Ph.D. Requirements

Students entering the PhD program must have completed an MA first. Students without an MA degree should apply first to our MA program. 

Core Courses

All students must complete 500, 561, and 571. These courses replace the qualifying exam requirement and must be passed with a grade of B or better in each. For students who have already completed 500, 561, 571 as part of our M.A. program, those units must be replaced by 9 elective units approved by the student’s advisor.

Familiarize students with the structure of the discipline, prominent theorists and historical developments, as well as beginning to understand more about the process of research and writing in the discipline of Communication.

This course will expose students to the logic and conduct of research that is aimed at producing generalizable information about human communication. The goal of the course is to develop student's ability to conduct and evaluate social scientific research.

This course will expose students to fundamental and intermediate techniques for the analysis of quantitative data. Descriptive statistics, univariate, and multivariate statistics will be covered throughout the semester. In addition to examining different analytical techniques, students will be exposed to computer programs for statistical analyses.

Required Theory Seminars

All students must complete at least two of the required theory seminars from the theory seminar rotation: 609, 610, 620, 669.

This course is designed to provide you with a comprehensive understanding of the prominent social scientific theories of mass communication. It will address the development of media theories from the early stages to the contemporary models.  Particular emphasis will be placed on the most notable theories.  Upon completion of the course, students should have extensive knowledge of how media theory and research can be applied to explaining the impact of media exposure on individuals and society.

An overview of theoretical perspectives on the role of verbal and nonverbal communication in the process of generating and understanding development of interpersonal relationships.

An overview of historical and theoretical perspectives on communication strategies used in social influence attempts from interpersonal to mass media contexts.

This course will explore developing an awareness and understanding of the relationship between interpersonal communication and health.  It will also work on developing the ability to interpret and discuss some of the existing research/scholarship focusing on aspects of interpersonal communication, relationships, and health.  Finally, it will examine ways of investigating health issues in interpersonal contexts.


All students must successfully complete a minimum of 27 units in the major including: core courses, theory courses, and electives. In addition, students are expected to fulfill their research team, research tool, and dissertation requirements.


Students must have at least one minor and may take two. The requirements for these are specified by the minor department.

The Graduate College's minimum requirement is that 9 hours be taken in the minor department. If the department does not have a specified minor track, the persons serving on the guidance committee from the minor department will specify the required course work.

Research Tool

Students must take 6 units of research or methods courses above and beyond the major and minor requirements. The tool should consist of some particular specialty that will be put to use in the dissertation research.

Advisor and Guidance Committee

Upon admission, students will be matched with a sponsoring temporary advisor. After the completion of the first two semesters, the student and temporary advisor meet to discuss whether or not the temporary advisor and student will continue working together or if the student is to find a new advisor.

The student may consult with the Director of Graduate Studies in the event of the latter situation. In consultation with the advisor, the student shall then select a guidance committee, to consist of a minimum of four to five faculty members. Three, including the advisor, must come from the major department.

At least two of the major committee members must be members of the voting Communication faculty. One to two members (depending on the requirements of the minor department) must come from the minor department (or in the case of a double minor, one from each minor department).

An Appointment of Advisor and Guidance Committee form must be submitted through GradPath, the Graduate College submission system, with approval by student's major and minor advisor and Director of Graduate Studies. Once the committee composition has been approved, any future changes in the composition of the committee require approval by the Major Advisor and the involved faculty, or a majority of the committee and the Director of Graduate Studies.

Program of Study

The student will consult with advisor and submit the Program of Study through GradPath, requiring approval of major and minor advisor and Director of Graduate Studies. It is expected that the student will declare one or more areas of Specialization and that the proposed major coursework and minor will reflect that specialization. The Program of study should be be presented by the end of the third semester of full-time coursework.

Failure to file an approved Doctoral Plan of Study form by the end of the fourth semester of full-time coursework may constitute lack of satisfactory academic progress.

The Plan of Study becomes the student's contract and can only be changed by approval of the major and minor advisors. (A change in advisors may also necessitate a program change at the discretion of the committee).

Comprehensive Written Exam

When essentially all course work is completed, students will take written exams over the major and minor fields, typically in the fifth semester of full-time enrollment. The major departmental comprehensive exam is written and evaluated by the major committee. Students will be tested on theory, methods, and specialty. 

Students, in consultation with their committee, derive a reading list that, once approved by the committee, is used to assist the student in preparing for the exam. The written comprehensive exam is typically scheduled within a 3-week period. The minor comprehensive exam is negotiated between the student and the minor committee and may consist of a written exam, a paper, or a project, depending on the discretion of the minor committee.

Within the same semester that the written major exam was taken, the student will also be examined orally by the guidance committee. The student must pass all sections of the written major exam and the minor exam before the oral defense can occur. Upon successful completion of written and oral exams, the student can advance to doctoral candidacy.

Dissertation and Final Oral Exam

Normally, the same major committee will continue to direct the student's dissertation work. A minimum of three members from the major department are required to attend the final oral exam. Minor members who remain on the committee post-comprehensive exam are also expected to attend the final oral exam. The student must prepare a dissertation prospectus that is approved by the committee before the dissertation work is undertaken.

The student's advisor usually serves as the director of the dissertation, although a different director may be appointed where research directions dictate. When the required standards of scholarship have been met, the student will orally defend the dissertation.