The collegewide doctor of philosophy degree in the College of Communication and Information Sciences is designed to:

  • prepare communication scholars for positions of leadership in education, public service, the media, libraries, information-management positions, and other communication-related fields
  • add to a student's usable body of knowledge in a chosen area of specialization within the field of communication and information sciences
  • develop each student's research, teaching, and professional capabilities
  • promote scholarly achievement and advancement of knowledge in the communication and information science disciplines, through basic and applied research

Requirements for the Ph.D. Degree in Communication and Information Sciences

Admission Criteria

Applicants to the doctoral program in communication and information sciences must meet the admission criteria of the Graduate School of The University of Alabama and those stated below.

An applicant whose credentials meet the following minimum criteria may be considered for regular admission to the doctoral program in communication and information sciences:

  • An undergraduate grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 overall, 3.0 for the last 60 semester hours in a degree program, or 3.0 for a completed graduate degree program.
  • A combined score of 300 on the verbal and quantitative portions of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE).

International applicants must score at least 90 on the TOEFL iBT language proficiency exam and also score at least 24 on the speaking and writing sections of the iBT exam. International applicants who meet these criteria may also be invited to participate in a videoconference with the college application review committee.

Applicants may be considered for admission on a permission-to-continue basis if they meet either the GPA criterion for regular admission or the GRE score criterion for regular admission.

Coursework

Number of semester hours required in the program: Forty-eight to 60 hours, as determined by a student's program advisory committee. An additional 24 hours of dissertation research will be taken, usually following admission to candidacy.

The student’s program advisory committee determines, in consultation with the student, the specific courses the student must take to satisfy program and research requirements.

Core requirement: Foundations. CIS 610 Foundations Doctoral Study CIS, is required of all students.

Core requirement: Theory. Students must complete two of the following four courses:

The specific courses from among these four are to be selected by the student in consultation with the student's program advisory committee. It is strongly recommended that students aim to have at least one of their two required theory courses be the single most appropriate theory course in the context of the student's area of focus(see below for details about focused areas of study).

Core requirement: Research methods. Students must complete six hours of research methods coursework. The specific courses are to selected by the student in consultation with the student's program advisory committee. The College offers three research methods courses, at least one of which is likely to be among the student's most appropriate options for fulfilling the research methods requirements. These courses are:

However, if the student's program advisory committee recommends or stipulates the student complete research methods courses other than CIS 603, CIS 608, and CIS 609, the student need not complete any of these three courses.

Focused Areas of Study. Students will consult with their program advisory committee to identify a focused area of study. A minimum of 18 non-dissertation credits must be designated by the program advisory committee as appropriate for the student's focused area of study.

Cognate. Students will consult with their program advisory committee to identify a cognate area. Students may fulfill their cognate requirement through courses completed within or outside the College of Communication and Information Sciences. A course must be in an area outside the focused area of study to count toward fulfilling the cognate requirement. A minimum of nine non-dissertation credits must be designated by the program advisory committee as appropriate for the student's cognate area.

Additional/elective credits. Many students will find they have room in their program of study for one or more additional/elective courses after they have met the minimum core, focused area of study, and cognate requirements. Students will consult with their program advisory committee to identify appropriate additional/elective courses.

Dissertation. The University of Alabama Graduate School requires that students complete 24 hours of dissertation credit. In the College of Communication and Information Sciences, dissertation credits are completed by enrolling in CIS 699: Dissertation Research.

Summary of required credits. In sum, students allocate credit hours as follows:

  • Core: 15 hours
  • Focused area of study: 18-30 hours
  • Cognate: 9-15 hours
  • Additional/elective: 0-18 hours
  • Dissertation: 24 hours

Other requirements. In addition to the credit hour and coursework requirements specified above, the following policies apply:

  • A minimum of 36 hours of coursework must be completed after enrollment in the CIS doctoral program.
  • Up to 12 of these 36 hours may be transferred from a student's masters program if approved by the student's program advisory committee. Credits so approved must have been earned within a period of no more than six years prior to admission.
  • A minimum of 24 hours of coursework must be at the 600 level. The remainder of hours of approved graduate course credit must be at the 500 or 600 level. No cross-listed 400/500-level course may be taken in the doctoral degree program. A maximum of six hours of 400- or 400/500-level credit may be transferred if completed as part of a master's degree program.
  • Each student must complete a minimum of three CIS doctoral seminar courses, which include all courses numbered CIS 650 through CIS 672. No doctoral seminar class that may be deemed by the student's program advisory committee to count toward fulfilling the research methods requirement may be counted toward this minimum number of three doctoral seminar courses. In other words, if a program advisory committee approves a doctoral seminar course as a research methods course, this course cannot also be counted toward meeting the requirements for three doctoral seminar courses.

Required Plan of Study

By the time each doctoral student has completed 30 graduate semester hours of UA and/or transfer work toward the degree, the student must have a doctoral Plan of Study approved by the dean of the University of Alabama Graduate School. Failure to obtain approval of the Plan of Study by the completion of 30 hours may result in the student’s having a hold placed on future registrations.

Students admitted to the doctoral program may be required to complete additional coursework to be prepared for doctoral-level (600-level) study and research in communication and information sciences, at the discretion of the student's program advisory committee or the CIS associate dean for graduate studies.

Doctoral students who begin the program with incomplete master's theses must complete the master's thesis during the first year of doctoral study. Students must provide official transcripts of their master's degree work as evidence that their master's degree has been awarded. If a student fails to provide the transcript, the College may refuse to administer the PhD preliminary examination and/or may withdraw financial support. The Graduate School may nullify the doctoral program admission.

Scholastic requirements

A student must maintain cumulative grade point average of at least 3.00 on a 4.00 scale for graduate courses undertaken following admission to the doctoral program. A doctoral student whose grade point average falls below 3.00 at any time after 6 semester hours have been completed will be placed on academic warning by the Graduate School and the College of Communication and Information Sciences.

  • A student on academic warning will not be permitted to apply for admission to candidacy and may not hold an assistantship.
  • A student who earns a grade below “B” in more than two courses or who remains on academic warning for more than one semester is subject to removal from the program at the discretion of the college's associate dean for graduate studies.

Students who are dropped from the program may petition the college for readmission. The college may in turn make a  request to the dean of the university Graduate School for approval of the student's readmission.

Preliminary examination

A preliminary examination is required of all doctoral candidates. The examination is given after all required course work and other work prescribed by the student’s Program Advisory Committee has been completed. The examination must be completed at least three months before the degree is awarded.

The student demonstrates, through written and oral examinations, a capacity to understand, synthesize, and apply communication theory and research techniques, as well as demonstrate knowledge of the pertinent literature, issues, and recent advances in the student's area of focus and cognate area of study. In other words, the examination must cover: (1) theory, (2) research methods, (3) the student's area of focus, and (4) the student's cognate area.

The preliminary examination is a written examination administered by the student's program advisory committee, which may call on other faculty members associated with the student's coursework for assistance in preparing the examination. Sixteen hours are set aside for the examination—four hours for each division (theory, methods, focused area of study, and cognate). The examination is to be completed within a two-week period.

The oral portion of the examination is required of all students and will be scheduled as soon as possible following the completion of the written examination. Immediately following the oral examination, the examination committee will determine whether the student has passed, must perform additional work to demonstrate competency in one or more areas of the examination, or has failed the examination. When additional work is required, the examining committee may choose to administer another oral examination. In the case of a clear failure, re-examination must take place after six months and before twelve months have elapsed. Each of the four portions of the preliminary examination may be taken only twice. The examining committees will rule either pass or fail on the second examination.

Admission to candidacy

A student is certified by the dean of the UA Graduate School for admission to candidacy for the PhD in Communication & Information Sciences after meeting the following requirements:

  • completion of the program of coursework and other requirements prescribed by the student's program advisory committee, approved by the CIS associate dean for graduate studies, and approved by the dean of the UA Graduate School on the Plan of Study and Admission to Candidacy forms
  • demonstration, by passing the preliminary examination, of competence in the theory, research methods, the focused area of study, and the cognate
  • a successful defense of a dissertation proposal
  • approval by the UA Graduate School of the Admission to Candidacy for the Doctoral Degree

A department-approved Admission to Candidacy for the Doctoral Degree is submitted to the UA Graduate School as soon as possible after passing the comprehensive (preliminary) examination.

Dissertation committee

Following a successful completion of preliminary examinations, the candidate for the PhD in Communication and Information Sciences must form a dissertation committee.

The dissertation committee is composed of at least five members. The Graduate Faculty of the College of Communication and Information Sciences must be represented by at least three members. A fourth member may be from CIS or from a college or school outside the College of Communication and Information Sciences, but he or she must have graduate faculty status. A fifth member, to be appointed by the Graduate School of the University, must be a member of the Graduate Faculty in a division other than the College of Communication and Information Sciences; this so-called “Outside Member” represents the UA Graduate Faculty at large. Only full members of the Graduate Faculty may chair doctoral dissertations.

At least one committee member other than the chair must have full membership in the Graduate Faculty of the College of Communication and Information Sciences. All other members may be associate members. However, no more than one temporary member of the Graduate Faculty may serve on any given committee.

The UA graduate dean’s approval of the proposed dissertation committee must be obtained before significant progress is made on the dissertation--typically just before or just after the dissertation proposal meeting. For this purpose, the student submits the form for Appointment/Change of a Doctoral Dissertation Committee.

Dissertation

After successful completion of the preliminary examination, degree candidates must submit a written proposal to their dissertation committee.

The proposal describes the importance of the proposed topic, outlines the hypotheses to be evaluated, provides and overview of relevant literature, specifies the methodology to be used, and lays includes a timetable for completion of the project. The dissertation must make a significant original contribution to the field of communication and information sciences and must demonstrate the candidate's ability to report that research in writing in a clear, comprehensive, and scholarly manner.

The student must submit the proposal, and later the dissertation, to the committee at least 14 days prior to the defense. After the proposal has been circulated among the members, the student's dissertation committee meets for the student's oral defense of the proposal. The candidate must complete the dissertation and all other degree requirements within seven years of the date of admission to the doctoral program.

Final examination

The candidate must present a copy of the final draft of the dissertation to each committee member at least two weeks before the scheduled date of the final examination. After the dissertation has been completed and accepted by the candidate's dissertation committee for purposes of the examination, the candidate will be given a final oral examination by the dissertation committee.

The final examination is concerned primarily with the research embodied in the dissertation and with the field in which the dissertation lies, but it may extend over the student's entire primary field of study. The final oral examination is governed by the rules of the Graduate School of The University of Alabama.

The dissertation must comply with the regulations in A Student Guide to Preparing Electronic Theses and Dissertations. Graduate School deadlines, including each semester's dissertation deadline, are available at the Graduate School's homepage.

Electronic submission of theses and dissertations (ETD) is required.  Consult the ETD website for details of ETD submission.

Expedited Admission Track into the CIS Doctoral Program

The Expedited Admission Track into the CIS doctoral program allows highly qualified students to be admitted into the doctoral program after they complete an undergraduate degree.  Such students will begin graduate coursework in a specific master's degree program of the College and complete their graduate degree as College-wide doctoral candidates, without having to reapply for admission or apply to transfer credit hours from the master's program into the doctoral program. In short, if admitted on the expedited track, candidates will be able to count as many as 24 hours completed in their master's program of study--rather than the college-stipulated maximum of 12 hours--toward their doctoral degree.
 
Students admitted on the expedited track would be required, upon completion of 24 hours of graduate coursework, to take a comprehensive, qualifying examination administered by their academic advisor, program committee, and two representatives of the doctoral program selected by the CIS associate dean for graduate studies. The doctoral program representatives will lead the committee’s determination of the overall quality of the comprehensive exam answers. If the candidate passes the qualifying examination, the candidate will be approved to continue in the CIS doctoral program. The completed 24 credit hours then also will apply toward the minimum of 48 hours of graduate course work required for the PhD. Upon completion of graduate work, such candidates will receive the master's degree, along with the PhD.  Students deemed not to have demonstrated sufficient mastery to qualify for continuing in the doctoral program will be permitted to complete the remaining requirements for their designated MA program and receive that degree from the College upon its completion.

Criteria for Expedited Admission Track

Students who wish to apply for the expedited admission track must meet the following criteria:

  • Hold regular admission status for a specific College master's program and for admission into the PhD program
  • Submit a statement of purpose indicating interest and commitment to graduate work through the doctoral level
  • Upon completing 24 hours of graduate coursework, passing a comprehensive, qualifying exam for continuing toward the doctoral degree
  • Earn a certificate of completion, or equivalent, for the master's program, whereupon official admission into the doctoral program would be recognized

The UA Graduate School stipulates that the doctoral degree requires a minimum of 48 hours of graduate coursework and 24 hours of dissertation. The expedited track meets this requirement. It is recommend that during their master's program matriculation students complete 600-level CIS classes likely meet the theory and research methods requirements for the doctoral degree. See the Coursework section above for details about theory and research methods requirements in the CIS doctoral degree program. Also, please note in the Coursework section above the policy that doctoral students must complete at least 24 hours in 600-level classes. This is very feasible for expedited track students so long as they plan their master's program of study with this in mind.