Areas of Study: Overview

The mission of the Department of Communication at the University of Delaware is to both empower students in their personal and professional lives, and to provide an ethical compass for navigating the complexities of modern society.

To this end, graduate work in the Department of Communication focuses on two goals, offering excellent training in social science, and placing MA graduates in distinguished doctoral programs or professional careers. The faculty is committed to providing master students with multiple opportunities to collaborate with faculty on research projects and to critically assess communication theories from the perspective of active researchers.

The Communication Department has developed and maintained strong ties to the best doctoral programs in the field by sending highly trained and talented graduates onto further study and scholarship. In addition, the Communication Department also provides quality internships for students planning professional careers in media analysis, production, or public relations. There are three main areas of study (Interpersonal Communication, Mass Communication, and Organizational Communication) and one secondary area (Public Relations). The program does not include courses in journalism or broadcasting.

The Department of Communication offers two alternative tracks for obtaining the M.A. Degree: The thesis and the comprehensive exam. These differ in terms of (1) the ultimate goals and career direction of the student, and (2) the exit project required of the student. The thesis option provides the student with a major research experience, generally in preparation for further graduate study at the doctoral level. The comprehensive exam, on the other hand, is designed for students who do not intend to pursue their education beyond the M.S. Degree. Students should declare their intention to pursue one of these tracks at the end of the first year of their program.

The structure of our program necessitates that full time students begin the course of study in the fall semester. Thirty credit hours (essentially 10 three-credit courses) are required to complete the degree. Fifteen of the 30 hours come from required courses focusing upon theory and methodology. Three are required of all students: The Theory and Epistemology of Communication (COMM601), Research Methods - Procedures (COMM603), and Research Methods - Analysis (COMM604). The two remaining required courses are selected from three theoretical courses: Theory of Mass Communication (COMM670), Theory of Interpersonal Communication (COMM630), and Theory of Organizational Communication (COMM610). Six credits may be taken outside the Communication Department in a related area.

Students who select to write a thesis have 9 hours of elective courses and 6 hours of COM 869, Thesis Research. The thesis typically is a research project in an area of interest to the student, employing historical, descriptive, analytical, field, or experimental procedures. The thesis usually takes a year or longer to complete; most students who opt to write the thesis finish up in the summer after their second year of study. Successful completion of the thesis requires an oral examination by the candidate's thesis committee after each member of the committee has had time to review the project thoroughly.

Students in the comprehensive exam-track will have 15 hours of elective coursework in addition to the 15 hours of required courses. Six of these 15 hours must be on a focused topic or area that has been approved by their graduate advisor and committee. The comprehensive exam covers the entirety of the student's coursework, including the student's specialty area. It will not cover new material except as needed to bolster the specialty area. It consists of both a written and oral portion. The written portion of the exam, generally scheduled for the week before spring break, is 6 hours in length: 2 hours on research methods, 2 hours on general communication theory, and 2 hours on the specialty topic. The oral defense of the comprehensive exam is held as soon as possible after the student has completed the written portion and provides an arena for the student to answer any additional questions of committee members. The student who chooses to take the comprehensive exam generally completes all requirements for the degree in time to graduate in May. Students are permitted one retake of the written portion of the comprehensive exam.

Students in both the thesis and comprehensive exam tracks will work with a faculty committee made up of a primary advisor and two additional members of the faculty. Students meet with the Graduate Director during the spring of their first year of study to review their program, to select the thesis or comprehensive track, and to discuss which professor should be asked to be their advisor. Each student then must ask the professor to be their advisor and continue to work with the advisor to determine the final membership of their committee. Students should realize that they may not always be able to work with their first choice for an advisor (or other committee members) due to sabbaticals, a faculty member's over commitment, etc.
Areas of Study
Graduate Courses
Application Info
Graduate Program Policies Handbook
Completed MA Theses