The graduate programs in the College of Communication and Information Sciences are administered by the associate dean for graduate studies, by various administrative divisions within the College, and by the Graduate School. The college has one PhD degree program. It is an interdisciplinary program that draws on all subdivisions of the College and is administered by the associate dean for graduate studies and by the graduate studies committee. The Master of Arts degree programs are administered by the associate dean, by divisional or department heads, and by department program directors.
All curricula offered by the College of Communication and Information Sciences have been accredited by regional associations. The undergraduate programs in the College are accredited by the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.
General Requirements for the MA Degree
In consultation with an advisor, the student selects a graduate major in one of the academic departments of the College. There are two options that students may choose for pursuing the Master of Arts degree.
Plan I, master's thesis
The student's curricular and research interests culminate in the completion of a traditional master's thesis. Students must take a minimum of 30 hours of approved graduate courses, of which 6 are specifically for the thesis. See departmental sections below for required and recommended courses.
Plan II, nonthesis option
Students must take a minimum of 30 hours of approved graduate courses. See departmental sections below for the specific nature of this option and its requirements.
Regardless of the option selected, each student must satisfy the following requirements:
- MC 550 Research Methods or department-approved equivalent
- MC 551 Sem Communication Theory or department-approved equivalent
- Written comprehensive examination or equivalent, as specified by the student's departmental committee
- Final oral examination or equivalent, as specified by the student's departmental committee
The primary purpose of master’s degree programs is to provide students with subject matter at an advanced level in their fields of study. Master’s degrees are designed to assist students either to continue their graduate studies or to meet the goals of their professions. In most cases, master’s programs also help students become familiar with methods of independent investigation.
Two plans are offered for the master's degree:
Plan I. Candidates for the master's degree under Plan I must earn a minimum of 24 semester hours of credit in coursework plus earn a minimum of 6 additional hours of thesis research hours, for a total of 30 hours.
Plan II. Candidates for the master's degree under Plan II must earn a minimum of 30 semester hours of coursework credit and pass the comprehensive examination or complete a culminating or “capstone experience” as described under the Comprehensive Examinations section below.
Both plans require a minimum of 18 semester hours in the major subject. With the approval of the major department, the remainder of the coursework may be completed in either the major or a related field.
In some divisions and in many departments of the University, candidates are required to do their work under Plan I. Candidates working under Plan II may be required to participate successfully in seminar or problem courses that will give them an acquaintance with the methods of research and an appreciation of the place and function of original investigation in the field.
A student's program at the master's level must provide sufficient association with the resident faculty to permit individual evaluation of the student's capabilities and achievements.
A student must be admitted to the Graduate School and must register as a graduate student in order to receive graduate credit. Approval for graduate registration must be obtained from program advisors prior to registration.
Graduate Credit for Noncredit Experiences
All course credit used toward a UA graduate degree must be taught at the graduate level. No graduate credit may be earned by correspondence study or for experiential learning not conducted under the direct supervision of graduate faculty of The University of Alabama. UA does not offer graduate credit for noncredit workshops, seminars, continuing education experiences, professional development, internships, work/life experience, and so forth.
Transfer of Credit
Courses of full graduate-level credit earned in a regionally accredited institution where a student was enrolled in the graduate school may be submitted for review for inclusion in a master's degree program. Evaluation of credit for transfer will not be made until after the student has enrolled in the Graduate School of The University of Alabama. Acceptance of credit requires the approval of the student's advisory committee and the dean of the Graduate School. Credit will not be accepted for transfer from any institution at which the student failed to achieve a "B" average on all graduate work attempted. Only courses in which a student earned a "B" grade or better may be transferred.
In some cases, foreign educational credentials may not meet the Graduate School's criteria for transfer of credit. It may be necessary for students in this situation to secure an evaluation of their credentials from World Education Services Inc. (WES), an external foreign credential evaluation service. Additional information on their services can be found at their website.
A student initiates at the Graduate School’s website a Request for Transfer of Graduate Credit earned at another institution. It is also the student's responsibility to assure that the Graduate School receives an official transcript of the credit requested for transfer, well in advance of the final semester.
With the approval of the student's department and the dean of the Graduate School, the greater of 12 hours or 25 percent of the required coursework for a master's degree may be transferred from another institution. All credit toward the master's degree, including transfer credit, must have been earned during the six years (18 fall, spring, and summer semesters) immediately preceding the date on which the master’s degree is to be awarded. Revalidation (recertification) of graduate credits that will be more than 18 semesters old at the time of UA master's program completion is not an option.
Please note that some departments allow fewer than 12 hours of graduate transfer credit. Be sure to check with your department's graduate coordinator regarding your department's transfer policy.
A maximum of 6 semester hours of 400-level course credit may be accepted for a master's degree program, but only if a form for Approval of 400-Level Course Work for Master's Credit is approved by the Graduate School prior to the semester in which the 400-level coursework will be taken.
All requirements for the master's degree must be completed during the six years (18 fall, spring, and summer semesters) immediately preceding the date on which the degree is to be awarded. There is no provision for an extension of the time limit beyond six years for master's students.
Admission to Candidacy
During the 2013-2014 academic year, the Graduate Council eliminated the master’s candidacy requirement. Departments may monitor master’s candidacy if they wish, but the Graduate School does not monitor it and will not accept master’s candidacy forms. Doctoral candidacy is not affected and remains an important doctoral program requirement.
A thesis evidencing research capacity, independent thought, and the ability to interpret materials is required of all master's degree candidates who pursue Plan I. The subject chosen must be in the major field and must be approved by the graduate committee of the major department or school and by the head of the student's major department or division.
The final oral thesis defense is the culminating experience in the master’s program. As such, all members of the thesis committee are expected to attend and participate in real time. Virtual attendance via interactive video or teleconference is permitted for off-campus external committee members, but Tuscaloosa campus faculty should attend in person unless extraordinary circumstances dictate the need for virtual attendance.
Article Style vs. Journal Format
At the doctoral level, "article-style dissertations" are unified works that include several distinct but related studies of research or creative activity, each of which is of publishable quality. The University does not permit an "article-style thesis" to be presented for a master's degree.
A "journal-format thesis" is acceptable. Such a thesis follows the format of a particular journal in which the student and advisor want the thesis to be published. To prepare a journal-format thesis, the student uses the journal's "information for authors" or similarly titled guidelines in conjunction with the Graduate School's Student Guide to Preparing Electronic Theses and Dissertations.
A thesis committee must consist of at least three members appointed by the dean of the Graduate School. A form for Appointment or Change of Master's Thesis Committee is used to request that the graduate dean appoint a thesis committee. The request normally is made as soon as the successful defense of the thesis proposal has been completed. All members of a thesis committee must be members of the Graduate Faculty. The Committee Chair must be a full or associate member of the Graduate Faculty. One member must be from outside the student's major department. If the outside member is not a full or associate member of the UA Graduate Faculty (e.g., a highly qualified person from another university, a business, or industry), the graduate dean needs to appoint that member by approving Temporary Graduate Faculty status for the specific purpose of serving on the student's thesis committee. Unless there are extraordinary circumstances meriting approval by the graduate dean before the final oral defense of the thesis, all members of the thesis committee must attend the defense.
The candidate must give members of the examining committee a minimum of two weeks to read the thesis before the date of the final oral examination. A final oral examination is required of all students completing a thesis. All members of the thesis committee must be members of the UA graduate faculty and must attend the final oral examination unless there are extraordinary circumstances warranting the graduate dean's approval of the absence prior to the defense meeting.
As of August 15, 2009, all theses are submitted electronically rather than on paper. See the Graduate School's homepage for a link to information on Electronic Theses and Dissertations (ETD) for details.
Theses must comply with the regulations set out in A Student Guide to Preparing Electronic Theses and Dissertations, available on the Graduate School's website. Approval of the thesis by the graduate dean is necessary before graduation.
The thesis should be completed, if possible, while the student is in residence at the University. To request permission to complete a thesis in absentia, the student must, before leaving the University, submit a satisfactory outline of the thesis, as well as evidence that adequate facilities are available where the work will be done, to the head of the student's major department.
Protection of Human Subjects for Research
Scientific research involving human subjects has produced substantial benefits for society, but it also can pose troubling ethical questions. The mission of the University's Institutional Review Board (IRB) for Protection of Human Subjects is to ensure that research involving human subjects is conducted ethically. University and federal policies require that review and approval to use human subjects in research precede the research. In the case of thesis research that involves the use of human subjects in any way, the principal investigator is responsible for contacting the college Human Research Review Committee to obtain approval for the planned research.
In addition to the regular course examinations, a final comprehensive examination representing a "culminating" or "capstone" experience for a degree is required of all candidates for the master's degree (except for those candidates pursuing the Master of Accountancy, the Master of Business Administration, the Master of Library and Information Studies, the Master of Social Work, and the Master of Tax Accounting). The comprehensive examination is a culminating experience in which the student is expected to integrate prior learning. Each department, with approval of the Graduate Council, determines the most appropriate format. The various exams may consist of one or more of the following:
a written and/or oral examination based on the content of the degree program;
a thesis and final oral defense;
a course requiring interpretation and integration of information from previous courses;
a research paper, a "policy and practice" paper, or equivalent experience;
a public performance or exhibition along with a contextualizing paper; and/or
a practicum or internship.
If the comprehensive exam requirement is met with option 1 and/or 2 above, then the examining committee for comprehensive examinations must consist of at least three members of the graduate faculty from that department and appointed by the dean of the Graduate School. The examination must be given at least six weeks before the date of graduation (two weeks before for Plan II) and reported promptly to the dean of the Graduate School on appropriate forms. A final report, on the Master's/EdS Examination Form is on the Graduate School website. The form should be submitted when all examinations are completed. A student may take the final oral or written examination only twice. Failing the examination twice results in dismissal from the degree program and the Graduate School.
Application for Graduation
Each candidate for a master's degree must apply for graduation through myBama no later than the registration period for the semester or the first session of the summer term in which requirements for the degree are to be completed.
Second Master's Degree
Six (6) semester hours of eligible credit from one master's degree at The University of Alabama may be applied to the requirements for a second master's degree, but only if the department of the second master’s agrees to the courses in the plan of study. Any hours from the previous master’s degree must have been earned during the six years (18 fall, spring, and summer semesters) immediately preceding the date on which the second degree is to be awarded. ***Please note that if a student double counts six hours between two master’s degrees, no hours may double count toward any additional master’s degrees.
The Graduate School of The University of Alabama administers admissions for the entire University. The Graduate School’s website has detailed admission policies, an electronic application, and other useful information for those considering graduate studies at the University.
Graduate students in the College of Communication and Information Sciences must meet the admission criteria of the Graduate School (see Admission Criteria) of The University of Alabama. Specific graduate programs in the college may have additional admission criteria, as specified in departmental sections of this catalog.
Each applicant must submit test scores from either the Graduate Record Examination general test or the Miller Analogies Test in support of the application. The Department of Advertising and Public Relations does not accept the Miller Analogies Test.
Applications for the fall semester should be submitted to the Graduate School by April 1. Applications for the spring semester should be submitted by November 1.
Word-processing proficiency is required in all writing and editing courses offered in the Department of Advertising and Public Relations and the Department of Journalism and Creative Media.
All divisions of the College of Communication and Information Sciences offer a limited number of graduate assistantships to qualified students. The assistantships are awarded on a competitive basis to individuals who can best aid the institution in achieving its research and instructional missions. Students interested in graduate assistantships should apply to the appropriate departments by November 1 for spring semester applications and by April 1 for fall semester applications. Some deadlines vary by departments, so be sure to check with specific department regarding their deadlines. February 15 is the recommended deadline for PhD program applicants who hope to be awarded assistantships, although applications are accepted through April 1. Other financial aid available from the University is described elsewhere in this catalog.
The educational objectives of these graduate programs are as follows:
Provide students with the knowledge, skills, understanding, and diverse technologies to meet the changing informational and cultural needs of diverse populations and organizations. Foster leadership skills and abilities in all students, provide opportunities within the program for students with leadership potential to exercise their abilities, and encourage students as graduates to seek out and assume leadership roles. Improve and develop students' critical and conceptual thinking skills.
Research and creative activity
Augment and advance knowledge through basic research and improve professional practice through systematic inquiry into its nature, standards, and principles.
Apply the insights and knowledge gained through research and instruction in service to public- and private-sector organizations.
See the online Graduate Catalog for specific information on admission criteria and degree requirements.
The course is part of orientation for all students in the PhD program. It must be taken during the first semester of study. As an introduction to relevant research and teaching practices, this course allows students to hear presentations by faculty and advanced doctoral students.
This course is part of the orientation for all students in the Ph.D. program. It must be taken during the second semester of study. It introduces the students to teaching techniques in communication and information studies.
The course is part of orientation for all students in the PhD program. It must be taken during the third semester of study. The course is designed to allow doctoral students to learn about research being conducted within the College and to make formal presentations of their own research.
The course provides detailed study of quantitative research methods appropriate to the various areas of study in communication and information sciences.
This course is a survey of the foundational theories of mass communication and media processes and effects.
This course offers a survey of foundational theories in cultural, critical, and rhetorical studies.
This course offers a survey of theoretical developments in the study of knowledge and information.
This course provides detailed study of the philosophical foundations of theory construction and current issues in theories of the nature of knowledge.
This course is an introduction to qualitative research methods in communication, yet with a doctoral level of sophistication and expectations. The aim is to introduce students to all primary forms of qualitative methodologies from a social science perspective; however, each method or approach described could easily be the subject of a course itself.
Founded on a logical conceptualization of knowledge creation, this course surveys eight modes of knowing in the humanities: philological interpretation, phenomenological interpretation, explanatory history, narrative history, aesthetic/technical criticism, cultural criticism, theoretical analysis, and theoretical synthesis. Treatment of modes includes investigation of theories and examination of applications. The course is designed to support disciplinary research and publication by participants.
Students develop familiarity with college graduate faculty members, their professional lives, teaching specialties, research interests, and service involvements. Students become familiar with the norms of doctoral life. Students develop their own unique approach to research, teaching, and service in the context of their area of expertise.
Special topics in materials, programs, and services for children and young adults. May be taken more than once.
Addresses cultural stereotypes and issues surrounding cultural authenticity in children's and young adult literature, and suggests how librarians / educators can help children use literature to make intercultural connections with youth from diverse cultural backgrounds. Provides opportunities to explore diverse perspectives and theories related to selecting, analyzing, and interpreting international and multicultural literature for youth.
Topics vary. Course supports research in areas appropriate for advanced study and original research in communication and information sciences. Depending on the interests of participants and on the topic of the seminar, students may conduct research individually or may work together on research projects. May be repeated.
The examination of a wide range of mediated texts through the intersecting perspectives of cultural, critical and rhetorical analysis.
Examines the intellectual objectives served by descriptive bibliographies and introduces the methods and problems of bibliographical description of printed books of the hand- and machine-press periods. Emphasis is on the examination and historical analysis of books as physical objects. Primarily for students interested in the history of books, special collections, rare book cataloging, and humanities reference work.
Examines the book as a cultural artifact and explores the impact of print culture on communication and knowledge/information production in Europe and the United States. Topics include orality and literacy, reading, authorship, copyright, markets and distribution, and the future of books in a digital age.
Examines the book as a physical artifact, as the material embodiment of text. Topics include the transitions between hand production and mechanical production, methods of bookmaking, printers and publishers, the alphabetic code, paratext, letterforms and typography, paper, page formats and layouts, illustrations, bindings, and other semiotic systems and bibliographic signifiers, as well as the purpose of the book with special emphasis on the relationships between meaning and physical form and the complex conventions of the book.
Focuses on both scholarly and commercial networked digital publishing within the context of the information cycle and information chain from the vantages of contemporary publishing and communication. The course is concerned with the numerous and varied problems/opportunities of electronic publishing and the accompanying paradigm shifts.
Explores little magazine, small press and similiar issues in publishing, and covers US publishing in this area from colonial times to the present.
Topics may vary. Study and analysis of the development and management of communication institutions and their place in society. May be repeated.
Study and analysis of the persuasive function of communication through theoretical and/or strategic approaches. May be repeated.
Study and analysis of visual communication in its various forms, intended uses, and potential effects. May be repeated.
Study and analysis of the formation and expression of public opinion and its relation to communication. May be repeated.
Original research not related to the dissertation, conducted under the direction of graduate faculty member.
Study of a topic in librarianship under faculty direction. Not part of dissertation research.
A study of the laws affecting the media, decisions, and case histories that act as guides for the media. Independent readings and papers are required.
Study and analysis of issues of diversity as they relate to groups in society and in communication fields. Emphasis is on the media's treatment of various groups in society.
Nature, development, formation, and distribution of politically relevant attitudes and opinions; role of leadership, persuasion, and communication in opinion-policy process. Emphasis on the role of the media in the formation of public opinion and on how the media are influenced in turn by public opinion.
A survey of qualitative and quantitative methods in communication research.
A study of the development of selected theories of communication as they pertain to interpersonal, public, and mass communication.
Special topics in mass communication theory and research. May be repeated.