Overseen by the Office for Graduate Studies, the C&IS doctoral program provides a multidisciplinary approach to the study of communication and information sciences. You will work with world leaders in sports communication, health communication, emerging media and more to choose your plan of study and advance your individual line of inquiry.
You can select a concentration in areas in which PhDs are in high demand: Applied Communication, Book and Publishing Studies, Health Communication, Interpersonal Communication, Media Processes and Effects, Rhetoric and Political Discourse, or Social Justice and Inclusion Advocacy. Through your work in the C&IS doctoral program, you will develop research, leadership and teaching skills to perpetuate the advancement of knowledge in the fields of communication and information sciences.
Students looking to approve alternate core classes virtually can do so by clicking here.
Representing four academic units of Advertising and Public Relations, Communication Studies, Journalism and Creative Media, and Library and Information Studies, C&IS offers a multidisciplinary doctoral program in communication and information sciences that enables students to either build an interdisciplinary plan of study or specialize in one of seven concentrations, in Applied Communication, Book and Publishing Studies, Health Communication, Interpersonal Communication, Media Processes and Effects, Rhetoric and Political Discourse, or Social Justice and Inclusion Advocacy. The interdisciplinary plan of study allows students to craft a curricular plan unique to their skills and interests while the concentrations provide students an opportunity to earn distinction through a prescribed suite of courses preparing them to contribute to the academe as distinguished scholars and teachers at a variety of institutions across the globe.
Alongside the concentrations, the program emphasizes three signature areas of interdisciplinary research: emergent media, health communication, and sports communication. A core group of world-class graduate faculty across various disciplines focus their research agendas around these three areas. Students who take the interdisciplinary approach or select a concentration are encouraged to pursue their own research agendas in tandem with their coursework, with many individuals combining interests. Common pathways include researching health while completing coursework in media processes and effects or interpersonal communication, examining sports media alongside applied communication courses, or investigating emergent media in the context of our social justice and inclusion advocacy curriculum. Individual C&IS faculty also specialize in multiple additional areas of research, and students are encouraged to explore our website and faculty CVs to identify faculty who can mentor students in particular research areas. The skills and publications developed through researching alongside our faculty prepare graduates to become noteworthy scholars in their chosen fields.
C&IS doctoral students study in small classes and work closely with faculty mentors. At the same time, doctoral students benefit by having access to word-class research and teaching facilities and to more than 70 graduate faculty members. C&IS is one of the top 10 largest and most comprehensive colleges of its kind, supporting more than 2,500 undergraduate students. Doctoral students have opportunities to develop a teaching portfolio through teaching undergraduate classes aligned with their research interests, including courses in advertising, communication studies, creative media, information technology, journalism, leadership communication, mass communication, media studies, rhetoric, public speaking, and public relations. The pedagogical mentoring and teaching experiences provided to our doctoral students prepare them to succeed in the professoriate.
Financial support is readily available. More than 90% of our full time doctoral students are supported with assistantships or fellowships. Moreover, our assistantship assignments aim to provide students with experience both as teachers and as research assistants. Students are not type-cast or pigeon-holed into research or teaching tracks. Instead, students supported with assistantships devote their effort in roughly equal proportion to research and teaching. Additional information about financial aid is at The University of Alabama Graduate School website.
Applications for the doctoral program are submitted through The University of Alabama Graduate School (https://graduate.ua.edu/). The Graduate School website provides a great deal of information about graduate education across the university. Details about program requirements for the doctoral program in Communication and Information Sciences can be found in the University Graduate Catalog.
Applications are accepted on a rolling basis, throughout the year, for fall, spring, and summer entry. To receive full consideration for financial support, students who plan to enter in the Fall 2021 semester should complete their applications by February 1, 2021. Students who plan to enter in the Spring 2022 semester and wish to be considered for financial support should complete their applications by August 15, 2021. In most years, financial support is not available for students who plan a summer entry. Prospective students who desire financial support are encouraged to apply for fall or spring entry.
AdmissionsREAD MORE >>
The Graduate School of The University of Alabama administers admissions for the entire University. The Graduate School’s website has detailed admission policies, a copy of the graduate catalog, an electronic application, and other useful information for those considering graduate studies at the University. 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.
Normally, an applicant will have completed requirements for a master’s degree in a communication field or in library and information studies. Consideration will be given to individuals with advanced degrees in other fields if they can make clear cases showing how their previous graduate work would apply to doctoral study in communication and information sciences.
Applicants may be considered for regular admission if they have an undergraduate 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. 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 do not meet the GPA criterion for regular admission.
Applicants are not required to submit graduate admission test scores such as the Graduate Record Examination (GRE).
The required elements of the application include:
- Complete the Graduate School’s application form
- Pay the application fee
- Provide a Statement of Purpose. Please refer to these program specific guidelines in submitting your statement.
- Provide a resume/CV
- Provide names and contact information, including an email address and phone number, for three academic references in the “Other Documents” section. Actual letters of recommendation are not required. Please note that if you put names in the “Letters of Recommendation” section, those references will receive an automatic request to provide a letter in your behalf.
- Provide transcripts for each institution of higher education at which you have completed 15 or more credits (unofficial allowed)
- Provide English Language Proficiency Test Scores (for non-native speakers of English)
Admissions Without a Master’s Degree
The Expedited Admission Track into the C&IS 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 are encouraged to apply to be awarded the master’s degree when they have completed the requirements for the master’s degree. Students admitted on the expedited track must complete the requirements for master’s degree to be awarded the Ph.D. degree. Students supported in graduate assistant positions must complete the requirements for the master’s degree in four contiguous regular semesters of enrollment to be eligible to hold a graduate assistant position in the fifth and subsequent semesters in the program.
C&IS PhD OnlineREAD MORE >>
Applications into the online PhD in Communication & Information Sciences (C&IS) are limited to students who intend to pursue a focused area of study related to library and information studies. Students who wish to be considered for admission must specify their disciplinary interest in library and information studies and elaborate regarding their research interests in library and information studies in their statement of purpose. Online PhD students in C&IS are not eligible to complete a formal concentration in the program and are not eligible to pursue a focused area of study in any area other than library and information studies. Please contact the C&IS Office for Graduate Studies if you have any questions.
Financial AssistanceREAD MORE >>
The College of Communication and Information Sciences offers 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 divisions by November 1 for spring semester applications and by February 15 for all fall semester applications.
Complete a prescribed set of coursework in a specific content area that prepares you as a scholar and teacher in positions focusing on:
The concentration in Applied Communication will give you the background to understand the academic study of strategic communication management. The coursework in this concentration is designed to examine how the academic inquiry of persuasive communication can guide practice, specifically focusing on advertising, persuasion and public relations theory. You will gain knowledge in theories related to strategic communication management in a variety of settings, including corporate, health, nonprofit, sports and politics. You will gain expertise in approaching industry-driven communication problems through a scholarly lens
Book and Publishing Studies
The past and future of books and other published artifacts, and the processes of their generation and dissemination.
Health Communication at The University of Alabama is concerned with the role of communication, persuasion, stakeholder relationships, and mediated information in shaping the understanding, promotion, and practice of individual and community health, illness, and healing. Students in Health Communication can study a wide range of health communication topics, including patient-provider relationships, mediated presentations and representations of health information, development and analysis of health campaigns, communication by health organizations, and cultural approaches to health. Students learn the theoretical and methodological foundations necessary to conduct cutting-edge health communication research and engage in community-based projects designed to improve the health and well-being of their communities. Health Communication at The University of Alabama combines communication studies, media effects, journalism, information science, advertising, and public relations to create a truly interdisciplinary program. Along with coursework, students in Health Communication also have the opportunity to work closely with faculty on health communication projects as well as in the Health Communication Lab and the Standardized Patient Communication Lab.
The Interpersonal Communication concentration provides doctoral students with a theoretical and methodological foundation in the study of verbal and nonverbal communication in contexts related to interpersonal interaction, personal relationships, family relationships, diversity and inclusion as well as health and mediated contexts. Students will gain knowledge in the history, empirical developments, and practical applications of interpersonal communication research. The training in this concentration emphasizes intellectual and methodological diversity including social scientific, humanistic, and critical approaches as well as quantitative, qualitative, and mixed-methodologies. Our facilities, Human Communication Research Lab, Standardized Patient Laboratory, Focus Group Lab, Child Media Lab, and Psychophysiology Lab offer a variety of resources to conduct original student and collaborative research with faculty. This concentration aligns with ongoing research opportunities affiliated with the campus-wide, interdisciplinary collaborative Interpersonal Research Group (IRG) and the Alabama Life Institute.
Media Processes and Effects
The University of Alabama is recognized as one of the pioneering programs in the field of media processes and effects. Our list of faculty and alumni include top names in the field, including past and present editors of journals such as Communication Research, Media Psychology and the Journal of Computer Mediated Communication. Through coursework and hands-on experience in research labs, students in the Media Processes and Effects concentration gain insight into the processes behind the creation of mass media content and the mechanisms by which media exposure affects beliefs, attitudes, emotions, and behavior. Students are afforded access to state-of-the-art research facilities, including psychophysiological equipment, a movie theater, and a lab dedicated to the analysis of big data and social media networks. Research concerning media processes and effects has examined issues such as violence, sex, prejudice and politics.
Rhetoric and Political Discourse
Rhetoric and Political Discourse is a civically oriented PhD concentration focusing on the power of communication to shape identities, communities, nation states, and public culture. The program embraces intentionally flexible conceptualizations of rhetoric and communication in order to account for a rich variety of political phenomena in verbal, visual, acoustic, and digital contexts. Faculty regularly publish research in highly reputable journals and specialize in a wide range of areas, including deliberation, propaganda, war, public memory, gender, argumentation, protest, and persuasion. Courses are designed to provide a robust interpretive, critical, historical, and theoretical foundation tailored to individual student interests. Students will establish expertise in classical and contemporary approaches to the study of rhetoric and political discourse and apply those traditions to the myriad ways communication both contributes to and resolves contemporary problems. The College’s longstanding relationship to forensics informs our broad commitment to advocacy and collaboration. Students are encouraged to challenge disciplinary and methodological boundaries by taking complementary courses in Gender and Race Studies, Education, English, Political Science, and Religious Studies. The ultimate aim of the concentration is to develop engaged citizen-scholars equipped with the skills to understand, critique, and invent influential communication.
Social Justice and Inclusion Advocacy
The study of social justice and inclusion advocacy, through the lens of information and communication, aims to foster fairness, equality, and empowerment among diverse peoples, especially for those on the margins of society. This area of study concentrates on investigating the role of information, communication, and emerging technologies, as intellectual and action-driven spaces, in promoting research and public engagement. In particular, this concentration of study provides opportunities to explore the role of information-communication intersections to advance social justice objectives and to make the world a better place for all. The Social Justice and Inclusion Advocacy concentration provides theoretical and methodological foundations to redefine scholarship for information and communication researchers and practitioners and to cultivate a new vision of research, one that is action-oriented, community-engaged, and inclusive in its spirit to make a difference in real-world experiences. In their coursework, students examine the development of information and communication infrastructures, technologies, institutions, and polices as sites of power that harbor and support inequalities. Students draw on a broad array of scholarly and practical literature from information, communication, and interdisciplinary sources to explore what socially just outcomes and interventions might look like in their chosen areas of study and disciplinary backgrounds. Using the conceptual foundations of information and communication scholarship to scrutinize current social practice, students are able to investigate how to develop better social systems for traditionally underserved populations. They also have the opportunity to advance social justice scholarship within varied contexts of selected information and communication environments and community settings, as well as to integrate theories and methods of social justice and inclusion advocacy to address inequities in our global networked information society.
Signature Research Areas
Interpret the theoretical and methodological frameworks from your coursework through the lens of three signature research areas: emergent media, health communication, or sports communication, or consider partnering with individual faculty who focus on various other research agendas.
Faculty and students pursue research on social media, mobile communication, online interaction, and user-generated content. We utilize big data, research laboratories, and local partnerships to advance understandings of emergent media content, its production and dissemination, and its role in public reasoning.
Health communication research is one of the fastest-growing areas of investigation in communication. The College has a variety of research facilities and laboratory teams in which faculty and students collaborate on a wide range of health communication projects.
The University of Alabama produces more research in the area of sports communication than any American institution. Doctoral students are highly engaged in seminars and collaborative research projects focusing on the role of sports within all forms of the communication discipline.
Current Doctoral StudentsREAD MORE >>
Program RequirementsREAD MORE >>
For the most up-to-date curriculum requirements, please visit the Graduate Catalog.
A student must maintain a 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 12 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 after completing nine semester hours subsequent to being placed on academic warning is subject to removal from the program at the discretion of the college’s associate dean for graduate
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.
A preliminary examination is required of all doctoral students. 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 six months before the degree is awarded.
The student must demonstrate, through written and oral examinations, a capacity to understand, synthesize, and apply theory and research techniques in communication and information sciences, as well as demonstrate knowledge of the pertinent literature, issues, and recent advances in the student’s concentration or focused area of study and cognate area of study. In other words, the examination must cover the student’s (1) theory core, (2) research methodology core, (3) concentration or focused area of study, and (4) cognate area. The written examination is 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, concentration or focused area of study, and cognate). The exams are closed book exams, that is, students answer the exam questions without reference material or internet access. The exams must be taken on campus, on four consecutive working days (one day for each of the four question areas).
The oral portion of the examination (required) will be scheduled as quickly as possible following the written examination. Immediately following the oral examination, the examination committee will convene to determine whether the student has passed, must perform additional work to demonstrate understanding of competency in one or more areas, or has failed the examination. In the case of a clear failure, the 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 committee will rule either pass or fail on the second examination.
The University of Alabama recognizes that doctoral students should be immersed in advanced study and inquiry, interact extensively and meaningfully with faculty and peers, engage with the academic community in their field, and have access to the educational resources of the university. To achieve these goals, a minimum of 50 percent of coursework hours to be counted in a student’s doctoral program must be from The University of Alabama (exclusive of dissertation research hours and subject to the Graduate Catalog’s Transfer of Credit policies). Additionally, 100 percent of dissertation credit hours must be from The University of Alabama. Diverse academic traditions, rapidly changing instructional modalities, and new student populations are acknowledged and accommodated with this policy.
Advisory and Dissertation CommitteesREAD MORE >>
The Program Advisory Committee supervises the planning and completion of a student’s program of study and leads the student through the preliminary examination. Students are encouraged to establish this committee during their first semester in the program and no later than the semester in which the student will complete 18 semester hours of UA credit toward the degree. Students are encouraged to establish this committee at least six months before the preliminary examination is to occur. Students are not permitted to schedule the preliminary examination before this committee is established.
The Program Advisory Committee must be composed of at least four faculty members. All members must be regular UA faculty. All members must be members of the UA Graduate Faculty. The chair of the committee must hold a Ph.D. degree. Only one affiliate member of the Graduate Faculty may serve on a Program Advisory Committee. Additionally, affiliate members may not chair a Program Advisory Committee. No more than one member may be from a college or school outside the College of Communication and Information Sciences. To establish this committee, the student submits the form for Appointment/Change of Doctoral Program Advisory Committee.
In brief, the Program Advisory Committee must conform to the following policies:
- No less than four members
- All members are regular UA faculty
- All members are members of the UA Graduate Faculty (full, associate, or affiliate Graduate Faculty members)
- The committee chair is a full or associate member of the UA Graduate Faculty
- No more than one member is an affiliate member of the UA Graduate Faculty
- The committee chair holds a Ph.D. degree
- No more than one member is from a college or school outside the College of Communication and Information Sciences
Following the successful completion of preliminary examinations, the candidate for the Ph.D. in Communication and Information Sciences must form a dissertation committee. This committee evaluates the dissertation proposal and the dissertation proper. Both the proposal and the completed dissertation must be defended before the committee. The successful defense of a proposal grants the student candidacy for the degree and entitles the student to conduct dissertation research. The successful dissertation defense is the last formal step to reception to the Ph.D. degree.
A dissertation committee, with the director of the dissertation as its chairperson, supervises the preparation of the dissertation. The graduate dean’s approval of the proposed dissertation committee is expected to 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, available online at the Graduate School website.
Students are advised to consult Graduate School policies related to dissertation committees, available in the UA graduate catalog. In addition to the policies of the Graduate School, the Ph.D. program in Communication and Information Sciences (a) prohibits more than one affiliate member of the university Graduate Faculty from serving on a dissertation committee; (b) requires that at least two members of the committee be full members of the university Graduate Faculty; and (c) requires that at a majority of committee members be full or associate Graduate Faculty members in the College of Communication and Information Sciences.
The dissertation committee shall have not fewer than five members. All members of a dissertation committee must be members of the UA Graduate Faculty. The committee chair must be a full member of the Graduate Faculty. A majority of the dissertation committee members must be regular UA faculty. One member must be from outside the College of Communication and Information Sciences. 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), that member must be appointed an affiliate member of the UA Graduate Faculty for the specific purpose of serving on the student’s dissertation committee. Students and dissertation committee chairs who wish to nominate a highly qualified person from beyond UA for an affiliate Graduate faculty appointment begin this process by contacting the college’s associate dean for graduate studies.
In summary, the dissertation committee for the Ph.D. in Communication and Information Sciences must conform to the following policies:
- Not fewer than five members
- All members appointed as UA Graduate Faculty
- The committee chair is a full member of the UA Graduate Faculty
- A majority of members are full or associate Graduate Faculty members in the College of Communication and Information Sciences
- At least two members of the committee are full members of the UA Graduate Faculty
- At least one member is from outside the College of Communication and Information Sciences
- No more than one member holds an affiliate appointment to the UA Graduate Faculty
- A majority of members are regular UA faculty
Admission to CandidacyREAD MORE >>
A student is certified by the Dean of the Graduate School for admission to candidacy for the Ph.D. in Communication and Information Sciences after meeting the following requirements:
- Completion of the program of coursework and other requirements as prescribed by the student’s Program Advisory Committee and approved by the College of Communication and Information Sciences’ Office for Graduate Studies
- Demonstration by passing the preliminary examination, of competence in the Ph.D. core theory, research methods, specialization, and cognate
- A successful defense of a dissertation proposal
Only after the doctoral student has been certified as a candidate for the doctoral degree can the student indicate they are ABD (“all but dissertation”).
Dissertation and Final ExamREAD MORE >>
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, provide an overview of the relevant literature, specifies the methodology to be used, and 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 defense of the dissertation proposal must precede the defense of the dissertation itself by at least 30 days. Furthermore, the student must submit the proposal, and later the dissertation, to the Dissertation 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 within seven years of the date of admission to the doctoral program.
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 primarily concerned 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. All members of the Graduate Faculty of the College of Communication and Information Sciences are invited to attend.
After the UA Graduate School has approved the dissertation the student is to provide the Office for Graduate Studies a bound copy of the final version of the dissertation. It is also recommended that the student present the chair and committee members a copy of the final version of the dissertation.
Student FormsREAD MORE >>
- Course Planning Worksheet
- Appointment or Change of Doctoral Program Advisory Committee
- Alternate Core Classes Approval
- Outline of PhD Program
- Request for Transfer of Graduate Credit
- Doctoral Qualifying Exam Form
- Appointment or Change of Doctoral Dissertation Committee
- Admission to Candidacy for Doctoral Degree
- Committee Acceptance Form
- Evaluation of Credit Form