The Preliminary Examination is an oral defense of the student’s dissertation proposal. Writing a good proposal is an important part of being a successful researcher, and the preliminary exam is an important milestone that helps students develop the skill of writing a good proposal. Students write a proposal that is submitted to their committee at least 2 weeks (14 days) ahead of the exam. During the exam the student presents the proposed research and the committee evaluates the research goals and progress of the student. Thus, the two main purposes of the preliminary exam are to develop proposal writing skills and to obtain feedback on the research plan from the committee. The proposal must be approved by the student’s Dissertation Committee PRIOR to the bulk of the dissertation research being performed, and therefore most students will probably schedule their Preliminary Exams one or two semesters after passing the qualifying exam.
The format of the dissertation proposal is flexible due to the breadth of research areas encompassed in the Informatics PhD program. At a minimum it should include a definition or statement of the problem to be addressed, a comprehensive review of the literature, an outline of the methodology to be used, and a discussion of any preliminary results to date. Though there are no explicit page limits, the proposal should be between 15 and 25 pages in length, excluding the bibliographic references. The dissertation proposal should NOT be a preliminary draft (or select chapters) of the dissertation, an existing publication or a survey of the student’s research field.
Since the Dissertation Committee must be convened and approved by the Graduate College in advance of the Preliminary Examination, it is imperative that the student contact the Informatics Education Coordinator 3-6 weeks ahead of the proposed exam date. Once the Dissertation Committee is approved by the Graduate College, the exam must be taken within 180 days. It is the student’s responsibility to schedule the Preliminary exam (including finding a suitable location) based on the availability of the committee members. The dissertation proposal must be distributed to the Dissertation Committee members at least 2 weeks in advance of the exam date.
The Advisor will chair the Exam, and is responsible for obtaining the committee’s signatures on the form at the end of the exam. As with the Qualifying Exam, the results are either Pass, Fail, or Deferred (in which a student must retake the exam within 180 days, with the same committee members).
As per the Graduate College rules, students must be registered during the semester that they take the Preliminary exam. Please note that the Preliminary exam and final Dissertation Defense may not be taken during the same semester.