Degree Requirements

The detailed requirements for a Ph.D. in Communication are described in the Graduate Program Manual. A brief summary of these requirements is provided here.

Typical Progress

It is expected that most students will take four to five years to complete the Ph.D. requirements. These will typically break down as follows:

Stage I (2 - 3 years):

  • Courses: All students will take the core courses (COMM 6800 – Studies in Communication; COMM 6810 – Advanced Communication Theory; and COMM 6820 – Methods of Communication Research; COMM 6830 – Qualitative Research Methods in Communication) and typically two statistics or methods courses. Additional courses should be selected in consultation with the Special Committee, and reflect student interests in a specific, coherent area of study. Students admitted without a related Master's degree will complete a third year of coursework as advised by their Special Committee; others may proceed to Stage II upon completing the Second-Year Project. Graduate students are encouraged to explore the upper division courses offered in the Department of Communication and in other related departments, as Cornell boasts a world-renowned faculty in many areas. The Courses of Study reflects the most current course offerings at the University.
  • Second Year Project: Students will be required to produce an original empirical research paper by the end of the second full year of study. These papers will be presented in a seminar of the entire Communication Graduate Field faculty during the Fall of their third year.
  • Throughout Stage I, students are expected to maintain a minimum grade point average of 3.7. Grades of B- and below do not normally constitute satisfactory progress.

Stage II (2 years):

During Stage II, all students will complete an A Exam, B Exam and a dissertation, described below:

  • A Exam: A graduate with a Ph.D. is expected to be able to conduct a program of his/her own research, as well as to be able to teach and supervise others who are formulating research. The A exam is intended to insure that the Ph.D. student is making appropriate progress toward those goals. The A exam consists of a written examination and an open oral examination by the Special Committee, with specific details arranged between the student and committee. Upon passing the A exam the student is admitted to candidacy for the Ph.D.
  • B Exam: The final examination for Ph.D. candidates, otherwise known as the dissertation defense (B exam), will be an oral examination on the dissertation. During the examination, the student typically presents their dissertation work in a public forum, with opportunities for questions by the special committee and other graduate faculty.

Advising and the Special Committee

All students will be assigned a temporary advisor when they begin the program, based on an initial assessment of their research interests. During their first term, students should meet with faculty to determine who they would like on their Special Committee and select a Chair. The Special Committee will be composed of graduate faculty members chosen by the student in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS). The Special Committee system places considerable responsibility on the student to determine, with his or her Special Committee, appropriate courses and an appropriate program of study to fulfill the requirements for the degree. Under this system the student works with the faculty members who can best direct the student's course of study.