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Degree Programs
Communication Studies

The Department of Communication Studies offers a Master of Arts in Applied Communication with optional concentrations in corporate communication, health communication, medi­a studies and public communication. This department also offers a Doctor of Philosophy in Health Communication.

Program Goal

The overarching goal of this unique program in Applied Com­munication is to provide students with the competencies and skills necessary to address specific communication issues and problems that are socially relevant and to suggest or imple­ment change. The primary intellectual goal of the program is to increase our students' understanding of the theoretical implica­tions of discipline-specific knowledge and to enhance their ability to understand and predict human interaction relative to realistic, applied outcomes associated with contemporary social problems. A practical goal of the program is to educate professionals who grasp the complexities of communication problems and who are able to develop and execute strategies and create programs to address such issues.

Student Learning Outcomes

Students completing the Applied Communication M.A. curriculum will:

  • communicate both orally and in writing for professional and academic audiences
  • synthesize, critique, and apply theoretical constructs in communication studies
  • select and evaluate appropriate methodologies for conducting communication research
  • propose and justify solutions to real-world communication problems
  • design and conduct guided communication research

Admission Requirements

Our Department prides itself on the diversity of majors from which students enter our program of study. Prior to entering our master’s program, students should have (1) a baccalaure­ate degree from an accredited institution, (2) an introduction to research methods, (3) experience in the analysis of com­munication phenomena, and (4) experience with writing in an academic context. Students who do not have this preparatory work may be admitted provisionally with additional course­work required prior to admission, and/or additional credit hour requirements imposed as a part of the minimum requirements for the Master of Arts degree.

The Admissions Committee will evaluate an applicant’s prepa­ration and goals to ensure that the applicant meets the require­ments of Indiana University Graduate School and that the ap­plicant’s needs and goals are compatible with the Department’s program. The Department seeks applicants who have strong analytical and writing skills, a strong liberal arts background, an interest in communication, and applicable work-related experiences. Generally, successful applicants will have cumulative grade point averages of 3.0 or higher at the undergraduate level. The Admissions Committee considers all indicators of the appli­cant’s ability to complete the degree successfully.

Applicants should submit the following:

  1. Completed application form for Indiana University Gradu­ate School.
  2. Personal Statement.
  3. Official transcripts of all college level coursework.
  4. Three letters of recommendation (from university instructors and/or professional associates) sent directly to the Director of Graduate Studies.
  5. *GRE scores are not required for admission to the program; however GRE scores may be submitted if an applicant feels the scores will enhance his/her application and an applicant wishing to be considered for scholarships or fellowship support should note that strong scores on the GRE General Test ARE REQUIRED and may have a positive impact on his/her application.
  6. Interna­tional students must submit TOEFL scores. Information about TOEFL can be obtained from the International Affairs Office, 902 W. New York Street, ES 2126, Indianapolis, IN 46202 or 317- 274-7000. 

The following deadlines must be observed in order to receive consideration for admission:

  • January 15—Priority consideration for fall semester
  • May 15—Fall regular admission

Degree Requirements

Completion of 30 credit hours including:

  • 12 credit hours of core requirements.  These include:
    • COMM-C 500: Advanced Communication Theory
    • COMM-C 501: Applied Quantitative Research Methods
    • One of COMM-C 502, COMM-C 530, COMM-C 531, or COMM-C 680
    • COMM-C 503: Applied Learning Project, or COMM-C 597: Thesis
  • 18 additional hours
  • Each student may take 3 credit hours of interdisciplinary electives from outside of the Department of Communication Studies, as approved by the student’s advisor. However, this is not required.
  • The student must maintain a B+ average (3.3) or higher to graduate. 
  • The student must complete either a thesis or an applied learning project to complete the degree requirements.

The Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D) program in Health Communication includes the following main program objectives.  Students will:

  • Obtain competency for teaching and research in areas that include:  health and interpersonal relationships, intercultural health, and mediated communication in healthcare contexts including health campaign development.  Ethical questions regarding each of these health communication contexts will be explored as well.
  • Initiate, participate, and develop competency in research on health and medical communication issues.
  • Gain skills in understanding clinical problems affected by communication.
  • Develop the capabilities necessary to translate research on clinical problems impacted by communication into practice.
  • Receive training for academic jobs and healthcare professional positions.

Special Departmental Requirements

(See also general University Graduate School requirements.)

Admission Requirements

Required Coursework

  • Students entering the program must have at least a Master’s degree (minimum of 30 credit hours) in Communication or a related social science or health discipline. Preference will be given to those students with degrees from communication studies programs.
  • Students should have a GPA of 3.5 or higher in their Master’s coursework.
  • Students are expected to have taken some foundational coursework in Communication. For students entering the program with no background in Communication, additional preparatory coursework in the discipline may be required as a condition of admission.

Required Testing

  • Applicants are required to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) Revised General Test (Quantitative, Verbal, and Analytical Writing). While the Department of Communication Studies has not instituted a fixed minimum GRE-score requirement, successful candidates typically have scores between 150-170 in Verbal Reasoning and in Quantitative Reasoning and a score between 4.0-6.0 in Analytical Writing.
  • In addition, non-native English speakers who did not complete a degree at a college or university in the U.S. must take an English competency test. The student may complete either of the following:
    • Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). The expectation for admission is a minimum score of 88 on the TOEFL iBT (internet based test). Please note that this score represents the minimum that will be considered. In practice, we look for scores above 100.
    • International English Language Testing System (IELTS). The minimum acceptable IELTS score is 6.5; in practice, we look for an IELTS of 7 or more. It is required that applicants take the academic reading and writing modules, not the general training reading and writing modules. Please note that this score represents the minimum that will be considered. In practice, we look for scores above 7.

Additional Required Materials

  • A written statement of purpose for entering into this Ph.D. program,
  • Three letters of recommendation from individuals in professional positions able to judge success
  • Curriculum vitae
  • Graduate and undergraduate transcripts
  • A writing sample demonstrating academic writing ability

Undergraduate Record

Graduate School requirements include a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university, a minimum 3.0 grade point average on a scale of 4, and a minimum 3.0 average in the major field.

Applications will be viewed in their entirety. A candidate’s outstanding qualifications in one area can be balanced against more marginal qualifications in another dimension. Keep in mind that admission is competitive and financial support even more competitive. Most of the students admitted and supported will exceed the minimal requirements

Program Requirements

IU requires a minimum of 90 credit hours of approved graduate coursework beyond the Bachelor’s degree. A maximum of 30 credit hours of approved graduate work completed with a grade of B or better may be transferred with the approval of the advisory committee and the Dean of the University Graduate School. All coursework taken for the Ph.D. must be completed within seven years prior to the passing of qualifying exams, including any transfer courses. Coursework that does not meet this criterion may be revalidated.

Students entering the program must have at least a Master’s (minimum of 30 credit hours) in a related social science or health discipline, with preference given to those students with degrees from communication studies programs. Overall, the requirements include core courses (15 credit hours), seminars in content areas focused on (but not limited to) interpersonal relationship communication, intercultural communication, mediated/campaign communication (at least 15 credit hours), minor (9-12 credit hours), field work/research (6-9 credit hours), and dissertation credits (12 credit hours).

Core Courses (15 credit hours) required of all students

  • COMM-C 500 Advanced Communication Theory (3)
  • COMM-C 592 Advanced Health Communication (3)
  • COMM-C 680 Doctoral Qualitative Research Methods (3)
  • COMM-C 690 Doctoral Quantitative Methods (3)
  • COMM-C 695 Seminar in Communication and Healthcare (3)

Seminars in Content Areas (at least 15 credit hours)

  • Students may select from the courses offered within Communication Studies.  In addition, other cross-listed seminars from affiliated faculty in departments or programs such as the Indiana Center for Intercultural Communication (I.C.I.C.).  Medical Humanities, Medical Sociology, and other health-related areas may count toward the student's degree with approval from the student's advisor.

Minor Area of Emphasis (9-12 credit hours): All students must complete a minor in an area related to their primary health communication focus. For example, a student hoping to work in a non-profit health organization might pursue a minor area of emphasis in public health, health informatics, or philanthropic studies. Students hoping to work in the government sector might pursue law and health, industrial organizational psychology, or public health. Minor areas of Ph.D. study might also include bioethics, nursing, bioinformatics, clinical psychology, medical sociology, marketing, social work, health economics, science, or any area in the health and life sciences disciplines or the Liberal Arts disciplines connected to the student’s area of primary focus. An interdisciplinary minor can be developed in consultation with the student’s advisor and advisory committee as well as a minor in research methods/tools. The minor area of emphasis must be approved by the student’s advisor and advisory committee and contain a minimum of three graduate level courses (9 credit hours) in accordance with the department or unit in which the minor is housed. Some departments require a 12 credit hour minor.

Comprehensive Examinations: All students must take written examinations that cover both broad knowledge of the health communication field as well as specialized knowledge of a chosen area of health communication. Comprehensive exams are taken after the student has completed a minimum of 39 credit hours (beyond the Master’s) including the required core, seminars, and minor coursework.

Fieldwork /Research (6-9 credit hours): All students are required to initiate or participate in original research with the approval of advisor. This field/research work is geared to focus the student’s research interest to serve as a spring-board for the dissertation work.

Ph.D. Dissertation (12 credit hours): Dissertation credits are structured so that the student is unencumbered with completing coursework and can focus completely on conducting research and writing the dissertation for completion of the degree.


  • COMM-C 500 Advanced Communication Theory (3 cr.) Students explore how scholars from various traditions have described and explained the universal human experience of communication. Students develop an understanding of a variety of communication theories to more completely interpret events in more flexible, useful, and discriminating ways.
  • COMM-C 501 Applied Quantitative Research Methods in Communication (3 cr.) The course is designed to offer an opportunity to examine, assess, and conduct quantitative research that employs communication theory and qualitative research methods as a means to test theory in applied settings and/or as a means to applied ends (i.e. problem-solving policy analysis).
  • COMM-C 502 Applied Qualitative Research Methods in Communication (3 cr.) Inductive (data-to-theory) approach to knowledge, and associated sequential and non-sequential methods for studying communication in applied everyday situations, e.g. friendships and other close personal dyads, families, small groups, organizations, and public, media, historical, computer mediated, or health-related contexts.
  • COMM-C 503 Applied Learning Project (3 cr.) An applied learning project that provides students with a culminating educational experience. The project gives students the opportunity to apply their knowledge of communicative processes to real-life organizational problems, and provides the opportunity to produce a body of work reflecting their abilities.
  • COMM-C 504 Pro-seminar in Communication Graduate Studies (3 cr.) This course provides an orientation to graduate school expectations and a stronger grasp of diverse approaches (methods) to constructing knowledge via Communication Studies Research. Students will be expected to perform at graduate level standards in writing for an academic audience, thinking and arguing critically, and analyzing/synthesizing published research.
  • COMM-C 505 Pro-seminar in Communication Pedagogy (1 cr.) This course is designed to provide students with a survey of the concepts and strategies for effective pedagogy in communication.  Emphasis is placed on building skills and confidence in designing lessons, using appropriate instructional and assessment strategies, and developing a unique and coherent teaching philosophy.
  • COMM-C 510 Health Provider-Consumer Communication (3 cr.) Designed to teach communication skills and practices related to health care talk by examining transactional communication within health care contexts. Topics covered in this course focus directly upon interpersonal dialogue between health care providers and patients.
  • COMM-C 520 Advanced Public Communication (3 cr.) Critical analysis and employment of rhetorical strategies in forms and types of professional discourses incorporating current technologies. COMM-C 521 Family Communication in Health Contexts (3 cr.) This interdisciplinary seminar focuses on communication involving families in health care settings, addressing significant issues for graduate/professional students who will work with families, including students in Comm. Studies, Nursing, Psychology, Social Work, Public Health, and Medicine.  Topics include communication with families about health care concerns and family-patient-health provider systems.
  • COMM-C 526 Effective Media Strategies (3 cr.) This course specifically focuses on the effective use of media as a means of persuasion. This course explains how ideas are expressed through techniques unique to the language of radio, television, film, and the Internet.
  • COMM-C 528 Group Communication and Organizations (3 cr.) This seminar-format course examines the ways in which informal groups and communication networks facilitate a variety of organizational processes (i.e., socialization, diffusion of innovation). Emphasis is placed on developing theoretical understanding of informal groups in organizations as well as on methodological issues involved in studying communication networks in organizations.
  • COMM-C 530 Communication Criticism (3 cr.) This course will introduce students to criticism as a method of studying persuasive messages in speeches, fiction, mass media, musical lyrics, political campaign literature, art, and other modes of communication in contemporary culture.
  • COMM-C 531 Media Theory and Criticism (3 cr.) A course organized primarily around theories and critical strategies commonly considered within the broad category of contemporary criticism. The course utilizes primary theoretical texts to introduce students to a variety of methodologies employed in analyzing media messages, and emphasizes the application of theoretical frameworks on the analysis of specific media texts.
  • COMM-C 533 Improvisation for Scientists (1 cr.) Students will learn to communicate effectively and responsively through a series of exercises drawn from the methods of improvisational theater. Students will practice connecting to an audience, paying dynamic attention to others, reading nonverbal cues, and responding appropriately.
  • COMM-C 534 Distilling the Message (1 cr.) Students learn to communicate clearly and vividly about complex scientific research and why it matters, in terms non-scientists can understand. Students practice finding common ground with lay audiences and adjusting levels of message complexity for different audiences.
  • COMM-C 535 Using Electronic Media (1 cr.) Given the significant gaps in understanding between the public and scientists, this course trains students in the sciences and health professions to format and structure formatted and structured complex, scientific information for a variety of new, electronic communication platforms including social media. Students will collate, synthesize, and translate scientific evidence into information that a non-expert audience can access, understand, and act on.
  • COMM-C 536 Connecting with the Community (1 cr.) Students will theorize and develop techniques for shared meaning-making with community partners. They test methods to develop common ground between experts and community members including the lay public and policy makers. Activities focus on developing trust, open communication, and sharing expertise that values and respects lived experiences of community members.
  • COMM-C 544 Advanced Relational Communication (3 cr.) Applications of communication theory/ research in such areas as relational culture and relationship development. Includes a scholarly project on a real relationship, and applications of research to areas such as pedagogy and couple/family therapy.
  • COMM-C 580 Advanced Organizational Communication (3 cr.) The course provides a solid foundation of concepts for understanding and discussing human organizations. Students will analyze, evaluate, and apply the theories and practices related to organizational issues. Through case studies, readings, and practical applications, this course combines a theory-based understanding of communication in organizations with real-world applications.
  • COMM-C 582 Advanced Intercultural Communication (3 cr.) Exploration of issues related to the intercultural communication process. Consideration of the role of social, cultural, and historical contexts in intercultural interactions. Examination of the relationship between culture and communication from the socio-psychological, interpretive, and critical perspectives.
  • COMM-C 591 Topics/Seminar in Applied Communication (3 cr.) This is a revolving topics course. The changing nature of the topic allows graduate students to explore, synthesize, and integrate knowledge of the field of communication and the particular discipline of applied communication while focusing on a single topic not otherwise addressed in the course of study. May be repeated for credit.
  • COMM-C 592 Advanced Health Communication (3 cr.) A course designed to teach communication skills and practices related to health care by examining health care communication theory. Topics range across communication levels (interpersonal, intrapersonal, group, organization, mass media, and mediated communication) within a variety of health care contexts.
  • COMM-C 593 Advanced Family Communication (3 cr.) Applications of theory and research on the role of communication in creating and maintaining marriages/committed couples and families. Includes a scholarly term paper on a real couple or family's communication.
  • COMM-C 594 Communication and Conflict Management in Organizations (3 cr.) This seminar-format course examines the communication exchanges that facilitate conflict management within organizational contexts. Specific attention is focused on negotiation and mediation; however, the communication of alternative means of conflict and dispute resolution are also discussed. In addition, students will be introduced to methods for assessing conflict interaction in organizations.
  • COMM-C 597 Thesis (3 cr.) Applied communication students who choose the thesis option will identify a research topic and develop it under the guidance of the student's thesis director (IUPUI professor). The thesis topic will be related to the field of applied communication in its foci and method.
  • COMM-C 598 Internship (1-3 cr.) This course integrates applied communication theory and practice in a practice setting. Students will apply theoretical concepts and research tools, conduct projects, and interact with communication professionals in the designated setting. In concert with the student's chosen area of concentration, he or she will address issues of importance to that particular organization.
  • COMM-C 599 Independent Study (1-6 cr.) This course provides students with the opportunity to synthesize and apply knowledge acquired through course work and professional experience into a completed research project in applied communication. Students will work independently on a topic/issue of choice under the guidance of graduate faculty.
  • COMM-C 620 Computer-Mediated Communication (3 cr.) An overview of practical and scholarly approaches to computer mediated communication. The readings address mass communication, discourse, community, gender, intercultural understanding, ethics, interpersonal relationships, identity, organizational communication, and education.
  • COMM-C 621 Persuasion (3 cr.) Takes a rhetorical/critical approach to persuasion in its broadest sense, how it affects our lives everyday and how we can find evidence of persuasive tactics in unexpected places. We will look broadly at theories of persuasion and their application across contexts and fields.
  • COMM-C 644 Political Communication (3 cr.) Examines the public communication involved in various political contexts. We will consider the communication involved in political campaigns, advertising, and oratory; social media, technology, and popular culture; the news, framing, and political media; citizenship, public deliberation, and decision making in what some argue is a divided political culture. We will read and discuss state of the art research in political communication and meet individuals who are currently working in a communication capacity in public political campaigns.
  • COMM-C 650 Health Communication in Media (3 cr.) Focus on the effect of media on health behavior. Theories of health behavior change and media effects examined; applications of theory to health campaigns evaluated. Examples of mediated health campaigns and effectiveness discussed. Considerations include: interplay among theory, research, practice; how theory informs practice; how research aids in theory construction/refinement.
  • COMM-C 680 Qualitative Research Methods (3 cr.) An introduction to qualitative research methods in communication studies, with an emphasis on health communication research. Provides an overview of several techniques for gathering and analyzing qualitative data.
  • COMM-C 690 Doctoral Quantitative Methods (3 cr.) Course focuses on the principles and theory of descriptive and inferential statistics within the context of health communication research. Topics include ttest, ANOVA, MANOVA, ANCOVA, correlation, multiple regression, and SEM. Students will gain proficiency using SPSS to analyze novel data sets, and will conduct their own health communication research projects and report the results.
  • COMM-C 695 Seminar in Communication and Healthcare (3 cr.) This seminar offers an interface between learning from practicing providers and experts in medical care specialties and becoming enmeshed in health communication research. The course is structured so that the student gains insights from experts in the medical field while also gaining an overview of research issues through reading and engaging in health communication research.
  • COMM-C 700 Fieldwork/Research (1 - 9 cr.) This course is designed to allow PhD students to complete independent research projects prior to enrollment in the dissertation course. Students can enroll in 1-9 credit hours in any given semester, depending on the nature of the project. The fieldwork/research course is designed to focus the student's research interests and to serve as a spring-board for dissertation work. Students must have ample preparation in some theoretical area and in one or more research methods prior to registration for the course. The course will allow students to initiate or conduct a research study, including the collection and examination of data (broadly defined), to answer a question or to test a hypothesis related to communication theory. May be repeated for credit.
  • COMM-C 810 Dissertation (1 - 12 cr.) This course is eligible for a deferred grade.