PhD Program

Thank you for your interest in the PhD program at the Information School (iSchool) at UW-Madison.

Our aim is to cultivate a cooperative, supportive intellectual environment that allows a small group of highly qualified students excel in their doctoral studies. By admitting a small cohort of doctoral students each year, we can ensure that each student develops close working relationships with faculty members, receives strong and consistent advising, and is fully funded.

What you can expect

The iSchool PhD program is writing intensive, requiring students produce a substantial body of written work as they prepare to research and compose their dissertations. We provide a structure in which students conduct original research and prepare results for presentation and publication in scholarly conferences and journals. iSchool faculty work closely with PhD students to help them polish their research for publication, and most students graduate with several published articles.

Because it is part of an internationally top-ranked research university, the iSchool offers students the opportunity to engage in the rich variety of educational experiences both within the school and in the broader University of Wisconsin-Madison campus.

PhD students at the UW iSchool can expect:

  • Involvement in cutting-edge research through iSchool research hubs such as the UW-Madison Collaborative Computing Group (“Mad Collab”) and the Center for the History of Print and Digital Culture.
  • 5 years of full funding, including tuition, stipend, and health insurance
  • Successful job placement: Over 90% of graduates find faculty jobs upon graduation
  • Rigorous education, including extensive methodological training, robust practice with and feedback on scholarly writing, and access to classes taught by top UW-Madison faculty from across campus
  • Teaching experience, working with undergraduate and graduate students with guidance from faculty

See the Faculty Research Page for an overview of the types of research conducted by iSchool faculty members as well as affiliations with research centers at UW and elsewhere.  For specific research interests and expertise, see the individual faculty member pages linked below.

iSchool faculty member

Research interests

Catherine Arnott Smith

Consumer health informatics, History of medicine

Greg Downey

History and geography of information and communication technology and labor

Kristin R. Eschenfelder

Data management, scholarly communications, information/data policy, science and technology studies

Ian Hutchins

Scientific Portfolio Analysis, Bibliometrics, Science-of-Science

Corey B. Jackson

human-centered computing, computer-supported cooperative work, and design epistemologies from fields such as organization studies, psychology, and education

Kyung-Sun “Sunny” Kim

Information behavior, Information users, user-centered systems/services

Chaoqun Ni

Scholarly Communication, Science Policy, Scientometrics, Scholarly Data Analytics

Reginold Royston

New Media and innovation in the African Diaspora

Alan Rubel

Information ethics, policy, and law

Adam Rule

Human computer interaction, health informatics, human-centered data science

Jonathan Senchyne

book history and print culture, American literary history, African American print culture, digital humanities, American Studies

Jacob Thebault-Spieker

HCI, social computing

Rebekah Willett

Childhood studies, Media and Cultural Studies, Education, Girlhood Studies

Program requirements

The PhD program has several key components.

  • The first 2-3 years of PhD work will be spent fulfilling course requirements both within the iSchool and in other departments. Part of students’ coursework is devoted to completing a PhD minor that complements their research. Examples of possible minors include educational psychology, science and technology studies, history, south Asian studies, communications, and political science.
  • Mastery demonstration papers. Each student completes a series of two papers (over several semesters) that demonstrate their research and writing proficiency before advancing the dissertation.
  • Portfolio defense. Prior to proposing a dissertation project, students compile a portfolio of their work demonstrating that the depth and breadth of their preparation is sufficient to support a dissertation project.
  • Dissertation: All PhD students must research, write, and defend a doctoral dissertation.

For more information about program requirements and expectations, please refer to our PhD student handbook and the University of Wisconsin Graduate School Academic Guidelines.

Residence and Community

The iSchool PhD program is residential program. Students must be able to attend classes in person at UW-Madison for 2-3 years. Most students continue to live near Madison as they research and write their dissertations. Four to five years of full-time study is typical for students to complete the degree. The school strongly prefers full time PhD students.

A list of current PhD students is available.

Applying to the iSchool PhD Program

Please follow our instructions for applying to our PhD program.  Note that students are required to submit undergraduate and graduate transcripts, at least three letters of recommendation that address the applicant’s promise for scholarly research, an application essay, and a scholarly writing sample. GRE scores are optional. The application deadline is December 31 for enrollment the following Fall.

Special opportunity – Digital childhood studies

The iSchool is a partner of the Centre of Excellence for the Digital Child based at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia from 2020 to 2027. A PhD student studying digital technologies and early childhood at the iSchool will have access to international researchers doing work in this field, as well as travel funds to visit research projects and complete a practicum in Australia. As with all our accepted applicants, a candidate researching digital childhood studies would be provided with a minimum of 5 years of funding including tuition, stipend, and health insurance. For more information, contact Associate Professor Rebekah Willett (

The iSchool hosts a PhD Minor in Print Culture History

PhD Minor in Print Culture History

The Minor in Print Culture History is an interdisciplinary program functioning under the University of Wisconsin-Madison Graduate School’s Option A for minors; see Minors in the UW-Grad School academic policies. To qualify, students will need written approval from their major advisor and from the Director, PhD Minor in Print Culture History. See the full description of the PhD Minor in Print Culture History on the Center for the History of Print and Digital Culture website for more information.

Print Culture History Minor registration form

Print Culture History Minor completion form