Ph.D. Graduate Student Requirements (Computer Science)

These regulations are in addition to the Academics Regulations of the School of Graduate Studies and the Specific Requirements for the Ph.D. Degree of the Graduate Program in the Case School of Engineering as found in the General Catalog of Case Western Reserve University.

Ph.D. Requirements

Each student must satisfy requirements in the following categories:

  • Course Work

  • Mathematics and Science Requirement

  • Research Proposal

  • Qualifying Examination

  • Dissertation

All programs must contain at least 36 hours of courses past the B.S. of which all courses must be at the 400-level or higher. Two of the courses must be in a basic science or mathematics. A minimum of 12 hours must be in courses outside the student's thesis area. A student must have attained a minimum 3.25 grade point average (GPA) at the time of graduation. The minimum GPA is calculated based on all courses in the student's Program of Study that carry quality points.

When applying to this program, please select the CIS (Computing and Information Sciences) option in your application.

Academic Advisor and Research Advisor

Upon arrival each graduate student is assigned an academic advisor from the Computer Science Division faculty. No later than the end of the second semester of study, a Ph.D. Student must obtain a research advisor, normally from the Computer Science Division, who may or may not be the same as the academic advisor. Once a research advisor is selected, the research advisor will also serve as the academic advisor, with whom a student consults to ensure that the balance of the Ph.D. course work constitutes a coherent program of study.

If the research advisor is not from the Computer Science Division, the student must have an academic advisor from the division. The academic advisor may serve as a research co-advisor, if so desired by the student and the research advisor.

Program of Study

Each Ph.D. student must submit a Program of Study detailing his or her course work, Qualifying Examination and dissertation schedules. The Program of Study lists all courses taken beyond the B.S. and shows how these courses satisfy the following course requirements for the Ph.D.:

1. The minimum course requirement beyond the B. S. level is 36 credit hours of courses taken for credit, at least 18 hours of which must be taken at CWRU. The following courses taken for credit will be acceptable:

(a) All 400, 500, 600 level courses.

(b) Approved graduate level courses taken at other institutions.

The above courses must include the following:

1.1. A minimum of 12 credit hours in the student's dissertation research area.

1.2. A minimum of 6 credit hours in mathematics or basic science.

1.3. A minimum of 12 credit hours of breadth courses that are not in the student's dissertation research area. The courses for items 1.1,  1.2, and 1.3 must be disjoint.

1.4. A minimum of 18 credit hours of courses approved by the Computer Science Division which can be courses used in item 1.1 and item 1.3. These approved Computer Science courses are listed in a separate document available on the department/division website.

2. A minimum of 18 credit hours of EECS 701 (Dissertation).

3. The cumulative grade-point average of all CWRU courses on the program of study must be at least 3.25.

4. 400T, 500T and 600T which are 0 credit hour courses that provide students with teaching experiences.

5. All Ph.D. students are required to register for and pass three semesters of "EECS 500: Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Colloquium" (a 0 credit hour course) before advancement to candidacy and complete a public presentation of their work.

The Program of Study must be approved by the student's academic advisor and the chair of the CS Division of the EECS Department, and it must be approved before the student advances to candidacy.

Qualifying Examination

The Computer Science Ph.D. qualifying examination is in the form of an oral exam and a written report, assessing the student’s ability to survey a specific research topic, discuss the state-of-the-art in depth, provide a critical description of the literature, and propose creative ideas on improving the state-of-the-art. The written and oral parts of the exam are administered by a committee consisting of three faculty members. The exam is supplemented by the evaluation of the student’s course performance and the final decision is made in a meeting of faculty affiliated with the CS program.

The students may choose to take the qualifying examination in one of the following research areas:

  • Algorithms
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Bio / Medical informatics
  • Computer Networks and Distributed Systems
  • Databases and Data Mining
  • Software Engineering

The students may take the qualifying exam at most twice, depending on the outcome of their first try. If the outcome for the first try is “Fail”, then the student cannot take the qualifying exam again. If the outcome for the first try is “Retake”, then the student must take the exam again and pass before the end of the same semester.

Students who hold an M.S. degree are required to take the qualifying exam at the start of their 3rd semester, and pass the qualifying exam before the start of their 4th semester in the Ph.D. program. Students who do not hold an M.S. degree are required to take the qualifying exam at the start of their 5th semester, and pass the qualifying exam before the start of their 6th semester in the Ph.D.

A complete description of the qualifying examination can be found at the bottom of this page.


Advancement to Candidacy

A student formally advances to candidacy after passing the Qualifying Examination and finding a faculty member who agrees to be the student's research advisor. The student should advance to candidacy within one semester of passing the Qualifying Examination.

Students should submit documentation, approved by the academic and research advisor(s), to the Chairman of the Graduate Studies Committee of Computer Science to be admitted to candidacy.

Students who have failed to complete the conditions above within the time limit will be separated from the Ph.D. program. Separation may also occur in the event of failure of the student to maintain a satisfactory GPA. A student who has been separated may not undertake further study for credit toward the Ph.D. degree. With the approval of the Department and the Dean of Graduate Studies, such a student may complete a master's degree, may register as a non-degree student or seek admission to the graduate program of another department.

Dissertation Advisory Committee

Each Ph.D. student must form a Dissertation Advisory Committee which consists of at least 4 members of the University faculty. One of the committee member's primary appointment must not be in the Computer Science Division. The student's academic advisor serves as the chair of this committee. Both the chair of the committee and one other member must be a regular faculty member of the Computer Science Division.

Dissertation Proposal

The Ph.D. student must write a formal thesis proposal and defend it in an oral presentation to his or her Dissertation Advisory Committee. Normally this is done within a year of advancing to candidacy. A student who fails to defend his or her thesis proposal can attempt to defend it a second time after modifying the thesis proposal, but a second failure will cause the student to be separated from the program.


The student's dissertation must be original research in CS which represents a significant contribution to existing knowledge in the student's research area, a portion of which must be suitable for publication in a reputable research journal or selective peer-reviewed conference. In addition to the written dissertation, the doctoral candidate must pass an oral examination in defense of the dissertation. The Dissertation Advisory Committee is responsible for certifying that the quality and suitability of the material presented in the dissertation meet acceptable scholarly standards. The doctoral candidate must also present the dissertation research in a departmental seminar.


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