Dec 07, 2023  
2018-2019 Graduate Catalog 
2018-2019 Graduate Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Communication, (PhD)

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PhD Program

The PhD program offers various areas of specialization:

For details on these areas see the Department of Communication website.

All graduate students must comply with the general requirements of the Graduate School (see Admission Regulations , Academic Regulations , and Minimum Degree Requirements ) as well as the program requirements of the degree being pursued.

Admissions Criteria

Students can be admitted to the PhD program with or without a Master’s degree. We require your degree to be in Communication, Rhetoric, or a related field from an accredited institution. Multiple criteria will be used when considering your application for admission, including, but not limited to, undergraduate and graduate grade point average, GRE scores, statement of purpose, writing samples, relevant employment history, letters of recommendation, and the quality of the applicant’s writing. The number of students admitted to the PhD program will depend on availability of adequate faculty supervision and other department resources. More specific admissions criteria can be found on our department website. GRE scores are required for every applicant.

See the Department of Communication website for information on applying.

Graduate Advising

Before registering for courses beyond 18 hours of study in the department, the student must choose a major advisor and form a PhD advisory program committee consisting of their major advisor to serve as chair and two members of the department’s graduate faculty. Students must also submit a Plan of Study, approved by their committee, before registering for courses beyond 18 hours.

Role of the PhD Advisory Committee

All decisions pertaining to a student’s program must be approved by a consensus of the PhD advisory committee, including meeting to approve a plan of study and approving the content of independent studies. Changes to the plan of study require advisory committee approval. See information below on comprehensive exams and dissertation for more information on the role of the advisory committee.

Program Requirements

  1. It is expected that students maintain a GPA of 3.0 throughout the PhD program. Should the student’s GPA fall below 3.0, nine semester hours will be allowed to correct the deficiency. At the request of the student’s PhD advisory committee and at the discretion of the department chair and the graduate committee, this period may be extended 9 additional semester hours. The student must have obtained a GPA of at least 3.0 before registering for dissertation credit hours. Any assistantship is forfeited if a student is put on probation.
  2. A minimum of 72 hours of graduate credit beyond the bachelor’s degree. At least 60 hours of credit must be at the 7000 level or higher. Students admitted to the PhD program without an MA must first complete the MA in Communication as part of their PhD requirements. For students who have already obtained a master’s degree when admitted to the program, a minimum of 42 hours of graduate credit at the 7000 level or higher beyond that master’s degree is required. A minimum of 6 hours must be taken from outside of the Department of Communication. No more than 6 hours of dissertation (COMM 9000 ) will count toward satisfying the total number of graduate hours required for the PhD.
  3. Research Tool or Analytic Specialty. Students must demonstrate competence in the research tool or analytic specialty required for completion of their dissertation. Competence can be demonstrated in a variety of ways to be determined by the student’s advisory committee.
  4. Core Competencies. Students must have competency in the Department’s areas of specialization. These competencies can be satisfied academically in a variety of ways in consultation with the student’s advisor.
  5. Residency Requirements. A minimum of 2 consecutive semesters (Fall/Spring or Spring/Fall) in residence (with a course load of 9 hours per semester) beyond the master’s degree must be completed prior to registering for dissertation credit. The summer session will not count as one of the required semesters.
  6. Comprehensive Examination. The examination will consist of a written and an oral portion. At the completion of the students’ course-work the student shall take a comprehensive exam over the areas covered in the student’s program. The content of the examination for each student will depend on the nature of the student’s program and the areas of concentration. The precise distribution of the 10 hours of the written exam and the areas that it will cover will be determined by the student’s PhD advisory committee. When appropriate, questions may be solicited from other faculty members to supplement those provided by the PhD advisory committee members. The comprehensive examination, which is both written and oral, is the primary basis on which the faculty of the department determine whether the student is ready to embark upon the program of research and writing culminating in the dissertation. The PhD advisory committee administers the comprehensive examination. At the close of the oral portion, the PhD advisory committee, after considering the quality of both oral and written responses, will determine the outcome. Students will not be allowed to take the comprehensive examination or submit a dissertation prospectus if they have any Incompletes outstanding in the approved program of study.
  7. Dissertation Requirements
    1. On successful completion of the comprehensive examination the student shall select a dissertation director and, in consultation with the director, invite three additional faculty members to serve as the students’ dissertation advisory committee. One member of the advisory committee must be from outside the discipline. The dissertation director serves as the chair of the dissertation committee. NOTE: Students should familiarize themselves with the Thesis/Dissertation Preparation Guide before starting to write.
    2. Dissertation Proposal Defense. The student shall submit a proposal for the dissertation to the dissertation advisory committee and defend the proposal before the committee. To be considered as “making satisfactory progress,” a candidate must have his/her prospectus approved within two semesters of completion of the comprehensive examination.
    3. Dissertation Defense: Once the dissertation director deems a dissertation ready for defense, the director circulates a complete draft of the document to all committee members. “Ready for defense” means the director, in their judgement, believes that the document is satisfactory and defensible before the full committee. The committee will have at least ten (10) business days to review the document before rendering their judgement. Once the majority of the dissertation committee formally agrees that the disseration is ready to be defended, then a defense date can be set. Upon approval of a majority of the members of the dissertation committee at the defense, the dissertation will then be submitted to the Graduate School for final approval.
  8. Departmental PhD Guidelines. Additional details and information are available in the departmental PhD Guidelines found on the department website.

Graduate Assistantships

  1. Graduate assistantships are available and are awarded on a competitive basis within the department. Assistantships are normally renewed for one year depending upon the performance of assistantship duties and the progress being made toward a degree.
  2. More details are available on the department website.

Time Limit

All requirements for the degree must be completed in 12 calendar years.


At the end of every academic year, the graduate faculty in the Department of Communication evaluates the progress of every PHD student in the program. For a student to continue in the program, he or she must maintain satisfactory progress. The student will be judged as NOT making satisfactory progress if:

  1. The student’s cumulative GPA (during the student’s initial 36 hours of coursework in the COMM PhD program) drops below 3.0 and remains there for more than one (1) semester or nine (9) credit hours.
  2. The student does not pass comprehensive exams within two (2) semesters of completing thirty-six (36) hours of coursework.
  3. The student does not defend prospectus successfully within two (2) semesters of passing comprehensive examination.
  4. The student has acquired more incompletes than s/he can complete during one semester of normal academic work.
  5. The student’s coursework does not demonstrate promise for independent scholarly work.

Should a student fail to maintain satisfactory progress, the Graduate Committee, in conjunction with the department chair, can recommend to the CCFA Associate Dean for Graduate Affairs and the U of M Dean of the Graduate School that the student be dropped from the program. Moreover, students found by the Office of Student Conduct to have committed misconduct will be sanctioned by the University in accordance with the policies contained in the “Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities.” In these cases, the Department may also recommend to the CCFA Associate Dean for Graduate Affairs and the U of M Dean of the Graduate School that the student be dropped from the program.

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