Library and Information Science PhD

Our PhD in Library and Information Science empowers students to learn and analyze the information needs of users — applying a variety of tools and technologies to locate and evaluate information and to organize, manage, and preserve information and materials so they become accessible sources of knowledge.

Our flexible program allows you to take classes fully online, at our Boston campus, or a combination of both. Core courses are offered in synchronous and asynchronous online formats with electives that may be taken either online or face-to-face. You'll work closely with experienced faculty and other master's and doctoral students through analytical papers, experience reports, teaching and service activities and self-reflective essays. Our students emerge from this degree with a record of publications, professional experience and an extensive portfolio.

The School of Library and Information Science has an established reputation for producing leaders in professional service at local, national and international levels. You'll benefit from an extensive alumni community (and the New England LIS community) that enriches the doctoral experience. Our program emphasizes scholarship, teaching, and service and prepares students for research and faculty positions.

Students are required to complete 36 credit hours to achieve the Ph.D. degree. Of these 36 credit hours, 15 are devoted to required coursework and three are devoted to the dissertation. The remaining 18 credits are elective courses. Students often take independent study courses for their research projects or research-related courses at the masters' level or at the doctoral level of other disciplines.

One of the following:

DEDU652 Applied Statistical Analysis II 4
DEDU653 Qualitative Research 3
SW654 Qualitative Research Methods 3

Below is a listing of the required courses:

LIS620 History, Concepts, and Research Opportunities 3
LIS621 Conducting Research 3
LIS642 Applied Statistics for Library & Information Science 3
HPED531 Teaching Methodologies, Course Design, and Assessment 3
LIS699 Supervised Field Research 3

The PhD program in Library and Information Science (PhD/LIS) is composed of a cohesive and collaborative cohort of students who are mentored from enrollment through completion of the dissertation. This flexible PhD/LIS program is unique in its guided preparation in the three areas of research, teaching, and service.

During the program, students are able to research a variety of dissertation topics within library and information science as well as information professions. Students emerge from the program with a strong research record, solid teaching experience, a high professional activity standing, and a portfolio documenting their academic achievements and scholarly expertise in their areas of study. Students work with a faculty advisor to tailor the program to their interests and career goals.

Recent Doctoral Topics of Research Include:

  • Envisioning the library’s role in scholarly communication in the year 2025 
  • Tips, tools and tendencies: Toward a grant management theory 
  • Evaluation of strategic plans in academic medical libraries 
  • Leading from the middle of the organization: An examination of shared leadership in academic libraries 
  • Strategic Priorities and Change in Academic Libraries 
  • Diversity in graduate archival education programs
  • Repurposing digital objects: Seven case studies across the publishing and information industries

Through a combination of required and elective courses, independent study, workshops, and guided experiences, the PhD focused on library and information science prepares students for lifelong activity in research, scholarship, teaching, and service. Students work closely with faculty as they progress through the degree, and are guided by faculty advisors and annual reviews of progress as evidenced by analytical papers and other course work, experience reports related to teaching and service activities, and self-reflective essays. The doctoral program is a small, strong program composed of students who form a cohesive and collaborative cohort, and who will be nurtured from enrollment through to completion of the dissertation.

Program Attributes

  • The program provides guided preparation in the three areas of scholarship, teaching, and service.
  • Students emerge from the degree with a record of publications, teaching experience, a professional activity record, and a portfolio.
  • Simmons is small and personal, but at the same time has excellent bibliographical and technological resources and can draw on a robust local library and information community.
  • There are rich opportunities for synergy between the doctoral and master's students. Collaborative research and group work enriches the learning experience and fosters a stimulating classroom environment. Doctoral students offer colloquia open to master's students, and mentoring opportunities are available.
  • SLIS has an established reputation for producing leaders in professional service at local, national, and international levels. Interaction with the SLIS alumni community (and the New England LIS community) enriches the doctoral student experience.

Areas of Study

Doctoral studies can be conducted at various intersections of setting, audience, and activity. Some examples of study areas which build on strengths among our faculty include archives and preservation, reference, metadata, scholarly communication, information retrieval and visual information systems.

Student Learning Outcomes

A graduate of the Simmons SLIS PhD program:

  • Demonstrates in-depth familiarity with scholarship in the field of library, archival, and information science;
  • Articulates prominent theories in the field of library, archival, and information science;
  • Identifies researchable problems and applies relevant research studies, research designs, and methodologies to tasks requiring problem solving and critical thinking;
  • Analyzes and presents information, including research proposals and findings, clearly and accurately in a variety of formats;
  • Conducts qualitative, quantitative or mixed method research studies by engaging in reflective inquiry, performing data collection and analysis, composing research reports, and producing publications and a dissertation;
  • Engages in teaching activities, develops appropriate unit- or course-level student learning outcomes, and plans and implements learning experiences that assist students to achieve those outcomes; and
  • Leads service activities for local, national, or international professional associations and communities.

Approved by SLIS Faculty on October 18, 2017.

Spotlight on Library and Information Science PhD Students and Alums

Cyndee Landrum

Library and Information Science PhD Student Named Acting Director of IMLS

Cyndee Landrum, a student in the Simmons University Library and Information Science PhD, has been named Acting Director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

Jason Homer ’11MS, ’26PhD, Executive Director of the Worcester Library

Simmons School of Library and Information Science Student Empowers LGBTQIA+ Community

Jason Homer ’11MS, ’26PhD, Executive Director of the Worcester Library, works with his community to promote inclusivity, challenge pre-existing assumptions, and empower library patrons. Homer spoke with MassLive about his journey.

Boston Public Library President David Leonard

Boston Public Library President David Leonard Ph.D. ’25 Discusses How Libraries Create Meaning and Belonging

SLIS doctoral student David Leonard presides over one of the greatest libraries in the country. He spoke with us about his longstanding fascination with libraries and the significant role that libraries play for their communities. How did you become interested...

Dr. Brenda Mitchell-Powell '75 '08MS '15PhD

Dr. Brenda Mitchell-Powell '75 '08MS '15PhD Publishes Breakthrough Book on Civil Rights History

In her new book, Public in Name Only: The 1939 Alexandria Sit-In Demonstration (University of Massachusetts Press), SLIS alumna Dr. Brenda Mitchell-Powell uncovers a little-known library demonstration which, she argues, was an important moment in civil rights history. What is...

Cindy Chadwick ’17PhD

When Protests Erupt: Alameda County Librarian Cindy Chadwick ’17PhD Shares Tips for Safe Library Events

On June 11, 2022, a Drag Queen Story Hour held at the Alameda County (CA) Library was disrupted by Proud Boys protestors. This event was part of the month-long Pride Celebration held by Alameda County Library, and many public libraries...