Oct 03, 2023  
USC Catalogue 2023-2024 
USC Catalogue 2023-2024

Communication (PhD)

Return to {$returnto_text} Return to: Programs, Minors and Certificates

Students in the doctoral program learn theories that guide research into communication processes and effects and into institutions and technologies that lend pattern to communication. Applicants for the PhD are expected to acquire and demonstrate humanistic and behavioral knowledge of communication while acquiring skills requisite to scholarly research in the discipline.

Screening Procedures

Student progress is carefully monitored by the School of Communication faculty. Students are normally screened at the end of their first year of graduate study. At that time they must have completed no fewer than 16 and no more than 24 units, including COMM 525 , COMM 526 , COMM 550  and COMM 552 . Students are evaluated on subject matter competence, teaching potential and their ability to conduct independent research. Upon successful passage of the screening procedure, the student has 30 days in which to form a qualifying exam committee.

Course Requirements

The student is required to take a minimum of 72 units and write an approved dissertation.

And Doctoral Dissertation

Students specialize in one of seven tracks by completing a minimum of three courses (12 units) in one of the following:

Additional Requirements

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 program of study in which at least 8 units (normally two courses) are taken in a related field outside Communication.

Students entering the School of Communication with a master’s degree may, with approval, apply part of their previous graduate course work toward the PhD degree.


Students will develop methodological abilities through coursework, collaboration with faculty advisers and mentors, work with Annenberg research groups and centers, and individual and group research projects.

Qualifying Exam Committee

This committee is composed of five faculty members, at least three of whom have appointments in the School of Communication. Students are expected to work closely with the members of their qualifying exam committee 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 qualifying examination.

Qualifying Examination

Qualifying examinations for the PhD usually are taken near the end of the third year of study following completion of all required courses. The examination includes both written and oral portions. The student’s qualifying exam committee composes the questions for the written portion of the exam and administers the oral defense. Students must pass both portions to advance to candidacy.

Doctoral Dissertation

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.

Doctoral Dissertation Committee

This committee is composed of at least three and no more than five faculty members. A majority of the committee must have an appointment in the School of Communication.

Defense of Dissertation

Dissertations are defended in a formal meeting with the dissertation committee prior to submission of the final manuscript to the Graduate School.

Return to {$returnto_text} Return to: Programs, Minors and Certificates