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Department of Computer Science

Doctor of Philosophy Degree

The Ph.D. Program in the Computer Science (CS) Department at Oklahoma State University provides Graduate students with the opportunity to concentrate in selected areas of Computer Science.

Entrance Requirements:

  1. A bachelor's degree from an accredited university;

  2. Proficiency in computer related mathematics, including at least 10 hours beyond calculus.

  3. A grade point average of 3.5 or higher.

  4. Course work in theoretical foundations of computing, operating systems design and implementation, organization of programming languages, and computer organization with grades of "B" or better; a student who does not meet this requirement, but otherwise qualifies for admission, may be admitted with deficiencies listed.

  5. Resume or Curriculum Vitae (CV).

  6. Statement of research interest.

  7. The Graduate Record Exam (GRE): Applicants must take the general test.

  8. A TOEFL score of 550 (213 on-line) or better for international students;

  9. Three letters of reference from individuals competent to judge the applicant's potential to complete the Ph.D.

Individuals may strengthen their applications with supporting materials such as a strong transcript, higher GPA, strong recommendation letters, and/or written support from members of the Computer Science Department Graduate Faculty.


Students who have master's degrees in other areas will be admitted based on their potential to perform Ph.D. level work as perceived by the committee on graduate admissions. Requirements for admission in this case are similar to the entrance requirements stated above, but are adapted to individual cases by the committee on graduate admissions.


  • Deadlines for application to CS graduate study are March 1 for fall semester, August 1 for spring semester.
  • Send letters of reference to Graduate Secretary, Computer Science Department, 219 MSCS, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Oklahoma 74078. Send all other materials to the Graduate College. Application forms are available at


Course Guidelines for PhD Students:

Restrictions on courses that can be included in the Computer Science Plan of Study are:

  • CS 4323, 4343, and 4154 cannot be put on any plan of study of a Computer Science graduate student. This means that required prerequisites and certain other courses can no longer be counted as electives toward a graduate degree in Computer Science at OSU.

  • For a course from any OSU department other than Computer Science to be included on a plan of study for a Computer Science graduate student, the course must carry graduate credit and be numbered 5000 or higher.

Each doctoral student must satisfy the following requirements:

A. Course requirements:

  • All current requirements of the OSU Graduate College must be met.
  • The Computer Science Department also has the following requirements:
  1. 15 credits (the core) including 5113, 5313, 5323, 5413, and 5513

    1. For Ph.D. students who have not earned a master's degree, at most one grade of "C" in a core course is acceptable providing it is offset by a grade of "A" in another core course.
    2. A student who has completed a master's degree at another university may petition to have one or more of the OSU core courses waived in favor of equivalent graduate-level course(s) taken elsewhere. The question of whether or not a course at another university is equivalent to an OSU core course is entirely up to the judgment of the department.
  2. 12 credits (the primary area of research specialization) in one area of CS at the 6000 level, excluding CS 6000 (Research and Dissertation).

  3. 6 credits (the secondary area of study) in one area of CS at the 6000 level, outside of the area of specialization and excluding CS 6000.

  4. 6 credit hours of elective CS courses at the 5000 level or above.

    1. These elective hours cannot include any courses claimed under items 1, 2, or 3 above, nor may they include any courses used on the plan of study for a master's degree, nor may they include any hours of CS 5000 (Research and Thesis) or of CS 6000 (Research and Dissertation).
    2. Students who have not completed a master's degree must satisfy the above elective requirements in this item plus the elective requirements for the master's degree (under the thesis option) in this department.
  5. 15 to 40 hours of CS 6000 dissertation research credit.

B. Emphasis in the program is placed on development of competence rather than total course hours:

Only minimum course hour requirements are listed in this document.

C. Dissertation:

The dissertation must describe the results of the candidate's research which is an original contribution to knowledge in the computing field.

D. Ph.D. program examinations:

Ph.D. students are required to pass a diagnostic examination, a comprehensive examination, a qualifying examination, and a final oral examination. These examinations are described in detail in the next section of this document.

E. Deviations from any of these requirements may be granted by the graduate faculty.



A. PhD Diagnostic Exam guidelines: The student's Ph.D. committee (also known as the Ph.D. dissertation committee) will be in charge of the Diagnostic Examination for each Ph.D. student.


The committee will give the student one expository research question. This question must not be based on the student's previous master's degree thesis work, if any, or on the student's professional experience.


The subject for the diagnostic exam must not be in the student's PhD research area.


The advisor in consultation with the committee will give the student a number of papers to study in depth. The number of papers is left to the discretion of the committee.


The papers will all focus on a single topic within Computer Science, but should also exhibit diversity within the topic. This will allow the student to explore different areas within the same topic. The student may of course refer to other papers that may help him/her in understanding and analyzing the papers given by the committee.


The committee will identify its expectations and inform the student.


The student will be given three weeks to:

    1. write a paper based on his/her study of the papers given to him/her. The paper will meet the requirements of a review paper to be submitted for publication, that is, it will include all relevant sections and also have the depth expected in a paper submitted for publication.
    2. prepare a 30 minute presentation of his/her study.

At the end of the three weeks, the student will submit the paper to the committee and give a half-hour presentation of her/his findings. The committee will then question the student on the topic of the presentation.


Both the paper and the presentation will contribute to the evaluation of the student’s work. The committee will submit a report that evaluates the student’s performance. The report will be provided to the student.


The presentation part of the Diagnostic Examination is a public event and it must be announced at least five days before it is held.


The result of the Diagnostic Examination will be a grade of "Pass" or "Fail".


The student will have two chances to pass the Diagnostic Examination.


For a student entering the Ph.D. program with a master's degree already earned in Computer Science or a closely related area, the Diagnostic Examination must be taken within one calendar year. For a student entering the Ph.D. program without such a master's degree, this examination must be taken within one year of having completed twenty-four hours of course work beyond the bachelor's degree


B. PhD Comprehensive Exam guidelines: Each student's Ph.D. committee will be in charge of the Comprehensive Examination for the student.


The comprehensive exam may be given 6 months after the student has passed the diagnostic exam.


The student shall submit to her/his Ph.D. committee at least one paper published in a peer-reviewed and refereed journal or conference (or an official letter or e-mail showing the acceptance of such a paper) in an area not necessarily the same as the dissertation. The student must be the sole author or the principal author of the paper. The results will be presented for a period of 30 to 45 minutes. The Dissertation Committee will judge the results of the paper as well as the quality of the targeted journal or conference.


The results of the Comprehensive Examination will be a "pass" or a "fail" given for the entire presentation as well as the oral examination, as applicable.


The student will have two chances to pass the Comprehensive Examination.


C. The Ph.D. student will conduct, or continue to conduct, her/his dissertation research and present a prospectus/proposal. Officially, this constitutes the Qualifying Examination (as required by the Graduate College).


D. The Ph.D. candidate will defend her/his dissertation. The timing constraints of the Graduate College apply.


E. The written dissertation proposal and the written dissertation for parts C and D should be delivered to all committee members at least one week prior to the respective presentation.


The oral presentations in parts A, B, C, and D are all open to the public, and will be announced to the faculty and preferably to all graduate students and to the general public. Visitors will be permitted to ask questions at the end of a presentation, then they will be excused before the committee proceeds to ask further questions.


Unresolved Issues

Any issues not covered on this web site shall be resolved by the departmental Graduate Committee in consultation with the graduate faculty of the Computer Science Department.


Financial Aid for Graduate Students in Computer Science

Several teaching and research assistantships are available each semester.

Stipends for half-time assistantships for graduate students are $1,872.50 for the academic year (nine months). Recipients qualify for in-state tuition rates.


Some graduate students are employed by other departments on campus as research assistants or as programmers. Opportunities arise at various times throughout the year for qualified applicants. Some of these jobs carry in-state tuition rates, but most do not. Most Ph.D. students who apply for a teaching assistantship receive one, usually in their first semester.


Contact Information

Send any requests for more information to:

For information about the status of applications, applicants should send e-mail to the Graduate College: or telephone 405-744-6368.

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