Listed below are the major steps that should be completed for the Ph.D. degree in computer science or in computer engineering. Much of this information is taken from the Steps to Fulfill Doctoral Degree RequirementsSteps to Fulfill Preliminary Exam on the Office of Graduate and Professional Studies (OGAPS) website.

As noted below, many of the steps have associated OGAPS forms that need to be submitted. These forms are available on the OGAPS website. In all cases, the student is responsible for filling out the form and getting the signatures of all committee members before bringing the form to the advising office for Departmental approval. In most cases the advising staff will submit the forms to the OGAPS for the student.

Ph.D. Student Annual Review

All doctoral students in the department are reviewed annually by the entire faculty. The purpose of the Ph.D. student annual review procedure is to encourage and motivate Ph.D. student research, and to provide additional mentoring for graduate study. The student is required to prepare and file certain materials for this review by the announced deadline, typically in mid-April. Details are provided in the Ph.D. Student Annual Review Procedure.

Advisory Committee and Degree Plan

PhD students must form an Advisory Committee and file an approved degree plan. Requirements for the composition of the Advisory Committee and degree plans can be found in the Department's Graduate Brochure (pdf).

Qualifier Exam

All Ph.D. students must pass a written qualifying exam. The written exam currently in use is the ETS Major Field Test in Computer Science. The qualifying exam will be offered early each semester, including summer, typically in February, June and October. Students are surveyed to set the exact date. Students may attempt the exam a maximum of 3 times in the first four offerings once they enter the Ph.D. program. For example, the first four offerings for a student who starts in Fall will be October, February, June, and then October. It is strongly recommended that students take the exam as early as they can. Students should prepare seriously for the exam, rather than just "try it out". The Graduate Advising Office has study materials to help prepare for the exam.

Preliminary Exam

The student must pass the Preliminary Examination given by the Advisory Committee as described in the graduate catalog. Please consult Procedures for the Preliminary Exam for more information on eligibility requirements, and scheduling and administration practices for Ph.D. Preliminary Exams in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering.

  • OGAPS Forms: Preliminary Exam Checklist and Report of the Preliminary Exam
  • Deadline: As described in Procedures for the Preliminary Exam, there are eligibility requirements and deadlines for scheduling and reporting on Ph.D. Preliminary Exams. Roughly, the Preliminary Exam is typically held at about the time that the degree plan coursework requirements are completed, and it cannot be taken in the same semester that the degree plan is filed or that the student plans to defend.

Dissertation Proposal 

The student must submit a Ph.D. dissertation proposal as described in the graduate catalog. An electronic copy in PDF format of the proposal approved by the committee must be emailed to the advising office ( before the student brings the Proposal Title Page, already signed by the committee, to the advising office for the Department approval signature. (The dissertation proposal may be presented at the oral preliminary exam at the discretion of the Advisory Committee.)

If the dissertation research will involve human subjects, animals, infectious biohazards, or recombinant DNA, then the student must check with the Research Compliance Division to ensure that they have met all compliance responsibilities. A copy of the appropriate approved research compliance approval form must be submitted with the research proposal. See the FAQ for information on how to submit the necessary approval forms to the Research Compliance Division.

The department has no additional requirements for the proposal beyond that it be approved by the student's advisory committee (as shown by the submission of the signed Proposal Title Page) and that it meets any OGAPS requirements. Thus, students should consult with their advisor for guidance on preparing their proposal. As a rule of thumb, most proposals are about 10 pages long (single spaced) and include a description of the problem to be studied, an overview of the related work, a brief summary of any preliminary results, and a description of the research objectives and the planned approach.

  • OGAPS Form: Proposal Title Page
  • Deadline: The department requires that the Preliminary Exam be passed before the proposal can be submitted. The university requires that the proposal be submitted to OGS at least 15 days before the Request to hold the Final Examination is submitted to OGS (or about 4 weeks before the defense). (This is a decrease - it used to be 14 weeks before the defense.) Precise deadlines are listed on the OGAPS calendar.

Apply for Graduation 

Students need to submit an Application for Degree in order to graduate.

  • Deadline: Normally in the first 1-2 weeks of the semester. Late application will be allowed for an additional fee until later in the semester. Precise deadlines are listed on the OGAPS calendar.

Final Examination (Dissertation Defense)

The student must pass Final Examination (Dissertation Defense) given by the Advisory Committee as described in the graduate catalog. Please consult Procedures for Ph.D. Dissertation Defenses for more information on eligibility requirements, and scheduling and administration practices for Ph.D. Final Exams in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering.


A Ph.D. Dissertation as described in the graduate catalog and on the OGAPS website. After the dissertation has been approved by the student's committee, the student should submit the following items to the advising office:

  • an electronic copy of the dissertation in pdf format submitted by email to,
  • a hardcopy of the dissertation approval page, already signed by the committee (but not the Department Head)

The advising office will obtain the Department approval signature. The student will receive an email notifying them that they need to pick up the approval page from the advising office. The student must submit the approval page to the thesis office. Then, the student should submit an electronic copy (PDF format) of the dissertation to the Thesis Office.

  • OGAPS Forms: Approval Form
  • Deadline: Dissertation submission deadlines are listed on the OGAPS calendar OGAPS calendar (usually about 6 weeks before graduation). The dissertation cannot be submitted until after the Final Examination has been passed. Final corrected copies of the dissertation must be accepted by the thesis clerk no later than one year after the final examination or within the 10-year time limit, whichever occurs first. Failure to do so will result in the degree not being awarded.