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PhD in Communication

December 15, 2014 is the priority application deadline for fall 2015 admission consideration.

Program Curriculum

Required Courses

  • Seminar in Media, Technology, and Democracy
  • Media Theory
  • Media Research Methods                                 
  • Media Law and Policy  
  • Teaching Seminar in Communication
  • Advanced Research and Project Development                         
  • Principles for Doctoral Research                                             
  • Supervised Dissertation                                                        


In consultation with the Program Director and a faculty advisor, students select a combination of SOC courses as well as courses from outside the School to complete their thematic concentration. Among the electives, students are required to choose at least one advanced research methods course.


Qualifying Exams and Dissertation:

No later than the end of the fall semester of their second year, students will consult with their faculty advisor to select and recruit faculty members to serve on the student’s qualifying exam and dissertation committee. Committees are comprised of the student's advisor along with three additional faculty. Exam questions will test core knowledge and competency in an area that complements a student’s likely dissertation focus.

After passing the qualifying exams, students will complete a formal dissertation proposal, which must be approved by all members of the dissertation committee and the Program Director before proceeding with the research and writing process. After the dissertation has been completed, the student will submit it to all the committee members, and will convene a meeting of the dissertation committee for oral defense and final approval. Each committee member must agree that the dissertation meets the program and university’s standards for rigor and quality.

PhD in Communication 3-Year Course Progression


Year 1: 

Students take six 3-credit required courses, three each in the fall and spring semesters. Depending on their past MA coursework and experience, students can petition for credit for methods and or statistics course work, substituting for these classes an advanced methods course or other elective. The teaching seminar is designed to prepare students to work as a teaching assistant in an undergraduate course in the second year of coursework. Students who have prior college teaching experience or have already taken a similar teaching seminar as part of their MA program can place out of this course, substituting an additional elective.

In the summer session immediately following year one, students enroll in one course for credit and participate in research group meetings.

Year 2:  

In the fall, students will take two electives approved by their advisor and the program director along with a teaching seminar.

By the end of their fall semester, students are expected to have gained approval and have finalized the four faculty members of their doctoral committee with at least one member outside of SOC.

At the beginning of their spring semester, students will begin their Qualifying Exams. (See above.) The qualifying exam process is expected to take approximately a month from the assignment of questions to successful written and oral defense. Students will also take a seminar, “Advanced Research and Project Development,” that guides them in developing their dissertation proposal. 

By the end of the spring semester or beginning of the summer, students are expected to have successfully defended their dissertation proposals and to spend the summer focused on dissertation research.

Year 3:  

In the fall and spring semesters, students will register for dissertation research credits and also participate in a seminar titled “Principles of Doctoral Research,” which will provide a collaborative setting to gain feedback, guidance, and mentoring on approaches to project design, data collection, analysis, interpretation, writing, and time management. 

During the fall and spring semesters, students are also expected to be applying and interviewing for jobs, with their research groups serving as outlets for “mock” job talks and other forms of professional development and guidance.