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Communication Studies Graduate Program

Comprehensive Examinations

When the Ph.D. aspirant is in the last semester of his/her course work, and met all other Departmental and Graduate School requirements, he/she shall take the comprehensive examination which is in two sections -- written and oral.

The student must be enrolled in a minimum of three credit hours any semester in which he/she expects to take the comprehensive examination. The process of written and oral examination shall be undertaken within a single semester, and barring unforeseen circumstances, be completed within a three week period of time. The candidate is encouraged to schedule the oral examination at the time he/she schedules the written examination. Two weeks notice must be given the graduate school before the oral exam can be scheduled.

The Ph.D. candidate will have a four person committee in charge of both written and oral exams. All four persons may be from the Department. For the oral exam, a representative from the graduate school must be appointed from a different department. The Committee Chair shall be in charge of the examinations.

The student's comprehensive committee shall 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 shall forward the results to the Director of Graduate Study.

In the event the committee finds the 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; they may require additional course work. The committee shall take the remedial action felt most appropriate to the situation. If the first written examination is failed, the candidate shall have two other opportunities to pass the written comprehensive exams.

The results reported to the Graduate School will be either pass or fail. The committee, at its discretion, may elect the conditions under which the candidate passes, and this could include additional oral and written work, or additional study. A student will be eligible to take the exam two additional times following an unsuccessful completion.

The Department will give no oral examinations between the end of the summer session and the beginning of the fall semester

  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 three hours in communication theory, three hours in research methodology, and eight hours covering the first and second areas of emphasis. The process of writing examinations shall be completed within a two week period.
    • Communication Theory examination - The student will suggest six theme areas: three covering the rhetorical-philosophical areas and three 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. There will be a three hour exam, and both areas should be represented.
    • Research Methodology examination - The student shall declare an emphasis in either quantitative-empirical, historical-critical, or qualitative-empirical. The student will submit a minimum of six 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 be three 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.
      Students shall write eight hours of examinations in their emphasis areas. Both emphasis areas shall be represented. In most normal circumstances, the division between the areas will be either four hours in each area or a five hour major exam and a three 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, he/she can take the oral comprehensive examination. The Graduate School must be notified at least two weeks in 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 Ph.D. Examination

When the dissertation has been tentatively accepted by the dissertation reading committee, but before it has been bound, 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 Graduate School.

The final oral examination for the Ph.D. in Communication Studies is, essentially, a defense of the dissertation. Since the dissertation has already been tentatively approved by three members of the committee, the candidates function is not so much to present as to defend the work he/she has done.

A minimum of five (5) months must elapse between completion of the oral comprehensive examination and final dissertation defense.

Request Procedures for all Oral Examinations

At least two weeks prior to any oral examination the candidate must formally request certification to take the examination from the Director of Graduate Study. He/she will inform the chair of the examining committee whether or not the student is eligible to take the written and oral examinations.

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