Purdue University - Department of Computer Science - Doctoral

Doctoral Program

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

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 two-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. Students must pass the “Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) for Undergraduate Students” on-line test, and forward the certificate of completion to the Graduate Office by email at grad-info@cs.purdue.edu, with subject line "Ethics Requirement". Detailed instructions:
    1. Go to www.citiprogram.org;
    2. Register with “Purdue University” as your Organization Affiliation;
    3. Click on "Add a Course or Update Learner Groups";
    4. Leave Q1 Blank;
    5. Check RCR for Undergraduate Students on Q2;
    6. Put “Not at this time” for everything else. Further information on Responsible Conduct of Research: http://www.purdue.edu/gradschool/research/rcr/index.html

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”. 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

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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”}.

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.

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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, 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, and of 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 courses must include the two courses used to satisfy the core course requirement. The remaining courses must be three-credit, level 5 or 6, non-individual CS courses (except CS 50100, 50010, 50011 and certain CS 59000 courses).

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 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).

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 thesis defense. The student should consult with their advisory committee to decide when to take the preliminary examination.

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 Review Instructions

Thesis Format

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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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Policies and Procedures Manual

All graduate programs at Purdue are governed by the Policies and Procedures Manual for Administering Graduate Student Programs published by the Graduate School. 

Graduate School's Policies and Procedures Manual: https://www.purdue.edu/gradschool/faculty/publications.html

Graduation Deadline Calendar: https://www.purdue.edu/gradschool/about/calendar/deadlines.html

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Sample Ph.D timeline

YearSemesterCoursesRequirements fulfilled
Year 1 Semester 1 Research Seminar for First-Year Graduate Students plus two or three CS graduate courses including one or more CS core courses
Semester 2 1st research course (CS 69900) plus one or two CS graduate courses including remaining CS core courses


Year 2 Semester 3 2nd research course (CS 69900) plus one or two CS graduate courses including remaining CS core courses
Semester 4 One or more CS graduate courses including remaining CS core courses plus additional seminars/ special topics courses in areas of interest and research credits (CS 69900)
Year 3 Semester 5

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

  • submit Plan of Study as "Draft" by week 5
  • submit Plan of Study as "Final" as directed by the CS Graduate Office by the end of classes
Semester 6
Year 4 Semester 7
Semester 8
Year 5 Semester 9
Semester 10

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Last Updated: Mar 28, 2017 8:23 AM

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