Interested in understanding if a PhD at the University of Missouri’s iSchool, the School of Information Science & Learning Technologies (SISLT) is right for you? These frequently asked questions will help guide your reflection and preparation for applying to the Program.
 

 

Q: What can I expect during my time in the Program?
A: Learning to be a researcher means developing the habits that researchers have: we are active and engaged, and at the iSchool, we are incredibly collegial; we are constantly reading and looking for new ideas; we publish our research in peer-reviewed journals, we present our findings in conferences; we form and defend our ideas as we develop expertise; we are open and receptive to others’ beliefs and opinions and are open to ours being challenged. If you don’t want to engage with the scholarly community (both at MU and nationally/internationally) by doing research and publishing, then a PhD at the iSchool won’t be a good fit. On the other hand, if you’re really excited about learning to create new knowledge, pushing yourself intellectually, in a collegial environment, then by all means, this seems like a very good fit!
Q: What will I do after getting a Ph.D. from the Program?
A: The Program prepares its graduates to address complex issues related to information science and learning technologies. Job opportunities for the Ph.D. from the Program include academia, industry (research), and government (research labs). Our school has both Masters programs as well as a doctoral program: listen to the school’s alumni’s stories here to learn more about what some iSchool graduates have gone on to do.
Q: Is a PhD the right degree for me?
A: The students in our PhD Program have a strong desire to become researchers. They are prepared for the rigor and commitment of the path they’ve chosen, and they want to contribute to the field by creating new knowledge. Doing a PhD isn’t a pastime; it’s a considerable commitment, on your part and on ours. Full-time Ph.D. students typically spend four or more years in the Ph.D. Program, and doctoral studies require 40+ hours per week.
Q: What can I do to learn about the faculty and know who I’d work with?
A: Before applying, every prospective student will want to look at the profiles of the iSchool faculty: https://sislt.missouri.edu/faculty/. Reach out! Ask them about their work. Seek their input on a project you have. See what they’re reading, or what they’re writing. Your application essay will likely mention why you are a good fit for the Program, and part of that could be based on these conversations (or common points of interest). Bear in mind that prospective students won’t be offered a place in the Program until a faculty member on the doctoral faculty has agreed to serve as the student’s advisor, so making contact is a good first step.
Q: How long does it take to complete this degree?
A: Full-time Ph.D. students typically spend four or more years in the Ph.D. Program.
Q: How can I pay for my studies?
A: Assistantship positions are available, but they are competitive and you must apply. Students selected for assistantships will receive funding to cover tuition, along with stipend for living expenses during the fall and spring semesters, and health insurance for the entire year. Other funding opportunities are available through the College, the University, and outside funders.
Q: What courses are offered in the Program?
A: You can find the full list of SISLT courses here. The Ph.D. Program requires a minimum of 72 graduate credit hours which requires at least 18 course credit from SISLT, 9 credits of doctoral seminar, and 18 credits from elective courses relevant to a minor of your choice. Of those graduate credit hours, we encourage you to take upper-level seminars rather than 7000-level Masters classes — rest assured that you’ll work with your advisor and program of study committee when choosing your coursework, so you are not on your own for this.
Q: What are some dissertation topics that have been successfully defended?
A: Browse iSchool dissertations through the MU Libraries: https://mospace.umsystem.edu/xmlui/handle/10355/5240 The interface lets you sort by semester, title, advisor, and more. Many are available electronically, too.
Q: What kinds of research are typical iSchool doctoral students doing? What are they studying? Where are they from?
A: Take a look at the profiles for our current doctoral students (https://sislt.missouri.edu/doctoral-students/) to see the kinds of amazing work they are doing. Also refer to our Research Projects page for information on projects currently underway by our faculty.

 

Questions About Applicant’s Previous Experiences

Q: I am a practitioner in the field (archivist, instructional designer, librarian, teacher, etc.) — will I do well in the PhD Program?
A: Scholarship of practice and research are usually considered two different things in academia. Having experience as a practitioner is great — and being abreast of the literature on practice is outstanding! If you join our Program, you’ll be exposed to new readings in the research literature, and they may be quite different from what you’ve been seeing. Your background, however, will give you a good depth of understanding of some of the problems that can be addressed and ways to best address them.
Q: I’m a practitioner in a related field — will I do well in the PhD Program?
A: You might do well in the Program but there might be a bit of a learning curve for you. Reaching out to the faculty, becoming familiar with the literature, and thinking about your goals and how you will make your contribution can all go a long way toward helping you decide how you might fit in. Sometimes a PhD in our field isn’t the best way to transition in… sometimes a Masters makes more sense, or additional coursework at the Masters level. Every case is different, though, so be sure to think carefully about what you want to accomplish, how and why a PhD at the iSchool would help you realize those goals, how the iSchool can support you.
Q: I don’t have a background in ISLT. Am I still a good candidate for this Program?
A: It depends… Do you see any prospect of leveraging your background to do research using methodologies related to the aspect of ISLT you want to study? If yes, you probably won’t find it too difficult to make the transition.
Q: I don’t have a Masters degree. Am I a good fit?
A: A Masters degree is preferred but not required. A Masters degree in the field or related fields might help you have a clear picture of what you want to study at the Program and is a way to test the waters before committing to a Ph.D. However, you might still be a good fit to the Program if you do not mind learning curves and can demonstrate your capability in, passion for, and commitment to doing research in the aspect(s) of ISLT of your choice.