The Doctoral Program

Ph.D. Student Handbook

The program leading to the Doctor of Philosophy degree is designed to prepare qualified students for college and university teaching and for careers in communication research.  The program emphasizes communication theory, research methods, and the application of knowledge in the field to identify, analyze and propose solutions for communication problems.  The program requires at least three academic years of full-time course work, beyond the baccalaureate, in addition to the dissertation.
Students entering the program with a Bachelor’s degree (having not yet earned a Master’s degree) are required to take a minimum of 60 credits, distributed as follows below, along with successful completion of a qualifying exam and a dissertation.  Items in A1 below should be completed within the first two years of the program.

Doctoral students are required to complete a plan of study indicating a projected pathway to a program specialization and cognate, to be determined in negotiation between each student and his/her advisory committee.

First year requirements for all students (entering program with either B.A. or M.A.):

  • By the end of SEMESTER ONE, all students must formally select a consenting faculty member as an advisor. 
  • By the end of SEMESTER TWO, in consultation with the advisor, the student must convene a committee consisting of the advisor plus a minimum of two other faculty to approve a plan of study which maps course work through to comprehensive exams; to determine if the independent research requirement has been fulfilled; and to determine the number of hours awarded for an MA (if applicable).
  • All students will declare major and minor emphases in his/her work and select committee members accordingly.
  • The plan of study will be signed by the committee and filed in the main office.

Existing students who have not completed these steps must do so as soon as possible.


A. Required Coursework

1.   Core Courses (24 credits)

      Consists of 3 theory courses and 3 methods courses

       a. Theory Courses (9 credits)
               Communication Theory (COM 502)
               Persuasion/Message Design Social Influence (COM 503)
               Advanced Theory (COM 702)

       b. Methods Courses (9 credits)
                Communication Methods (COM 525)
                2 additional quantitative or qualitative methods courses*

*Qualitative methods may be satisfied with Qualitative Research Methods (Com 580), Field Research Methods (Com 587), Conversation Analysis (Com 585), Qualitative Research Techniques (Soc 535), and Field Methods in Ethnology (Ant 608). Quantitative methods may be satisfied with Research Methods (Soc 509), Intermediate Stats (Soc 522), Multivariate Analysis (Soc 609), Survey Design and Analysis (Soc 626), Empirical Data Analysis (Pos 517), Regression Analysis (Pos 518), and Advanced Statistical Methods (Pos 519).

        c. 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.  Courses fulfilling this requirement are designated by the Director of Graduate Studies, selected from courses such as:  Theories and Research in Public Organizational Communication (COM 551), Interpersonal Interaction (COM 575), Culture and Communication COM 577, Theories and Research in Political Communication (COM 520), Introduction to Health Communication (COM 560).  (Note that these courses may not be double counted to fulfill other requirements.)

2.   Substantive Area (15-18 credits, with a minimum of 15 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:  interpersonal/intercultural communication, organizational communication, political communication, health communication, and communication technologies.

3.   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.

4.   Independent Research Project (3 credits)

This project is to be completed in the 4th semester, under the guidance of a faculty member in an independent study.

5.   Electives (6-9 credits)

Electives inside and outside of the department, including independent studies, as advised.

The core, substantive area, cognate area, electives, and independent research project add up to 57-63 credits minimum.  A minimum of 60 credits is required for the program.

B. Other Program Requirements

1.   Proseminar (participation required until coursework is completed; not credit bearing)

These are weekly research discussions with faculty during the academic year; participation is expected until the student completes coursework.

2.   One Qualifying Exam with 3 areas: 1 in methods, 2 in specialty areas

One qualifying exam comprised of three areas: 1 in methods, 2 in substantive areas as defined in consultation with the qualifying examination committee. The qualifying exam can be initiated as early as the 5th semester (or when required methods courses are completed) but should be completed by the end of the 7th semester (or 1.5 years past Master’s level coursework). Students who fail the qualifying exam will be allowed to re-take it all, or that portion with deficient work.  Students who do not pass the qualifying exam on the second attempt will not be allowed to continue in the Ph.D program.  Students will remain eligible to complete the master’s degree.

3.   Research Tool  

Students must demonstrate competence in use of one research tool relevant to the area of specialization.  The research tool requirement may be fulfilled with a reading knowledge in one appropriate foreign language, or competence in one special methodological area.   

Foreign language skills are tested by appropriate examinations.  Research tool options not involving foreign languages are satisfied by passing appropriate courses, as advised by the chair of the committee, with a grade of B or better.  

4.   Teaching Tool Requirement

Students fulfill this requirement by successfully engaging in a bona fide teaching experience, such as teaching a course or playing a major role in assisting in the teaching of a course, under the supervision of a faculty member in the Department.  Students will generally complete this requirement by fulfilling the duties of a teaching assistantship, although other options will be available. 

5.   Dissertation Committee

Doctoral students will each be 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 committee chair.

C.   Other Program Information:

1.   Advanced Standing and Waivers

Of the 60 credits required for the degree, 30 credits must be completed at this university. Students who have completed graduate work in our M.A. program or elsewhere may apply for advanced standing credits. Students may receive up to 30 credits of advanced standing, and this credit may or may not include credit for required courses. It also is possible for students with or without a master’s in communication to receive advanced standing for one or more courses in a related discipline.

A waiver is granted when the faculty committee deems that students have satisfied a specific requirement by some means other than taking the required course. It does not carry credit.

2.   Admission to Candidacy

Students are admitted to candidacy for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy upon the following:

(a) Satisfactory record in course study
(b) Satisfactory completion of the research tool requirement
(c) Completion of the University residence requirements
(d) Satisfactory completion of the qualifying examination (both methods and specialty areas)


Sample Time-Line Through the Dissertation Proposal

Semester One*                                             

  • COM 502 (3 credits)
  • COM 525 (3 credits)
  • Course in Substantive Area #1 (3 credits)
  • Proseminar

Total = 9, Cumulative = 9 credits

* Select an advisor by the end of semester one

Semester Two

  • COM 503 (3 credits)
  • Course in Substantive Area #2 (3 credits)
  • Breadth Course #1 (3 credits)
  • Proseminar

Total = 9; Cumulative = 18 credits

Semester Three

  • Methods Course (3 credits)
  • Course in Substantive Area #3 (3 credits)
  • Breadth Course #2 (3 credits)
  • Proseminar

Total = 9, Cumulative = 27 credits

Semester Four

  • Methods Course (3 credits)
  • Course in Substantive Area #4 (3 credits)
  • Breadth Course #1 (3 credits)
  • Proseminar

Total = 9, Cumulative = 36 credits

Semester Five

  • Course in Substantive Area #5 (3 credits)
  • Elective #1 (Comps Reading Course - 3 credits)
  • COM 702 - Advanced Theory (3 credits)
  • Proseminar
  • Comprehensive Exams

Total = 9, Cumulative = 45 credits

Semester Six

  • Cognate Course #1 (3 credits)
  • Cognate Course #2 (3 credits)
  • Elective #2 (3 credits)
  • Proseminar
  • Comprehensive Exams

Total = 9, Cumulative = 53 credits

Semester Seven

  • Elective #3 (3 credits)
  • Cognate #3 ( 3 credits)
  • Readings or LEU courses (3 credits)
  • Comprehensive Exams

Total = 6, Cumulative = 60 credits

Semester Eight

  • Readings or LEU courses
  • Dissertation Proposal

For more information on doctoral studies in Communication, you should contact the department's Director of Graduate Studies:

Director of Graduate Studies
Assistant Professor Masahiro Yamamoto
(518) 442-4881

Questions about application materials and procedures, and application status, should be addressed to the Office of Graduate Admissions: