science and research methodologies.

The advisor and student should design a Plan of Study at the time of registration.

The iSchool also offers a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Information Science with a focus in Telecommunications. Details are available at www.bulletins.pitt.edu/graduate/tele.htm.

Residence Requirement

Full-time residency, in addition to requiring full-time study, affords the student the opportunity for daily professional interaction with faculty and other PhD students. This interaction is a major component in the student's preparation for research. Despite the benefits that full-time residency affords, it is recognized that students may have off-campus responsibilities as well.

The PhD degree, therefore, can be completed by a combination of full-time and part-time study. Two terms of full-time study are required. Full-time is defined as nine or more graduate credits per term. All students, whether on campus or away, must maintain active status by registering according to the requirements stated below. No matter their status, they must meet with their advisor at least once per year. Students will submit an annual progress report to the PhD Program Chair, the Program Secretary and the advisor. This will take place on the second Friday of January.

Registration Requirement

Students must register each term for the number of credits of course work, independent study, or research equivalent to the anticipated use of faculty time and University facilities. A student who has not registered for a least one credit during a 12-month period will be transferred automatically to inactive status and must file an application for readmission to graduate study (and pay the application fee) before being permitted to register again. Upon readmission, the student is required to adjust the program of studies to meet current PhD program, school, and University requirements.

In keeping with University policy, all graduate students must be enrolled for a minimum of 1 credit in the term in which they graduate.

Doctoral students who have completed all credit requirements for the PhD degree, including minimum dissertation credit requirements, and are working full time on their dissertation, are encouraged to register for "Full-time Dissertation Study," with a fixed fee registration per term, currently $500 plus fees. (Enrollment in this course fulfills the University requirements for registration in the term of graduation.)

Please note that international students may be required to register for credits beyond the minimums stated above, as they are also responsible for meeting the registration requirements dictated by their immigration visa.

PhD Statute of Limitations

All requirements for the PhD degree in IS must be completed in not more than six calendar years from the time of first registration. Students may in extenuating circumstances submit a formal request for extension of their statute of limitation or for a leave of absence from the program. The request must be submitted to the advisor and then presented to the Faculty Committee on Doctoral Studies for a decision.

Admission Requirements

Applicants for admission to the PhD program are required to have earned a master's degree from an accredited university and should have a grade point average (GPA) of 3.3 or better (on a 4.0 scale) for any graduate studies they have pursued.

Students must submit at least three references from persons in the professional and academic communities. The PhD Admissions Committee may, on occasion, require additional references.

Applications will not be considered without the submission of the iSchool’s application fee.

As evidence of their ability to undertake doctoral work students must submit an essay (not to exceed 1,000 words) indicating, as specifically as possible, the student’s academic and professional goals in relation to the Information Science and Technology doctoral program, and identify potential areas and/or topics in which the student expects to pursue dissertation research. This essay is a critical component of the admissions process, and will be used in assigning the student’s initial program advisor.

PhD applicants must either have or demonstrate the following prerequisite knowledge. These courses( or their equivalents) should be taken before seeking admission, but may be taken during the first four terms of study. All courses must be at the graduate level and may have been taken while pursing another graduate degree:

  • Statistics or Discrete Math (e.g., IS 2060 Statistics or IS 2020 Mathematical Foundations)
  • Cognitive Psychology (e.g., IS 2300 Human Info Processing or IS 2350 Human Factors)
  • Systems Analysis and Design (e.g., IS 2510 Information Systems)
  • Data Structures (e.g., IS 2500 Data Structures)
  • Database Management (e.g., IS 2710 Database Management)

All applicants must submit scores from a predictor test (if not taken previously) such as the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or equivalent examination.  Scores on all three sections (verbal, qualitative, and analytical) of the GRE must be submitted.

International Applicants

There are different documentation requirements for international students. They are described here.

 

English Language Proficiency

Graduate students must possess sufficient knowledge of English in order to study, to understand lectures, and to participate successfully in class discussion without being hindered by language. The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) must be taken if the applicant's native language is not English. The institution code for the University of Pittsburgh is 2927 and the department code is 90.

A minimum score of 550 (paper-based), or 80 (Internet-based) on the TOEFL is required for admission to graduate study in this program. The requirement to take the TOEFL may be waived if the applicant has received a degree from an accredited institution in the United States.

Prior to registration, students with TOEFL scores less than 600 (paper) or 100 (Internet-based) will be given the on-campus administered English Language Proficiency Test. If remedial courses in English as a second language are recommended as an outcome of the test, the student must complete the remedial course during the first two terms of study.

 

Students may choose to take the International English Language Testing System exam (IELTS) in place of the TOEFL. Students must receive a score of Band 6.5. Students who do not achieve a score of Band 7.0 score or better will be given the on-campus administered English Language Proficiency Test. If remedial courses in English as a second language are recommended as an outcome of the test, the student must complete the remedial course during the first two terms of study. Other admission requirements vary depending upon the chosen program.

 

Application Fee

Submission of an application fee as determined by the School of Information Sciences is required of all applicants.  This fee is non-refundable.

PhD Degree Requirements

There are three stages of admission to the doctoral program: (1) admission to graduate study when the student first matriculates, (2) admission to doctoral study following successful completion of the preliminary examination, and (3) admission to candidacy following successful completion of the comprehensive examination and the approval of the dissertation proposal. A minimum of 48 credits, including 30 course and seminar credits beyond the master's degree, and at least 18 dissertation credits are required. Students without a master's degree will be required to take a minimum 24

additional credits of coursework or seminars, for a total of 72 credits beyond the bachelor's degree. Students who did not take the prerequisite courses as part of earlier studies should expect to complete admission requirements or equivalent courses.

Graduate degrees are conferred only on those students who have completed all courses required for the degree with at least a 3.3 GPA. Courses numbered below 2000 do not meet the minimum requirements for doctoral study, although they may be taken to supplement a doctoral program.

Preliminary Examination Requirement

The Preliminary Examination is composed of an oral presentation related to a research oriented publication. In preparation for the preliminary examination, which is usually taken in the third semester of study, PhD students will complete the following course work.

  • Four graduate-level courses, one in each of the following areas: Research methods, foundations, design, and information
  • Six credits of independent study focused on a research project, which will result in an original, publishable quality research paper (the basis for the preliminary exam)
  • Three doctoral seminars (9 credits), including a required Introduction to Doctoral Research (IS 3005), are required. Advanced doctoral seminars will be focused on single research themes.

While the preliminary examination can be taken before the completion of the core courses and doctoral seminar, the preliminary examination requirement will not be considered satisfied until all core courses and doctoral seminars are completed.

Research Project and Paper

During the first year of doctoral study, under the direction of your advisor (or another full or adjunct member of the department graduate faculty), students will design and complete a research project.  The project should reflect only those activities undertaken during the first year of study. A previous master's thesis or other work completed prior to the start of doctoral study may not be submitted for this requirement.  While much research involves working in a larger team, your role in the project and in writing the paper should be significant.  You must be the primary author, and ideally you will be the sole author.  You should seek a project or a part of a project in which you take the lead in conducting the research and writing up the results under the direction of your advisor.  However, unlike a dissertation or thesis, the research paper submitted for the preliminary evaluation  may include co-authors.  In this case, the role of each co-author should be clearly stated in writing by the student and submitted along with the research paper.  Furthermore, the paper may be integrated with other work and later submitted for publication with a longer list of authors.

Comprehensive Examination Requirement

The comprehensive examination requires successful completion of the preliminary exam. The student will choose three areas of concentration and three faculty members for the comprehensive examination committee, one of whom is the advisor. In preparation for the comprehensive exam, it is expected that the student will complete 3 credits of advanced statistics. Once the committee and the topic areas are selected, the student will prepare an activity and reading list with the advice and approval of the committee members. The student will then conduct whatever preparation is necessary. When the student is ready, he/she will inform the advisor who will ask each member of the committee to submit one or more questions to the advisor. The advisor will be responsible for constructing the exam with an appropriate balance over the three topic areas. The student will be given the questions and allowed one week to prepare written answers to the questions. After review of the written answers, an oral examination will be scheduled. The oral questions will cover the answers on the written examination, and more broadly, knowledge of the material in the three areas of concentration. The result of the comprehensive examination will be a pass or fail. If a student fails, they may retake the exam one more time.

Candidacy and Dissertation Requirements

Doctoral students are required to take a minimum of 18 dissertation credits as a part of their study. Dissertation credits should be taken during terms when a student is actively working on the dissertation. In any term in which a student is enrolled for dissertation credits, the student should meet with their advisor on a regular basis to monitor that appropriate progress is being made towards the completion of the dissertation proposal or the dissertation. The specific activities in a given term should depend on the current stage of the dissertation process. In addition to writing the proposal and dissertation itself, other appropriate activities may include reviewing the literature, programming, prototyping, running preliminary studies, writing grant proposals, preparing journal articles related to the dissertation or presenting preliminary results at conferences.

Once the comprehensive examination is successfully completed, the student is officially a doctoral candidate. After becoming a doctoral candidate, the student can propose and defend a dissertation topic.

PhD Research Areas

Graduate Course Listing in Information Science


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