PhD Overview

Program Overview

The primary mission of the Doctor of Philosophy in COMS is to train students in the process of conducting original research in human communication. With few exceptions, our PhD graduates pursue careers doing research and teaching in higher education.

Graduate students are expected to work within one of the department’s two main research areas:

  • Relationships & Social Interaction: Faculty in this area study interpersonal, intercultural, and organizational communication using quantitative and qualitative methods. Theories of relationships (e.g., family, romantic, friend, professional) and social identities (e.g., cultural, race, social class, age, gender) guide their research.
  • Rhetoric & Political Communication: Faculty in this area focus on rhetorical and argumentation studies, and both quantitative and humanistic approaches to political communication. Their work engages, among other things, issues related to democratic inclusion, digital media, political institutions, and public memory, with particular concern for matters related to gender, race, nationality, and other cultural indices.

See course options for COMS Graduate Courses and the full KU Academic Catalog.

Why KU?

While there are many fine graduate programs in the nation, there are several ways in which the KU program excels. KU provides the intellectual room and support for graduate students to build innovative programs that may bridge different areas of the discipline. The culture of openness to ideas led our faculty to be among the first in to develop courses and research focused on organizational rhetoric.

The department is student-friendly and works hard to encourage graduate student teaching and research. Surveys of graduate student satisfaction place the department at the very top of the discipline. 

KU is situated in Lawrence, Kansas, and is a vibrant college town. The state's flagship university has many resources for academic and financial support. Lawrence has an active arts community, and there are many opportunities for cultural engagement, health & wellness activities, and professional development.

Contact Information

Dr. Yan Bing Zhang

Professor, Director of Graduate Studies

The University of Kansas, Department of Communication Studies

Bailey Hall, 1440 Jayhawk Blvd., Room 101

Lawrence, KS 66045-7574

Phone: 785-864-9678


Alec Graham

Graduate Program Coordinator

College Office of Graduate Affairs

Bailey Hall, Room 310

Phone: 785-864-2318


Additional Resources

  • The Graduate Handbook describes the most essential aspects of Doctoral study in Communication Studies at the University of Kansas, as determined by Departmental policy and University regulations. In addition to this compilation of rules and guidelines, every graduate student should read the pertinent sections of the latest edition of the Academic Catalog. Current students can review the handbook on the COMS Graduate Studies Canvas page.
  • 2019 Doctoral Program Profile