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Current Students

PhD Curriculum - Prior to Autumn 2018

Students enrolled in the HCDE PhD program prior to Autumn 2018 complete at least 105 credits to earn their degree, including:

Note: Current students may elect to complete the new curriculum after meeting with HCDE advising

Students who enter the PhD program with a previous graduate degree relevant to HCDE can petition to have up to 30 credits transferred toward the doctoral program upon approval of Sean Munson, the Graduate Program Coordinator.

PhD Course of Study Form

For details on sequencing of required coursework, critical information for first-year students regarding their year one curriculum, and electives, please see below.

Required Core Courses

Additional Requirements

  • HCDE 596: Directed Research (minimum total 12 credits)
  • HCDE 521: HCDE Seminar Series (Autumn quarter, 1 credit)
  • HCDE 523: DUB Seminar (1 credit)
  • Electives: minimum of 30 credits including: 
    • 1 additional, graded, graduate level course in each of four thematic areas: theory, research methods, design & engineering, and society & systems.
    • HCDE 518: User Centered Design (only for students who do not have coursework or project work that demonstrates competency in user-centered design practice)

Course of Study Guidance

The electives used to satisfy the research methods and theory requirements vary from student to student and are determined between the student and their advisor(s). We offer the following guidance for making decisions about whether a course would be appropriate for the research and theory requirements.

Also, each 548 is different, and so some 548s may count toward methods and others toward theory, depending on the topic, while others may be general electives. 

Research Methods

Courses used to satisfy the research methods requirement should support one or more of the following:

  1. Understand the many different research paradigms (e.g. experiments, ethnography, survey, qualitative, quantitative) that guide inquiry in our field
  2. Articulate and identify appropriate criteria, particularly strengths and limitations, of different methodologies for producing knowledge
  3. Formulate a question that is important in terms of the field and in terms of extending or critiquing theory
  4. Formulate a research design that is manageable and executable
  5. Articulate the practical and theoretical contributions that different methods can play in design research

A common question that arises is whether courses in a professional master’s program apply toward the research methods requirement. In general, they do not when they are focused on understanding or refining a particular design (e.g., HCDE 517 and 518 generally do not meet the methods requirement), but courses that focus on methods for the production of generalizable or transferable knowledge may. 

When there are similar courses in the MS and PhD programs (e.g., HCDE 519 and HCDE 545 for qualitative methods; HCDE 516 and HCDE 544 for experimental/quantitative methods). These master's courses generally do not count toward the PhD methods requirements, as they are designed and taught with different goals. If you have already taken an HCDE MS course (e.g., because you completed our master’s at HCDE before joining the PhD program), though, it may make more sense to take an advanced methods course rather than the similar course in HCDE’s PhD program.


Courses used to satisfy the theory requirement should support one or more of the following: 

  1. Recognize the most prominent epistemological frameworks (e.g., cognitive theory, social psychology, semiotic theory, actor-network theory) that inform research in Human Centered Design & Engineering (HCDE)
  2. Understand the intellectual implications of those different frameworks for the processes and results of scholarly inquiry in HCDE
  3. Explain how theory motivates and supports the practices of knowledge-making
  4. Apply theory appropriately and productively to the framing or analysis of research issues in HCDE

Completing an MS in HCDE alongside a PhD

Some HCDE PhD students may be interested in completing a Master of Science in HCDE along the way. View the MS HCDE requirements for PhD students.