Expectations, Policies, and Procedures

This page is intended to help current graduate students better understand the expectations of the faculty, and to locate the policies and procedures they need to get through the M.S. and/or Ph.D programs here in Computer Science at Dartmouth. The Graduate Studies Office also has a searchable repository of all policies pertaining to graduate students. Additional useful information on research standards can be found in the Computer Science Research Guide, maintained by the Dartmouth Library.

Expectations of the Faculty

Ph.D and M.S. graduate students are expected to

The department reviews the progress of all Ph.D. students annually, based on a report provided by them and augmented by their advisor. The department provides feedback to every student. Students making inadequate progress are warned by the department and will be re-evaluated six months later. Students continuing to make inadequate progress will be dismissed from the program. You can see the Progress Evaluation Document (pdf) that details how the faculty evaluate Ph.D. student progress.

Resources (Policies and Procedures)

Dartmouth's policies are listed in the ORC (Organizations, Regulations and Courses) and in the Dartmouth School of Graduate and Advanced Studies.  We explicitly list the requirements for the PhD and MS graduate degrees from the ORC below and add to and clarify the policies and procedures below. Wherever those, or other, college publications are in conflict with any of the items below, the official publication should be considered correct.

Questions, comments, and suggestions are welcome! Please send them either to the current advisor to Ph.D students or the current advisor to M.S. students.

Additional resources

From the ORC

Degree requirements

The following information is taken from the ORC.

Requirements for the Doctor’s Degree (Ph.D.)

During the first year, students engage in research projects with faculty and start to take a set of core graduate courses and topics courses. In the second year and beyond, students become progressively more engaged in research while completing their course requirements. The requirements for the Ph.D. degree in Computer Science are as follows:

  1. Admission to the degree program by an admissions committee of the Computer Science faculty.
  2. Students should take a minimum of two terms of research in both their first and second years and be supervised by a tenure-track faculty member.
  3. By the beginning of the second year each student should write a high-quality paper that describes in detail his or her research efforts and results to date, including motivation, relation of the student’s work to the work of others, and specifics about results or obstacles faced in obtaining results.
  4. By the end of spring term of the second year, each student must have a Ph.D. advisor who is a member of the tenure-track faculty in Computer Science. Students may change advisors after this point, but they should not be without an advisor for more than a term.
  5. Completion of a course of study that includes the following:
    1. COSC 231 and COSC 258. These are the breadth courses. Note that these courses have prerequisites that are listed with the description of each course.
    2. All students must pass at least eight courses numbered between 130 and 199 or between 211 and 294, including the breadth courses listed in requirement (a) above. The special topics courses, numbered 149, 169, and 189, may be taken multiple times and will be counted as distinct courses for this purpose. At most one course from outside Computer Science may be substituted, with permission of the departmental advisor to Ph.D. students. Computer science courses numbered 100-129 do not qualify for any Ph.D. required course.
      A student’s course of study is subject to the approval of the departmental advisor to Ph.D. students. Students normally take the breadth courses specified in requirement (a) above by the end of their second year.
  6. Students are expected to pass the Research Presentation Exam by the end of the winter term of their third year. An examining committee consisting of three faculty members, appointed by the departmental advisor to Ph.D. students, will select a paper for the student to present. The student will have a month to read the paper, and will then present the paper to the committee and will orally answer questions on the paper. The committee will evaluate the student’s presentation and performance answering questions, and will determine whether the student passes the examination. A student is allowed two attempts to pass the exam. In a second attempt, the student is assigned a new paper, but not necessarily a new committee. Passing the Research Presentation Exam is a prerequisite to thesis proposal (see requirement 8 below). For more details on this exam, consult the Computer Science department web page.
  7. At least one term of participation in undergraduate teaching. That is, the student must pass COSC 296.
  8. Each student must display readiness for research in one area by giving a written and a public oral presentation of his or her research plan. This thesis proposal will be judged by a faculty committee which shall be formed for the purpose of guiding the student's research; the rules used for the composition of this committee are the same as for a Ph.D. defense committee; this committee does not require the approval of the Dean of Graduate Studies, but must be approved by the departmental advisor to Ph.D. students. The presentation will be followed by a question period in which the student demonstrates mastery of the relevant area and defends the proposed thesis plan.
  9. Six terms in residence at Dartmouth. (This is a College requirement.)
  10. Preparation of a thesis acceptable to a faculty committee and a public defense of this thesis. The rules governing the composition of this committee are stated on the department's website. This committee must be approved by department advisor to Ph.D. students and the Dean of Graduate Studies. All members of the committee shall read and sign the thesis in its final form.

Requirements for the Master of Science Degree (M.S.)

We have two tracks in the M.S. program: a coursework track and a thesis track.

  1. For the coursework track, the student must satisfactorily complete thirteen Computer Science courses taken for graduate credit. At least five of these courses must be numbered 130 or higher. At least one of these thirteen must be an advanced topics graduate course in Computer Science (listed as COSC 149COSC 169, and COSC 189). Any courses taken outside of the Computer Science department must be approved by the departmental advisor to Master’s students. The student may use up to two research credit courses (e.g., 297–299) to satisfy these requirements, but only if the student earns a P or an HP and the M.S. advisor approves the substitution. Per department policy, selected upper-level undergraduate courses may count for graduate credit for the M.S. degree.
  2. For the thesis track, the student must satisfy these coursework and research requirements:
    1. The student must satisfactorily complete nine Computer Science courses taken for graduate credit. At least three of these courses must be numbered 130 or higher. At least one of these nine must be an advanced topics graduate course in Computer Science (listed as COSC 149COSC 169, and COSC 189). Any courses taken outside of the Computer Science department must be approved by the departmental advisor to Master’s students. No research credit courses (e.g., 297–299) may be used to satisfy these requirements. Per department policy, selected upper-level undergraduate courses may count for graduate credit for the M.S. degree. Computer science courses numbered 100-129 do not qualify for any M.S. required course.
    2. By the end of the third term of enrollment, the student must petition to and be accepted for the thesis track by the departmental Master’s committee.
    3. The student must successfully complete at least six course equivalents of research from COSC 297COSC 298, or COSC 299.
    4. The student must prepare a thesis acceptable to a faculty committee and give a public defense of this thesis. The thesis should represent mostly independent work, and be of sufficient quality to merit publication (with suitable revision) in a refereed venue. The committee shall be formed for the purpose of guiding the student’s research. The chair of this committee, who is the student’s primary research advisor, must be a tenure-track or research-track faculty member in the Computer Science department. In addition to the chair, the committee must include at least one other tenure-track or research-track Computer Science faculty member. The committee must comprise at least three faculty members, one of whom may be from outside the Computer Science department, though an outside member is not required. This committee must be approved by the departmental advisor to M.S. students and by the Dean of Graduate Studies. All members of the committee shall read and sign the thesis in its final form. We expect that the thesis, including a copy of the signature page, shall be published as a departmental Technical Report.

All students start out in the coursework track. As noted in 2(b) above, students may then apply to move to the thesis track. (Students may also petition to move back to the coursework track, although we expect that will be uncommon.)

Students are expected to complete the M.S. degree in a maximum period of seven consecutive terms, excluding summer terms.

Students who are currently enrolled in a Ph.D. program in a department other than Computer Science at Dartmouth may apply for a tuition scholarship and to be considered for concurrent enrollment.

The Computer Science M.S. degree is not intended to be an outlet for students leaving the Computer Science Ph.D. program (nor is it intended to be a degree concurrent with a Computer Science Ph.D.).

Policies Explained

Research Presentation Exam

Before you may propose your thesis, you must pass the Research Presentation Exam, or RPE.  You are expected to pass the RPE by the middle of your third year, and you have at most two chances to pass it.  Our Research Presentation Exam document (pdf) contains detailed information, and you fill out and submit the Presentation Exam form (pdf) when you take the RPE.

Thesis committee

  1. The primary advisor to any Ph.D. student in Computer Science must be a Dartmouth tenure-track Computer Science faculty member.  By "tenure-track Computer Science faculty member," we mean a faculty member whose appointment is Assistant Professor of Computer Science, Associate Professor of Computer Science, or Professor of Computer Science at Dartmouth.
  2. The primary advisor to any M.S. student in Computer Science must be a tenure-track Computer Science faculty member or a research-track Computer Science faculty member at Dartmouth.  By "research-track Computer Science faculty member," we mean a faculty member whose rank is Research Assistant Professor, Research Associate Professor, or Research Professor and whose appointment is in the Department of Computer Science at Dartmouth.
  3. In addition to the primary advisor, any Ph.D. thesis committee must include either at least two tenure-track faculty members whose tenure-track appointments are in Computer Science at Dartmouth or at least one tenure-track faculty member whose tenure-track appointment is in Computer Science at Dartmouth and one research-track faculty member whose research-track appointment is in Computer Science at Dartmouth, and it must also include at least one person from outside Dartmouth.  Although not required, a Ph.D. thesis committee may contain additional members who have tenure-track or research-track appointments in any department at Dartmouth, including Computer Science, or at another university.  Adjunct faculty members with appointments in Computer Science at Dartmouth may also serve as additional members.
  4. We recognize that on occasion, a Ph.D. student's de facto advisor could be someone other than a tenure-track Computer Science faculty member.  In such cases, the student must also have an official primary advisor who is a tenure-track Computer Science faculty member at Dartmouth, and we expect the de facto advisor to provide the student's funding.
  5. In addition to the primary advisor, any M.S. thesis committee must include at least one other tenure-track or research-track Computer Science faculty member at Dartmouth.

Thesis proposal

  • See procedure for announcing your public defense.

Thesis defense

  • For June graduation, theses are due at the Graduate Office by May 15.  You must have completed all requirements, and a lot of paperwork, by that date (check with them).  (For November graduation, theses are due at the Graduate Office by September 1.)
  • Work backward from the dissertation deadline to choose a date for your defense, in consultation with your advisor and your committee. A good rule of thumb is to provide the complete dissertation to your committee 2-4 weeks prior to the defense, and allow yourself at least 2 weeks after the defense to handle any necessary revisions.
  • See procedure for announcing your public defense.

Grades

We grade all courses, including research (CS 297-299) and teaching assistance (CS 296) on the HP/P/LP/NC scale mentioned in the ORC and the Handbook. Note in particular that the Handbook lists some serious consequences of getting a single NC or two LPs.  For M.S. students who take undergraduate courses with undergraduate grades, we consider a grade of C+, C, C-, or D to be equivalent to LP, and a grade of E to be equivalent to NC.

Some M.S. students find that they need to take CS 10.  Any M.S. student, including those in the M.S./Digital Arts program, who takes CS 10 and gets a grade below B (that is, B-, C+, C, C-, D, or E) will be asked to leave the program immediately.

Vacations

During any year in which they receive compensation from Dartmouth, regardless of the source of those funds, graduate students are committed to be in residence for a period of twelve months commencing one week before fall-term registration. Vacation time, including official holidays, should not exceed a total of one month per year and the time(s) should be mutually agreeable to the student and the research advisor. During the summer(s) students are expected to perform their thesis research, unless they are off Dartmouth funding (e.g., for internship in industry). Students should obtain written permission from their advisor, in advance, for any expected absences of greater than one month per year.

Nonresident terms for master's students

We expect master's students to make good progress toward the M.S. degree.  We also recognize that there are times that it makes sense for you to be away from campus for internships/CPT or just vacation.  We also understand that most master's students will be away during the summer term, because we do not offer courses for graduate credit over the summer.  With these considerations in mind, the faculty has decided upon the following policy:

  1. All master's students are expected to complete the M.S. degree in at most seven non-summer terms.  For example, if you enter the program in Fall 2013, then you should complete the M.S. degree by the end of Fall 2015, with the seven non-summer terms being Fall 2013, Winter 2014, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Winter 2015, Spring 2015, and Fall 2015.
  2. For every three graduate credits you have accrued that count toward the M.S. degree, you may take one term not in residence (an internship/CPT term or a vacation term).  You must accrue the graduate credits in advance.  This rule applies even to the summer term, subject to item 3, below.  Because the graduate credits must count toward the M.S. degree, you are limited to at most two courses in which you get a grade of LP.  Note that only graduate credits count; if you take an undergraduate course that does not give graduate credit (such as COSC 50), then that course does not count.  You can see which undergraduate courses count for graduate credit on our graduate courses page.
  3. We recognize that in some cases, a student might not have accrued enough graduate credits before a summer term in order to take that summer term not in residence.  In such a case, we allow the student to be away during the summer term, but the graduate credits accrued after that summer term will count toward that summer term, until all three graduate credits needed to account for that summer term have been accrued.
  4. For foreign students, the federal requirement that you may take at most one year of CPT during your time as a U.S. student applies.  This requirement should not come into play, since if you take five terms of CPT, that leaves only two terms of courses/research for your seven terms to the M.S. degree.  Furthermore, federal requirements limit foreign students to at most one vacation term per academic year.
  5. This policy takes effect immediately and applies to all current and future M.S. students.  Exceptions may be granted by the Graduate Committee upon request; all requests should go through Holly, who will send them to the Graduate Committee.  There is no guarantee that the Graduate Committee will grant any particular exception.  The Graduate Committee is not bound to honor precedent, and so you should not assume that because another student was given an exception you will be granted one, too.  Please note that the Graduate Committee meets infrequently, and so you should always plan in advance.
  6. If you want to register for COSC 295, Practical Training, please bear in mind that this course is for curricular practical training.  We will sign off on it only if you can demonstrate how what you will be doing enhances your educational experience.
     

Procedures Explained

Courses

  • Full-time students should register for three credits each term. If you plan to register for fewer than three actual courses, fill out the three credits with the appropriate choice of CS 296, 297, 298, or 299, with the consent of your research advisor.
  • During the fall, winter, and spring terms, M.S. coursework-track students are expected to complete at least six degree-credit courses. For M.S. thesis-track students, these six courses may include thesis-research credits. M.S./Digital Arts students must complete at least two courses per term, approved by the Advisor to the M.S./Digital Arts program; at least one course needs to be at the graduate level, and all courses need to count toward the M.S./Digital Arts degree.
  • If you want to transfer course credit from elsewhere into the CS graduate programs at Dartmouth, see the course transfer policy page, and use this transfer credit application form.

Thesis proposal and defense

  • The oral proposal and defense are public events and should be announced to the public, using our normal colloquium-announcement procedures, at least one week prior to the event. It is the responsibility of the student, in consultation with the student's committee, to arrange the date, time, and place, and to inform the department staff so that an announcement can be made.

Summer funding

  • Ph.D students on Dartmouth Fellowship (DF) for a given year are normally on the fellowship for Fall, Winter, and Spring terms. We strongly encourage students to work with a professor on research during the summer term, and are happy to provide DF students with funding for that purpose, assuming sufficient funding is available.
  • Summer DF funding is usually available to those who want it. In any case, if you would like summer funding, please contact the advisor to Ph.D students. The advisor will send out a reminder to all Ph.D students in early spring term, asking students who want summer funding to explicitly request it, to identify the professor with whom they plan to work, and to briefly describe their project (a paragraph will do). We ask for explicit requests so that we can budget appropriately for the summer, and identify early whether all students wanting funding, can receive funding.
  • Note that you may be asked to T.A. a course in the summer, as with any other DF term.
  • Often students find research internships in industry to be a valuable experience, whether in summer or in any other term. We encourage you to talk with your advisor, or the advisor to Ph.D students, about this possibility.