M.A./Ph.D Curriculum

Department of Communication faculty believe that introducing graduate students to diverse theories and methods helps them develop a research focus that will enrich the field of communication, as well as the larger world.

Completion of the M.A. signals that a student understands a range of communication theories, can formulate fruitful research questions, and has the ability to design and conduct significant scholarship.

Upon graduation, Ph.D. students will have developed a broad foundation of knowledge in communication, begun to create a coherent program of research, and made connections beyond the university by attending academic conferences and contributing to public life in meaningful ways.

Foundational Courses

The foundation of graduate study in the Department is comprised of two core courses that embody the Department’s philosophy and that are taught consecutively across the students’ first terms. These courses align closely with the Department’s core principles. In these initial courses, students learn the interplay of theory and method and enhance their ability to make informed choices about their program of study. These courses also underscore the importance of building relationships within and between disciplines as well as between the academy and other communities and institutions.

A primary goal of scholarship in communication is to provide underlying explanations for why, how, and with what implications communication occurs. This course introduces students to the historical emergence of the field of communication and philosophical perspectives that underlie theory development, discusses basic components of theories, and reviews significant theoretical contributions in communication from social scientific and humanistic traditions. It also makes clear to students the different forms that theory can take within distinct epistemologies. In sum, this course introduces students to the process of conceptualization and theory design through reading and discussion of relevant bodies of communication scholarship. Enrollment in this course is restricted to Communication M.A./Ph.D. students. (5 credits)

Communication processes and implications can be investigated with a range of research methodologies. This course is designed to overview some of the most important methods of inquiry used to investigate communication phenomena. Methods reviewed include textual criticism, content analysis, ethnography, experimentation, survey research and historical approaches. The breadth of coverage in this course reflects a commitment to pluralism in methodologies within the discipline. In this course, students explore the utility of different methods for investigating different research topics, defining and measuring concepts, reading texts, and investigating theories. (5 credits)

Topical and methods seminars

In addition to the two foundational courses, the Department of Communication offers at least eight seminars for M.A./Ph.D. students each academic year: four on the theories and research relevant to a variety of communication topics, and four on distinct methods of research reflecting the wide-ranging methodological expertise of UW’s Communication faculty. For a full list of the Communication courses designed for M.A./Ph.D. students and offered on a rotating basis every 2-4 years, see the 500-level courses in the department’s course catalog. UW Communication M.A./Ph.D. students are welcome to take courses in any M.A./Ph.D. program at UW, and may also take UW 400-level courses as part of their graduate program. Students from other UW graduate programs are welcome to enroll in Communication topical and methods seminars.

Professional development for a variety of career paths

The Department of Communication offers a set of one-credit proseminars and an internship course to help students develop a range of professional competencies. Ph.D. students are required to take three of these courses as part of their program of study. M.A. students also may enroll in them. In these proseminars, faculty share their experiences as teachers, researchers, and public intellectuals and students engage in workshop-style discussions. There are six different proseminars taught regularly. The “Writing for Academic Publication” and “Advanced Communication Pedagogy” proseminars are offered every spring quarter; the other four are offered autumn or winter quarter once every two years.

A graduate degree in communication can prove useful in a wide range of professions. This course introduces a variety of career options, so that students might be able to find appropriate jobs at colleges and universities, research firms, non-profit foundations, community organizations, government agencies, or private companies. (1 credit)

Many ethical questions arise when one is studying and teaching communication. This course explores ethical concerns related to research and teaching, and it reviews potential solutions to these problems. Topics include but are not limited to the determination of authorship, research on human subjects, financial conflicts of interest, and academic misconduct. (1 credit)

Many graduate students and faculty remain unaware of significant financial resources that are available to support research, and those who learn of such opportunities often fail to apply because the application process appears daunting. This course reviews major funding sources, helps students find other opportunities, and teaches students how to write grant and fellowship applications. (1 credit)

This proseminar is an introduction to the idea of “public scholarship.” We will explore public scholarship through a series of discussions about our department’s notion of public scholarship, your notion(s) of public scholarship, and our colleagues’ notion(s) of public scholarship. By the end of the quarter, you should be able to articulate and promote a nuanced understanding of the nature of public scholarship that differentiates it from other forms of civic engagement. (1 credit)

The possibility of publishing one’s research and teaching ideas can be intimidating. In reality, writing for academic publication is a fairly straightforward process. This course provides an introduction to academic writing styles, submission guidelines, and review procedures. Students should enter the course with a completed paper or study that they would like to submit to a conference or journal. (1 credit)

In this proseminar students have the opportunity to delve more deeply into pedagogical research and practice on topics such as experiential learning, developing students’ writing, and facilitating inquiry-based learning. (1 credit)

Proseminars on pedagogy

Graduate students who are appointed as Instructors or Teaching Assistants are required to enroll in a series of two one-credit introductory proseminars on pedagogy (COM 596). An advanced communication pedagogy proseminar (COM 594) is offered each spring. The pedagogy proseminars are described below.

This is a two-course series designed to provide students with the pedagogical foundation they need to develop their own teaching philosophy and style. This workshop-style series introduces students to curriculum goals and challenges, and it teaches how to prepare and deliver lectures, stimulate meaningful class discussion, and design appropriate assignments. These courses are restricted to Communication graduate students in their first year as instructors. (1 credit per quarter)

In this proseminar students have the opportunity to delve more deeply into pedagogical research and practice on topics such as experiential learning, developing students’ writing, and facilitating inquiry-based learning. (1 credit)

Communication internship

In the Department of Communication, students also can receive credit for participation in community outreach programs and other practical projects. Students are encouraged to undertake projects that use communication theory to address community, social, or political problems. These activities may entail a professional internship or formal membership in a volunteer organization. Such experiences can be particularly valuable for students who choose to pursue non-academic careers. With an approved plan of work, students receive credit while enrolled in the following course:

This course provides students an opportunity to connect their scholarship with communities outside academia. Projects may include working part-time at a government agency to organize public meetings, helping a community to resolve a dispute, assisting a school that is evaluating its student mentoring program, or any other activity that uses communication theory to inform practical work. At the completion of the project, students write papers that are tailored to academic and/or non-academic audiences. (1-5 credits)