This is the first version of the 2022-23 General Catalog. The final edition and the historical PDF will be published during the fall semester.

Specialization Areas

The following are specialization areas available for the Ph.D. program in communication studies.

Interpersonal Communication and Relationships

This area of specialization is centered on theory complemented by strength in quantitative and qualitative research methods. It focuses on scholarly issues that arise from face-to-face, everyday communication practices. It emphasizes personal relationship and family processes, identity construction, persuasion, and culture.

The goal of the program is to produce scholars who possess sophisticated knowledge of theory and methodology, who are careful consumers of theories and methods, and who can develop their own approaches to communication phenomena. The program emphasizes systematic analysis of the forms, functions, and meanings of messages within various contexts. Its broad social-scientific orientation springs from the belief that many methodological approaches are appropriate to studying and building theoretical explanations of communication.

Advisors and committee members work closely with individual students to select courses from the Department of Communication Studies and other University departments, and to plan teaching and research experiences that prepare students for the employment they seek after graduation.

Media History and Culture

This area of specialization focuses on the interplay of institutions, texts, and audiences in mediated communication systems. Its central aim is to examine modern media—radio, television, advertising, music, new media, and a wide range of other popular cultural expressions—within their historical, social, political, economic, and cultural contexts. It also uses the mass media as sites for asking basic questions about culture, society, politics, and modernity.

Like the department's other graduate programs, media studies has a strong interdisciplinary flavor. Students draw not only on allied areas in the Department of Communication Studies but on fields across the University.

Rhetoric, Culture, Engagement

This area of specialization is built on foundation courses in classical and 20th-century rhetorical theory and in an overview of 20th-century rhetorical criticism. Courses from a rhetorical perspective include rhetorical theory, rhetorical criticism, visual rhetoric and politics, public address and public culture, studies in argumentation and freedom of speech, work in science and technology as well as academic inquiry, and historical methods. Cognate work of interest to rhetoricians also can be found in interpersonal communication and relationship studies as well as media studies.

The Ph.D. in rhetoric and public advocacy is designed to give students a mature grasp of the specialties and perspectives embraced by the field and to develop research competence essential to a life of productive scholarship.

Work in related disciplines—political science, history, sociology, English, cinematic arts, anthropology, American studies, rhetoric, and journalism—complements rhetorical studies course offerings.

More information is available on the Department of Communication Studies website.

Learning Outcomes

Research

Plan, organize, and conduct innovative, ethical, and significant communication research using qualitative, quantitative, and critical-cultural methods.

Theory

Evaluate and apply communication theories broadly conceived to a range of social, cultural, interpersonal, and other contextual and communicative settings.

Scholarship

Demonstrate broad-based knowledge of relevant subfields of scholarship in communication studies and related disciplines.

Teaching and Professional Development

Develop relevant teaching and professional training (such as teaching technologies; pedagogy; grant writing; diversity, equity, and inclusion; digital scholarship; media production; or community engagement) to contribute to better and more equitable educational and social outcomes, and to develop transferable skills for employment both inside and outside of academic settings.

Communication Skills

Cultivate the skills necessary to publish peer-reviewed articles and communicate in writing and orally to both professional and popular audiences in ways that demonstrate intercultural competence and personal and social responsibility.

The Doctor of Philosophy program in communication studies requires a minimum of 72 s.h. of graduate credit, including at least 39 s.h. earned at the University of Iowa and in courses numbered above 3000. Students must maintain a cumulative g.p.a. of at least 3.00. The degree program includes specializations in interpersonal communication and relationships; media history and culture; and rhetoric, culture, engagement. For further information, see the Doctor of Philosophy introductory section.

Graduate education in communication studies focuses on the Ph.D., but doctoral students may choose to earn a Master of Arts on their way toward the Doctor of Philosophy degree. A terminal master's degree may be an option for some students already admitted to the doctoral program.

The Ph.D. with a major in communication studies requires the following.

These courses:
COMM:5200Introduction to Research and Teaching (taken the first semester)2
COMM:5205Proseminar in Communication Studies (taken twice for 1 s.h. each)2
One of these in student's primary area of interest:
COMM:5230Introduction to Rhetorical Studies3
COMM:5241Theories of Mass Communication3
COMM:6371Communication Theory3
All of these:
Department of Communication Studies courses (prefix COMM) numbered from 5000-700015
COMM:6399Ph.D. Dissertation6

Students also must complete their plan of study, the Ph.D. comprehensive examination, the dissertation prospectus, and successfully defend their dissertation.

More information is available on the Department of Communication Studies website.

Admission decisions are based on undergraduate achievement for a B.A. applicant and graduate achievement for an M.A. applicant, letters of reference, the statement of purpose, and samples of scholarly work.

Applicants to graduate programs in communication studies must meet the admission requirements of the Graduate College; see the Manual of Rules and Regulations on the Graduate College website. For information about applying to the doctoral program in communication studies, visit Prospective Graduate Students on the Department of Communication Studies website.

Admission is for fall semester entry. Applicants whose materials are received by the application deadline of January 1 will be considered for admission and financial support.

Communication studies Ph.D. graduates pursue academic and alternate academic careers. Nearly three-fourths of recent graduates teach in tenure-track academic positions. Others pursue careers in the private sector, at nonprofit organizations, and as instructional faculty at postsecondary institutions.

The department is deeply engaged in university- and discipline-wide efforts to train students in both traditional and nontraditional career paths. 

Sample Plan of Study

Sample plans represent one way to complete a program of study. Actual course selection and sequence will vary and should be discussed with an academic advisor. For additional sample plans, see MyUI.

Communication Studies, Ph.D.

Plan of Study Grid (Manual)
Academic Career
Any SemesterHours
72 s.h. must be approved coursework; graduate transfer credits allowed upon approval. More information is included in the General Catalog and on department website. a, b
 Hours0
First Year
Fall
COMM:5200 Introduction to Research and Teaching c 2
COMM:5205 Proseminar in Communication Studies d 1
COMM:6371
Communication Theory
or Introduction to Rhetorical Studies
or Theories of Mass Communication
3
Department course (COMM prefix, numbered 5000-7000) 3
 Hours9
Spring
Plan of Study Defense e
COMM:5205 Proseminar in Communication Studies d 1
Department course (COMM prefix, numbered 5000-7000) 3
Department course (COMM prefix, numbered 5000-7000) 3
Elective course f 2
 Hours9
Second Year
Fall
Department course (COMM prefix, numbered 5000-7000) 3
Elective course f 3
Elective course f 3
 Hours9
Spring
Department course (COMM prefix, numbered 5000-7000) 3
Elective course f 3
Elective course f 3
 Hours9
Third Year
Fall
Comprehensive Exam g
Elective course f 3
Elective course f 3
Elective course f 3
 Hours9
Spring
Dissertation Prospectus
Elective course f 3
Elective course f 3
Elective course f 3
 Hours9
Fourth Year
Fall
COMM:6399 Ph.D. Dissertation 3
Elective course f 3
Elective course f 3
 Hours9
Spring
COMM:6399 Ph.D. Dissertation 3
Elective course f 3
Elective course f 3
Final Exam h
 Hours9
 Total Hours72
a
At least 39 s.h. must be earned at the University of Iowa, including 6 s.h. of dissertation credit (COMM:6399). A maximum of 6 s.h. from University of Iowa courses numbered between 3000 and 4999 may be counted towards the degree.
b
Students must complete specific requirements in the University of Iowa Graduate College after program admission. Refer to the Graduate College website and the Manual of Rules and Regulations for more information.
c
Completed during the first semester in the program.
d
Taken twice for a total of 2 s.h.
e
Must be completed by the end of the second semester but no later than the fifth week of the third semester; students entering with a BA must complete by the end of the first semester of second year.
f
Work with faculty advisor to determine appropriate coursework and sequence.
g
Consists of a written exam, scholarly paper, and oral defense.
h
Dissertation defense.