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College of Arts and Sciences

Extra-Curricular Degree Requirements

Note: a new set of requirements applies only to students who matriculated on or after 2015-16. See the IPFW Graduate Bulletin for complete details.

See the tabs above for comprehensive exams and synthesis papers if you matriculated before 2015.

The curriculum consists of 36 credits in approved courses and one of the following: a comprehensive examination, a professional project, or a thesis. In order to graduate, you must submit a plan and timetable to complete these degree requirements to the chair of your advisory committee two or three semesters before the one in which you will graduate. Please observe the following deadlines when submitting the plan to your chair:

Thesis/Project (three semesters before graduation) Comprehensive Exams (two semesters before graduation)
  • 30 September for graduation in the following Fall
  • 15 February for graduation in the following Spring
  • 15 September for graduation in the following Spring
  • 1 February for graduation in the following Fall

Students completing a thesis or non-thesis project will need first to request permission from the Graduate Program Director before registering for up to six credits of COM 69800 Research MA or MS Thesis credits. To register for these credits, the student must first submit a completed Plan of Study. The Plan will list all courses the student has taken or plans to take. The Plan also lists signatures of graduate faculty who have agreed to serve on the student's advisory committee.

Students are responsible for preparing their own Plan of Study and obtaining all signatures from faculty agreeing to serve on the advisory committee. Before approaching faculty to sign the Plan of Study, the student may submit to faculty a brief pre-proposal outlining the thesis or project that will fulfill the degree requirements. A faculty signature on the Plan of Study indicates that the advisory committee member has approved student registration for COM 69800 and that the thesis or non-thesis project is ready to move forward.

The Graduate Program Director is responsible for registering all students in COM 69800. The Director will not register any student in COM 69800 until that student has submitted a completed Plan of Study, signed by all members of the student's advisory committee.

Faculty asked to serve on an advisory committee may ask the student for additional written documentation before signing the Plan of Study. Before the student can proceed in the program, the chair of the advisory committee may convene the advisory committee to determine whether to approve completion of the degree requirements. In consultation with the committee, the chair may accept, deny, or request additional revisions to the proposed plan. Failure to accept the plan and timetable as proposed may result in delays to the graduating semester.

Comprehensive Examination (Non-Thesis) Option

Graduate students who select the comprehensive examination option must complete a minimum of 36 credits of course work and pass the examination administered by an Advisory Committee. Election of the comprehensive examination option must be made and approved by the Advisory Committee created by the student prior to the completion of 15-21 credits of course work. The comprehensive examination consists of a take-home written examination and a one-hour oral examination. The examination will test the candidate’s knowledge and understanding of one area of competency/specialization claimed by the student including (1) the theoretical foundations of the student’s area of communication inquiry, (2) relevant methodological approaches, and (3) the research literature in the candidate’s area of specialization. The written examination is expected to be approximately 30 pages in length (10 pages or so for each question).   The oral examination is meant for the student’s defense of his/her perspectives put forth in the written work.  The Committee will determine whether some or all of the answers passed, failed, or required a revision.  The student must pass all of the questions.

The student will work closely with the chair of the advisory committee to schedule both the written and oral sections of the comprehensive examination. Unless otherwise announced, comprehensive examinations normally will take place either during the first full week of November, or during the first full week of April. Comprehensive exams do not take place during the summer.

Professional Project (Non-Thesis) Option

The professional project option offers students the six (6) credit option of completing a professional/creative project to meet the requirements for their degree. The purpose of a creative/professional project is to demonstrate professional competence in an applied setting. The professional project has two parts:  The analysis component and the professional skills/creative component.  Students will conduct research, synthesize and analyze information, and present information to an audience. The project may be developed and disseminated in print, still photography, audio, video, documentary film, online or a combination of media and must demonstrate a student’s mastery of the chosen medium. Examples include an investigative news article series; a handbook, manual or video training module for professionals; a news or feature series with photographs or video; an original radio or television program; a short documentary film; or a Web-based project. The professional project is designed for students pursuing the MA or MS as a terminal degree. Students considering doctoral work should discuss the alternative thesis plan with their advisor.

Thesis Option

The thesis option offers students the six (6) credit option of completing a master’s thesis to meet the requirements for their degree. A M.A. thesis is a completed research project that applies the theories and methods of a given approach to communication research. Students will conduct this research under the supervision of their advisor and their work will ultimately need the approval of their advisory committee. This project allows students to leave the program with a proven track record in research. We advise students who are looking forward to a career in research or planning on pursuing a PhD in Communication or a related field to select this option in hopes that completing a thesis will enhance their chances being able to move forward with their academic and career aspirations.

In certain specialized situations, the Graduate Program Director may designate an M.S. instead of an M.A. degree.  Unless approved by the Graduate Program Director, all students will earn an M.A. in Professional Communication.  Contact the Director for further details.

For guidelines and procedures for completing Thesis, Professional Projects, and Comprehensive exams please read Non-Course Degree Requirement Procedures, then meet with your primary advisor.