Concordia University

Communication PhD

Admission Requirements

Applicants must have a Master of/Magisteriate in Arts in Communication or its equivalent. Applicants are selected on the basis of the excellence of their past academic records. Applicants must include a thoroughly articulated outline of a research project with their application.

Admission Criteria

  • Excellence and pertinence of academic background.
  • Promise as a scholar.
  • Relevance of proposed research to the program.
  • Feasibility of proposed research in terms of material and faculty resources.
  • Ability to understand English and French.
  • Availability of a faculty member to direct the applicant.

While there are no fixed quotas, admission is limited by the availability of the program's faculty to supervise students.

Proficiency in English. Applicants whose primary language is not English must demonstrate that their knowledge of English is sufficient to pursue graduate studies in their chosen field. Please refer to the Graduate Admission page for further information on the Language Proficiency requirements and exemptions.

Language Requirements. Applicants should have a level of competence that would allow them to read technical material and follow lectures and discussions in English. Students may participate in discussions, write reports, examinations and theses in English or French, as they choose.

Requirements for the Degree

  1. Credits. A fully qualified candidate entering the program with a master's/magisteriate degree is required to complete a minimum of 90 credits. These are apportioned as follows: courses and seminars, 18 credits; doctoral examination, 3 credits; thesis proposal, 6 credits; and thesis, 63 credits. Typical progress in the program consists of:

    Year 1
    • Courses: Integrative Seminar: COMS 800 (3 credits), plus three elective courses (9 credits).

    Year 2 
    • Doctoral Examination: COMS 815 (3 credits).
    • Doctoral Pro-Seminar: COMS 835 (3 credits), and one additional elective course from among the program's offerings (3 credits).

    Year 3 
    • Doctoral Thesis Proposal: COMS 890 (6 credits).
    • Doctoral Thesis Research: COMS 896 (63 credits).

  2. Courses. All students must enrol in COMS 800 Integrative Seminar in the first term of Year 1; COMS 835 Doctoral Pro-Seminar (3 credits); and enrol in seminars and courses from among the program's offerings for a total of 21 credits.Students are required to choose a thesis director before the end of their third term in the program.

  3. Supervision.
    Students are assigned an academic advisor when they first register. Students are required to choose a thesis director before the end of their third term in the program.

  4. Doctoral Examination. Students must successfully pass an examination based on the student's research areas and interests. The committee for the examination is composed of three professors, including the student's supervisor. Under normal circumstances, students enrol in the Doctoral Examination in Year 2 of the program. Normally, the written portion of the examination is defended orally by no later than the end of the Fall Term in Year 2. It is compulsory to finish the examination before registering in the COMS 835 Doctoral Pro-Seminar. It is also compulsory to finish the examinationbefore completing the thesis proposal. Students who fail this examination are permitted to take it a second time in the following term. Students failing a second time are obliged to withdraw from the program. Students should consult the program regarding specific examination procedures and requirements.

  5. Doctoral Pro-Seminar. In order to promote the growth of an intellectual community within the program, students are required to register in the theory and research pro-seminar known as the Doctoral Pro-Seminar. Students registered in this seminar engage in research design by workshopping their thesis proposals through iterative presentations with seminar participants, and through multiple written drafts. Students are then required to present a first draft of their thesis proposal. Students typically register in the Doctoral Pro-Seminar in Year 2 of their studies. It is compulsory to finish the COMS 815 Doctoral Examination before registering in the Doctoral Pro-Seminar.

  6. Thesis Proposal. In the term following the completion of course work (usually the sixth term) students should submit a thesis proposal to their thesis director. Students must have completed the doctoral examination before registering for the thesis proposal. The thesis proposal should be completed within three years of the student's first enrolment. The proposal must be defended orally before a committee of three professors appointed by the program. Students must demonstrate the viability of their project and their capacity to undertake doctoral thesis research. The proposal may be accepted, returned for modifications, or rejected. The rejection of a proposal results in the student being withdrawn from the program. A student whose proposal is accepted is admitted to candidacy for the PhD.

  7. Thesis Research. All degree requirements, including the thesis, must be completed within six years of the student's first enrolment for full-time studies and eight years for part-time studies. The thesis must be based on extensive research in primary sources, make an original contribution to knowledge, and be in an acceptable literary form. For purposes of registration, this work is designated as COMS 896 Doctoral Thesis Research.

    The doctoral thesis is based on extensive primary research; the goal is to make an original contribution to knowledge. The traditional research thesis is ideally no less than 225 pages and no longer than 350 pages. It must be written in an acceptable literary form and represent a contribution to theoretical or empirical knowledge in the field of communication. Students also have the possibility to produce a research–creation thesis which is to meet the same standards of rigour as the traditional research thesis. The research-creation thesis includes a practical component of creation or innovative production in the field of media/communications or digital/computerized communications, as well as a written component of approximately 150 pages demonstrating the contribution to the advancement of knowledge in the field. A digital reproduction of the practical component must be attached to the manuscript at the time of submission.

Academic Regulations

  1. Academic Standing. Please refer to the Academic Standing section of the Calendar for a detailed review of the Academic Regulations.

  2. Residence. The minimum period of residence is six terms including two summer terms of full-time study, or its equivalent in part-time study. Of this, three terms must be taken consecutively.

  3. Time Limit. Please refer to the Academic Regulation page for further details regarding the Time Limit requirements.

  4. Graduation Requirement. In order to graduate, students must have a cumulative GPA of at least 3.00.


Core Courses

COMS 800 Integrative Seminar (3 credits)
This course proposes to engage first-year students in an epistemological conversation concerning different approaches to the conceptualization of communication and to the range of research problematics elaborated in the field and in the program. The expected outcomes include: a broad understanding of the relations between different domains within the discipline; the ability to recognize the links between epistemological assumptions, theory construction, the formation of research problematics and methodological approaches; a familiarization with the main fields of strength within the program; and the development of the ability to engage in dialogue with colleagues in different domains of research.

COMS 835 Doctoral Pro-Seminar (3 credits)
Note: Students who have received credit for COMS 830 may not take this course for credit.

Elective Courses

COMS 805 Research Workshop (3 credits)
This research workshop is supervised by the student’s thesis director and is intended to respond to a particular need unfulfilled by the program. It can take various forms, namely a directed readings program, a specific project within a research group, an elective course (including a masters level course) or a research or creation internship. The research workshop must be defined in a specific agreement between the thesis supervisor and the student, which is approved by the program director and added to the student’s file.
Note: Students who have received credit for this topic under a COMS 805 number may not take this course for credit.

COMS 822 Advanced Seminar in Research Methods I (3 credits)
This course provides an in-depth analysis of methodological problematics. Major contemporary methods of analysis are considered. Possible themes include research design, data-gathering techniques and instruments, and qualitative or quantitative procedures for data analysis. Specific topics may vary from year to year.

COMS 823 Advanced Seminar in Research Methods II (3 credits)
Students who have registered for COMS 822 must register for COMS 823 when taking a second Advanced Seminar in Research Methods course.
* Topics vary and are determined by the Joint Program Committee.

COMS 841 Cultural Industries (3 credits)
This course examines commodification and industrialization processes as well as the dissemination and consumption of culture within contemporary social formations, while focusing on one or more sectors of the cultural industries. The analytical approach considers themes such as characteristics of merchandising cycles, work and market organization, symbolic and cultural specificity of cultural-industries products, and relationships between technological innovation and cultural form.

COMS 842 Media Reception (3 credits)
This course examines media reception. It explores different theoretical and methodological approaches to the study of individual group practices and cultural consumption. The course looks at case-study material drawn from specific media or media genres (e.g. popular music, soap operas, children’s programming). The seminar considers such approaches as media ethnography, focus-group research, audience research, life histories, and other context specific micro-social approaches.

COMS 843 Communication Policy (3 credits)
This course examines the history and development of state intervention and regulation of the media. It may focus on communication policy nationally or internationally. The course considers such issues as the role of public policy in the development of public media and the public sphere, models of regulation and deregulation, the relations between regulatory agencies and interest groups, and the position of communication policies within larger governmental structures.

COMS 844 Uses of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) (3 credits)
Observing usage of information and communication objects and technical devices allows us to understand the effect of technologies within society. This course explores different theoretical and methodological approaches pertinent to analyzing ICT usages. With respect to course discussions and papers, particular attention may be paid to the interaction between user and technical device; articulation between artifact user and creator; usage situation within the organizational context; embedding of political dimensions in technological design; usage micro-situations and macro-sociological issues. Some major research traditions may be introduced, namely, dissemination of artifacts, sociotechnical innovation, common practices and significations, pragmatic approaches, social and socio-political appropriation of usages.

COMS 851 Speech Communication (3 credits)
This course examines discourse as action. Forms of discourse considered may range from interpersonal communication to public address. Possible theoretical approaches include ethnomethodology, conversational analysis, rhetorical theory, and performance studies.

COMS 853 Discourse and Representation (3 credits)
The course examines discourse with respect to representation. It focuses on the structuring of knowledge and identity within sign systems. Emphasis may range from the cognitive and psychological to the social and cultural.

COMS 854 Discourse within Social Formations (3 credits)
This course examines discourse as social mediation. Possible themes include the interrelation of power and knowledge, the organization of culture through signifying practices, and the production of discourse and social institutions.

COMS 861 Organizational Culture (3 credits)
This course examines how cultural analysis can be brought to bear in understanding organizational life. To this end, a range of theoretical approaches are drawn upon, including conversational analysis, ethnography, ethnomethodology, symbolic interactionism, enactment theory, and socio-linguistics. Aspects of organizations such as norms, rituals, folklore, traditions, common ideals, ideologies, shared symbols, core values and interaction are given particular attention.

COMS 864 Communication and Change in Organizations (3 credits)
This course addresses a major question within organizations at both theoretical and practical levels. It focuses on issues of innovation or transformation in an organizational framework using various approaches (functionalist, critical, post-modern, constructivist, interpretative). This perspective is pertinent for analyzing the context and process of change within cultural or development organizations as well as private, public or charitable undertakings.

COMS 873 Identities and Cultural Exchange (3 credits)
Within the context of electronic, information, and market-globalization forces, traditional geopolitical borders have become porous and easily penetrable. This course focuses on the hybrid identities emergent and negotiated from cross-cultural engagements and transnational communication at the beginning of the 21st century. Curricular materials include theoretical readings, case studies, and audiovisual materials focused on bridging cultural and political gaps.

COMS 874 Globalization of Communication (3 credits)
This course examines the emergence of a global communication system. Possible topics include international information flow, the circulation of communication products and communication issues as they are reflected in international accords and debates, and the role of media in issues of cultural development, democratization, and resistance to globalization.

COMS 875 Technology and Organization (3 credits)
This course analyzes and critiques various theoretical approaches which account for the relationship between technology and organization. It also provides the grounds for a communicational reflection on phenomena associated with the presence of information and communication technologies within organizations.

COMS 876 Media Technology as Practice (3 credits)
This course examines relationships between theory and practice in the work of individuals and groups of media practitioners across a range of genres and working contexts. Analysis can focus on the organization of the workplace, the creative process and social forces influencing media praxis.

COMS 877 International Communication and Development (3 credits)
This course traces the history of the different paradigms related to communication and development. It proposes a critical analysis of the theoretical perspectives suggested in both Southern and Northern contexts. The topics considered include Canadian and foreign institutions, policies, and programs, the role of international fora, as well as globalization and development. Case studies may focus on a specific region of the world.

COMS 878 Communication, Conflict and Peace (3 credits)
This course examines the various ways in which discourses of war, conflict, and peace are constructed and relayed through the mass media and other forms of technologically-mediated communication. In particular, how do the inherent properties of different modes of communication intersect with larger discursive formations to reproduce dominant definitions and unquestioned categories of social knowledge related to issues of peace and conflict? What role do the media play in shaping our understanding of war and warfare? How does the internet contribute to promoting both conflict and peace? How is peace represented as an end state that is desirable; for whom is peace being constructed; and what are the kinds of actions being promoted or encouraged in the name of peace?

COMS 879 Human-Computer Interactions (3 credits)
This seminar examines human-computer interaction models and research in various fields of media communication; virtual worlds, e-commerce, distance education, sharing of knowledge and resources, adaptive technologies, systems intelligence and customization. Other topics include principles of interface design and assessment in cognitive ergonomics.

COMS 880 Communication Networks and Organization (3 credits)
This course examines and analyzes communication networks in a constructivist perspective with respect to two main “social-networks” traditions (anthropological and structural). It considers communication networks according to the themes explored by scholars in the field such as diffusion, social support and capital, organizational phenomena, social movements or ICTs. The seminar also includes methodological aspects of the study of communication networks, their emergence, and their transformation.

COMS 882 Communication, Democracy and Power (3 credits)
This course considers the communicative structure and performance of democracy within modern society. Attention is paid to the discursive resources available to perform and affect democracy, the constitution of democratic agents, the role of media in constituting and maintaining a public sphere, communicative strategies, norms of regulation and power, the performance of difference and various aspects of public culture.

COMS 883 History and Historiography of Media and Culture (3 credits)
This course examines the development of communication technologies and the media in comparative and historical perspective. Themes of time, space, place and power and their reconfiguration in relation to media and communication are given particular attention. Class members are encouraged to think about how they might engage in research on the history of media as part of their dissertation projects. To this end, historiographical issues are examined throughout the course, along with methodological consideration given to how one works with documentary and archival records.

COMS 884 Cultural Theory in Communication Studies (3 credits)
This course introduces students to cultural studies and its entwinement with the development of the field of communications. Key readings in Marxist approaches to culture, British Cultural Studies, and its US and Canadian variants are covered in the first half of the course. The remaining weeks expand the national and conceptual specificity of the “cultural studies tradition.” Topics include cultural and representational politics, issues of identity, resistance, hegemony, and ideology.

COMS 885 Popular Culture (3 credits)
This course focuses upon the political dimension of popular culture and the intellectual challenges it poses to scholarship. It concentrates upon the conceptual and historical aspects of the study of popular-cultural forms, their production and consumption, as well as their assessment. The course introduces key ideas and issues in popular-cultural studies, beginning with the rise of interest in mass culture during the late-19th and early-20th centuries. It also encounters modes of examining and understanding popular texts and sites of popular consumption. Issues of subjectivity, community, ideology, cultural hierarchies, and mass society are addressed.

COMS 886 Alternative Media (3 credits)
This course examines the array of alternative communication practices that inform social movements emerging from the margins. It focuses on the conditions of their effectiveness and mechanisms that facilitate or impede their success, such as the external social forces that influence their cooptation, commodification and evacuation of revolutionary potential.

COMS 887 Strategies and Styles in Communication (3 credits)
This course considers the strategies and styles of communication as intentional symbolic activity. Communication is examined as a practice that responds to and transforms situations and contexts. Emphasis is placed on the form, manner, and consequences of such practices, as well as on the major paradigms informing different approaches to the study of discourse and mediated messages.

COMS 888 Discourses of the Body (3 credits)
Critical theorists have identified the body as a site of competing and multiple discourses. The course examines some of the ways in which different bodies have been constructed in the media and how these both constrain and provide latitude for the expression of identities. A central area of inquiry is the context of the historical and contemporary terrain that informs the expression and categorization of these identities.

COMS 889 Theories of Organizational Communication (3 credits)
This course surveys and juxtaposes how some of the main approaches to organizational studies have dealt with issues related to communication. Paradigms considered may include scientific management, human relations, cybernetics, political economy, rational decision making, cultural studies, feminism, and post-modernism. An effort is made to examine how these various approaches emerged historically in relation to shifting patterns of power, inequality, and technological change. Issues such as the nature of bureaucracy, domination and resistance, systematically distorted communication, and public relations/external communication are addressed.

COMS 891 Communication Technologies and Society (3 credits)
This course introduces students to and contextualizes the main paradigms with respect to research on social, economic and cultural aspects of information and communication technologies. Critical analysis focuses on their epistemological assumptions and premises, main categories of analysis, and privileged issues. Attention is paid to the political economy of the information system.

COMS 892 Epistemology and Methodology of Media Creation (3 credits)
This seminar seeks to develop a position of poiesis (production) and to differentiate it from the position of aisthesis (reception). In order to define the multiple aspects of media creation, the following themes are discussed: creationistic accounts and theses; the spectacle as ritual, achievement and imitation of reality; agents, machines and living organisms; functions of transmitting information and storytelling. Operational concepts considered may include granularity, linearity, interactivity, diegesis, spatialization, indexicalization and enunciation.

COMS 893 Advanced Seminar in Special Topics in the PhD in Communication (3 credits)
This seminar permits the in-depth examination of particular special topics in media and communication. Topics vary from year to year.

Examinations and Thesis Work

COMS 815 Doctoral Examination (3 credits)
COMS 890 Doctoral Thesis Proposal (6 credits)
COMS 896 Doctoral Thesis Research (63 credits)

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