Dissertation Requirement

This page is "Under Construction" as of 09/22/2020 - please contact the Program Coordinator if you have any questions.

A Ph.D. student should devote at least one year to research (24 credits of 700 level courses, under the constraints listed above). During this time the student should pursue, under faculty supervision, an original investigation of one or more problems in an area of concentration in computer science, and present the results in a thesis.

Current research by the graduate faculty is expected to stimulate doctoral research. While progressing through course work, and especially at the seminar level, the student will concentrate more and more on a research area and work more and more closely with the faculty members involved in that area. Those areas and the faculty associated with them are outlined in the Research Section.

Having identified an area of research, the student should find a member of the graduate faculty who is interested in that area and who is willing to be the student's thesis advisor. Only a full member of the Graduate Faculty of Computer Science can be the thesis advisors. Work on the thesis research should then be carried out under the direction of that supervisor. A student should find a research advisor by the end of the fourth, preferably by the end of the second semester. Students who do not have a research advisor by the end of the second year are not making satisfactory progress towards the PhD.

Within six months of the successful completion of the qualifying examination, the student and a full member of the Graduate Faculty of Computer Science must declare to the Graduate Committee that the student is doing research under the guidance of that professor as advisor. If there are circumstances that prevent such an agreement between a professor and the student, the student should consult with the Graduate Director. If the Ph.D. thesis advisor is to be a courtesy member of the department (as defined above), the student must maintain an academic advisor who is a regular member of the department and the student must keep the academic advisor well-informed about his/her research progress; in this case, both advisors must be approved by the Graduate Committee.

The student will do research under the direction of an advisor, who must be a full (rather than associate) member of the Graduate Faculty of Computer Science, write a dissertation about that work, have the thesis read by a committee of at least four and defend the work in an oral presentation to the committee and all who are interested. (The Graduate Committee will announce this dissertation defense.) The student's advisor will propose a committee to the Graduate Committee and the DCS Graduate Director for approval. The thesis committee, chaired by the advisor, will include at least two other (full or associate) members of the Graduate Faculty of Computer Science and one additional person referred to as the "outside member". This outside member

  1. must be neither a full nor an associate member of the Graduate Faculty of Computer Science,
  2. must have no collaborative or other formal relationship with the student,
  3. should be from outside the university whenever possible,
  4. is expected to be a recognized authority on the subject of the dissertation.

The outside member is included in the committee in order to provide an objective and impartial evaluation of the student's work; in particular, this goal precludes anybody with a substantial involvement in the development of the dissertation from being appointed as the outside member. (For instance, co-authors of parts of the student's dissertation are barred from being appointed as outside members.) Once the committee has been formed, the outside member is expected to participate in giving the student the assistance and feedback required by the rules of School of Graduate Studies.

At least four months before the anticipated date of the defense, the Ph.D. candidate must do the following:

  1. Prepare a detailed outline of the dissertation, including the main findings, results and remaining work, as well as the published and/or submitted papers.
  2. Agree with their research advisor on the thesis committee and submit it for approval, including the external member (a CV of the external member must be sent to the Graduate Director).
  3. Schedule the date for the pre-defense, send title, abstract and names of the committee members to the graduate secretary.

The goal of the pre-defense is twofold: (i) to allow the Ph.D. candidate to present the main findings of the dissertation research and receive feedback, and (ii) to allow the committee to anticipate the quality of the dissertation and to propose additional research, if necessary. The pre-defense is a public presentation of the work with questions from the committee. The pre-defense talk will be announced in the department and will be open to the Rutgers faculty and graduate students. Following the public part, there will be a private meeting between the candidate and the committee, during which the student will be asked questions and will be given feedback regarding both the research and the talk. The external member is not required to attend. At the end, the committee will decide if the candidate can go ahead with the defense schedule or if more time is needed to perform additional research work.

The thesis must be approved by the four-member committee. The formal approval is not given until after the student has given a final defense: an oral presentation of the thesis before the committee and other members of the department and has answered to their satisfaction any questions they may ask.