Communication Science

The Communication Science program seeks to understand processes of human interactions evident in various face-to-face and mediated contexts as they relate to the cognitive, social, and cultural functions of communication. Using various social scientific methods, teaching and research in Communication Science is organized in three broad topical areas:

  • Communication and social relationships (how relationships among people are initiated and maintained in various contexts)
  • Media effects (processes and effects of various media)
  • Social influence (processes of social change and collective decision-making that involve persuasion, deliberation, and information exchange)

Cutting across these areas is a wide range of topics and themes:

  • Health
  • Racial and ethnic relations
  • Civic engagement
  • Public opinion
  • Group dynamics
  • Uses and effects of new technologies

The graduate program in Communication Science provides students with core knowledge in communication theory and research methodology and the opportunity to develop their research interests in a way that enhances scientific understanding of human communication as well as applications of such knowledge. The Center for Communication Research provides facilities, support, and venues for faculty and graduate students to conduct their research.

Criteria for "Good Standing" in Communication Arts

Students admitted to the graduate program without a master's degree in communication science or its equivalent must first earn an MA degree. The master's candidate works under the direction of a faculty advisor and a committee that includes two other faculty members. In consultation with the faculty advisor, the student may elect to write a master's thesis or to take MA comprehensive examinations.

The MA in Communication Science prepares students for future teaching and/or for specialized research. Students must meet the departmental requirements for course work and complete an MA thesis and an oral examination. Students are required to take the following courses:

  • CA 760: Advances in Communication Theory
  • CA 762: Communication Research Methods or its equivalent selected under the direction of the student's advisor
  • Four additional courses numbered at the 500 level or above in Communication Science, and at least one course in statistics

The MA thesis must involve an original study on a research topic determined in consultation with the student's advisor. All students who enter the program without a master's degree in Communication Science or a closely cognate discipline (to be determined upon admission into the program) and who intend to pursue a PhD in Communication Science must complete an MA thesis before pursuing the PhD degree. Students may take a maximum of six thesis credits as coursework at the 900 level. The thesis should ideally be defended at the end of the fourth semester of study and must be defended by the end of the fifth semester.

Very occasionally, students are admitted but decide to leave with only an MA. In that case, they may take the non-thesis option. This option involves successfully completing the course requirements listed below and passing a four-hour written comprehensive examination, covering communication theory, research methodology, and a topic area of the student's specialization.

  • CA 760: Advances in Communication Theory
  • CA 762: Communication Research Methods, or its equivalent selected under the direction of the student's advisor
  • Four additional communication courses numbered at the 500 level or above at least two of which must be numbered at the 600 level or above. In addition, at least two of these must be in Communication Science.
  • One course in statistics
  • One or more electives

The electives may be courses numbered at the 300 level or above in the Department of Communication Arts or in departments representing allied disciplines. The student's program of study is designed in collaboration with his or her advisor and master's committee.

Successful completion of the Master's degree requires 30 credit hours of coursework. This requirement includes that at least 50 percent of these credit hours must be received in courses specifically designed for graduate work, which the Graduate School defines as: courses numbered 700 and above; courses numbered 300-699 that are specifically designed for graduate students in a graduate program; courses numbered 300-699 that assess graduate students separately from undergraduate students; courses numbered 300-699 that have a graduate student enrollment greater than 50 percent in a given semester. If you have any questions about which courses meet these requirements, contact your advisor, the Director of Graduate Studies, or the graduate coordinator.

Criteria for "Good Standing" in Communication Arts

The PhD in Communication Science prepares students for a future scholarly career. It is designed to train students to conduct research and to disseminate knowledge in the classroom and in other professional settings. Reflecting this overall aim, the program integrates course work, research, and teaching experience.

Successful completion of the PhD requires 51 credit hours of coursework. This requirement includes that at least 50 percent of these credit hours must be received in courses specifically designed for graduate work, which the Graduate School defines as: courses numbered 700 and above; courses numbered 300-699 that are specifically designed for graduate students in a graduate program; courses numbered 300-699 that assess graduate students separately from undergraduate students; courses numbered 300-699 that have a graduate student enrollment greater than 50 percent in a given semester. Coursework taken towards the completion of a Master’s Degree in the Department of Communication Arts may count toward this requirement. Coursework taken outside of the Department and UW-Madison may count toward this requirement with the approval of the Graduate Committee. If you have any questions about which courses meet these requirements, contact your advisor, the Director of Graduate Studies, or the graduate coordinator.

Requirements for Successful Completion of Degree

  • Complete the course work required of MA students in Communication Science
  • Complete and defend their MA thesis
  • At least two courses in statistics and two in research methodology
  • At least four other courses at the 700 level or above related to the student's area of specialization, to be approved by the student's advisor
  • Completion of a 12 credit minor
  • Successful completion of the PhD Preliminary Exam
  • Timely progress towards the dissertation and successful dissertation defense

PhD Minor

The 51 graduate-level credits required for the PhD include work in the doctoral minor. The minor requirement is designed to give breadth to the doctoral program and should expose the student to subjects and/or methodologies that expand upon and complement his or her work in Communication Science. The minor requirement can be fulfilled in one of three ways:

  • Option A: 12 credits in a single department other than Communication Arts
  • Option B: 12 credits distributed across two or more departments other than Communication Arts; may include non-Communication Science courses within Comm Arts (distributed minor)
  • Option C: 12 credits outside the Communication Science area in Communication Arts (intradepartmental minor)

The choice of which option to pursue is made by the student in consultation with his or her advisor and doctoral committee. Depending on their dissertation topic, students may need to fulfill a foreign language or tool requirement. The need for such a requirement is determined by the student's advisor and doctoral committee. The mix of courses to be completed must reflect the following principles:

  1. Building a solid theoretical and methodological foundation in Communication Science
  2. Covering sufficiently broad areas in communication and related social science disciplines
  3. Having at least one area of specialization. This program should normally be developed before the start of the second semester in residence. The course work must be approved by the student's advisor and must be completed with a minimum grade point average of 3.5.

Preliminary Examinations

Upon completion of the above criteria, a PhD preliminary examination totaling 16 hours of writing is administered (four exams, four hours each). The writing component of the preliminary examination is followed by an oral defense. The examination is administered three times a year:

  • Late August
  • End of the fall semester
  • End of the spring semester

Students take 16 hours of examination in the following areas:

  • Communication Processes and Contexts (8 hours)
    • Four hours each in two major topic areas in Communication Science, focusing on theories and major empirical findings in the field.
  • Specialization (4 hours)
    • Four hours in the student's area of specialization. Normally, the dissertation research dictates the area of specialization.
  • Quantitative Research Methodology and Theory Construction (4 hours)
    • This portion of the exam may include questions addressing statistics, research design, measurement, and the construction and evaluation of theory

The preliminary examination typically emphasizes the student's ability to synthesize and apply creatively what he or she has learned. Factual knowledge is not the sole focus of the examination; nor does it suffice merely to know what others think or say. Likewise, the preliminary examination should not be regarded simply as a repetition of exams and materials encountered in the student's courses, although the questions often relate to coursework. Rather, the preliminary exams should demonstrate the students' competent mastery of an area of study related to a proposed dissertation project.

Dissertator Phase

Upon passing the preliminary examination, the student enters the dissertator phase. The student begins by writing a dissertation proposal. The aim of a dissertation proposal is to articulate a scholarly question or problem and a plan for addressing it. The proposal should:

  • Identify and explain the significance of the dissertation topic
  • Analyze the state of the scholarly literature on the topic
  • Describe preliminary arguments or hypotheses the dissertation will investigate
  • Identify the primary research sources for the dissertation
  • Sketch out a research and writing schedule

The proposal is developed in consultation with the student's advisor and must be formally approved by the advisor before the student may proceed with writing the dissertation. Once the proposal has been approved, the student must form his/her dissertation committee. A dissertation committee consists of five members:

  • The student's advisor
  • At least two members from within the program
  • At least one member from outside the department

In accordance with Graduate School policy, doctoral students must orally defend and deposit the dissertation within five years from the date of passing the preliminary examination.

Students wishing to pursue an internal minor in the Department of Communication Arts must elect to study in one of four graduate tracks:

After consulting with a faculty member in the chosen area of specialization, students must complete 12 credits of course work, all of them above the 400-level and at least two above the 600-level. Note that courses below the 400-level required as prerequisites for advanced courses cannot be counted toward completion of the minor.

Students electing to pursue a minor in Communication Science must take the following courses:

  • CA 560: Communication Theory or CA 760: Advances in Communication Theory
  • CA 762: Communication Research Methods or its equivalent
  • The fourth course taken to fulfill the minor requirement shall be determined in consultation with a chosen faculty member in Communication Science.

Debra Houden (2008)

"Competence, Justice, and Conflict"

University of Wisconsin–Madison

 

Ye Sun (2007)

"Promoting the Engagement in Public Health: An Inquiry into the Roles of Message Framing and Third-Person Effects"

University of Texas-Austin

     

Lijiang Shen (2005)

"The Role of Message Framing and Affect in Persuasive Health Communication"

University of Georgia

 

Joshua Morrill (2004)

"Inoculating Juries: Attitudinal Inoculation, Group Deliberation, and Trial Outcomes"

Proprietor, Morrill Solutions

     

Joyce Fey (2003)

"Mother-Child Communication about Conflict in the Family: The Role of Neurotic Personality Variables"

Alverno College

 

Leanne Knobloch (2002)

"The Association between Interpersonal Communication and the Relationship Conceptualizations Embedded in Three Developmental Transitions"

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

     

James Brentar (2001)

"The Role of Music and Affect in Persuasion"

University of Hawaii

 

Mary Lynn Miller (2001)

"An Investigation of Normative Influence in Decision-Making Groups"

Northern Illinois University

     

Kyle Tusing (2000)

"Relational Framing Theory: Factors Governing the Absolute and Relative Activation of Relational Communication Frames"

University of Arizona

 

David Henningsen (1999)

"Motivation Loss in Group Decision Making"

Northern Illinois University

     

Pradeep Sopory (1999)

"Metaphor and Persuasion"

University of Memphis

 

Ascan Koerner (1998)

"The Universal Grammar of Relationships"

University of Minnesota

     

Amy Nathanson (1998)

"The Cumulative and Immediate Effects of Television Mediation on Children's Aggression"

Ohio State University

 

Kristen Harrison (1998)

"Self-Discrepancies as Mediators Between Media Exposure and Eating Disorders"

University of Michigan