Degree Requirements

Our program is designed to help students successfully enter the Academy or other specialized government, not-for-profit, and private sector positions. Many of the requirements in our program are modeled after what is expected of junior, tenure-track faculty members. Our program also offers a great deal of flexibility in terms of courses, specializations, and research trajectories.

Our doctoral program is designed as a four year program, regardless of previous training and experience. The first year of the program is focused primarily on completing core classes and preparing for the preliminary exam. The second and third years of the program are primarily oriented toward coursework and independent research. During the third year all students complete a scholarly portfolio to prepare for job searches. Because the portfolio contains a pre-proposal for the dissertation, most students move well into the dissertation process during the Spring and summer of the third year. Last, year four is focused mainly on the job search and completion of the dissertation.

Coursework Requirements

We divide coursework requirements into the following areas:

  • Core Classes: Your first year core counts as approximately one third of your coursework and provides a conceptual and practical foundation for the remainder of your program. Courses in the core emphasize reading original works of prominent theorists in the humanities and social sciences, research methods, communication pedagogy, and professional seminars to orient you to graduate study.
  • Primary Area: Students’ primary area typically consists of four courses in their direct area of specialization (health, rhetoric and public culture, or relating and organizing). Usually the primary area courses will be from COMS, but some outside courses can be included as determined appropriate by your committee.
  • Related Area: Your related area includes approximately three courses and may involve a mixture of COMS and other courses that allow you to develop a cognate area in communication or in an allied field.
  • Research Methods: You are required to take at least three methods courses; many students take more. Because of the depth and expertise of our faculty we are able to offer quantitative, qualitative, and critical methods courses in our school.
  • Electives: To complete your program you will have two or three classes that can be general electives from within COMS or another program.

Preliminary Examination

Preliminary examinations (“Prelims” for short) happen at the end of the first-year, CORE classes. The prelims involve three questions, each of which requires a four-hour, closed note answer. The prelim process┬áis very much an opportunity for students to synthesize the large volume of information contained in the CORE sequence while at the same time starting to develop an area of scholarly specialization. A document describing the preliminary examination policy is available to the right on this page.

Scholarly Portfolio

In lieu of comprehensive exams, we require all students to create a scholarly portfolio during the third year; typically the portfolio is created and presented to faculty during the final semester of coursework. The portfolio is designed to accomplish two objectives. First, the portfolio enables students to gather materials important for the job search. Second, the portfolio is designed to follow common promotion and tenure procedures. Our feeling is that we prepare our students for successful experiences as they take tenure-track jobs and work toward promotion and tenure at other universities.

The Dissertation

Your dissertation will be a significant research project negotiated by you and your advisor. While the work on your dissertation should not be the best work of your career, it should be your best work to date. You will work with an advisor and committee to design, carry out, and draft the dissertation project. Although we encourage students to begin thinking about their dissertation far in advance, we also feel strongly that most of the actual work on the dissertation should take place after courses are completed. Our faculty has significant experience working with various types of projects and with diligent planning we feel confident that your dissertation will become a highly meaningful stepping-stone in your journey as a scholar.

More complete information about any of these requirements can be found in the Graduate Student Manual.

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