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Doctoral Program

The CS Policies/Procedures Manual is online and is incorporated in the CS Grad website. The website contains all current information on the CS policies/procedures, in addition to other helpful information and links. 

The Purdue Graduate School manual contains the minimum requirements, but CS policies may exceed the Grad School requirements and are considered the primary policy to follow in those situations.

The doctoral program is designed to prepare students for a career in computer science research. The program includes coursework to provide core computer science knowledge, coursework to provide knowledge in the intended area of research, and extensive research training and experience.

The doctoral program requirements are:

  1. Research orientation
    1. One research orientation course
    2. Ethics Training
    3. Two initial research courses
  2. Core course requirement
  3. Plan of Study
    1. Advisory Committee
    2. Courses
  4. Area-specific requirements
  5. Research
    1. Research credits
    2. Preliminary Examination
    3. Thesis
  6. Annual Review
  7. Graduation Candidacy Information

Changes in Requirements

Policies and Procedures Manual

Sample Ph.D. Timeline

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1. Research Orientation

The research orientation requirement consists of three parts: (a) the research orientation course, (b) the ethics training, and (c) the initial research courses.

a. Research Orientation Course

Students must, in their first year, take “CS 59100 Research Seminar for First-Year Graduate Students”.  This course introduces students to the research of CS faculty and includes lectures on how to conduct, present, and review research.

b. Ethics Training

Students must complete this multiple part training in the first year.

  1. Students must be present for the ethics lecture that is part of "CS 59100 Research Seminar for First-Year Graduate Students".
  2. PhD students must pass the “Course Responsible Conduct of Research Training – Faculty, Postdoctoral, and Graduate Course” on-line test, and forward the certificate of completion to the Graduate Office by email at, with subject line "Ethics Requirement". Detailed instructions:
    1. Go to CITI Program: Responsible Conduct of Research.
    2. Register with “Purdue University” as your Organization Affiliation;
    3. Complete the Course Responsible Conduct of Research Training – Faculty, Postdoctoral, and Graduate Course
    4. Forward the certificate of completion to the Graduate Office by email at
  3. The University-mandated Field-Specific RCR Training requirement of two hours of additional training for PhD students. The first hour will be fulfilled by attending the CS Ethics lecture of CS 59100-RS. The second hour can be fulfilled by one hour of:
    1. participation  in discussions with colleagues on RCR topics related to their specific research programs (e.g., through group meetings, coursework, orientations, professional development activities, or other organized events.) OR
    2. participation/viewing panel discussions around topics identified as most relevant by the College of Science researchers. There will be a one hour event each spring semester to fulfill this. These will be announced by the Grad Office whenever available.
    3. Each student researcher is responsible for self-reporting their activities here:

Further information on Responsible Conduct of Research


c. Initial Research Courses

Students must take two initial research courses by the end of their third semester.  Students take an initial research course by registering for at least 3 credits of “CS 69900, Research PhD Thesis”. To register for research, use the Scheduling Assistant in myPurdue. Only one initial research course can be taken per semester or per summer.  Each student must identify a faculty supervisor and work with that faculty supervisor to define and conduct a research project. At the end of each course, the student must write a report that is formally evaluated by the faculty supervisor. The two initial courses may be supervised by the same or by different faculty members.

Beginning PhD students (in first two years) doing research with a faculty member other than their initial advisor may discuss whether to formally change the advisor of record. If both the initial advisor and the proposed new initial advisor agree, an email to the grad office can be sent to request an update. Email confirmation from both advisors is needed before myCS can be updated. Students in their third year and beyond should have a plan of study approved identifying their permanent advisor. See Plan of study below for additional details. 

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2. Core Course Requirement

Students must satisfy this requirement by the end of their fourth semester by passing one theory core course and one systems core course with an average grade of at least 3.5.

The theory core course must be chosen from the following set: {“CS 58000 Algorithm Design, Analysis, And Implementation”, “CS 58400 Theory of Computation and Computational Complexity”, "CS 58800 Randomized Algorithms"}.

The systems core course must be chosen from the following set: {“CS 50300 Operating Systems”, “CS 50500 Distributed Systems”, “CS 53600 Data Communication and Computer Networks”}.

For the purpose of this requirement, a grade of A+, A, A-, B+, B, and B- counts as 4.3, 4.0, 3.7, 3.3, 3.0, and 2.7, respectively, must be earned.

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3. Plan of Study

Students must submit a draft plan of study by the end of the fifth week of their fifth semester (not including summer semesters), and are expected to revise it and to submit as final, as directed by the CS Graduate Office, by the end of classes that semester. The plan of study lists (a) the student’s advisory committee, and (b) the courses the student plans to use to fulfill the degree requirement. The draft of the plan of study is submitted electronically and must be approved by the student's advisory committee and by the CS Graduate Committee, see Instructions for Filing a Plan of Study.

a. Advisory Committee

The student must identify a Ph.D. research supervisor and then consult with the research supervisor to define an advisory committee. The advisory committee consists of

  • the student’s research supervisor (a.k.a. “major professor”, or “advisor”), who serves as chair.
  • two or more additional faculty members.
  • a research supervisor who is not a CS faculty member may be approved as a co-chair along with a co-chair from CS.
  • a majority of committee members must be CS faculty. Faculty from other Purdue West Lafayette departments may be approved to serve on the committee.
  • committee members from outside Purdue West Lafayette may be approved, but they must be in addition to the required three committee members from Purdue West Lafayette.

b. Courses

The plan of study must include at least six graduate level CS courses and only CS graduate courses, with a grade point average (GPA) of at least 3.5. The six courses must be taught by a faculty member whose primary appointment is in the CS department. The courses must include the two courses used to satisfy the core course requirement. The remaining courses must be three-credit, level 50000 or 60000, non-individual CS courses. CS 50100, 50010, 50011 and certain CS 59000/69000/59200/59300 courses may not be used.

Students admitted to the doctoral program Fall 2017 or later may list at most one approved variable title CS 59000/69000/59200/59300 lecture course. Please check the Variable Title Courses page to determine if a course has been approved for inclusion on a PhD plan of study.

All courses included in the plan of study must have a student evaluation component, and they must be graded in the usual manner so they can be used to compute the GPA. In particular, courses graded on a pass/no pass or satisfactory/unsatisfactory basis cannot be included in the plan of study. A student receiving a grade lower than C- in a course on the plan of study will have to repeat or replace the course. If a course is repeated, only the last grade, even if lower, is used to compute all GPAs involving that course.

Courses taken as a graduate student from other institutions may be accepted with the approval of the student's advisory committee, the Graduate Committee, and the Graduate School.  The minimum acceptable grade for such courses is B- or the equivalent. Please refer to these Instructions for Transfer of Courses (PDF).  Requests must be submitted to the CS grad office within the first six weeks of the fall or spring semester.

The courses on the plan of study cannot have been used to satisfy requirements for an undergraduate degree, nor can they cause the student's doctoral plan of study to include courses used for more than one master's degree.

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4. Area-Specific Requirements

Students must satisfy any additional requirements specific to their area of research. Students must consult with their major professor to ascertain area-specific requirements.  Students are responsible for knowing and completing area-specific requirements by the assigned deadlines.

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5. Research

Ph.D. research experience is planned, supervised, accumulated, and demonstrated by forming an advisory committee, by taking graduate level computer science courses, by conducting thesis research, by passing a preliminary examination, and by writing and defending a thesis.

a. Research Credits

The credits used to satisfy the Ph.D. degree credit requirement consist of (1) all credits for the courses that appear on the plan of study, and (2) all “CS 69900 Research Ph.D. Thesis” credit hours with a grade of S. At least 90 total credit hours are required. For example, if a plan of study lists 18 credits, an additional 72 research credits of CS 69900 with a grade of S are required.

At least one-third (i.e. 30) of the total credit hours used to satisfy the Ph.D. degree credit hour requirement must be earned while registered for doctoral study at Purdue West Lafayette.

b. Preliminary Examination

Students must pass a preliminary examination that tests competence in the student’s research area and readiness for research on a specific problem. The content of the examination is at the discretion of the examining committee. The examination may include a presentation by the student of papers relevant to a chosen research topic, an oral examination over advanced material on the student’s research topic, a presentation by the student of the student’s preliminary research results, or a proposal of thesis research.

The examining committee consists of the student's advisory committee, and of an additional member, who is not on the advisory committee, who is approved by the Graduate Committee.

The preliminary examination can be taken as soon as the plan of study is approved, and as late as two semesters before the semester in which the thesis defense is held. The student should consult with their advisory committee to decide when to take the preliminary examination (e.g. if a final exam is taken Fall 2021, the prelim exam would have needed to have happened Fall 2020). 

Please see the Procedure for Arranging a Preliminary Examination.

c. Thesis

The thesis must present new results worthy of publication. At least two academic sessions of registration devoted to research and writing must elapse between the preliminary and final doctoral examinations. The student must defend the thesis publicly and to the satisfaction of the examining committee, which consists of the student's advisory committee and of one additional faculty member who represents an area outside that of the thesis, and who is approved by the graduate committee.

The thesis should be defended at the latest by the end of the fourth semester following the one in which the student passes the preliminary examination.

Defense Procedure Instructions


Thesis Format

In preparing a PhD dissertation, please read the graduate school templates information at: and choose the LaTeX Template.

For the review of the format, schedule a Formatting Consultation prior to your defense at .

Thesis Deposit Process

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6. Annual Review

Each doctoral students’ academic and research progress is evaluated annually by their major professor and the Graduate Committee.  Students receive written feedback and guidance to support progress.

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Changes in Requirements

The Ph.D. requirements described above apply to all students entering or re-entering the Department of Computer Science at West Lafayette ("the Department") as degree-seeking graduate students in the summer session of 2016 or later. Here is an archive of the 2013, 2010200920062002 and 2001 Doctoral Program Requirements.

Students are governed by the degree requirements in effect when they enter the Department as degree-seeking students.  For students re-entering, the date of the most recent re-entry determines the degree requirements.  Students who wish to take advantage of subsequent changes may apply to the Graduate Committee to be governed by all degree requirements in effect at a specified subsequent time.  Choosing features from different sets of requirements is not permitted.

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Graduation Candidacy Information

For information about the commencement ceremony, please visit

In order to graduate, you must declare candidacy for the semester in which you intend to graduate by the designated deadline. You declare candidacy by using the Scheduling Assistant within myPurdue and registering for either CAND 99100, 99200, or 99300 (Form 23 is no longer used). 

If you are declaring candidacy for multiple degrees (both PhD and MS) within the same semester, please register for candidacy for one degree, and then contact, to let them know information on the second degree. Candidacy will only show on your schedule for one degree, but we will work with the Registrar's Office and Grad School to make sure expectation for both degrees is recorded in their systems.

CAND 99100: This the candidacy to register for if you are currently taking any courses and/or research. Doctoral students must register for research in proportion to their efforts during each session, and must be registered for at least one credit of research in this semester. Research registration should be commensurate with actual research and writing efforts. (International students registering for candidacy and less than full-time, need to request approval for a Reduced Course Load from ISS; at least one credit if not funded or at least three credits if funded.)

Special candidate registration may be allowed for those students needing to only deposit (CAND 992) or defend/deposit (CAND 993). If allowed, please note:

  1. Early deadlines apply (you can find the deadline calendar on the Grad School website,, and select Academic Calendar).
  2. Students cannot be registered for any credits in this semester (research or coursework).
  3. Students MUST be registered in research the semester prior to enrolling in one of these candidate types (including summer if research (which includes writing/formatting thesis) was performed).
  4. Students may still hold an RA appointment (and TA appointment, if remaining for the full semester despite defending and/or depositing early).
  5. Candidates who register for this special registration and who do not meet the early deadline, will be switched by the Grad School to CAND 991 and required to register for credits.  If you’re funded or on Research in Absentia, you need to make sure you are funded for a minimum of 3 credits, so check your schedule if you miss the early deadline and notify immediately to assist you with modifying the number of registered credits.
CAND 992 (Degree-Only Candidacy): Candidacy for those that ONLY need to deposit their thesis. Please note that there is a fee to register in CAND 992.

CAND 993 (Exam-Only Candidacy): Candidacy for those that ONLY need to defend AND deposit their thesis. Please note that there is a fee to register in CAND 993.

PLEASE NOTE: Being registered as a candidate does not automatically register you for the commencement ceremony itself. If you plan to participate in commencement, you must respond by using the Commencement tab on myPurdue. It will be added to your myPurdue account after a specified date in the semester you have registered as a candidate.

Graduation Deadline Calendar:

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Sample Ph.D timeline

Year Semester Courses To Register For Should Complete within Semester
Year 1 Semester 1
  • Research Seminar Course
  • two CS graduate courses (take first CS core course)
  • Research Seminar Course
  • Ethics training
Semester 2
  • first research course (CS 69900)
  • one CS graduate course (take remaining CS core course)
  • core course requirement
Year 2 Semester 3
  • second research course (CS 69900)
  • one CS graduate course
  • initial research requirement
  • choose research area
  • identify major professor
Semester 4
  • two graduate CS courses
  • remaining course requirements
  • form advisory committee
  • begin Plan of Study
Year 3 Semester 5

seminars/special topics courses in areas of interest and remaining research credits (CS 69900)

  • submit Plan of Study
Semester 6
Year 4 Semester 7
  • Preliminary Examination
Semester 8
  • write thesis
  • defend thesis
  • deposit thesis
Year 5 Semester 9
Semester 10


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Last Updated: Dec 18, 2023 12:09 PM

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