Non-Thesis Option

The Non-Thesis Option in the M.A. Program of the Department of Communication requires that candidates for the degree satisfactorily complete a comprehensive examination including a written portion and an oral defense.

Students who elect the non-thesis option must declare their intention during their first year of coursework (but no later than April 1), listing the planned area of study on the M.A. Option Declaration form, with the agreement of an advisor and approval of the DGS and department head. Students must be in good standing as defined by the Graduate College.

The student selects an advisor from the faculty to serve as chair of the committee. In consultation with the advisor, the student proposes a program of study to complete coursework and selects two additional committee members, who then review the proposal. Upon receiving approval of the program, the student becomes a candidate in the non-thesis option, and the members form the candidate's M.A. Non-Thesis Examining Committee. The committee conducts all aspects of the examination in mutual consultation.

View and download the Non-Thesis Option Form PDF.

A. Comprehensive Examination

The examination assesses whether the candidate has reached the learning objectives of the M.A. in Communication program, as well as the goals the student has set for the individual program of study. The exam tests candidates on their overall knowledge of topics within the required courses and within courses for the chosen area(s) of specialization in communication. Each committee member represents a content area and becomes the lead questioner or main reader for that area.

The oral portion of the exam takes place only after successful completion of the written portion. Candidates may retake the written portion of the exam one time only. A candidate who passes two units but not the other must retake only the unit previously failed. A candidate who fails two units must retake the entire exam.

In the orals, candidates may clarify and justify their written answers, and the committee questions candidates about their written responses and about other aspects of the exam. All members of the committee must attend the oral examination, must participate fully in questioning, and must join in the discussion and decision on the results.

Candidates who fail a question twice on the written portion or fail the oral portion will not be allowed to continue in or complete the M.A. in Communication program.

B. Format of the Exam

The written portion of the examination divides into three units corresponding to the content areas the committee selects. The committee will provide a reading list to the candidate normally at least six weeks in advance of any examination question.

Each unit will include one or two questions for the candidate to answer during an agreed upon exam period. The committee will come to agreement with the candidate on the scheduling time and place for each exam, whether examinations will take place under supervision or not, and what materials the candidates use (such as readings, notes, or internet access) for each unit of the exam. Appropriate accommodation is available for persons with disabilities.

The three units will come in the order the committee determines, with units normally spaced out over a period of no more than one semester. In cases where a candidate establishes to the committee's satisfaction the need to complete the full exam in a shorter or longer period, the committee will provide an equivalent notice and preparation time.

The written exams will assess the candidate's achievement in reaching the core goals of the program, including a grasp of pertinent concepts, knowledge of methods, and skills at writing. Each unit or content area is graded on a pass/fail basis.

C. Examination Scheduling

Candidates who propose to take the comprehensive examination for the non-thesis option of the degree must notify the Director of Graduate Studies, usually no later than the middle of the last semester in which the student is taking courses.

Candidates may withdraw their request for examination up to the last day before receiving the first unit exam. Within one week of that date, the student must propose to the committee a plan to finalize the exam.

The oral defense will take place after the candidate completes the third unit of the written exam. At the end of the oral defense, the candidate will leave the room, the committee will deliberate, and, once the members reach consensus, the chair will invite the candidate to return and will announce the results. At the end of the oral defense, the candidate will leave the room, the committee will deliberate, and once the members reach consensus, the chair will invite the candidate to return and will announce the results.