PhD in Computer Science Examinations

Research Qualifying Examination

The Research Qualifying Examination is used to evaluate students’ future research endeavors. The examination consists of a written report and an oral presentation. The student must propose a novel research problem, highlight the motivation for exploring that particular problem, and outline the research methodology that will be used to address or explore the problem, including technical approaches and potential solutions. Alternatively, it may consist of an extensive survey of an important existing research area with research problems and a research plan. The guidelines for the report and presentation are as follows:

Written Report: 

The written report must consist of an abstract (50-200 words); an introduction (about one page) explaining the research problem and motivation; a body (about four to five pages) explaining research methodology, results, and discussion; a literature review (about one page) of related work; a conclusion, which summarizes the research findings and gives future plans/directions; a bibliography; and an appendix, if needed. The report should be about eight pages and use the IEEE conference proceedings template, which is available here. The report should be a substantial document at a similar level of quality as a full research publication article. In case of a survey, the sections may be adjusted accordingly. The written report must be submitted to the advisory committee at least two weeks before the oral presentation date.

Oral Presentation: 

The oral presentation is a 40-minute talk based on the written report regarding the student’s research proposal. The presentation must be at least 30 minutes long and will be followed by approximately 10 minutes of questions. The presentation will be open to the public, including all faculty and students. The oral presentation will be evaluated by the advisory committee for clarity and content.

The committee will convene privately to determine the outcome of the examination. The committee will provide comments and suggestions to the student and may require the student to revise and attempt the examination again. All committee members will vote to either pass or fail the student. If there is more than one “fail” vote, the student cannot pass. The outcome of the examination and the comments of the advisory committee will be recorded for the annual evaluation. In special instances, the examination requirement may be waived (see below).

The student will be allowed two attempts to pass the exam. The first attempt must be made by the fourth semester, and the second attempt, if required, must be made by the fifth semester. In the fall semester, the exam must be completed by the end of October, and in the spring semester, the exam must be completed by the end of March. Failing the examination once may result in discontinuation of academic support (e.g., discontinuation of teaching assistantships, etc.) Failing the examination twice will result in discontinuation of academic support. Research assistantship support may be discontinued at the discretion of the advisory committee.

Examination Waiver

Exceptionally, if a student has already published an article since joining the CSE Ph.D. graduate program, then the oral presentation requirement can be waived upon approval of the advisory committee. A student has to submit a waiver request to the committee, with justification explaining the student’s contribution to the publication, the importance of the venue, the significance of the results and the impacts to the Research community, and a future plan (about 1 page). The publication article must be a full refereed paper in proceedings or journal, at least in the accepted status. In case of a conference paper it would be helpful if the student has presented the paper before. The publication must have the LSU CSE affiliation of the student with appearance or acceptance date after the student joined the Ph.D. program. The student should be first author (or the main contributor in case of alphabetical author ordering). The publication substitutes the written report requirement.

If all advisory committee members approve the waiver request, then the student passes automatically the Research Qualifying Examination. (Otherwise, the student goes through the normal process of the oral presentation and written report submission.)

The waiver request must be submitted at least three weeks before the date of what would have been the oral presentation, and the response by the committee members will be given within a week.

At the request of the student, even with the granted waiver the student can still give the presentation in front of the committee to receive feedback (with no additional pass/fail decision).

Ph.D. General Examination (Proposal Defense)

After successfully passing the Research Qualifying Exam and satisfying the core courses requirement, the student must submit a written proposal of his/her doctoral research project to the advisory committee. The General Examination must be completed before the end of the fourth year, unless an extra semester is granted by the division chair on the request of the advisory committee. Students must submit a Request for Doctoral General Examination Form to the LSU Graduate School. The Graduate School will appoint one additional member to serve as the dean’s representative.

The proposal defense will be presented to the advisory committee and will be open to the public, including all faculty and students. The advisory committee, along with the dean’s representative, will determine whether the student passes or fails. Once the student passes the General Examination, he/she is admitted to candidacy for the degree. The student then must enroll in CSC 9000: Dissertation Research if he/she has not done so already. At least least 18 hours of CSC 9000 must be taken and passed with "S" (Satisfactory) grade. Generally, the number of research hours is expected to be high.

Ph.D. Final Examination (Dissertation Defense)

After passing the General Examination, the student must prepare a dissertation based on the original research he/she has conducted. Students must submit the Request for Final Doctoral Defense form to the Graduate School three weeks before defense date. This Final Examination may be taken one semester after the General Examination. The student must prepare a written dissertation and defend the dissertation in a public oral defense. The written dissertation must be submitted at least two weeks before the oral defense. The oral defense will be open to the public, including all faculty and students. The date, time, and location of the oral defense, along with the names of the PhD candidate and advisory committee members and the title and abstract of the dissertation, must be announced at least thee working days in advance of the exam. Failure to follow this policy is sufficient cause for postponement of the exam. 

To successfully pass the Final Examination, the dissertation must be approved by all members of the advisory committee, including the dean’s representative. Passing of the Final Examination, along with meeting all other requirements, constitute completion of the requirements for the doctoral degree. The Graduate School must approve each doctoral degree and ensure that all requirements have been met.

The primary goal of the doctoral program is to ensure that students are able to conduct independent research on a significant problems in the field of computer science. The Final Examination is designed allow the student to defend his/her research and demonstrate the ability to conduct research that will positively impact and contribute to the field of computer science. The dissertation must be of sufficient quality and depth to merit publication in a refereed scholarly journal.

A paper describing the bulk of the research should be submitted to a refereed scholarly journal or a national meeting (conference) of a relevant professional society. The advisory committee may require the student to prepare a technical report on his/her Ph.D. work.