University of Wisconsin–Madison

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.

To see the research interests and expertise of iSchool faculty members, please refer to the Faculty Research Page. There you can find the areas within which our faculty conduct research, recent publications and projects, and affiliations with research centers at UW and elsewhere.

PhD students at the UW iSchool can expect:

  • 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

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 three 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 Program Planning Guide 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.

The iSchool Doctoral Students Association represents PhD students in the School and provides a forum for networking and social support.

Applying to the iSchool PhD Program

All applications to our PhD program are submitted through the UW Graduate School. Start the application process here.

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, GRE scores, an application essay, and a scholarly writing sample. The application deadline is December 31 for enrollment the following Fall.

 

Special Opportunity:  Recruiting Ph.D. students in Digital Privacy, Safety, and Security Studies

 

The Information School is recruiting Ph.D. applicants to work in the areas of surveillance, privacy, and information security in cyberspace, and in social, policy, and moral issues in data analytics and algorithmic decision-making.

This effort is based on a collaboration with the University of Wisconsin Cybersecurity Operations Center (CISO), the Department of Communication Arts, and with the support of a UW Graduate School collaboration grant. We anticipate that students will take courses across multiple departments (including the iSchool and Communication Arts) and work with the CISO to develop research projects and subject expertise.

Applications should go through the normal PhD application process of the iSchool or Communication Arts (or one can apply to both). Please state your intention to work in this area in your application.

For more information contact iSchool PhD chair Alan Rubel.

PhD minor

The iSchool hosts two PhD minor options for doctoral students in other UW programs.

 

The PhD Minor in Information Studies

The PhD minor in Information Studies is a flexible and interdisciplinary program functioning under the University of Wisconsin-Madison Graduate School’s Option A rules (see the Graduate School Catalog, Minors). To become a minor, students will need to fill out a PhD minor form available from the iSchool main office. As part of this, they will need to identify, and obtain the signature of, a minor advisor from the iSchool faculty who will serve to assist with course selection and other issues. Students may select courses from both the masters and PhD level from within iSchool. Popular concentrations include: information policy and ethics, information technology, and digital youth. To begin the process of enrolling as an Information Studies minor, please contact an iSchool faculty member via email.

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 rules (see the Graduate School Catalog, Minors). 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.