• Home
  • Academics
  • Degrees
  • Communication Studies Graduate Program
  • PhD
  • Examinations

Communication Studies Graduate Program

Comprehensive Examinations

When the Ph.D. aspirant is in the last semester of coursework and has met all other departmental and KU requirements, the student will the comprehensive examination. The exam will be given in two sections - written and oral.

The student must be enrolled in a minimum of 3 credit hours in the semester in they expect to take the comprehensive exam. However, the student must be enrolled in at least 6 hours in order to count them as “post-comps” hours. See KU’s policy on post-comprehensive enrollment.

The process of written and oral examination will be undertaken within one semester, and barring unforeseen circumstances, should be completed within a 3-week period of time. The candidate is encouraged to schedule the oral examination and written examination at the same time. Any comps exam must be pre-approved by the COMS Director of Graduate Studies and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Please contact your COGA Graduate Advisor prior to scheduling any exam. The COGA advisor will submit your exam request to the College, which requires 2 weeks’ notice.  

The Ph.D. candidate will have a 4-person faculty committee in charge of the written exams. These members may be from the department. For the oral exam, a 5th member must be added as a representative from the graduate school, and must be appointed from outside the department. The Committee Chair (ideally, the student’s faculty advisor) will coordinate the examination logistics with the COGA advisor.

The student's comprehensive committee will grade the examination. The committee may consult other graders if they so desire. A passing vote requires a majority of the members evaluating the examination. The committee chair will forward the results to the Director of Graduate Studies. The results of the exam will be reported to the College as either pass or fail.

In the event the committee finds exam answers unsatisfactory, the committee may elect to have the student rewrite the same or different questions: they may require additional oral or written clarification (such as an essay) or additional coursework. The committee shall take remedial action most appropriate to the situation. If the first written examination is failed, the candidate has 2 additional opportunities to pass the written comprehensive exams.

The Department will give no oral examinations between the end of the summer session and the beginning of the fall semester. See KU’s Academic Calendar.

  1. The written examination
    The written comprehensive examination is usually taken in four parts: (1) communication theory; (2) research methodology; (3) first emphasis area; and (4) second emphasis area. Normally the 14 hour written exam consists of 3 hours in communication theory, 3 hours in research methodology, and 8 hours covering the first and second areas of emphasis. The process of writing examinations must be completed within a 2-week period.
    • Communication Theory examination - The student will suggest 6 theme areas: 3 covering the rhetorical-philosophical areas and 3 covering the psychological-social science area. Each them is to be accompanied by a bibliography. When the themes have been accepted by the student's committee the chair shall request questions on those themes. Faculty not on the student's committee may be enlisted both in the creation of questions and in their evaluation, as determined by the committee. During the 3 hour exam, both areas should be represented.
    • Research Methodology examination - The student will declare an emphasis in either quantitative-empirical, historical-critical, or qualitative-empirical. The student will submit a minimum of 6 themes, including one theme reflecting the relationship between the chosen methodology and at least one other methodology. These should have an accompanying bibliography. When the these have been accepted by the student's committee the chair shall request questions on those themes. Faculty not on the student's committee may be enlisted in both the creation of questions and in their evaluation, as determined by the committee. The exam will again be 3 hours long.
    • Emphasis Area examination - The written comprehensive in the emphasis areas are devised by the advisor and the comprehensive examination committee. This group may, of course, for special purposes invite another faculty member from either within or without the department to assist them as they see fit.
      • The student, in consultation with the advisor, shall prepare a list of at least 15 themes representing both subject matter areas. These themes shall be presented and approved by the four person committee. Each theme shall have an accompanying list of sources the student feels appropriate to study in that area.
      • The advisor shall solicit questions based on these 15 or more topics from the comprehensive committee (or from members outside of the committee). The method of doing this shall be left to the committee. When an appropriate list of questions has been compiled, the advisor may then consult with the committee concerning possible revision of the questions and which questions to use on the examination.

In most circumstances, the division between the areas will be either 4 hours in each area or a 5 hour major exam and a 3 hour minor concentration examination.With the agreement of their committee, the student may substitute papers for one or both emphasis area exams, but not for the methods or theory exams.

             2. The oral examination

After the candidate has passed all sections of the written comprehensive examination, they can take the oral comprehensive examination. As with the written portion, please contact your COGA Advisor to provide CLAS at least two weeks, advance. The committee for this examination includes the four readers of the written comprehensive exam and one Graduate School faculty member outside the Communication studies Department.

Final Dissertation Examination

When the dissertation has been tentatively accepted by the dissertation reading committee, but before it is submitted for publication, the final Ph.D. examination is held. The committee for this examination shall consist of at least five members (the members of the dissertation reading committee plus at least two other members of the Graduate Faculty recommended by the chairperson of the dissertation committee to the Director of Graduate Study and approved by the Graduate Office. The time and place of the final Ph.D. examination will be publicly announced by the University.

The final oral examination for the Ph.D. in Communication Studies is, essentially, a defense of the dissertation. See the department's specific dissertation guidelines. A minimum of five (5) months must elapse between completion of the oral comprehensive examination and final dissertation defense.

KU Today
Departmental Awards

Communication Studies Department Awarded Inaugural Chancellor's Doctoral Fellowship!
More Info

15-year-old Heidi Burke was born a congenital quadrilateral amputee, but that has never stopped her from doing anyt… https://t.co/YnOtmnYq9i

Home to 50+ departments, centers, and programs, the School of the Arts, and the School of Public Affairs and Administration
KU offers courses in 40 languages
No. 1 ranking in city management and urban policy —U.S. News and World Report
One of 34 U.S. public institutions in the prestigious Association of American Universities
44 nationally ranked graduate programs.
—U.S. News & World Report
Top 50 nationwide for size of library collection.
5th nationwide for service to veterans —"Best for Vets: Colleges," Military Times