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IST Graduate Programs Future Graduate Students M.S. Program M.S. Degree Requirements

M.S. Degree Requirements

Summary of Degree Requirements for IST's M.S. Program

The requirements for an M.S. in Information Sciences and Technology include a minimum of 32 credits, 27 of which must be earned at University Park and are summarized below:

  • Core IST graduate courses: Completion of a set of core IST courses plus two graduate colloquia, offered by the college (14 credits) that address the theoretical and methodological underpinnings of the field's critical constructs;
  • Research methodology and statistics courses: Completion of a set of research methods courses (6 credits) that provides an understanding of quantitative and/or qualitative research methods in IST;
  • Support area courses: Completion of a set of selected complementary graduate courses (6 credits) that provides expertise in a specialized focus area supporting the thesis topic;
  • Formal master’s thesis: All students must complete a written thesis (6 credits). The thesis should focus on a well-defined problem relevant to the information sciences.

Graduate Courses

The core of the IST M.S. program is composed of four courses and two required colloquiums: IST 501; 511 or 512; 521 or 522; 531 or 532; and 590. These courses integrate the three central constructs of the information sciences and technology field: information, people, and technology. From these courses, students will gain a rich and broad understanding of the field.


An integrative treatment of research and theories on how technologies are used to meet information needs at multiple levels of analysis.

In this course, you will explore the fundamental assumptions, theories, and constructs shared by the multiple fields which make up information sciences and technology. The emphasis of this course is on defining and developing conceptual links between human behaviors, people’s information needs, and their uses of information technologies. You will study those through critical analysis of contemporary and classic readings, ongoing debate and discussion, and individual reflection and synthesis of how people use information and communication technologies to meet their information needs. Readings span individual, group, and other units of social analysis within a range of research domains. The course
also provides students with a basis for formulating researchable topics and questions.


Introduction to theoretical, computational, and practical issues involved in managing textual, spatial, temporal, and multimedia information in a computerized system. Prerequisite: IST 501.
IST 511 is designed to introduce you to theoretical and computational methods for information generation, modeling, transmission, processing, storage, and analysis. These methods, mostly algorithmic in nature, explore the links between the critical constructs of information science and technology.

They have applications in all areas of information and computational, cognitive, and social sciences, from intelligent information processing to human-computer interfaces to social networks. Among the topics that may be covered in this course are information theory, representation and transmission, sampling, data representation and storage, formal grammars and languages, compression and encryption, computational complexity, graphs and networks, knowledge representation, data mining, inference, and information retrieval.


This course introduces the core theories, concepts, and methods regarding information and technology from an information processing point of view.

The course introduces the theories of how to archive, exchange, and base decisions on information. Students study information retrieval, the Internet, and search engines as well as database and networking concepts. Middleware-layer concepts covered include data mining tools and Web services. Quality-of-service issues are discussed, including scalability, efficiency, security, and recovery of systems.


Users, models of users, developing the models, technology for creating interfaces; examples of good research and implications for HCI design. Prerequisite: IST 501.

This course offers you a broad, interdisciplinary approach to user sciences focused on how humans, or teams, interact with information, technologies, and environments. Mutual impacts of collaboration, cognition, computation, and context are explored and modeled as a basis for understanding systems dynamics in human-computer interaction and computer-supported cooperative work. Theories, models, methods, measures, and simulations—developed for real-world problems—highlight the roles of understanding, usefulness, and usability in engineering user-centered designs. The course uses experimental studies, ethnography, cognitive task analysis, scaled world simulation, and reconfigurable prototypes within student design projects.


This course covers the theoretical foundations of human–computer interaction that prepares students for planning and conducting research in HCI.

The theoretical perspectives covered in IST 522 can be organized roughly by their level of analysis: human perception and performance, mental models and cognition, social behavior, and organizational and cultural impacts. For each general topic area, core readings are used to define standard vocabulary, concepts and relations, methods and criteria for evaluation, and implications for the design of interactive systems. The students and professor select complementary readings from the research literature that question, extend, or otherwise refine these basic models and theories. Students participate in class discussions that hone the students’ analytical skills and deepen their understanding of specific theories. Students also complete a research project motivated by one or more theoretical frameworks covered in the course.


Introduction to research into the nature of human information and communication processes at the individual, social, and organizational levels. Prerequisite: IST 501.

In this course, you will explore the human context within which information and information technology exists. You will analyze the interactions among individuals, groups, and IT as well as the research issues arising from these interactions. The influence of the human context on IT will be considered, as will the impact of IT on human behavior. Through readings and research projects, you will examine the human context at the individual, organizational, industry, societal, and global levels.


Researching information and information systems in organizations.

This course presents a foundation module that studies information systems in organizations using various levels of analysis: individuals, groups, firms, and industries. This module introduces a range of organizational, institutional, managerial, economic, psychological, and social theories that assist in the analyses. A second module covers information systems development, global information systems, information and communications technologies (ICT) governance in organizations, and enterprise systems. The last module discusses the impact of ICT on organizations, including cross-organizational alliances
and networks.


Continuing seminars that consist of a series of individual lectures by faculty, students, or outside speakers.

During the program of study, you will be required to participate in two, 1-credit colloquiums. These courses will offer you opportunities to discuss your research with your peers as well as receive advice from members of the faculty on academic and skill-development issues. The colloquiums also are opportunities for you to explore a broad range of theories, interests, and methods that define the IT field. Taught by a different faculty member each semester and team-taught when feasible, IST 590 also involves faculty guests from other related academic departments who provide exposure to different ideas, applications, and theoretical perspectives.

Additional Requirements


A candidate is expected to choose one of the following areas as a primary field: the relationship of users and information, the relationship of users and technology, the relationship of technology and information, or the integration of users, information, and technology. Specific courses in these areas must be approved by the student’s adviser.


All candidates must develop a broad understanding of the scientific and research process and in-depth competency in the research methods of the primary field. Each master’s candidate’s committee shall specify a minimum of two graduate-level courses (6 credits) to support the primary field research methods. Students are expected to demonstrate proficiency in both quantitative and qualitative methods. It also is expected that students will pursue additional courses that reflect design or analytic skill particular to their research program.


A candidate is expected to prepare a master’s thesis that must be presented in a public defense before their adviser and committee. Prior to conducting their research, the student must prepare a research plan for review with their adviser.


All candidates must be competent in the English language and must have demonstrated skills in the communication of ideas both orally and in writing commensurate with the requirement of scholarly and professional work.



The objective of the M.S. Thesis Proposal is to assess the direction and the appropriateness of the research that will serve as a basis of an M.S. thesis. The M.S. candidate must submit an informal M.S. Thesis Proposal to the candidate’s M.S. committee. This M.S. Thesis Proposal should include a definition of the research concepts and approaches, and a research schedule with milestones.  In general, a M.S. research proposal should be presented to the student’s M.S. committee shortly after the successful completion of the core courses of the M.S. program.


The objective of the M.S. Thesis Defense is to assess a M.S. candidate’s research accomplishments based on the completion of a final draft of the candidate’s thesis. This is to be facilitated by the M.S. candidate submitting the final draft of the dissertation to the candidate’s M.S. committee and by presenting and defending the thesis at a formal meeting of his or her committee that is open to the University community. 

Students must take 6 credits of IST 600 or 610 (thesis research).


Graduate Programs

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