What topics in user experience can have areas to do PhD in?

  • This is two separate questions. Please focus on just one question for each post. For this one, I would say that you should just ask the first question, because if you search, you will find multiple questions already exist regarding books on UX. Jun 30, 2011 at 1:37

7 Answers 7


Yes. (My Ph.D., for example, relates strongly to UX, although it is in cognitive science / computer science.)

There are a lot of ways to come at UX. Pick one that interests you, and start looking at professors who are doing work in that area. Look at papers they are writing and research they are leading.

Read conference proceedings and figure out who is leading the research behind papers that look interesting. Read CHI and CSCW and HCI and IUI and UPA and UXE. See a name on more than one paper that fascinates you? Send them an email and see whether they're looking for new students.

You're not going to figure out your Ph.D. topic in the first year. So pick professors that seem like they are interested in general areas you can work within, and expect to rattle around a bit.

Good luck!

  • 1
    HCI is easily one of/the most directly related degrees with common PhD programs (coming from an HCI Bachelor's student)
    – Ben Brocka
    Nov 11, 2011 at 20:56
  • While I agree you may not figure out the precise nuts and bolts of your PhD in the first year, I would also argue that you should have a reasonably clear idea of what you want to do before you start, and the OP is far more vague than I would expect a PhD candidate to be. This is from my experience in the UK, other countries may be different.
    – Peter
    Mar 17, 2014 at 14:39
  • Experiences definitely differ here. While some came in with the same idea they left with, many of my cohort either had no idea--or had an idea only to discover their PhD ended up wildly different than what they'd originally aimed for. Mar 17, 2014 at 14:43
  • @AlexFeinman - When you say they had no idea, do you mean as per the OP 'I want to do a PhD what could I do in this area?'? Genuinely surprised if this was the case!
    – Peter
    Mar 17, 2014 at 14:47

There are many UX topics you can do a PhD in. For a start, look at universities having a graduate program in human computer interaction (or human-machine interaction / human media interaction) and take a look at the types of research they do. Read a couple of scientific papers, and investigate the topics which people are talking about at the scientific conferences.

Some of current UX research is close to psychology (or linguistics, or anthropology, it's quite a broad subject), other topics are more focused on methodology (including statistics) or technology. If you want to to a PhD yourself, choose a topic that you're genuinely interested in and want to spend a few years of your life on.

  • I've also heard Human Centered Computing (that's what Georgia Tech calls their PhD program, the Masters is HCI)
    – Pam G
    Nov 12, 2011 at 2:19

I hired a woman who received a PhD in Human Computer Interaction from Cal Berkeley. Im not sure how much of that degree helps her, but she has it nonetheless.

  • +1. Yes, human computer interaction + psychology. some think like combination of these two's
    – Pir Abdul
    Jun 30, 2011 at 15:18
  • HCI is extremely related to UX! It covers a great deal of the usability, data visualization, interaction design and psychology important in UX.
    – Ben Brocka
    Nov 11, 2011 at 20:55
  • Im just going on her word for it. She says it wasnt that applicable to daily work.
    – Glen Lipka
    Nov 13, 2011 at 15:01

I am doing a PhD in HCI - in the area of software use for work environments. I would suggest that you find a university that has a good HCI-type department, and talk to them about the right subject within their and your experience. It is, IMO, more important to find the right place to study and work out a topic within this to look at.


There are different research areas where UX community has strong presence. The most common is Human Computer Interaction. Furthermore, I have experienced that Pervasive Computing and Mobile Computing area are also prone to consider UX-related research.

For example, if you take a look at journals such as IEEE Pervasive Computing, you will find technical articles regarding sensors, and application frameworks but also many articles related to UX design. So you can target one of those communities depending on the specifics of your thesis, and following a UX approach will be a plus.


A good start certanly to look at a conference proceedings (especially CHI, here are this year's proceedings: http://portal.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=1979742&picked=prox&CFID=30641377&CFTOKEN=93259723 and Table of Contents). With this you can get a picture about current goings on the field.

You can also search for HCI educational programs and look for resarch topics there. A great resource for this is the HCI Bibliography website's Education section: http://hcibib.org/education/.

Finally you can ask fellow PhD students about their programs and topic. I attend a Computer Science PhD school and my research topic is usability and processes.


People come to the ux from a lots of fields, engineering, programmings, designing etc, To understand people before designing. how people read, write, mental process. You should look at Psychology of User experiences and UX/HCI.


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