PhD Program

UBC School of Information’s Doctor in Philosophy in Library, Archival and Information Studies is a four-year funded program that combines coursework with focused independent study and research. Our students have ready access to faculty members and benefit from unique opportunities at a comprehensive, world-class, research-intensive university.

We designed our PhD program to provide advanced research education for outstanding and highly motivated students who have already obtained a Master of Archival Studies (MAS) degree, a Master of Library and Information Studies (MLIS) or an equivalent related degree.

  • Information seeking, retrieval and use
  • Human-computer interaction and design
  • Critical approaches to information systems and services
  • Information appraisal, classification and organization
  • Social computing
  • Information ethics and information policy
  • Personal archives, digital archives, and online communities
  • Records and information management
  • Data management and natural language processing
  • Blockchain technologies, information trust and governance
  • Digital cultural heritage and preservation
  • Digital humanities

  • Advanced education in information and archival studies
  • Focus on scholarship and research, with strong support for interdisciplinary approaches
  • State-of-the-art research and learning facilities at a world-class university

Identify a potential supervisor

The doctoral program is highly selective. The strongest applicants have research interests aligned with the faculty expertise in the School of Information. Identifying a faculty member who can support your application does not guarantee an offer of admission. Still, it can ensure that your application is read carefully in light of the limited number of positions available each year. The following paragraphs provide suggestions for reaching out to potential supervisors.

  • Familiarize yourself with program requirements. You want to learn as much as possible from the information available before reaching out to a faculty member.

  • Identify faculty members who are conducting research in your specific area of interest.
  • Establish that your research interests align with the faculty member's research interests.
    • Read up on the faculty members in the program and the research conducted in the department.
    • Familiarize yourself with their work, and read their recent publications and past theses/dissertations they supervised. Be sure that their research is indeed what you are hoping to study.

  • Compose an error-free and grammatically correct email addressed to your targeted faculty member, and remember to use their proper titles.
    • Do not send mass emails to everyone in the department hoping for a match.
    • Address the faculty members by name. Your contact should be genuine rather than generic.
  • Include a brief outline of your academic background, why you are interested in working with the faculty member, and what experience you could bring to the department.
  • Highlight your achievements and why you are a top student. Faculty members receive dozens of requests from prospective students, and you may have less than 30 seconds to pique someone's interest.
  • Demonstrate that you are familiar with their research:
    • Convey the specific ways you are a good fit for the program.
    • Convey the specific ways the program/lab/faculty member is a good fit for the research you are interested in/are already conducting.
  • Be enthusiastic, but don't overdo it.

Course requirements

Students entering the doctoral program with an approved master’s degree will be required to take a minimum of 24 credits of coursework before achieving candidacy.

Your advisor may recommend additional courses, and you may be required to take courses in the iSchool Master of Library and Information Studies program or the Master of Archival Studies program to provide sufficient background for your research focus.

In addition, we strongly encourage our doctoral students to take graduate-level courses from other UBC departments in their chosen area of research.

Program details

Upon entering the doctoral program, you will be assigned an adviser who will work with you to develop an appropriate coursework schedule relevant to your research plan. You will take advance study in the major and minor areas (LAIS 620 and 621) with your advisor or the faculty member(s) best aligned with your research focus.

The qualifying exams assess your knowledge of the relevant literature, analytic capacity, and skill in developing original written and oral presentations of ideas. Typically, your advisor becomes your dissertation supervisor through the qualifying examinations.

Upon successfully completing the qualifying examinations, you will enter the dissertation stage of the program. Working closely with your supervisor, you will assemble a dissertation committee of no fewer than two additional eligible faculty members; these may be the same faculty who assessed your qualifying exams.

You will develop and defend a dissertation proposal of not less than 30 pages following the guidelines in the Doctoral handbook of policies and procedures. The goal of the proposal is to ascertain your research readiness.

Upon the successful defence of the proposal, you are recommended for candidacy.

You will then undertake the research and writing to prepare the dissertation following the guidelines of the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (G+PS). When the dissertation is completed and successfully defended, you will be recommended for your Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree.

Career outcomes

Graduates of the School of Information Doctoral Program have held positions in academia, including tenure track faculty at some of the world’s leading universities, the IT industry, and leadership roles in libraries, archives, and other public sector institutions.

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