The Communication Studies program offers a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) at the Lawrence Campus. The program in Communication Studies at the University of Kansas is research intensive and primarily designed to train students for careers doing research and teaching in the field of human communication at institutions of higher education. More specifically, our graduate program expects students to focus on one of the department’s two primary areas of research, with a narrower focus on one or two of the subareas:

  • Relationships & Social Interaction, with an emphasis on digital media, interpersonal, intercultural, and organizational communication.
  • Rhetoric & Political Communication, with an emphasis on argumentation, democratic inclusion, digital media, political institutions, and public memory.

Across both areas of research, our department collectively focuses on communication as it relates to gender, race, social class, national identity, and other cultural indices. Moreover, the department offers training in qualitative, quantitative, and rhetorical methods.

Almost all Communication Studies graduate students are funded through the department as either Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTA) or Graduate Research Assistants (GRA), which both include competitive stipends, tuition coverage, and health care benefits. In addition, all GTAs and GRAs are provided annual travel assistance to attend academic conferences, and the department awards approximately $25,000 a year in graduate awards for research, teaching, and service.

Admission to Graduate Studies

An applicant seeking to pursue graduate study in the College may be admitted as either a degree-seeking or non-degree seeking student. Policies and procedures of Graduate Studies govern the process of Graduate admission. These may be found in the Graduate Studies section of the online catalog.

Please consult the Departments & Programs section of the online catalog for information regarding program-specific admissions criteria and requirements. Special admissions requirements pertain to Interdisciplinary Studies degrees, which may be found in the Graduate Studies section of the online catalog.

Graduate Admission

Eligibility criteria for admission to the Ph.D. program follow Graduate Studies' admission policy. Non-native speakers of English must meet English proficiency requirements as described here

For all domestic and international Ph.D. applicants, please check the most updated application requirements through the COMS PhD Admissions page.

Potential students must submit a complete online graduate application. For additional questions regarding program requirements and application processes, please contact the chair of the department, Dr. Jay Childers. Applicants may also contact the department directly: 

The University of Kansas
Department of Communication Studies
Bailey Hall
1440 Jayhawk Blvd., Room 102
Lawrence, KS 66045

Ph.D. Degree Requirements

Concentration in Communication Studies

Requirements include:

Basic Communication Theory
COMS 859Proseminar in Communication Studies (waived for students with the M.A. in communication)3
COMS 958Comparative Theories of Speech Communication3
COMS 959Theories of Rhetoric: Contemporary3
Additional subject matter courses
A minimum of 27 hours of additional subject matter courses:27
These courses must represent 2 emphases.
These areas are developed by the student in consultation with the advisor and the director of graduate study.
If a student holds a master’s degree in communication studies (or equivalent), appropriate course work from this degree may be used to fulfill the subject matter course requirements. However, the total number of hours from the M.A. program used to satisfy items 2c, 3, and 4 must not exceed 24 hours.
Electives may be chosen from another department or any phase of the program. The 18 hours need not be all in the same department. They may be used to broaden or intensify the program, as long as they constitute a meaningful course of study. Only 6 hours may be in independent study. Students with master’s degrees from other universities satisfy this requirement with 18 hours from their master’s programs.
Research Methodology 1
Courses required of all students:
COMS 851Communication Research: Historical and Descriptive3
or COMS 852 Communication Research: Behavioral and Social Science
Choose 12 additional hours appropriate to the student’s research/dissertation interest. A list of approved courses is provided below.12

Research Skills & Responsible Scholarship requirement:

  • The university requires that every doctoral student have training in responsible scholarship and research skills pertinent to the field of research and appropriate to the doctoral level. This requirement must be met before taking the Comprehensive Oral Exam.
  • This requirement may be fulfilled by taking either COMS 851 Communication Research: Historical & Descriptive or COMS 852: Communication Research: Behavioral & Social Science, in addition to four graduate research methods courses as approved by the Director of Graduate Studies. 

Satisfactory completion of the oral and written comprehensive examination.

All students must enroll in dissertation hours (COMS 999) in accordance with the University policy on Doctoral Candidacy.

Final oral examination.

Approved Methodology Courses

The following lists identify methods courses taught in and outside of the department for the two main research areas: Relationships & Social Interaction and Rhetoric & Political Communication. The faculty of the Communication Studies Department agrees that these courses qualify as methods courses toward the course requirements for doctoral candidates.

Three caveats:

  1. These lists are not comprehensive. Other courses may count as methods courses provided the student receives approval from the advisor.
  2. The courses on these lists are not required. These are recommended courses for training in each methods type.
  3. All methods courses should be chosen with the advisor's input.

Rhetorical methods courses include but are not limited to:

COMS 851Communication Research: Historical and Descriptive3
COMS 930Seminar in Speech: _____ (Postmodern Rhetorical Theories)1-4
COMS 930Seminar in Speech: _____ (Contemporary Theories in Public Address)1-4
COMS 951Seminar in Movement Theory and Genre Criticism3
COMS 952Seminar in Mythic and Narrative Approaches to Rhetorical Criticism3
COMS 955Seminar in Rhetorical Criticism3

Please consult with your advisor and other relevant faculty members about courses that may meet the research methods requirement. Courses that may be used to meet a Methods requirement instead of Theory, because they involve systematic and explicit reflection on research methods including appropriate research questions, objects of study, and units of analysis include:

COMS 930Seminar in Speech: _____ (Seminar on Burke)1-4
COMS 933Theories of Rhetoric: Neo-Classical2-3
COMS 953Seminar in Organizational Rhetoric3

Courses outside of COMS may qualify as a rhetorical methods course subject to advisor approval.

In Department Qualitative Methods Courses

COMS 855Qualitative Research Methods in Communication Studies3
COMS 930Seminar in Speech: _____ (Analyzing Qualitative Data)1-4
COMS 936Seminar in Language and Discourse3

It is recommended that graduate students complete COMS 855 prior to taking qualitative methods courses outside of Communication Studies

Qualitative Methods Graduate Courses at KU that are Not in Communication Studies:

Courses with an asterisk have been recommended by our graduate students or affiliate faculty. Please review all course selections with your advisor prior to enrolling.

American Studies:
AMS 803Research Methods in American Studies *3
AMS 998Seminar in: _____ (special topics) *3
ANTH 783Doing Ethnography *3
JOUR 829Marketing Communications Research3
NRSG 802Methods for Qualitative Research (Taught online) *3
Political Science:
POLS 708Advanced Qualitative Research Methods3
Public Administration:
PUAD 937Qualitative Methods in Public Administration3
SOC 813Field Methods and Participant Observation3-5

In Department Quantitative Methods Course

COMS 856Communication Research: Quantitative Analysis3

It is recommended that graduate students complete COMS 856 prior to taking quantitative methods courses outside of Communication Studies

Introductory Outside COMS Quantitative Courses

PSYC 790Statistical Methods in Psychology I4
or EPSY 810 Regression and ANOVA: General Linear Models
PSYC 818Experimental Research Methods in Social Psychology3
EPSY 811Analysis of Variance3

Advanced Outside COMS Quantitative Courses

PSYC 791Statistical Methods in Psychology II4
PSYC 887Factor Analysis4
PSYC 893Multivariate Analysis4
PSYC 894Multilevel Modeling4
EPSY 940Advanced Studies in Educational Psychology and Research3
PSYC 896Structural Equation Modeling I4
PSYC 996Structural Equation Modeling II3

Descriptions of all quantitative psychology courses are available online.