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Applied Communication Studies


Treatise Exit Options

Students following the treatise plan of study can pursue one of the following two types of treatises:


The thesis is a comprehensive report of substantive and significant research that has been conducted, analyzed, and written entirely by the candidate under the guidance of a faculty advisor. Typically, the thesis is lengthy, similar in style to a paper submitted to a scholarly conference or for publication, and is structured in the manner suggested by the American Psychological Association, the Modern Language Association, or a similar scholarly or professional organization.

The thesis is an opportunity for candidates to demonstrate they can use theory, empirical findings, and research methods to design and carry out a study. Typically, the candidate utilizes a theoretical model, conducts an in-depth literature search, and develops research hypotheses or research questions. These are examined empirically by the candidate, through primary quantitative or qualitative research methods, and the results and their implications are fully considered. Please note that the thesis is the only exit option that must be submitted to the Graduate School as well as the Department of Applied Communication Studies.

The thesis project is generally the better option for students who anticipate continuing graduate school in a Ph.D. program. This is not to say that students MUST complete a thesis if they wish to continue their education. Additionally, students not anticipating continuing their education are welcome to write a thesis as well.


The project is also a lengthy report of substance and significance that has been executed entirely by the candidate under the guidance of a faculty member and might be similar to a paper submitted to a scholarly conference or for publication.

The project is an opportunity for candidates to demonstrate that they can use theory, empirical findings, and research methods to identify and resolve practical communication problems. Typically, the candidate identifies relevant theory, useful literature, and appropriate methodology as necessary to demarcate an authentic communication problem within an actual context (such as a specific professional setting), then develops, implements, and assesses the efficacy of a solution to that problem. Please note that, while projects are not submitted to the Graduate School, the Department of Applied Communication Studies requires that candidates adhere to all the same timelines and quality standards as apply to the thesis.

The project should result in a tangible product (such as a training guide, video, or recruiting handbook) as well as a write-up that outlines relevant theories and potential implications (much like a very brief thesis). Project chairs will help guide the student through the process.

Each student following the treatise plan of study will work closely with a faculty member who will serve as the chair of the student’s graduate advisory committee to determine the treatise type, topic, and timeline to follow. With the chair, the student will also select additional faculty to serve as graduate advisory committee members. The student will present a treatise proposal to the committee for approval before conducting the original research. After the treatise has been completed, the student will submit it to the committee and defend it. The defense is oral and focuses primarily on the treatise but may also cover the planned program of study.

Non-Treatise Exit Options

Students following the non-treatise plan of study will have as their exit option a comprehensive examination. The comprehensive examination, which is administered during each student’s final term of coursework, comprises both written and oral elements, and includes both the required core courses and the individually planned program.

The comprehensive examination is offered once every fall and spring semester, divided across a morning and afternoon session. The examination is not offered during the summer sessions. The dates for the comprehensive examination are announced by the middle of each term.

The candidate's comprehensive exam committee performs the following functions:

  • Generates questions for the Specialization portion of the candidate’s exam
  • Reads and evaluates written answers on all questions
  • Convenes and conducts the oral examination
  • Makes a determination of the candidate’s success or failure in demonstrating mastery of the content of his or her plan of study

The comprehensive examination is divided into two parts: The Core curriculum (3½ hours) and the Specialization curriculum (3½ hours). The core, or first part of the exam, covers the curriculum common to all candidates, and tests mastery of material in SPC 500 Seminar in Communication Theories and SPC 501 Seminar in Communication Research Methods and Tools. The Graduate Program Director, in consultation with the Graduate Faculty, prepares the Core portion of the exam for all candidates in any given semester. The Specialization curriculum, or second part of the exam, covers content specific to each individual candidate’s plan of study, in areas negotiated by the student with the comprehensive exam committee members, and typically reflects courses from the student’s plan of study as well as specialized areas of candidate interest. The oral component takes place if the student has been deemed by the comprehensive examination committee to have performed in the written component sufficiently as to not be asked for a rewrite. The oral component, which takes the form of a discussion of the candidate with the comprehensive examination committee members, provides a supplemental assessment of the student’s performance.

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