General Questions

How does the PhD program in Information Studies differ from your other doctoral offerings?

We also participate in two other doctoral programs on campus: the Multidisciplinary PhD and the Educational & Media Technology (EMT) specialization within the Urban Education PhD program. The multidisciplinary PhD program, which is campus-wide and not just limited to our school, requires that applicants identify and be accepted by a host department or school with an existing PhD program. After being in the program for a year, the student applies for the multidisciplinary program and work closely with faculty in SOIS and their host program to plan a customized program. This is still a good option for students who have research interests that span multiple fields. The EMT specialization within the Urban Education PhD program is available for students with interests that combine education and technology/media issues. The degree program is housed in the School of Education, to which applications are made, but the specialization is administered through SOIS. Coursework in this specialization will combine required coursework from the School of Education and SOIS.

How large is the program?

Our goal is to admit 5-7 doctoral students per academic year, with a capacity of approximately 25 students. Students will be admitted for the fall semester of each academic year.

How long will it take to complete the program?

PhD programs require a multiyear commitment to complete. Between the coursework, preliminary examinations and research requirements, students should expect to spend at least four years of full-time study. This time frame will vary and will depend on the student’s background and the nature of the research conducted. Some students may elect to seek full-time employment before completing their degree. But this is strongly discouraged prior to completing the preliminary examinations and preferably some time after completion of the dissertation proposal.

Can I take coursework outside of the School of Information Studies?

Yes, this is possible with the approval of your major professor and director of the program. In addition to a major area, students must pursue a minor area relevant to their research interests. Coursework for the minor area may be taken from other units at UWM. Coursework taken outside of SOIS must be appropriate and at the advanced graduate-level. Note that additional courses taken to make up deficiencies will not count toward the degree requirements.

How can I find out more information about the PhD program?

Additional information about the program appears on the SOIS and UWM Graduate School websites. For application materials, see the PhD Admission page. For additional information regarding the program, please contact the SOIS graduate advisors, Toby Deutsch ( Academic questions regarding the program may be addressed to Senior Associate Dean Dietmar Wolfram (

Program Requirements

What application materials are required?

Applicants must submit materials required for all applicants by the Graduate School (see Graduate School Admissions):

  • Graduate School application form
  • Transcripts
  • Reasons statement
  • For international students whose are required to demonstrate English proficiency: 550 TOEFL (written) or the equivalent
  • Application fee

In addition, the School of Information Studies requires the following:

  • A completed SOIS PhD application form
  • Graduate Record Examination (GRE) verbal and quantitative scores taken within the past five years. Prospective applicants who do not have current scores who are considering admission for fall of 2008 should plan accordingly given the time frame for taking the test.
  • Three letters of recommendation from qualified persons who can attest to the applicant’s aptitude for doctoral study. At least one letter must be from an academic source.
  • A writing sample that demonstrates the applicant’s analytical and critical thinking skills. This may take the form of a published research paper, term paper from a previous graduate program or earlier completed thesis.
  • Applicants are encouraged to bring at least two years of relevant professional experience prior to entering the PhD program.

What are the requirements for completion of the program?

The requirements for completing the degree can be divided into three stages:


Students must complete a minimum of 30 credits of graduate-level coursework excluding previously completed relevant graduate coursework. Depending on the research area and the student’s background, additional coursework may be needed. The array of coursework undertaken comprises a minimum of:

  • 6 credits of foundation coursework in Information Studies
  • 9 credits in Research Methodologies and Design
  • A minimum of 12 credits related to specialized dissertation topics
  • 3 credits of electives

Preliminary examinations (Preparatory Essays)

Students are required to complete doctoral preparatory essays toward the end of their coursework before undertaking their doctoral research. The essays consist of three areas: research methods, major area and minor area. The essays represent noncredit research papers based on topics assigned by the student’s doctoral committee.

Dissertation research

A dissertation that contributes to the knowledge base of information studies must be completed in order to graduate. Students first develop a dissertation proposal on a topic approved by their doctoral committee. The proposal must be successfully defended before undertaking the dissertation itself. The student must also defend the final dissertation.

Admissions & Aid

Can I be considered for admission without a master’s degree or if I have a master’s degree in another discipline?

Generally, we will not consider applicants without a masters degree. Applicants should possess an MLIS or equivalent. Those with a graduate degree in an allied area will also be considered on a case-by-case basis and will be required to complete the four required courses for the MLIS program (501, 531, 571, 591) in addition to the regular degree requirements.

Can I start the PhD program in the spring or summer semester?

Admission to the PhD program is granted only for the fall semester of a given academic year. The deadline for receipt of application materials is Jan. 15 for the following academic year.

Is financial support available for students admitted to the program?

Yes. We plan to provide multiple year project assistantships to a majority of full-time students admitted to the program. Assistantships will take the form of research assignments with SOIS faculty members. These will correspond to 1/3 time appointments to allow students sufficient time to devote to their studies and research. Students may be able to increase the work hours during the summer when they will be taking fewer courses. Adjunct teaching opportunities will be available for students with appropriate backgrounds.

The UW-Milwaukee Graduate School also offers competitive fellowships (graduate school fellowships, dissertation fellowships and Advanced Opportunity Program Fellowships). The deadlines for applying for these awards occur in January. Other possibilities for financial aid may take the form of project assistantships through funded research projects undertaken at the school or competitive fellowships through federal or professional sources. Tuition scholarships may be available to part-time students to cover up to six credits of tuition per semester for the academic year.

Distance Option

Is the program available in an online format?

Distance students (not located near Milwaukee, Wisconsin) are encouraged to apply.

Such students will be required to attend a week-long orientation on campus at the beginning of the program, and be physically present in Milwaukee for all major program milestones, including preliminary exam defense, dissertation proposal defense and formal defense of the dissertation.

SOIS doctoral seminars will be streamed live online for distance students to participate synchronously with local students and faculty, and students will be responsible for meeting all other program requirements via online courses or other approved means.

Distance students must meet the Graduate School residency requirements; physical residency in Milwaukee is not necessary.

Must I travel to Milwaukee to complete the distance option?

Yes. Distance students will be required to attend a week-long orientation seminar (for credit) in August at the start of their matriculation in the program. Distance students must also be physically present in Milwaukee for all major program milestones, including preliminary exam defense, dissertation proposal defense, and formal defense of the dissertation.

How much does the distance option cost?

The SOIS Online Fee Information can be found here:

Are there scholarships or assistantships available for distance students?

No, at this time tuition scholarships and research or teaching assistantships are only available for students enrolling in the PhD program in the traditional format, living and working on campus.

Are there residency requirements?

Yes, the UW-Milwaukee Graduate School has residency requirements for all PhD students, but this does not require physical residency in Milwaukee.

The student must meet minimum Graduate School residence requirements of one continuous academic year of full-time graduate studies at UWM. This can be satisfied by completing at least 8 graduate credits in each of two consecutive semesters, or 6 or more graduate credits in each of three consecutive semesters, exclusive of summer sessions. Residence credit cannot be earned at the master’s level.

Do distance students have different requirements?

The academic requirements for earning the PhD in Information Studies is the same for distance students.

How do I participate in seminars as a distance student?

All required SOIS doctoral seminars (INFOST 900-level classes) will be streamed synchronously online for distance students to participate. Distance students will be required to be available and online during the live seminar course, and participate through the synchronous meeting software used.

Post-Doctorate Career Opportunities

What are the career opportunities for graduates of the PhD program?

Graduates may decide to pursue careers in academe as faculty members, teaching and conducting research in programs in information studies or closely allied areas. Work in information industry, where knowledge of research design is needed is another avenue. Some graduates who bring appropriate professional experience may pursue advanced administrative positions in academic information agencies, where an advanced degree in addition to an MLIS is expected.