The M.A. portion of the M.A./Ph.D. program introduces students to a variety of approaches to communication research, and requires them to develop their scholarly abilities through the completion of a master’s thesis. Students’ programs of study are committee-driven.
The M.A. degree at the University of Washington is an academic degree. M.A. students in the Department of Communication learn valuable research and analytic skills and produce high quality master’s theses. Students in the M.A./Ph.D. program complete an M.A. degree on the way to achieving a Ph.D. in the department. Though some students choose to complete their graduate studies with the M.A. degree, most continue their studies to seek the Ph.D.. The M.A. is not designed to be a stand-alone or professional degree for those seeking a career in journalism, public relations, or marketing. Students interested in professional preparation in these areas should explore UW’s Communication Leadership graduate program.
Although the Graduate Program Advisor provides routine information updates regarding deadlines, university and department policies, and campus resources, students are responsible to find and act on the information that is relevant for them. Departmental policies are on this page and the Graduate School’s portal is http://grad.uw.edu.
Completion of a minimum of 45 credits, including:
- 2-course core during the first year of study (COM 500, 501)
- 1 additional methods course beyond COM 501
- Up to 5 credits of COM 594 (Comm Professional Proseminar) in five different topics may count toward total, although COM 594 credits are NOT required for master’s students.
- Up to 2 credits of COM 596 (Comm Pedagogy) may count toward total. Two credits are required for students with teaching assistantships and optional for all others.
- Completion of the thesis (minimum 10 credits in COM 700) and oral defense.
At least 25 credits (not including COM 700) must be 500- or 600-level. The core courses count toward this requirement.
Time to completion
It is expected that a student can earn an M.A. in the Department of Communication in two years (six quarters, not counting summer). In accordance with University rules, there is a six-year time limit to completion of the M.A. degree.
Every M.A. student has a supervisory committee that oversees the progress of that student’s graduate studies. An M.A.-level supervisory committee must have at least two members, although the Department strongly recommends a three-member committee. The committee chair must be regular or adjunct graduate faculty in the Department of Communication, and at least half of the total committee membership must be on the graduate faculty. The Graduate Program Advisor must be notified of Chair and Committee selection by the end of the third quarter of study.
Program of study
All master’s students must file with the Graduate Program Advisor a Program of Study signed by all committee members by the end of the third quarter of study. The Program of Study also requires review by the Graduate Program Coordinator (GPC) on behalf of the Graduate Committee to ensure compliance with program requirements. The GPC may bring questions, concerns, or waiver requests to the Graduate Committee for consultation. Typically, a student’s supervisory committee does not convene a meeting to review the Program of Study.
On the Program of Study, the student must designate which of two options the student is going to pursue for the master’s thesis: a publishable research paper or a traditional thesis (see below).
The Program of Study template can be downloaded from the Department Intranet.
Research and teaching
Teaching is valued in this department. But if research is part of a student’s career goals, that student should consider the trade-offs between devoting discretionary time to instructional activities (e.g., tutoring or volunteering in an undergraduate program) versus advancing his or her own research (e.g., by developing a seminar paper for publication). Students should discuss these kinds of choices and trade-offs with their advisers, and with members of the Professional Development Committee.
Master’s students must complete a thesis. To fulfill the requirements of the M.A., the thesis must demonstrate basic scholarly abilities, including solid conceptualization, analysis, and writing. The thesis must clearly define a problem to be investigated, demonstrate mastery of relevant academic literature, show competence in the appropriate methodology, and either present original research (specify the data needed, present data, discuss the results) or develop an application based upon previous research (e.g., designing a community project).
There are two options for the master’s thesis in this program: the article-length research paper of publishable quality or the traditional thesis. Which option the student undertakes is a decision made by the student and the student’s supervisory committee chair, and must be indicated on the student’s Program of Study.
The article-length research paper is typically a 20-50 page document written for a specific scholarly journal or edited scholarly volume. A student undertaking this option will begin with the development and approval of a detailed outline, then will produce a ready-to-publish paper, engage in an oral defense of that paper, and make any revisions required by the student’s supervisory committee after that defense. Students are expected to submit the revised paper for publication, although submission and publication are not required before receipt of the M.A. degree.
The traditional thesis is typically a 70-180 page document that serves as preparation for writing a dissertation and/or a scholarly book. A student undertaking this option will begin with the development and approval of a prospectus, then will produce a traditional thesis, engage in an oral defense of that thesis, and make any revisions required by the student’s supervisory committee after that defense.
Steps to complete the master’s thesis
Procedures for continuing to the Ph.D.
Students in the M.A./Ph.D. program must successfully complete the M.A. degree to begin their coursework in the Ph.D. portion of the program. No further action or application is necessary.
Summary of key M.A. deadlines
- Selection of Supervisory Chair and Committee by the end of the third quarter in the program.
- Program of Study due by the end of the third quarter in the program.
- Thesis prospectus or outline due by the end of the fourth quarter in the program (excluding summer).
A student meeting these deadlines and all other requirements might have a course of study like the one shown below.
|Autumn, Year 1
|Winter, Year 1
|Spring, Year 1
|Autumn, Year 2
|Winter, Year 2
|Spring, Year 2
|Chair and Committee Set; Program of Study Approved
|Thesis Outline/ Prospectus Approved
|Thesis Defended Successfully
Note: “Topic Course” designates any of a wide range of seminars on relevant topics taught within and outside the Department of Communication. “Method Course” refers to courses in research methods.