Focus your Studies
The required core courses offered through our doctoral program will equip you with knowledge and expertise in the major theories and methodologies of the field. You'll work closely with a faculty advisor to create an individualized program of electives. Courses are organized around your choice of a thematic concentration.
This concentration focuses on use of the media and technology for public life, civil society, and for addressing social problems. Areas of interest include the role of media and technology in evolution of citizen attitudes, preferences, knowledge, and behavior; media and technology as resources for social change that empower citizens, social movements, and advocacy coalitions; and the function of the media in shaping and reflecting policy agendas and decisions. You’ll gain ample experience in advanced research methods including public opinion and media content research, formative and evaluative research of campaigns, and organizational strategy.
This concentration emphasizes the social, economic, political, and technological characteristics of media industry structure and practice. You'll investigate the complex interrelationships among nonprofit organizations, news media, government, and business. Research and applications include the role of digital technologies and public policy in civic participation and in evolving relationships among media content producers and their audiences; the social and political implications of changing business models; structures of public media; and the media industry's impact on issues of technology, responsibility, and social equity in areas such as personal freedom, diversity, government transparency, social surveillance, privacy, trade, and corporate responsibility. You'll build strong skills in advanced research methods such as comparative and historical analysis, quantitative analysis, case study approaches, ethnography, and interviewing.
This concentration features the application of critical theories from the humanities and social sciences to examine the construction of media expression in emerging digital culture, particularly how new forms of media are created as tools for public life and civil society. Scholarship combines theoretical approaches from philosophy, history, sociology, film studies, and cultural studies to address a spectrum of issues, including the role of communications media in the construction of identity, stereotypes, and perception; social, economic, and cultural norms of emerging digital media; changing creative practices and their social and policy implications; the interplay of democratic processes and technological change; and the significance of media in public ritual, social control, and propaganda. You are encouraged to combine media theory with production practices in the fields of journalism, documentary film, and social media.
Complete your degree in three years
In contrast to the traditional 9-month-per-year schedule, your annual course of study takes place over 11 months, including faculty supervision and mentoring via formal course work, organized research group meetings, and online collaboration. The accelerated structure of your program allows you to complete your degree in three years.
You'll take six required courses, three each in the fall and spring semester. Depending on your past master's coursework and professional experience, you may be able to petition for credit for methods and/or statistics course work, substituting an advanced methods course or other elective. The required teaching seminar prepares you to work as a teaching assistant in an undergraduate course during your second year of coursework. Students who have prior college teaching experience or who have already taken a similar teaching seminar as part of their master's program can place out of this course, substituting an additional elective. In the summer immediately following your first year, you'll enroll in one course for credit and participate in research group meetings.
In the fall, you'll take two electives plus a teaching seminar. By the end of your fall semester, you'll be expected to have gained approval and to have finalized the four faculty members of your doctoral committee, with at least one member being from outside of the School of Communication. At the beginning of your spring semester, you'll begin your qualifying exams. This process takes approximately one month from the assignment of questions to a successful written and oral defense. You will also take a seminar, "Advanced Research and Project Development," that will guide you in developing your dissertation proposal. By the end of the spring semester or beginning of the summer, students are expected to have successfully defended their dissertation proposals and to spend the summer focused on dissertation research.
In the fall and spring semesters, you'll register for dissertation research credits and also participate in a seminar titled, "Principles of Doctoral Research," which will provide a collaborative setting to gain feedback, guidance, and mentoring on approaches to project design, data collection, analysis, interpretation, writing, and time management. During the fall and spring semesters, you are also expected to be applying and interviewing for jobs, with your research groups serving as outlets for "mock" job interviews and other forms of professional development and guidance.
Tatevik Sargsyan, SOC/PhD ’16
I wanted to be part of the policy narrative.
Tatevik Sargsyan was inspired by her advisor, Laura DeNardis, a leading authority on Internet governance, to focus her research on how information intermediaries shape civil liberties and control access to information. Her studies crystallized her desire to use media and communication to promote freedom of expression. Today, she raises awareness of how national identification systems challenge privacy and human rights. As an AU adjunct professor, she sparks students to think deeply about these critical issues.
Applicants could be interested in tenure track, faculty positions in academia, or seeking careers at prestigious institutions in government, industry, and/or the nonprofit community.
In addition to the teaching seminars and teaching assistantships that are part of the regular doctoral curriculum, The Art of Teaching is a one-credit course offered each spring semester for PhD students who want to learn more about educational pedagogy. The course was originally designed by American University's former provost, Milton Greenberg.
Previously known as the Greenberg Seminars for Effective Teaching, this course complements the PhD academic experience, providing hands-on, practical introduction to professional development and classroom techniques. PhD students can participate at any time during their PhD program. There is no tuition fee for the course.