In addition, students must take at least two courses in one other track outside their specialization (8 units total). Students also pursue an approved cognate elective program of study in which at least two courses (normally 8 units) are taken in a related field outside USC Annenberg School. Students entering the School of Communication with a master's degree may, with permission, apply part of their previous graduate course work to the cognate requirement. Students in the organizational communication track are required to take at least two methods classes in addition to the core courses, COMM 550 and COMM 552 . If taken in a department or unit other than the School of Communication, these courses cannot also be counted toward the student's cognate requirement.
Research Tool Requirement
Doctoral students are expected to demonstrate methodological competence in an area of specialization prior to taking the qualifying examination. Such competence is usually demonstrated through course work (the successful completion, with grade B or better, of selected course work in addition to their content courses that is approved by the PhD qualifying exam committee taken in the school and/or related departments), and by completion of a preliminary research project. Under special circumstances, students with an exceptional prior background in research methods may demonstrate their competence by successfully passing a research tool examination designed and administered by the PhD qualifying exam committee.
Qualifying Exam Committee
This committee is composed of five USC faculty members, at least three of whom are from the School of Communication. Students are expected to work closely with the members of their qualifying exam committee, especially their committee chair, in selecting advanced course work and shaping areas of interest and research. In addition to helping the student plan a program, the committee administers the oral portion of the qualifying examination and approves the dissertation committee.
Qualifying examinations for the PhD usually are taken in the third year of study following completion of all required courses and a preliminary research paper. The examination includes both written and oral portions. The written portion is composed by committees of faculty in the relevant areas of study; the oral portion is administered by the student's qualifying exam committee. Students must pass both portions to be advanced to candidacy. Students must confer with their qualifying exam committee chair, not later than the second week of the semester during which the examinations are to be taken, regarding distribution of written examination hours among subject matter areas.
The dissertation is an original research project contributing to knowledge about human communication and should demonstrate a high level of competence in methodologies of scholarly inquiry.
Defense of Dissertation
Dissertations are defended in a formal meeting with the three-member dissertation committee. The school prefers that the defense oral be taken prior to final typing so that recommended changes can be made in the final manuscript.