Curriculum

Students in the doctoral program learn theories that guide research into communication processes and effects and into institutions and technologies that lend pattern to communication. Applicants for the PhD are expected to acquire and demonstrate humanistic and behavioral knowledge of communication while acquiring skills requisite to scholarly research in the discipline.

Screening Procedures

Student progress is carefully monitored by the School of Communication faculty. Students are normally screened at the end of their first year of graduate study. At that time they must have completed no fewer than 16 and no more than 24 units, including COMM 525, COMM 526, COMM 550 and COMM 552. Students are evaluated on subject matter competence, teaching potential and their ability to conduct independent research. Upon successful passage of the screening procedure, the student has 30 days in which to form a qualifying exam committee.

Course Requirements

The student is required to take a minimum of 76 units and write an approved dissertation.

Four core courses

  • COMM 525x Humanistic and Social Scientific Approaches to Human Communication I (4 units)
  • COMM 526x Humanistic and Social Scientific Approaches to Human Communication II (4 units)
  • COMM 550 Quantitative Research Methods in Communication (4 units)
  • COMM 552 Qualitative Research Methods in Communication (4 units)

And Doctoral Dissertation

  • COMM 794a Doctoral Dissertation (2 units are required for all students)
  • COMM 794b Doctoral Dissertation (2 units are required for all students)

Students specialize in one of seven tracks by completing a minimum of three courses (12 units) in one of the following:

(1) Rhetoric, Politics and Publics:

  • COMM 509x Classical Rhetorical Theory (4 units)
  • COMM 511x Contemporary Rhetorical Theory (4 units)
  • COMM 512x Rhetorical Criticism (4 units)
  • COMM 513x Neoclassical Rhetorical Theory (4 units)
  • COMM 514x Social Movements as Rhetorical Form (4 units)
  • COMM 515x Postmodern Rhetorical Theory (4 units)
  • COMM 517x Rhetorical Theory and Culture (4 units)
  • COMM 518x American Public Address (4 units)
  • COMM 520 The Rhetoric of the Presidential Campaign Trail (4 units)
  • COMM 521x Argumentation (4 units)
  • COMM 522x Kenneth Burke’s Dramatistic Theory (4 units)
  • COMM 573 Networked Publics: Theories and Encounters (4 units)
  • COMM 576 Civic Media and Participatory Politics (4 units)
  • COMM 580 Media and Politics (4 units)

(2) Media, Culture and Community:

  • CMGT 587 Audience Analysis (4 units)
  • COMM 516x Feminist Theory and Communication (4 units)
  • COMM 517x Rhetorical Theory and Culture (4 units)
  • COMM 519x Cultural Studies in Communication (4 units)
  • COMM 564 Communication, Culture and Capitalism (4 units)
  • COMM 573 Networked Publics: Theories and Encounters (4 units)
  • COMM 575 Advocacy and Social Change in Entertainment and the Media (4 units)
  • COMM 580 Media and Politics (4 units)
  • COMM 605 Advanced Macro Theories of Communication (4 units)
  • COMM 618 Mass Media Effects (4 units)
  • COMM 629 Global Culture (4 units)
  • COMM 653 Research, Practice and Social Change (4 units)
  • COMM 654 Art, Artists and Society (4 units)
  • COMM 655 Studies in Sound, Music and Communication (4 units)
  • COMM 656 Theorizing Race, Culture, Cross-Cultural Exchange (4 units)
  • COMM 662 Video Games Research (4 units)
  • COMM 672 Experiments in Critical Writing (4 units)

(3) Health Communication and Social Dynamics:

  • CMGT 581 Media in Social Services: Design and Evaluation of Campaigns (4 units)
  • CMGT 583 Social Marketing and Entertainment Education (4 units)
  • CMGT 587 Audience Analysis (4 units)
  • CMGT 588 Global Storytelling: The Power of Narrative (4 units)
  • COMM 554 Regression and Multivariate Communication Research (4 units)
  • COMM 602 Seminar in Persuasion (4 units)
  • COMM 611 Communication Technology and Healthcare (4 units)
  • COMM 612 Designing Health Communication Interventions (4 units)
  • COMM 613 Grant Writing in Communication (4 units)
  • COMM 614 Computational Approaches in Health Communication (4 units)
  • COMM 615 Health Communication (4 units)
  • COMM 616 Health Communication for Prevention (4 units)
  • COMM 650 Survey Construction and Validation (4 units)
  • COMM 651 Experimental and Quasi-Experimental Designs (4 units)

(4) Groups, Organizations and Networks:

  • COMM 508x Power, Politics and Conflict in Communication (4 units)
  • COMM 524x Small Group Process (4 units)
  • COMM 585x Organizational Communication (4 units)
  • COMM 635 Economics of Information (4 units)
  • COMM 636 Interpretive and Cultural Approaches in Organizational Communication (4 units)
  • COMM 637 Current Readings in Organizational Communication (4 units)
  • COMM 638 Global, International and Intercultural Communication in Organizations (4 units)
  • COMM 640 Communication and Organizational Change (4 units)
  • COMM 641 Organizations and Communication Technologies (4 units)
  • COMM 645 Communication Networks (4 units)
  • COMM 648 Online Communities and Networks (4 units)
  • COMM 652 Ethnographic Field Research in Communication (4 units)

(5) Political Economy of Global Communication:

  • COMM 546 The Political Economy of Innovation (4 units)
  • COMM 553 Global Internet Governance (4 units)
  • COMM 559 Globalization, Communication and Society (4 units)
  • COMM 560 Global Media and Communication in China and Asia (4 units)
  • COMM 561 Leading and Communicating Change in Global Organizations (4 units)
  • COMM 567 The Political Economy of Privacy and Cybersecurity (4 units)
  • COMM 570 Economics of the Communication Industries (4 units)
  • COMM 582 Information and Communication Technology for Development (4 units)
  • COMM 629 Global Culture (4 units)
  • COMM 630 Communication Technology and Social Change (4 units)
  • COMM 635 Economics of Information (4 units)
  • COMM 645 Communication Networks (4 units)
  • COMM 647x Network Society (4 units)
  • PUBD 504 Global Issues and Public Diplomacy (4 units)
  • PUBD 510 Technologies and Public Diplomacy (4 units)
  • PUBD 515 Transnational Diplomacy and Global Security (4 units)
  • PUBD 516 International Broadcasting (4 units)
  • PUBD 522 Hard Power, Soft Power and Smart Power (4 units)

(6) Information, Political Economy and Entertainment:

  • CMGT 582 International Communication: National Development (4 units)
  • COMM 516x Feminist Theory and Communication (4 units)
  • COMM 559 Globalization, Communication and Society (4 units)
  • COMM 560 Global Media and Communication in China and Asia (4 units)
  • COMM 563 Black Popular Culture: Theory and Central Debates (4 units)
  • COMM 564 Communication, Culture and Capitalism (4 units)
  • COMM 566 Using Theory to Craft Policies to Affect Change (4 units)
  • COMM 570 Economics of the Communication Industries (4 units)
  • COMM 630 Communication Technology and Social Change (4 units)
  • COMM 647x Network Society (4 units)
  • COMM 654 Art, Artists and Society (4 units)
  • COMM 660 Entertainment and Games (4 units)
  • COMM 662 Video Games Research (4 units)
  • COMM 670 Economic Cultures (4 units)

(7) New Media and Technology:

  • CMGT 530 Social Dynamics of Communication Technologies (4 units)
  • CMGT 531 Communication and the International Economy (4 units)
  • CMGT 537 The Industry, Science and Culture of Video Games (4 units)
  • COMM 524x Small Group Process (4 units)
  • COMM 570 Economics of the Communication Industries (4 units)
  • COMM 572 Theories of Computer-Mediated Communication (4 units)
  • COMM 573 Networked Publics: Theories and Encounters (4 units)
  • COMM 576 Civic Media and Participatory Politics (4 units)
  • COMM 577 Fandom, Participatory Culture and Web 2.0 (4 units)
  • COMM 578 New Media Literacies (4 units)
  • COMM 611 Communication Technology and Healthcare (4 units)
  • COMM 641 Organizations and Communication Technologies (4 units)
  • COMM 647x Network Society (4 units)

Additional Requirements

In addition, students must take at least two courses in one other track outside their specialization (8 units total). Students also pursue an approved cognate elective program of study in which at least two courses (normally 8 units) are taken in a related field outside USC Annenberg School. Students entering the School of Communication with a master’s degree may, with permission, apply part of their previous graduate course work to the cognate requirement. Students in the organizational communication track are required to take at least two methods classes in addition to the core courses, COMM 550 and COMM 552. If taken in a department or unit other than the School of Communication, these courses cannot also be counted toward the student’s cognate requirement.

Research Tool Requirement

Doctoral students are expected to demonstrate methodological competence in an area of specialization prior to taking the qualifying examination. Such competence is usually demonstrated through course work (the successful completion, with grade B or better, of selected course work in addition to their content courses that is approved by the PhD qualifying exam committee taken in the school and/or related departments), and by completion of a preliminary research project. Under special circumstances, students with an exceptional prior background in research methods may demonstrate their competence by successfully passing a research tool examination designed and administered by the PhD qualifying exam committee.

Qualifying Exam Committee

This committee is composed of five USC faculty members, at least three of whom are from the School of Communication. Students are expected to work closely with the members of their qualifying exam committee, especially their committee chair, in selecting advanced course work and shaping areas of interest and research. In addition to helping the student plan a program, the committee administers the oral portion of the qualifying examination and approves the dissertation committee.

Qualifying Examination

Qualifying examinations for the PhD usually are taken in the third year of study following completion of all required courses and a preliminary research paper. The examination includes both written and oral portions. The written portion is composed by committees of faculty in the relevant areas of study; the oral portion is administered by the student’s qualifying exam committee. Students must pass both portions to be advanced to candidacy. Students must confer with their qualifying exam committee chair, not later than the second week of the semester during which the examinations are to be taken, regarding distribution of written examination hours among subject matter areas.

Doctoral Dissertation

The dissertation is an original research project contributing to knowledge about human communication and should demonstrate a high level of competence in methodologies of scholarly inquiry.

Defense of Dissertation

Dissertations are defended in a formal meeting with the three-member dissertation committee. The school prefers that the defense oral be taken prior to final typing so that recommended changes can be made in the final manuscript.


This page is based on the current 2021-2022 USC Catalogue. The 2022-2023 USC Catalogue will be published in Summer 2022.