Bob Vay at the GMU library is the person to talk to regarding proper dissertation format (email@example.com, 703-993-2222). There is an online guide for dissertations and theses at: http://www.gmu.edu/library/specialcollections/dtwebguide.htm.
You should seek an advisor who has expertise in your preferred dissertation topic area and with whom you can work effectively. You should have been assigned an advisor when you entered the program. As you advance in your studies, refine your research interests and get to know the faculty better, you may decide to switch advisors. This is not uncommon. Professors outside your degree area (IT/ ECE/ CS) can be on your committee, but your advisor must be from your specific degree area.
Credit for Directed Reading:
Course credit is available for individualized reading and research in an area not aligned with a currently taught course. You will need to get a faculty member to supervise (and possibly participate). To make it part of your plan of study requires the agreement of your advisory committee.
Engineer Degree in Information Technology:
The new Engineer degree in Information Technology is more applied and less research-focused than a PhD. Rather than completing a research dissertation you complete a project which may be shorter in duration than a dissertation. The course work is comparable to that of a Ph.D. The GMU Engineer degree is modeled on degrees of the same title at Stanford University and at MIT. This degree is also offered at a few dozen other U.S. universities. For more information, see: http://ite.gmu.edu/engineer/.
Requirements for the Ph.D. Program:
PhD degrees at virtually all U.S. universities have both breadth requirements and depth requirements. The breadth requirement is commonly measured by qualifying exams. The depth requirement includes an approved set of advanced courses, comprehensive exams and a dissertation.
The breadth requirement is designed to ensure that you have basic competency in the topic area of the degree (e.g., computer science). For our Ph.D. degrees, the breadth requirement consists of a set of qualifying examinations.
About three dozen qualifying exams are available in the Information Technology program. There are fewer to choose from in the CS and ECE programs. (See web sites below.) Most of the subjects of the qualifying exams are subjects that are covered in masters program courses. You must take and pass 4 exams in a single one-week testing period. If you pass 3 of 4, you may take a single exam at a later date. You must pass all four exams within two years of beginning this process. The qualifying exams are written by current faculty members who have taught the course area of interest. These exams are offered twice a year during the week preceding the Fall and Spring semesters. A reading list is provided for each qualifying exam. Students who have prepared adequately for the exams typically pass them. Take these exams seriously, but don't fear them. The web sites for the IT, CS and ECE exams are:
In the PhD program you must take 24 credit hours of advanced course work plus 24 hours of IT 998/999 dissertation course credit, or the equivalent in the ECE and CS programs. The comprehensive exam is taken at the end of your course work. The purpose of this exam is to determine if you are prepared to pursue your chosen research topic. Committee members may ask questions designed to determine the limits of what you know.
It is important to be continuously enrolled as a GMU student while you pursue your Ph.D. There is a process for special registration in which you pay $45.00 for a semester to keep your enrollment continuous if you need a semester off for some reason, like job commitments or family reasons.
If You Need Help:
If you encounter trouble of some sort during your PhD degree, contact Karen Alarie (firstname.lastname@example.org, 703-993-1499) as quickly as you can so whatever options for resolution can be found while there is time to act.
Explanation of Course Levels:
700-800-900 level courses are essentially all treated as being at the same level in the PhD program.
(Almost) Weekly Electronic Notices:
Dr. Nash has an email list in which he weekly puts out messages of interest to those pursuing PhD degrees. His weekly messages contain information about dissertation defenses, T/A R/A opportunities, and other items of interest to the doctoral pursuit community. If you wish to be added to the e-mail list, send a message to email@example.com. The CS Ph.D. program maintains two email lists, one for CS Ph.D. students and one for other Ph.D. students wish to receive information about speakers and other events.
Dissertation Proposal and Advisor:
Your dissertation research project should be guided by your research proposal which acts as a roadmap for your research activities. Your advisor can act as a champion for your cause and will help to let you know when you are ready for the various stages of your academic program.
Study Groups for Qualifying Examinations:
At the end of this session an attempt was made to set up Study Groups to help students prepare for qualification exams. Primary and secondary study group leaders were sought to organize and manage these sessions. For more information on study groups, contact Dr. Steven Schorling (firstname.lastname@example.org, 703-993-1547).