Ph.D. in Communication
The doctoral program in communication at Washington State University affords students a world-class curriculum, faculty, and facilities to prepare them as scholars and educators. The primary objective of the doctoral program is to facilitate independent and critical thinking skills through scholarship, preparing students to succeed as scholars, educators and leaders in government, business and nonprofit organizations. Degree requirements include the successful completion of an approved program of study, passing written and oral comprehensive exams, and conducting, writing and presenting of an acceptable dissertation based on original, independent research.
The Graduate Director will administer the doctoral program with input from members of the graduate committee as appropriate. In general, graduate committee members are involved in matters of admissions, graduate program procedures, student evaluations, relevant policy issues and similar requirements.
Graduate Studies Committee members are graduate faculty in the Murrow College of Communication and the Associate Dean and/or Graduate Director. Graduate Studies Committee members serve on two-year rotating terms and may serve no more than two consecutive terms.
The doctoral program typically takes four years to complete. Students must complete all requirements except the dissertation within six years of their initial registration for courses to maintain their status as doctoral students in good standing in the Murrow College of Communication. Students must complete their dissertation within 10 of their initial registration for graduate courses to successfully fulfill degree requirements.
The doctoral program in the Murrow College of Communication requires students to complete a minimum of 75 graduate credits. This includes completion of core course requirements (Introduction to Quantitative Research Methods and Communication Theory); completion of an additional nine credits of research methods; completion of 18 credits in a major area of interest and 12 credits in a related, supporting area of interest; completion of written and oral comprehensive exams; and completion, presentation and defense of a dissertation based on original, independent research.
Doctoral students must complete at least 21 credits in their major and supporting areas within the Murrow College of Communication. Students can complete 9 credit hours of work in the major and supporting area as well as their 9 research credits outside of the Murrow College of Communication if they desire.
Unless specifically exempted by the Graduate School, all international students must pass the International Teaching Assistant (ITA) English proficiency exam with a two or higher by the end of their first academic year.
Unless specifically exempted by the Graduate School, all international students must pass the International Teaching Assistant (ITA) English proficiency exam with a 1 or higher by the end of their second academic year or their funding may be discontinued.
The doctoral program is a four-year program designed for applicants with degrees from relevant disciplines. Admitted students must complete a minimum of 45 graded semester hours. Following are the requirements for the degree.
Core Courses (6 credit hours). All entering students must take: Communication Theory (COM 570) and Introduction to Quantitative Research Methods (COM 509) If a student lacks an adequate background in methodology or quantitative analysis, the Graduate Director may recommend or require additional courses.
Methods Courses (6 credit hours). In addition to the COM 509 Introduction to Quantitative Research Methods, PhD students must take 2 additional methods courses. These courses will be determined by their advisor or the Graduate Director.
Major Area of Concentration (18-21 credit hours*). Each doctoral student must select a major area of study. They can choose health communication, media, politics and society or science/risk communication. The courses will help define students’ area of specialization. A students’ advisor and committee members will work with the student to determine specific coursework.
*See COM 600 note below
Supporting Area (12 credit hours). Each doctoral student must select a minor area of interest. The minor area should complement the major area of concentration, must consist of graduate courses and must include at least one graduate-level research course. Supporting area courses should be 500 level or above unless prior approval is given by the advisor and or committee and the Associate Dean.
Dissertation Research Requirements (25 credit hours). Each student must register for a minimum of 25 credits of dissertation research (COM 800). If a student is on an assistantship, they must be enrolled in at least one credit of COM 800 every semester.
Independent Study (COM 600). Students may use no more than 3 hours of COM 600 to fulfill doctoral degree requirements.
Note Regarding Online M.A. Courses. Doctoral students may not take courses in the online master’s program for credit in the doctoral program. There are no exceptions to this policy.
Grade Point Average
In keeping with Graduate School policy, a student must maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.0 in all graduate courses. Students on assistantship who fail to maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.0 will no longer be eligible to receive funding through the Murrow College of Communication. Graduate students who have a cumulative 2.75 to 2.99 GPA after their first semester will be placed on academic probation. We will dismiss students who have below a cumulative 3.0 GPA after their second semester of study from the program.
In keeping with Graduate School policy, students must earn an S (satisfactory) grade for all research credits. A U (unsatisfactory) grade indicates that a student is not making satisfactory progress toward graduation. Students who have earned two U grades for research credit will be dismissed from the program.
Advisor and Committee Members
The Graduate Director will be assigned to all doctoral students as an advisor before they arrive on campus. Before the end of the first year of residence, each student must identify a permanent advisor, form a committee and complete a program of study.
A doctoral committee typically has three members including a chair. Students may have additional committee members at their discretion, typically determined in consultation with their director. Per Murrow College bylaws, the committee must consist of a majority of Murrow faculty. For example, a student with 3 committee members but have at least 2 from Murrow. A student may have up to 5 committee members.
If a student wishes to add a fourth member to the committee from outside Washington State University, they must submit a formal request to the Graduate School. The request must include a statement of support from the advisor with approval from the director, a statement indicating the faculty member is in good academic standing, a rationale statement and a current CV.
The committee, under the direction of the advisor and in consultation with the student, is charged with planning and approving the student’s Program of Study, arranging comprehensive written and oral exams, approving the prospective dissertation, and approving the submission and defense of the completed dissertation.
Committee members typically invest a great deal of time and effort in their students. While it is possible for students to change committee members (including directors) during their matriculation, such decisions require thoughtful decision making and compliance with all specified procedures.
Replacing a committee member requires the agreement of a student’s advisor, the student, the committee member who will be replaced and the proposed committee member. Replacing a dissertation director requires a meeting of the Associate Dean or Graduate Director, the student, the current advisor and the proposed advisor. When all parties agree to a change, then students are able to make a change by completing the Change of Committee Form. Any disputation concerning committee changes requires the Associate Dean or Graduate Director to meet with all relevant parties and provide final approval for any decisions regarding committee changes.
Program of Study and Change of Program
Each Ph.D. student must complete a program of study. Students complete their Program of Study in their second semester of study. It must be submitted to the Graduate Coordinator not later than the end of February. Students complete their Program of Study with the help of the advisor and committee members and in consultation with the degree requirements listed above. Students submit their Program of Study by completing the Program of Study Form and obtaining signatures from each of the committee members and the Graduate Director. Once the form is complete, it must be turned in to the Graduate Coordinator for submission to the Graduate School. *Students cannot submit forms to the Graduate School. All forms, requests for exceptions to policy etc. must go through the Graduate Coordinator and be uploaded to the Graduate School through their Graduate Management Request system in myWSU.
The Program of Study contains all graduate courses relevant to a student’s doctoral program including courses from other graduate degrees and courses transferred from other universities. The Program of Study must be approved prior to comprehensive and written and oral exams.
*When submitting the Program of Study, it is unlikely students will take all the classes listed on the Program of Study Form. Before scheduling Preliminary Exams, students will submit a Change of Program Form. This form will ask students to indicate which classes students took that were not listed on the original Program of Study and it ask students to indicate which classes they did not take and drop them from the Program of Study. Once the form is complete, it must be turned in to the Graduate Coordinator for submission to the Graduate School. *Students cannot submit forms to the Graduate School. All forms, requests for exceptions to policy etc. must go through the Graduate Coordinator and be uploaded to the Graduate School through their Graduate Management Request system in myWSU.
Online Graduate Courses
Normally, the Murrow College does not allow doctoral students to complete online graduate courses for credit. Before registering in WSU Online courses, students must get approval from their advisor and the Graduate Director.
In rare circumstances, doctoral students may petition for transfer of up to 6 credits from another graduate program. To submit a petition, students must bring the syllabi of the courses they are wishing to transfer to the Graduate Director. The Graduate Director will consult the Graduate Studies Committee and determine if the transfer is approved. If the committee approves transfer credit, students will put approved transfer credits on their Program of Study.
International graduate students on assistantship whose native language is not English are required to take the ITA exam. All students who are required to take the ITA exam must take it every semester until they receive a 1- or better. Graduate students will work with the Graduate Coordinator and the ITA office to schedule the exam. They are required to receive a 2- or better by the end of their first year or their assistantship is subject to non-renewal. They are required to receive a 1- or better by the end of their second year or their assistantship is subject to non-renewal. Failure to re-take the ITA exam each semester may also result in a non-renewal of their assistantship.
Doctoral students must pass formal comprehensive written and oral examinations before their recognition as doctoral candidates. Students are responsible for initiating the process by consulting with their advisor and the Graduate Coordinator. Students are responsible for completing the Exam Scheduling Form and turning it in to the Graduate Coordinator a minimum of 15 days before the exam. Please note, the Graduate Director is required to sign the Exam Scheduling Form. Please plan time to get the Graduate Directors signature after the advisor has signed the form. The Graduate Coordinator, working with a student’s committee members, will administer the written potion of the examination.
A student’s advisor, working in conjunction with the student, the committee and the Graduate Coordinator will determine the specific dates of the written and oral examinations in accordance with deadlines specified by the Graduate School.
Members of the committee will meet with the student to determine the nature of the written-examination process prior to the examination date. Committee members will decide the number of and nature of questions. The Graduate Coordinator will manage the exam process. For in-house exams, the student’s advisor will email the questions and instructions to the Graduate Coordinator. The Graduate Coordinator will schedule a room, a computer and a notepad for the student to use in completing the exam. For take-home exams, the Graduate Coordinator will discuss and follow procedures determined by committee members. The advisor will email the questions and cc the Graduate Coordinator. The Graduate Coordinator is responsible for retaining the answers and emailing the questions and answers to the entire committee. Students must complete the entire preliminary-exam process within 30 days.
The advisor will bring ballots to the oral exam. All members of the committee must be present for the oral examination and must sign the required forms following the examination.
Following a successful comprehensive exam, doctoral students will work with their advisors to develop a prospectus and hold a prospectus defense. The entire committee must be present to provide feedback at this defense.
The student will initiate the scheduling process for a prospectus defense. The Graduate Coordinator will provide the forms and reserve a room for the defense. The Internal Scheduling Form should be submitted with all signatures 10 days before the defense is to take place. Doctoral students will send a copy of their prospectus to the Graduate Coordinator before their defense. Students can begin working on their dissertation following a successful prospectus defense. While students may collect pilot data before a prospectus defense, under no circumstances should dissertation data collection take place before a successful prospectus defense.
Dissertation Approval and Defense
Students work closely with and under the direction of their advisors to complete their dissertations. When an advisor is satisfied that a completed dissertation is defensible, the student will distribute copies of the dissertation to all committee members and will initiate the scheduling of the final defense.
To schedule a final defense, a student should locate the Final Exam Scheduling form on the Graduate School’s webpage. Students must give their committee members a final copy of their dissertation one month before their prospective defense. This allows committee members two weeks to read the dissertation draft and provide feedback. A student’s committee members will only sign the Final Exam Scheduling form after they have had an opportunity to read the dissertation and agree that it is defendable.
The form should be completed and signed by the committee and returned to the Graduate Coordinator 15 days before the defense. The Graduate Coordinator will upload the form to the Graduate School and put the electronic submission in your file. The Graduate School will announce the exam and email the ballots to the Graduate Coordinator. All committee members must participate for the defense to take place.
Students must submit the Final Exam Scheduling form 10 business days before their defense.
The Graduate School requires that students complete all changes to their dissertation within five days after their successful defense.
A student’s advisor will chair the dissertation defense. Following a successful defense in keeping with Graduate School policy, committee members complete and sign the ballots provided by the Graduate School and the director notifies the student of the result. The ballots are then given to the Graduate Coordinator. The Graduate Coordinator will email the completed ballots to the Graduate School.
At the conclusion of the defense, committee members may require specific changes in a student’s dissertation before certifying to the Graduate School that students have passed their defense. A copy of the completed dissertation must also be emailed to the Graduate Coordinator for your file.
In the case of a failed defense, students have one opportunity to retake their oral defense. In accordance with Graduate School policy, the second defense must take place at least three months after the initial, failed defense and students must submit the scheduling form at least 15 working days before the defense following the process outlined above.
If a student has failed a defense, committee members are to meet with the student, discuss specific deficits that led to the failure and specify measures necessary to help the student remedy the deficits. If a student fails a second oral defense, the Associate Dean will dismiss him or her from the program.
The Graduate Studies Committee will evaluate each student’s academic performance and progress toward degree completion every spring. The Graduate Coordinator will send evaluation forms to advisors and to students during the spring semester. Advisors will evaluate their students’ annual performance and students will complete a self-evaluation and attach their vitae. In addition, supervising faculty members will complete evaluations for their research and teaching assistants.
Termination of Enrollment, Plagiarism and Other Forms of Academic Dishonesty
In keeping with Graduate School policies, the Associate Dean and/or Graduate Director will dismiss graduate students from the program when a student has a cumulative GPA below 2.75 at the end of the first semester of study or has been provisionally admitted and has a cumulative GPA below 3.0 at the end of the first semester of study. Students who fail to establish and maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or above after more than one semester of study also face dismissal.
Students who have failed a preliminary or final exam for a second time also will be dismissed from the program as will students who have earned a U grade for research credits (702, 700, 800) for two semesters (including the summer term).
Other reasons for termination include failure to make normal progress toward degree completion (such as failure to complete coursework on time or multiple incompletes), failure to maintain continuous enrollment and issues related to academic integrity or student conduct. Only the Dean of the Graduate School or the University Conduct Board has the authority to terminate a student’s enrollment from WSU.
A student who violates WSU’s Standards for Conduct for Students as part of a class or in other work such as in preparing manuscripts, conference papers, theses or dissertations will be reported to the Office of Student Conduct and will be dismissed from our program. One of the most common violations is plagiarism which is the misappropriation of intellectual property without giving due credit to its author. WSU’s Academic Integrity Policy addresses cheating and academic misconduct located in WSU’s Student Handbook (http://app.leg.wa.gov/wac/default.aspx?cite=504-26, WAC 504-26-010 and WAC 504-26-202). Students are responsible for reading and understanding all definitions. A lack of knowledge is not an excuse for academic misconduct.
If there is a dispute, students can write a letter explaining the situation. Following this, students should take the letter to their advisor who writes a letter either supporting or contesting the appeal. The advisor submits both letters to the Associate Dean. When the matter concerns Murrow College policy, the Associate Dean will take the two letters to the Graduate Studies Committee and the Graduate Studies Committee will make a final decision.
If the matter involves Graduate School policy, the Associate Dean will meet with members of the Graduate Studies Committee explaining the policy and either supporting or contesting the student’s appeal. If the committee recommends an exception to Graduate School policy, the Associate Dean will request an exception to policy from the Graduate School as necessary. The Graduate School will make the final determination on Graduate School policy.
Murrow Travel Grants
The Murrow College awards up to $400 each fiscal year for students in their first 4 years of their PhD. To apply for the travel funding, students will need to complete the Travel Request form. This can be picked up in the Business Office. After completed, the form must be signed by the Graduate Coordinator and the Graduate Director and returned to the Business Office before travel. Requests without the appropriate signature or returned after travel will not be processed. Students outside of their first 4 years of study are not eligible for Murrow Travel Grants.
Physical Presence Policy
Graduate students should plan on returning to Pullman the week before school starts in the fall to attend orientations and trainings. Graduate students on assistantship are required to remain in Pullman throughout their entire contract. That means, graduate students must stay through in Pullman through finals week to meet with students and answer grade related questions. Students who elect not to remain in Pullman may not be paid for the time they are not in town.
Murrow College Graduate Orientation
Graduate students in their first 4 years of their Ph.D. are required to attend the Murrow College Graduate Orientation every year. This is a mandatory event. Please confirm with the Graduate Coordinator before making travel plan to be sure you can be present for orientation.
Requests for Extensions
Doctoral students have three years to complete their dissertation following a successful comprehensive exam. If they do not complete their degree within that time, they can request a formal extension. The Graduate School allows students to petition for up to three extensions. Per the Graduate School’s policies and procedures, the request for extension process is as follows:
Students must make a formal request in writing to their advisor. The advisor and student outline a formal plan for dissertation completion within one year. The advisor must consult with the student’s committee and if all agree forward to a memorandum to the Graduate School requesting a one-year extension. The advisor must explain the reason for the request and the advisor should indicate the support of this request by the student’s committee. The formal request for the First Extension must be sent to the Graduate Coordinator to upload to the GRM per Graduate School policy. An Associate Dean of the Graduate School will grant or reject the exception to policy and this decision will be communicated to the advisor and recorded in the student’s file.
Students must provide a written a request for a second extension to their advisor. As part of their request, students must explain why they were unable to complete the dissertation during their first extension. They must also develop a detailed timeline for completing the dissertation.
The advisor, student and committee members must evaluate the rationale and agree to the timeline for the requested second extension. Following this, Graduate Faculty meet to discuss the student’s request for a second extension. Once the advisor presents the circumstances for this request, the Graduate Director must ballot Graduate Faculty members to determine whether or not they support the request based on a majority vote. The Graduate Coordinator must report balloting results to the Graduate School.
If the faculty votes in favor of an extension, Graduate Director must write a memorandum requesting the extension to the Associate Dean of the Graduate School. This memorandum must explain the rationale for this extension, provide the details of the timeline and indicate that the dissertation committee concurs with the decision to request a second extension.
The Associate Dean or Graduate Director will draft a letter communicating the results of the process to the Graduate School, to the student and to the students’ dissertation director. The letter will indicate that the third extensions are rare and granted only in cases of exceptional circumstances. All of these material will be sent to the Graduate Coordinator to upload into the GRM for Graduate School review.
The Associate Dean or Graduate Director will send a letter communicating the results of the process to the Graduate School, to the student and to the students’ dissertation director. The letter will indicate that the third extensions are rare and granted only in cases of exceptional circumstances.
It is possible to obtain a third extension under exceptional circumstances (e.g., situations involving personal and/or family medical issues). The third extension is absolutely final; there are no additional extensions. The following process will be used to request a third extension.
The advisor, student and committee members must evaluate the rationale and agree to the timeline for the requested third extension. Following this, discuss the student’s request for a third extension. Once the advisor presents the circumstances for this request, the Graduate Director must ballot faculty members to determine whether or not they support the request based on a simple majority vote.
If a simple majority of faculty members support the request, the advisor must write a memo addressed to the Dean of the Graduate School containing the rationale for request, a detailed timeline for completion of the dissertation within one year, and any existing extenuating circumstances. All of these material will be sent to the Graduate Coordinator to upload into the GRM for Graduate School review. The dissertation advisor or the Graduate Director of will meet with the Dean of the Graduate School as necessary to present the case. The Dean of the Graduate School will make a determination, after hearing all the facts, to grant or reject the request for a third extension. If approved, the Associate Dean will write a letter to the student explaining that this is a third and final extension. The student will acknowledge receipt of this letter in writing indicating clear understanding that the third extension is a final opportunity to complete the dissertation.
If the Dean of the Graduate School denies a third extension, the student may appeal the decision to the WSU Graduate Affairs Committee of the Faculty Senate only if the appeal is based procedural irregularities. A student must file a written appeal noting the procedural irregularities within 15 calendar days following a notice of decision from the dean of the Graduate School regarding the third extension.
Each student is responsible for meeting The Edward R. Murrow College of Communication and Graduate School’s deadlines and program requirements. All required forms are located on the Graduate School’s webpage http://gradschool.wsu.edu/facultystaff-resources/18-2/ must be submitted on time and properly completed; plan and keep written records of your Program of Study. The Edward R. Murrow College of Communication Graduate Coordinator will keep copies of all formal documents. He or she will also attempt to notify students of deadlines, requirements and the like, but individual students are responsible for staying informed and taking appropriate action. Ultimate responsibility for completing forms and meeting deadlines falls to each graduate student.
Graduate assistants work on either teaching or research-related activities and the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication awards graduate assistantships on a competitive basis. Doctoral students on assistantship may receive up to four years of funding to complete their degree. Assistantships are based on merit and the needs and available financial support of the Murrow College and its faculty. College administrators grant assistantships on a semester-by-semester basis (generally, August 16- December 31 and January 1-May 15). The Murrow College does not guarantee summer assistantships but summer appointments may be available when the Murrow College has specific teaching needs or faculty members have grants that support summer research appointments for graduate students.
Per the Murrow College Graduate Faculty who voted on 5th year of funding and grant funding, the Murrow College does not offer 5th years of funding. Grant funding is considered the same as Murrow College money. For the year or semester a graduate student is funded on a grant with a faculty member, it counts toward the 4 years of funding allowed per the PhD.
While students typically receive four years of funding, reasons for nonrenewal of assistantships may include but are not limited to academic deficiency and/or poor performance as a graduate assistant or not passing the ITA with a 2- or better by the end of the first year of study or with a 1- or better by the end of their second year of study. While not required, the Murrow College will attempt to provide doctoral students with a written notice 30 days prior to the end of a semester if it is not renewing an assistantship the following semester.
Out-of-state-students must apply for residency during their first year in Pullman. Failure to establish residency within the first year will result in a student’s paying the difference between the tuition waiver and out-of-state tuition costs. Instructions on how to apply for residency can be found at: http://residency.wsu.edu/
Full-time graduate assistantships provide students with financial support for working 20 hours per week; half-time graduate assistantships provide students with financial support for working 10 hours per week. Occasionally and in special circumstances, domestic students may be able to work up to an additional five hours per week for additional compensation. Graduate assistants serve the needs of the Murrow College and the work required for an assistantship may or may not be related to students’ professional background or interests. Assistantships do not pay students for attending classes or conducting personal research including dissertation research.
ABD Graduate Student Enrollment Policy
Following a successful preliminary defense, a graduate student goes into ABD status.
ABD degree-seeking doctoral students must be enrolled in a minimum of 2 credits the semester they want to graduate.
Graduate Student Enrollment Policy for Graduate Assistants
Degree-seeking Ph.D. students who are on an assistantship are required to be enrolled in 10 credits in the fall and spring semesters. They must be enrolled in at least 1 COM 800 research credit every semester, per Graduate School policy. Students who are enrolled in fewer than 10 credits will not be able to receive a tuition waiver or a stipend.
Please note: International students may have different requirements as outline by International Programs. It is the responsibility of the student to ensure they are in compliance with those requirements as well as the requirements in The Edward R. Murrow College of Communication.
Fall and spring are mandatory semesters for students who are not in ABD status. Students who decide not to enroll in credits in the fall and spring will need to work with the Graduate Coordinator and apply for Formal Graduate Leave. Graduate students are not required to enroll for courses during the summer unless they are on an assistantship.
Responsible Conduct of Research
The Graduate School requires the Responsible Conduct of Research training. This is a web-based training located at myResearch.wsu.edu. Students should complete this training as soon as possible.
The Graduate School requires FERPA training for all students on assistantship. This is a web-based training located at https://www.ronet.wsu.edu/Main/Apps/FERPATest.ASP. Students should complete this training as soon as possible.
Sexual Harassment Training
The Graduate School requires Sexual Harassment Training for all WSU employees, which includes students on assistantship. This is a web-based training located at https://hrs.wsu.edu/training/discrimination-sexual-harassment-prevention/. Students should complete this training as soon as possible.
The purpose of COMMGRAD is to ensure the value of the graduate student program to benefit both the Murrow College and its students.
The organization’s constitution states Commgrad shall:
- Implement and maintain a public forum for graduate students in the Murrow College of Communication to express their concerns and opinions
- Identify and communicate the needs of the general membership to productive ends within and outside of the College of Communication
- Provide meaningful connections between and among graduate students and faculty in the College of Communication and the University at large
- Advocate for and represent the graduate student population of the College of Communication
The Graduate School establishes policies and procedures governing graduate education at WSU. The Graduate School website is at https://gradschool.wsu.edu/ and the Policies and Procedures Manual of the Graduate School is located at https://gradschool.wsu.edu/159-2/
A variety of affordable housing is available off-campus as well as on-campus in single- and multiple-apartment units, in graduate student residence halls and in family student quarters. For additional information: www.housing.wsu.edu/famgrad.
Notification of Student Rights (FERPA)
The Edward R. Murrow College of Communication is in full compliance with WSU FERPA guidelines. To view your rights follow the link below: