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Doctorate in Information Studies

Water fountain on the OU campus in Norman, Oklahoma.

Doctoral Program



The Ph.D. in information studies expands SLIS' mission and vision by educating students to thoroughly understand the discipline of information studies; develop expertise in using the various research methods necessary for investigation in the field; conduct effective, sustained research; and understand the ways in which information in all its forms is produced, recorded, organized, preserved, retrieved, communicated, managed, and used. Additionally SLIS seeks to educate researchers that are able to understand the ways in which people's information-related  activity shapes - and is shaped by - information technologies,  information structures, and information institutions such as libraries, archives, and museums. The answers to the research questions posed in information studies help to improve information systems and services, to guide information policy, and to enrich life in today's information society.

The Ph.D. program  offers students ongoing opportunities for close interaction  with outstanding faculty who have international reputations in their areas of research; a carefully designed doctoral curriculum with the flexibility to allow students to pursue individual academic and career goals; and the vast academic resources of OU itself, capable of supporting sophisticated, interdisciplinary, and innovative scholarly investigation.

Graduates of the program will be prepared to engage in creative research, ordinarily as part of a career in university teaching or in policymaking or consulting for corporate, non-profit, or governmental institutions, and in professional leadership for information institutions.

The goals of the Ph.D. program in information studies are below:

  1. To cultivate a community of students capable of conducting original, sustained, and effective research in the field of information studies and solving significant problems;
  2. To foster students to become catalysts for change and leading advocates for information products and services that effectively address the information needs of a diverse, pluralistic society in culturally responsible and sensitive ways; and
  3. To prepare students to educate the next generation of information professionals in a highly technological and information-based society


The Fall 2024 application cycle has closed, we are not accepting any additional applications or materials at this time. Admission decisions have been distributed. 

PhD Information


The admission policy of the Ph.D. in Information Studies degree program has as its goal the selection of persons who are academically well qualified and who exhibit a potential for contributions in the area of improving information systems and services, guiding information policy, and enriching life in today's information society. The School of Library and Information Studies encourages applications from students with diverse educational, geographical, cultural, and intellectual backgrounds.

In addition to meeting the general requirements for admission to the Graduate College, applicants must also meet the admissions requirements for the Ph.D. in Information Studies degree program.

Applications will be evaluated holistically based on student undergraduate and graduate work. Applicants must meet the minimum 3.0 GPA requirement (based on a 4.0 scale) from their most recent degree. No student with a GPA below 3.0 will be admitted to the Ph.D. program. Compliance with those requirements is demonstrated by submission of the following documents:

  • Application to the Ph.D. program (Fall admittance only)
  • Personal statement (details below)
  • Research/writing sample (Include a writing sample that demonstrates your ability to produce academic or professional writing. This can be a published article, a major term paper from previous coursework, a chapter from a thesis, or a research paper. The sample should be in English and preferably be recent).
  • Professional resume or CV
  • Three letters of recommendation from persons familiar with the applicant's scholastic or employment record (letters from personal friends or family are not appropriate)
  • Scores on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). Scores more than 5 years old are generally considered unreliable and are not acceptable. If you have a completed master’s degree with a 3.0 or higher GPA, you do not need to include GRE scores in your application. However, if you are currently in a graduate program and do not wish to take the GRE, if accepted to the program, you will be granted a conditional admission until you finish the degree and can demonstrate that you have attained a 3.0.

Priority consideration will be for applications submitted by January 15th. Successfull applicants will be notified on April 15th or shortly after. 

The Admissions Committee will very carefully review applicants' personal statements to make decisions about whether the applicants are a "good fit" with the specific expertise of the faculty in OU SLIS. Therefore, applicants MUST address these specific items:

  • Doctoral area of interest (problem, question, or issue) such as proposed area(s) of specialization
  • Topics for your own future research, be as specific as possible
  • OU SLIS faculty whose areas of research align with your interest (you can read about our faculty members' work on the faculty-staff area of this website)
  • Your career goals - For example, do you plan to use your Ph.D. to become a research/teaching faculty in an iSchool? Do you plan to use it to further your current career such as in Administration in a library or other information setting? Or you may have other goals. Please explain

In more general terms, your personal statement essay should address your academic background, work experience, and long-range career objectives. Detail your doctoral area of interest (problem, question, or issue) such as proposed area(s) of specialization, topics for your own future research, and if applicable identify OU SLIS faculty whose areas of research align with your interests. List accomplishments such as publications, presentations, or awards, and describe skills such as multi-lingual proficiency, technology, etc.

For admission into the Ph.D. program, applicants must meet the requirements for full graduate admission standing in the School. To do so, the candidate must have supplied all of the items listed above and must be eligible for admission to degree status in the Graduate College.

The grade point average is based on the following:

  • If a bachelor's degree has been earned at a regionally accredited college or university, the cumulative grade point average from the conferred degree is used. All letter-graded courses are subject to evaluation.
  • If graduate work has been completed at a regionally accredited college or university, but no master's degree has been earned, the cumulative grade point average from the conferred bachelor's degree is used. All letter-graded courses are subject to evaluation.
  • If a master's degree has been earned at a regionally accredited college or university, the cumulative grade point average from the conferred degree is used. All letter-graded courses are subject to evaluation.

Applicants that do not meet the criteria for full admission to SLIS will not be admitted into the Ph.D. program. All admission materials, not just the GPA and GRE scores, will be used in determining the admissibility of applicants. For full consideration, applications are due by January 15. Late applications may be considered on a case-by-case basis. A personal interview may be required of any applicant.

Courses and Retention

1. Theory and Methodology (15 credit hours)

Required Classes (9 credit hours)

  • LIS 6033 Intellectual Traditions in Information Studies
  • LIS 6713 Research Methods and Design in Information Studies
  • LIS 6970 Special Topics in the Theory of Information Studies

Outside Methodology Classes (6 credit hours)

Two additional methodology courses must be taken outside of SLIS prior to taking the written portion of the General Exam. SLIS maintains a list of approved courses and students can work with their advisors on selecting two.

2. Major Specialization (12 credit hours)

Four courses focused on creating a major area of specialization must be approved by the committee chair (advisor) and graduate liaison. 

3. Doctoral Seminar (8 credit hours – 4 courses of 2 credit hours each)

Doctoral students are required to enroll in four semesters of LIS 6962 Doctoral Seminar. This course will rotate among a variety of core LIS topics. 

Doctoral students are required to take four elective courses. Two of these must be chosen from graduate courses (Ph.D. level) offered in the School of Library and Information Studies; two more must be chosen from graduate courses offered outside of SLIS.

 The number of credit hours in this category is flexible to accommodate students who need more or fewer dissertation hours. Up to 30 hours from a previous completed master's in LIS or related field may be counted with permission of the committee chair (advisor) and graduate liaison. Courses that can count are restricted by the Graduate College to those that received A or B grades and no independent courses are allowed. Other restrictions are noted in the Graduate College Bulletin.

The prerequisite for dissertation hours is the successful completion of the general examination. These hours consist of directed research culminating in the completion of the Doctoral dissertation. 10 to 13 hours.


A faculty adviser is assigned when the student is recommended for admission to the School. Upon acceptance to the program and prior to the completion of the first year of the Ph.D. program, any student in the program must form an advisory conference committee as required by the Graduate College.

Students must maintain a 3.0 GPA throughout the program. If a student's GPA falls below 3.0, the student will be placed on academic probation according to the Graduate College's policies and procedures.

For specific requirements and procedures, refer to the Graduate College Bulletin.

Advising and Expected Timeline

Doctoral Student Advising 

The following document is provided to assist doctoral students and their advisors in planning the coursework for the degree:

Doctoral Program Planning Form (pdf)

This form is an internal SLIS form and is intended to help students, with input from their advisor and committee (the Advisory Conference Committee), to create a coursework plan for their Ph.D. program. In the last semester before they sit for the doctoral general exam students will be required to submit a formal coursework plan to the Graduate College on a form called the Advisory Conference Report (doc).  

Doctoral Program Timeline

The Graduate College has these time in degree requirements:

Graduate College Bulletin 8.2.5 Time Limit for Completion of the Doctoral Degree

A student who enters the doctoral program with a bachelor’s degree is expected to pass the general examination within five calendar years of the student’s first enrollment in a graduate course applied to the doctoral degree.

A student who enters the doctoral program with a master’s degree is expected to pass the general examination within four calendar years of the student’s first enrollment in a graduate course applied to the doctoral degree which was not applied to the master’s degree.

A doctoral candidate is expected to complete all degree requirements, including the defense and final submission of the dissertation, within five calendar years after passing the general examination. Extensions for the Doctoral Degree

If an academic unit determines that additional time is needed for a student to complete the doctoral general examination or all degree requirements, the student’s committee should request that the dean of the Graduate College approve an extension.

The written request for extension should explain why additional time is necessary and specify when the student is expected to complete the exam or the outstanding degree requirements. The request also must be endorsed by the graduate liaison and the student’s committee.

SLIS internal policy states:

It is expected that the dissertation proposal defense will occur within one academic year of successful completion of the student’s General Exam. However, that timeline is flexible as long as the student is making progress as determined by their Advisor. If an extension is needed, it is incumbent upon the student to clearly explain why the proposal is delayed.

Ph.D. in Information Studies Student Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of the program, graduates will be able to:

  • Demonstrate knowledge of theories and other core knowledge in information science 
  • Demonstrate knowledge of various research methodologies and the ability to execute appropriate data analysis to solve problems and answer research questions
  • Demonstrate mastery of area of specialization 
  • Successfully design research that constitutes an original contribution to the field 

General Exam

General Exam Instructions (pdf)

Approved by the SLIS Faculty March 6, 2023.

General Exam Instructions: Graduate College Bulletin

The Graduate College Steps to Degree is a great resource for dates and forms.

The Written Exam

The General Exam for the PhD in Information Science is intended to reflect a student’s knowledge, expertise, and ability to synthesize in their specialized areas of information science.

The goals of the General Exam are to:

  • Demonstrate the student’s understanding and expertise in a significant aspect of information science
  • Demonstrate the student’s ability to draw connections indicative of scholarly inquiry
  • Demonstrate the student’s knowledge of theory and methodology as they apply to scholarly research
  • Demonstrate the student’s readiness to begin in-depth research for their dissertation

The General Exam includes both a written and oral portion. The Advisory Conference will evaluate both the parts of the exam based on the student’s breadth and depth of knowledge, ability to write a scholarly analysis, establish the significance of the issues and problems, defense of the content and methodology, and suggestions of potential new directions of inquiry and/or discussion.

The components of General Exam and its preparation are as follows:

  1. Reading List: During the semester prior to which the student will be taking the General Exam, the student will work closely with their Advisor to compile a reading list of approximately 30 readings that address their area of specialization. The list will include both classic work and more recent work related to theory and methods applicable to that specialization. The student will submit this list to the Advisory Conference no later than the end of the week following the last day of classes. (E.g., if the student plans to take the General Exam in the Spring semester, the list must be submitted to the Advisory Conference in December, the week following the last day of classes.) The Advisory Conference will examine the list and will either approve it as is, suggest additional readings, or ask for other revisions no later than four weeks after the list has been submitted. If there are suggested changes, the student will send the revised list back to the Advisory Conference within two weeks.
  2. General Exam Paperwork: The student must submit the completed General Exam Application for the Doctoral Degree form to the Graduate College no later than the end of the second week of the semester in which they will be taking the exam.
  3. Composition of the Exam: The exam consists of both a written and oral portion. The exam questions will draw on and reflect the material in the students’ proposed readings. Faculty on the Advisory Conference will develop two questions based on theory related to the student’s specialization, of which students will choose one to answer; students will also be asked a more general methods question that applies to their area of specialization. The written portion will comprise approximately 7500 words, or 25-30 double-spaced pages. Students will be given two weeks to complete the exam at home (see dates below). After the written exam is graded, students will take an oral exam.
  4. General Exam Timeline and Procedures:
    1. Written Exam: The written portion of the General Exam will be administered on October 1 and March 1, or the Monday following the weekend if these dates coincide with the weekend. The student will receive the questions from their Advisor, on behalf of the Advisory Conference, at noon on those dates. The student will have two weeks to complete their answers, and will return the exam to their Advisor at noon on October 15 and March 15 (note: if the exam begins on a Tuesday at noon, it will end two weeks later, also on Tuesday at noon).
    2. Advisory Conference Review: The Advisory Conference will review and grade the written portion of the exam during the final two weeks of October and March, and at the end of that time period return the exam to the student with comments. During this time period, students and Advisory Conference will schedule a time for the student’s oral exam. In the event that the student’s written exam is graded as marginal or unsatisfactory, the Advisory Conference will confer to determine next steps.
  5. Oral Portion of Exam: The oral portion of the exam will occur between November 1-14 and April 1-14. Once the written exam has been completed and turned in, students should review their answers and make note of which aspects of the exam might require further elaboration or explanation. This will afford students an opportunity to further reflect on their answers as well as be prepared for what might be asked during the oral exam. The purpose of the oral exam is for the Committee to probe the student’s knowledge and discuss the content of the written exam, including clarifying questions, expansion on what the student has written, examine the topic more deeply, or gain additional insights and reflections on the student’s written work. The oral exam will also serve as a way to delve into the student’s dissertation research and to act as a bridge between the exam and the dissertation proposal. The oral portion of the exam will take no more than three hours. 

Dissertation Proposal Guidelines

Dissertation Proposal Protocols

Dissertation Proposal Protocols (pdf)

What is the Dissertation Proposal?

All doctoral students of OU SLIS are required to prepare and successfully defend the dissertation proposal. The dissertation represents a piece of original research that contributes to the knowledge base of the field. The proposal establishes the foundation on which the student will undertake dissertation research.

The student’s advisor is their primary guide for putting together a solid proposal. While other members of the Advisory Conference Committee may provide advice in their areas of expertise, it is expected that the student will work most closely with their advisor to make sure the proposal is ready for committee review. However, doctoral students are advised to also work with their committee on drafts of the document, allowing sufficient time for reading and revising prior to the formal defense.

The dissertation proposal forms a blueprint for the dissertation itself and serves as an agreement between the Advisory Conference Committee and the student about the research that needs to be done for the dissertation has a typical length of 20-40 double spaced pages. The proposal should detail the research methods and techniques to be used in conducting the dissertation topic. It also should address the relevance of the dissertation topic to the field of information science, describe the conceptual and research content in which the proposed study is located, specify the originality or uniqueness of the proposal, and review the research and other literature relevant to the topic.

The proposal should include research goals and objectives; a literature review; methodology to be used; timelines for the work; potential limitations; and any other elements deemed appropriate by the Advisory Conference Committee.

The dissertation proposal should be considered a draft of the first three chapters of your dissertation, with the following:

Cover Page

Chapter 1: An Introduction that is a clear introductory statement of the problem to be researched. The dissertation must represent an original contribution to the field, which must be made clear in this section. The introduction should include an overview of the problem; the significance of the research problem; identification of a gap in existing research; and the rationale for the current study, including research goals and objectives. This section should also include research questions to be addressed or hypotheses to be tested.

Chapter 2: Literature Review: This section contains a review of the relevant theoretical and empirical literature in the specific areas of the dissertation. Contrasting existing work with the proposed work, the literature review should show why and how there is a gap in the research.

Chapter 3: Methodology: This section describes the research methods that will be used for the dissertation, including reasons for using the methodology and citations to appropriate sources; and the research plan, including data collection and protocols, types of data to be collected, if doing human subjects research, how many people will participate and how the student arrived at that decision; data analysis methods; and approximate timelines. It is important to be realistic about the data collection plan. As well, this section should include potential challenges and contingency plans if the research plan does not work.

Defending the Proposal

The defense is an oral examination presented to the student’s Advisory Conference Committee.

While the proposal is being written, the student and the student’s advisor should consider the best time for the student to defend. As the timing is not prescribed by the OU Graduate College, it will be up to the student and the advisor to determine what is most appropriate.

Once the proposal is written, the student will send it to the Advisory Conference Committee no less than one month before the student would like to defend.

When the Advisory Conference Committee determines that the proposal is ready for defense, the student will schedule the defense, which includes arranging for the date and location. Other faculty members and students are encouraged to attend the proposal defense meeting.

During the proposal defense, the student will provide a brief presentation of up to 40 minutes to outline their proposed research. After the presentation, the Advisory Conference Committee will ask questions and provide feedback. As well, the Advisory Conference Committee, in conjunction with the student, will decide in advance if the general audience will be permitted to ask questions and/or make comments after the Committee’s questions and feedback. After all questions have been asked and suggestions made, the student and general audience will be asked to leave the room while the committee deliberates. The process will take no more than three hours.

After the Defense

The Advisory Conference Committee will discuss the relevance and efficacy of the arguments and methods stated. The Committee may approve the proposal for continuation or recommend revisions to be completed prior to approval. The student may be required to significantly revise the proposal and even hold a second proposal meeting before proceeding with the research.

When the Advisory Conference Committee has accepted the proposal, the student is then expected to complete their study according to the proposal as written and approved. Any changes to the goals, objectives, methods, plan, or other major element of the dissertation work must be approved by the Advisor in consultation with the other members of the committee.


It is expected that the dissertation proposal defense will occur within one academic year of successful completion of the student’s General Exam. However, that timeline is flexible as long as the student is making progress as determined by their Advisor. If an extension is needed, it is incumbent upon the student to clearly explain why the proposal is delayed.

Continuous Enrollment

From the Graduate Bulletin: Enrollment Requirements for Dissertation Research.

Enrollment Requirements for Dissertation Research

  • A student who is working on the dissertation during a regular semester or summer session must enroll in at least two hours of 6980, regardless of the total number of hours in which the student is enrolled.
  • The number of credit hours for each enrollment in 6980 will be determined by the student’s committee chair on the basis of the amount of faculty and university services required by the student during that enrollment.
  • Students are required to enroll in 6980 during the summer session if any of the following apply:
    • The student is actively working on the dissertation during summer.
    • The student is seeking committee advice on the dissertation during summer.
    • The student is otherwise using university facilities during summer, and has previously enrolled in 6980.
    • The degree will be conferred in the summer session.
  • After the first enrollment in 6980, the student must maintain continuous enrollment in at least two hours of 6980 during each fall and spring semester until all degree requirements are completed.
    • The continuous enrollment requirement will be waived only for a student who is not working on the dissertation and who is enrolled in at least nine graduate credit hours during a regular semester.
    • If a student has not maintained continuous enrollment in doctoral dissertation hours, the student must retroactively enroll in the number of hours of 6980 for each semester that would have been completed with continuous enrollment.
    • The student must pay a late enrollment fee for each semester that would have been completed with continuous enrollment. Retroactive fees and tuition are assessed at the current semester rates. The collection of the appropriate fees is the responsibility of the Office of the Registrar and Bursar Services.


Approved by Faculty 3/2/23