Planning Your Studies

In order to earn a Ph.D., students need to complete a minimum of 60 credits of course work, participate in the department’s intellectual community via Proseminar, fulfill requirements for mastery in research and teaching, successfully complete a comprehensive examination, complete a guided research project, and complete and defend a dissertation.

A. Advising

All new doctoral students are assigned to an initial faculty advisor based on interest, field of study and advisor availability. The student may elect to change advisors at any time. Any full time tenured or tenure-track faculty member from the department may serve as a doctoral advisor.

B. The Plan of Study

In cooperation with his or her advisor, each student must complete a plan of study by the end of the first year of study. This encourages students to consider the area of study in which they wish to become proficient, both in service to their dissertation and so that they may claim a clear area of expertise in the discipline. The plan of study must be approved by the student’s advising committee and will include guidelines for completion of all program requirements. The plan of study includes three components:

1. A narrative that describes the specific area of expertise the student seeks and identifies the student’s planned primary and secondary concentration areas.

2. A Ph.D. curriculum/checklist that tracks the student’s completion of coursework in all required areas including other degree requirements (up through admission to candidacy), including:

a. How the student proposes to meet the pedagogy requirement

b. How the student proposes to meet the research tool requirement

c. How the student proposes to meet the Proseminar Requirement (for full-time students, this will normally be by regular attendance; for part-time students, this must be negotiated with the student’s advisor.)

3. A timeline that shows chronological completion of coursework and an overall timeframe for completing coursework, comprehensive exams and dissertation with an expected date of graduation. The timeline should identify courses for each semester in keeping with the goals and research objectives of the student.

The plan of study must be approved by the student’s advisor and two other faculty members with Ph.D.s (in accordance with university policy). The plan of study, including the Ph.D. checklist, time-frame for completion and a summary narrative, will be filed in the Department office and with the student’s advisor. The Ph.D. checklist may continue to be modified throughout the student’s progress through the program, and should be consulted and amended as necessary at the beginning of each semester to reflect actual courses enrolled in or changes to the student’s plans.

C. Courses and Credits

The core, substantive area, cognate area, electives, and independent research project require a minimum of 60 credits for completion.

1. Core Courses (18 credits): Consists of 3 theory courses and 3 methods courses

a. Theory courses (9 credits): Communication Theory (Com 502) Persuasion/Message Design and Social Influence (Com 503) Additional advanced theory course (to be selected in consultation with advisor)

b. Methods courses (9 credits): Communication methods (Com 525) 2 additional methods courses: quantitative and/or qualitative

2. Breadth Courses (6 credits): This requirement ensures that students become familiar with 1 or 2 other fields of study in the communication discipline beyond that represented by the substantive area.

3. Substantive Area (15 credits, with a minimum of 12 credits inside Department): The substantive area will be defined in consultation between students and their faculty advisers. Fields of study historically associated with the discipline of communication and represented in this department are: organizational communication, political communication, and health communication. However, students may also engage in research across those areas.

4. Cognate Area (9 credits): The cognate area consists of coursework related to or supportive of students’ substantive areas, consisting of courses in or outside department; courses are selected in consultation with students’ doctoral advisors.

5. Guided Research Project (6 credits): Doctoral students must complete a 6 credit guided research project (courses 697A and 697B). This is typically a two-semester commitment. It is generally recommended that students complete their guided research project during the third and fourth semesters of study An M.A. thesis completed elsewhere does not necessarily exempt a student from the guided research project requirement; this will be determined during approval of the student’s Plan of Study. Students who have completed a guided research project during their M.A. coursework at the University at Albany may transfer the credits. Internship practicum credits from the M.A. in Communication cannot be used to fulfill this requirement.

6. Electives (6 credits): Electives inside and outside of the department, including independent studies, as advised.

D. Other Program Requirements

1. Proseminar (not credit bearing.): These are weekly research discussions with faculty during the academic year; participation is expected until the student completes coursework.

2. Research Tool: Students must demonstrate competence in use of one research tool relevant to the area of specialization. The research tool requirement must be fulfilled with an acquisition of expertise in one special methodological area.

3. Teaching Tool / Pedagogy Requirement: Students most complete a semester-length experience (or its equivalent) focusing on the acquisition of pedagogical theory and method. This requirement may be waived by the student’s committee on the basis of past experience. The nature of the experience will be determined in consultation with the student’s committee.

4. Doctoral Comprehensive Examination

a. Students will respond to questions that cover each of three areas: their major area, their cognate/secondary area, and methods.

b. Students can choose from the following two options. The examination will be: Given to the student by the department secretary and the answers returned by email to the department secretary. Students will answer only one question from each area at a time, and per 24-hour period. Completed on a department supplied computer as a sit-down, non-open book exam. Students are given four hours for each area.

In either option, the exam must be completed within one week.

c. At minimum the exam committee is to consist of the Advisor, one additional faculty member from the Department, and a third member from the University at Albany graduate faculty.

d. The exam will be constructed as a collaboration of the student’s committee. Typically, each committee member with expertise in a substantive area of the exam (e.g. major area, cognate, and methods, as consistent with the student’s plan of study) submits one or more questions with instructions (e.g., answer every question; answer any one question; or answer question 1 for X percent of the exam time and question 2 for X percent of the exam time, etc.) No questions will be given to students in advance of the exam.

e. All answers to questions will be read independently by every member of the committee. An oral defense will be scheduled no later than two weeks after the submission of the answer to the last area question. At the conclusion of the oral defense, the student is notified of the outcome of the examination. Exams will be scored fail, low pass, pass, or high pass. Students who score a “fail” will be allowed to re-take all or the portion with a deficient answer. Students who do not pass the comprehensive exam on the second attempt will not be allowed to continue in the Ph.D. program. The doctoral comprehensive exam is typically undertaken at the completion of required coursework.

5. Dissertation: Doctoral students will complete a dissertation presenting original research, guided by a committee composed of at least 3 faculty members, one of whom will serve as chair. The chair generally should be selected from faculty members in the Department of Communication. Other members of the committee will be selected by students in consultation with the committee chair.

6. Student in Good Standing: To be in good standing academically, students must maintain a grade point average of at least 3.0. If a student's G.P.A. drops below 3.0, he or she will be placed on academic probation. Students on academic probation will be given one semester to bring their GPAs up to at least 3.0. Failure to do so may result in the student's termination from the program. Consistent with University policy, completion of the Ph.D. in Communication requires an overall average of 3.0 (B) in all resident graduate courses and credits applicable to the degree.