Graduate | Doctoral Program
The Ph.D. degree in Communication and Culture is a research degree. All doctoral candidates are expected to develop sound general knowledge of relevant historical, critical, and theoretical materials as it relates to one or another (or some combination of) the department's three areas of research: rhetoric and public culture, film and media studies, and performance and ethnographic studies.
Further, all Ph.D. candidates are expected to develop a specialization through the completion of a series of advanced courses and seminars offered in the Department of Communication and Culture, as well as those offered in cognate departments and programs. This specialization will be tested in the qualifying examination, and will be expanded and deepened through the completion of a dissertation.
Explore the following links to learn more about the structure, requirements, and chronology of the doctoral program.
- Degree Requirements
- Constructing a Plan of Study and the Plan Interview
- Advisory Committee
- Ph.D. Minor in Communication and Culture
- Qualifying Examinations
- Nomination of Research Committee
- Prospectus Defense
- Dissertation Defense and Graduating
The options available to each student within his or her Plan of Study are constrained by no more than the regulations of the University Graduate School as identified in the University Graduate School Bulletin and specific departmental provisions identified below:
The doctoral candidate will devise a Plan of Study in consultation with a faculty advisor and an advisory committee. The designing of the Plan of Study is a function of the interaction between the student and the advisory committee with an eye to accommodating the unique and special interests of each individual student, as well as to helping that student develop the skills of an independent scholar.
Doctoral students select an advisor and nominate an advisory committee by the end of their second week of the second semester (usually by April 15). Subsequently, the student and advisor complete a written plan of study; the candidate further completes a plan of study interview with the advisory committee.
The interview should take place no later than the first month of the third semester of the student's study beyone the M.A. degree (the written plan of study must be filed with the Graduate Secretary by October 15th, for students who have entered with M.A. from other institutions, April 15 for students who completed their M.A. in CMCL and went directly into the Ph.D. program).
The purpose of the plan of study interview is two-fold:
- to make certain that our graduates will have a sound general knowledge of the study of communication and culture in the general field they chose;
- and second, to make certain that they will be equipped to conduct scholarly research in a specialized aspect of that field
To that end, the advisory committee will request such information from Ph.D. students as they believe will be useful in determining the student's needs in working toward their academic and career goals.
Preparation for the interview: Students are encouraged to prepare for the interview by working in consultation with their adviser to propose a written plan of study that includes a careful description and rationale of the students' academic and career goals (the narrative typically runs from 500-1000 words); a completed Transfer of Credit form accompanied by an explanation of the relevance of the transferred courses to the student's Ph.D. program; a list of major and minor courses and research competencies to be successfully completed before the student can be admitted to take the qualifying examination; and copies of the students' undergraduate and graduate transcripts. Advisory committees should generally see a completed copy of the written plan of study at least one week in advance of the interview.
At the plan of study interview the student and the members of the advisory committee will discuss the student's proposal and make final decisions regarding major and minor areas, specific coursework to be taken, and the transfer of credits. (Note: With respect to the transfer of credits, if any of the courses to be transferred were completed more than seven years prior to the request for transfer, they will need to be revalidated. To be valid, coursework must be completed within seven years of the time at which the student takes the qualifying examination. Thus, some coursework which might be valid at the time of transfer may no longer be valid at the time of the qualifying examination and will have to be revalidated before the student can take the examination. Students and advisory committees must thus carefully consider the dates for transferred credits at the time of the interview so as to make timely and appropriate plans for revalidation. Proposals for revalidation are subject to the approval of the advisory committee and the Dean of the Graduate School. For specific information on the criteria governing revalidation see the University Graduate School Bulletin.) At the end of the plan of study interview the advisory committee and the student should both sign the written plan of study, making careful note of any changes or revisions that have been made as a result of the interview. This signed, written plan of study will then serve as a contract between the student and the committee, and must be filed with the Director of Graduate Studies. The Director of Graduate Studies will transmit the Transfer of Credit form (plus any plans for revalidation) to the Dean of the University Graduate School. Ph.D. students who fail to file an approved Plan of Study with the Director of Graduate Studies by March 15th will not be considered in good standing for the purpose of A.I. reappointment for the following year. The plan of study may be amended for good cause upon the agreement of the student and the advisory committee. To be valid an amended plan of study must be signed by the student and all of the members of the committee and filed with the Director of Graduate Studies.
The Advisory Committee consists of two or three members of the faculty of the Department of Communication and Culture and one member from outside the department representing the student's minor area of study. Students should take care to recruit members of the approved graduate faculty as advisors.
Once students have secured the approval of an advisor and the willingness of the various members of the committee to serve, they must formally appoint the Advisory Committee by logging in to, and following the prompts at:
A minimum of 12 credit hours of course work in communication and culture are required for the Ph.D. minor, including one course from C501, C502, and C503. Course work must be completed with a grade average no lower than B (3.0). Students may transfer a maximum of 3 hours from another university toward this degree with the approval of the director of graduate studies in the Department of Communication and Culture.
To arrange for the minor in communication and culture, students should consult with the director of graduate studies, who will recommend a member of the faculty to serve as an advisor. In consultation with the advisor, a program of study will be outlined and a copy of the plan filed with the director of graduate studies.
The Ph.D. exam consists of an open-book, take-home written exam and an oral defense, which is normally scheduled no later than one week, but may be no more than 30 days, following the completion of the written exam. The Ph.D. exam is taken after all course work is completed (75 hours of approved graduate coursework, not including any C810 hours). Students must make up any incompletes they have on record before they are allowed to take the exam.
The take-home exam consists of four essay questions. The questions are written by members of the student’s advisory committee.
Two weeks prior to the exam’s due date, the Graduate Secretary will email all four questions to the student. At the end of one week, students will deliver electronically two essays to the Graduate Secretary (representing the answers to two questions). At the end of the second week, students will deliver their answers to the remaining two questions. Each exam essay should consist of 2500-3000 words (10-12 pages). Matters of citation, attribution and reading list are to be negotiated with the student’s advisory committee. The participation of the student’s Ph.D. minor advisor will be determined on an ad hoc basis in consultation with the student’s advisory committee. (Ph.D. minor advisors have the right to waive participation in the exam.)
The critical function of the exam is that of the general pushing to the specific. Students need to demonstrate both a mastery of certain basic literatures and their readiness to write a dissertation. These areas (general and specific) need to be understood in relation to one another; the four examination areas will address the two levels of competency. Students will work out the exact relationship of general to specific coverage in consultation with their advisory committee, based on their plans of study and their level of preparation in the two areas.
In designing the exam, the committee will take into account that different students need to be challenged in different areas (some students have very clear and precise research projects and perhaps need to be encouraged to articulate their specific projects with the broader literature and history; others have a good grasp of the general but have a hard time narrowing to a specific project). This pre-exam consultation should take the form of an interactive meeting with the members of the advisory committee and the candidate all present. This meeting should be scheduled during the semester prior to the exam, well in advance of the exam date.
Together, the examination areas should:
If you have questions concerning the exam, please see the Director of Graduate Studies.
A two-hour oral examination should be taken approximately one week, but no later than one month, after the written exam is completed.
Upon completion of the written and oral examinations, the advisory committee will determine whether the student has passed the examination and been admitted to Ph.D. candidacy or if the student has failed the examination. The committee may, at its discretion, defer judgment on the disposition of the exam and ask the student to complete additional work, provided no more than two of the four written responses are deemed inadequate. Students who have failed the qualifying examination will be allowed to retake it during the next regularly scheduled exam period. Any student who fails the examination a second time will not be allowed to continue in the Ph.D. program.
Ph.D. qualifying examinations are regularly scheduled for January, May, and August. The exact dates for such examinations will be announced by the Director of Graduate Studies at the beginning of each academic year. Exams are not typically administered at other times of the year.
Ph.D. students should begin to make plans for their Ph.D. qualifying examination at least one semester prior to taking the examination. They need to be sure to consult with their advisor and the members of their advisory committee to ascertain the specific nature and scope of the examination.
Once everyone is agreed on what the examination will consist of, and no later than one month prior to when the examination will be taken, the student needs to file the Application for Ph.D. Examination Form with the Graduate Secretary.
Ph.D. qualifying examinations may be prepared with word-processing software or in long hand. Electronically prepared and submitted exams are preferred.
Once students have completed the exams and have been admitted to Ph.D. Candidacy, they have 7 years in which to complete their degree. During this time, they must be continuously enrolled for at least one credit hour, excluding summers.
*Note: Students submitting their final dissertation during the summer must be enrolled during that summer session in which the dissertation is submitted.
The research committee must be formally nominated no longer than six months after the Nomination to Candidacy. By this time, the student must secure the signatures of all the anticipated research committee members on the Nomination of Research Committee form*, which may be obtained from the graduate secretary. This form, accompanied by a 1-2 page Prospectus Summary of the proposed dissertation project must be returned to the graduate secretary for filing with the University Graduate School.
The Research Committee consists of a dissertation director (the student’s research advisor), two or more additional members from CMCL, plus one representative from each minor field. It is the student’s responsibility to secure the agreement of faculty members to serve on the Research Committee. Even when the constitution of the Research Committee is the same as the Advisory Committee, the student must secure the renewed agreement of the faculty members.
At least half of the members of the committee must be members of the graduate faculty with the endorsement to direct doctoral dissertations.
* Please note that this form will be replaced by an electronic submission form during this academic year.
- A draft of the prospectus must be submitted to the proposed chair of the research committee no later than six months after being nominated to PhD candidacy. If the student’s proposed research chair considers that more time is required before a full draft prospectus should be submitted, the proposed chair should provide a note explaining the length of the extension to the DGS.
- The Prospectus defense should be scheduled only after the chair of the research committee has approved the prospectus, but no later than 6 months after the constitution of the Research Committee or 12 months after nomination to candidacy.
- The scheduling of the prospectus defense, including coordinating the time and place, notifying committee members and the like is the student's responsibility. It is also the student's responsibility to file a completed Scheduling the Prospectus Defense Form with the Graduate Secretary at least one week in advance of the prospectus defense.
- It is the student's responsibility to make sure that the completed prospectus is distributed to all of the members of the research committee in a timely fashion: Ph.D. prospectuses must be distributed at least one week in advance of the prospectus review Students who fail to meet this deadline risk having their prospectus defense postponed.
The following is a summary of the basic procedures and regulations concerning Ph.D. dissertation defense. Unlike most of the other procedures for the Ph.D. which originate in the department, the bureaucratic final steps toward your dissertation defense and graduation are processed directly by the University Graduate School, except for filing of the Defense Announcement. For information and instructions, please consult the University Graduate School Guide To Preparing Theses and Dissertation at http://www.graduate.indiana.edu/preparing-theses-and-dissertations.php.