Below are the requirements for completing a PhD in Information Science at Cornell. If you have any further questions please contact our Graduate Program Coordinator, Barbara Woske, via email or phone, 607-254-5347.

Required Core Courses 

Core courses are organized into the five (5) areas shown below.  As part of our curriculum, all IS students are required to complete a minimum of four (4) courses, with no more than one from any of the areas listed below:  


  • INFO 6310: Behavior and Information Technology
  • INFO 6450: Computer-Mediated Communication (Distance Learning ITH to TECH)

Computational Methods

  • INFO 6010: Computational Methods for Information Science Research


  • INFO 6520: Human Computer Interaction Graduate Studio
    • No pre-enroll accepted. Please fill out this survey. If chosen, pins will be send out late January.

Ethics, Law and Policy

  • INFO 6210: Information, Technology, and Society


  • INFO 6260: Networks, Crowds, and Markets: Foundations for Formal Analysis and Design
  • HD 6610: Text and Networks in Social Science Research
  • SOC 6110: Social Networks Theory and Applications

Students should consult with their advisor to select the 4 areas they will complete. During each semester a subset of these courses will be taught; new classes may be added as they become available. Students must complete 4 courses from 5 different areas with a letter grade of B+ or higher in order to fulfill the core requirement.  Students may take more than one course in a given area if it is of interest, but this will have no effect on graduation requirements. Core course requirements should be completed prior to the A exam, unless an exception has been arranged with the DGS. 

A summary of the approved core courses including, focus area, location, term offered, and modality can be found on this Google Sheet.

Teaching Requirement

Each Ph.D student is required to serve as a teaching assistant for two semesters.


Information Systems examines the computer science problems of representing, organizing, storing, manipulating, and using digital information.

Human Computer Interaction uses an interactive, user-centered design approach to study the interplay between technology and what people do with technology.

Cognition focuses on the human mind, which is the ultimate producer and user of information.

Social Aspects of Information studies the cultural, economic, historical, legal, political, and social contexts in which digital information is a major factor.

External minor

Each Ph.D. student will select an external minor. This will often be a closely related field, such as Cognitive Studies, Communication, Computer Science, Science & Technology Studies, Economics, Linguistics, Mathematics, Operations Research, Psychology, or Sociology.

Forming a Committee

Each student's committee must consist of three members representing each of the following: primary IS concentration (this is the committee chair), secondary IS concentration, and external minor. The committee must be formed no later than the end of the third semester. (See Cornell's Graduate School page on Choosing Your Committee.) Each PhD student's campus location is determined by the location of their preferred or temporary advisor. Students should consider this when choosing their permanent advisor, since students are expected to be on the same campus – either Ithaca or New York City – as their advisors. 

The student's committee may require the student to take courses in addition to the core requirements.

A Exam

The A exam tests the student's breadth in Information Science and depth in their proposed thesis area. The committee has to be selected before the A exam can take place. Students generally take the A exam after completing their coursework and at a point where they've outlined their research and have some preliminary results. They write responses to questions posed by their committee members, and then discuss their answers at an oral examination with their full committee present.


Students are expected to make a thesis proposal by the end of their third year. As part of the thesis proposal, the student will be required to demonstrate depth in at least one concentration, sufficient to carry out fundamental research. The student's Ph.D. committee will decide how this expertise will be evaluated.