The PhD in Media Studies offered by the Department of Media Studies is one of three separate and distinct tracks of the Media Research and Practice doctoral program within the College of Media, Communication and Information.
Drawing largely from contemporary cultural and critical theory, the PhD in Media Studies focuses on interactions among the major components of modern communication — media institutions, their contents and messages, and their audiences or publics — as a process by which cultural meaning is generated. It examines that process on an interdisciplinary basis through social, economic, political, historical, legal/policy/regulatory and international perspectives, with a strong emphasis on issues involving new communication technology and policy.
As a graduate student and colleague in the Department of Media Studies you will be working within an environment that is committed to rigorous scholarship, critical pedagogy, and intellectual and creative engagement, one that celebrates traditional forms of intellectual inquiry and other equally-profound models and road maps of knowledge pursuit. Our commitment is to ensure that:
…you will emerge with a deep understanding of a range of theoretical paradigms drawn from social, cultural and media theory and a set of significant core competencies – intellectual, methodological, and creative.
…you will develop a sophisticated understanding of a range of quantitative and qualitative methodologies.
…you will use this experience to cultivate your intellectual and creative voice, one that is unique to you.
…you will have the opportunity to express that voice in a variety of ways, whether that be the traditional forms of intellectual expression, the book, the journal article, the conference paper or, where appropriate, employing the possibilities provided by emergent technologies and creative forms.
…you will understand the Department’s commitment to, and support of, engaged scholarship, our recognition that intellectual inquiry is also about intensifying synergies within and beyond the confines of the university, that the pursuit of knowledge is not an isolated affair, nor is it a privileged conversation, and that our scholarly labor is strong when it shortens the distance between academia and public life.
Students take a minimum of 72 hours to complete their degrees, although they may take additional course work if there is a justified need. Students are expected to complete their course work and defend their dissertations in 4–5 years. Students may take up to 15 credit hours of course work outside the Department of Media Studies, through a required Outside Emphasis (9 hours), which complements the student’s plan of study, and through Advanced Methods in Media Research and Practice, (6 hours), which may include relevant courses offered either inside or outside of the department.
In general, course offerings toward the PhD in media studies emphasize the following cross-cutting themes that are treated throughout our curriculum:
- sophistication in the treatment of theoretical issues;
- rigor and high ethical standards in the collection, analysis and presentation of research;
- thorough knowledge of the historical context of media institutions and practices; and
- sustained focus on issues of social and cultural diversity (race, ethnicity, gender, class, sexualities), and on issues arising due to the increase in transnational media and information flows and influences.
- Core courses—12 hours:
- Proseminar—6 (2 courses)
- Qualitative research methods—3
- Quantitative research methods—3
- Advanced research methods—3 hours
- One additional advanced methods course, or one media practice course—3 hours
- Inside emphasis—12-15 hours (4-5 Media Studies courses)
- Outside emphasis—9-12 hours (3-4 courses in other units)
- Dissertation hours—30 credits
Students are expected to complete the program and defend the dissertation in four-five years.
Applicants to the Media Studies track of the PhD program in Media Research and Practice are expected to hold the master’s degree or equivalent graduate work. In exceptional cases, applicants without a master’s degree may be considered for admission.
Completed domestic applications must be received by the program no later than Jan. 15 prior to the fall semester for which entrance is sought. International applications should be submitted by Dec. 1. Late applications may be considered under special circumstances.
Successful applications typically meet or exceed the following criteria:
International applicants must also have a TOEFL score of 625 (IBT 106).
Have an undergraduate cumulative grade-point average of at least 3.2 and a cumulative GPA of at least 3.5 in previous graduate work.
Provide three letters of recommendation.
Provide a 700-word Statement of Purpose.
Provide a resume or CV that includes academic and employment experience.
Provide a writing sample that exhibits the ability to undertake the conceptual and empirical studies required of doctoral students (e.g., a chapter from a master’s thesis or graduate-level term paper).
Meeting these criteria does not guarantee acceptance into the program. Because we accept relatively few new doctoral students each fall, we may have more qualified applicants than available openings.
For review and decision purposes you are required to upload an unofficial copy of your transcript(s) in the online application. We require one copy of the scanned transcript from each undergraduate and graduate institution that you attended. This includes community colleges, summer sessions, and extension programs. While credits from one institution may appear on the transcript of a second institution, unofficial transcripts must be submitted from each institution, regardless of the length of attendance, and whether or not courses were completed. Failure to list and submit transcripts from all institutions previously attended is considered to be a violation of academic ethics and may result in the cancellation of your admission or dismissal from the university.
ONLY after you are recommended for admission will you need to provide official transcripts.
Instructions for Uploading Unofficial Transcripts to Your Application (scroll to 'Uploading Unofficial Transcripts in the Application')
Research or teaching assistantships, including a tuition waiver and stipend, as well as fellowships, are available. PhD students may receive assistantships for a maximum of four years.
Graduate Course Offerings
The following are Media Studies graduate courses. Not all courses are yet available. Please see an advisor if you have any questions.
MDST 5000 (fall) Connected Media Practices—3 credit hours
Helps students understand the evolution of film, television and gaming in the digital era. This course explores how screen media are created, circulated and consumed. Specifically referring to a multi-platform news and entertainment experience, connected media practices integrates digital technology and socially networked communication with traditional screen media practices. Prerequisites: Restricted to graduate students only. Required of students in Media and Public Engagement MA program.
MDST 5002 (spring) Media Activism and Public Engagement—3
Explores the theory on media activism and actual activist practices within both old and new media and on a local, national and global scale. Special attention will be paid to questions of creativity and efficacy and the value of media activism as both an aesthetic and political activity. Prerequisites: Restricted to graduate students only. Required of students in Media and Public Engagement MA program.
CMCI 6051 Theories of Mass Communication—3
Studies theories and perspectives of mass communication and explores the role of mass media in society. Prerequisites: Restricted to graduate students only. Required of students in Media and Public Engagement MA program.
MDST 7011 (fall) Proseminar in Media and Communication Theory 1—3
Introduces principal concepts, literature and theoretical and paradigmatic perspectives of media studies and mass communication and their ties and contributions to parallel domains in the social sciences and humanities. Prerequisites: Restricted to PhD students in Media Studies (MDST), Journalism (JRNL) and Advertising, Public Relations and Design (APRD).
MDST 7021(spring) Proseminar in Media and Communication Theory 2—3
Continues the introduction of principal concepts, literature and theoretical and paradigmatic perspectives of media studies and mass communication and their ties and contributions to parallel domains in the social sciences and humanities. Prerequisites: Requires a prerequisite course of MDST 7011 (minimum grade D-). Restricted to PhD students in Media Studies (MDST), Journalism (JRNL) and Advertising, Public Relations and Design (APRD).
CMCI 7051 (fall) Qualitative Research Methods in Media—3
Examines various methods of qualitative data gathering and analysis in the mass and social media context. Requisites: Restricted to graduate students only.
CMCI 7061 (spring) Quantitative Research Methods in Media—3
Examines various methods of quantitative data gathering methods and analysis in the mass media context. Requisites: Restricted to graduate students only.
MDST 5211 Asian Media and Culture—3
Offers an understanding of the various people, cultures and nations of East Asia through their media systems. Provides a critical overview of the historical, cultural, social, political and economic dimensions of East Asian communication systems in today's digitally connected/disconnected world. Same as MDST 4211. Prerequisites: Restricted to graduate students only.
MDST 5311 Mass Media Criticism
Introduces the critical perspectives most often employed in qualitative media analysis: semiology, structuralism, Marxism, psychoanalytical criticism, sociological criticism. Texts from contemporary print and broadcast media.
MDST 5331 Gender, Race, Class and Sexuality in Popular Culture—3
Studies the construction, interconnections and replications of gender, race, class and sexuality in popular culture and how these constructs become cultural norms and mores. Uses critical methods with a focus on producing responsible viewers and readers. Same as MDST 4331. Prerequisites: Restricted to graduate students only.
MDST 6071 Critical Theories of Media and Culture—3
Introduction to critical theories and analysis of media and popular culture. Examines major theoretical traditions and/or theorists that significantly inform media studies (e.g., culturalism, structuralism, Marxism, critical theory, feminism, psychoanalysis, post-structuralism) and applies these to media analysis and criticism. Prerequisites: Restricted to graduate students only.
MDST 6201 Global Media and Culture—3
Covers mass communication within the international system, including similarities and differences in functions, facilities and content; social theories of the press; and the international flow of mass communication. Prerequisites: Restricted to graduate students only.
MDST 6211 Communication and International Development—3
Studies and analyzes communications technologies and techniques used in addressing social problems in developing countries. Prerequisites: Restricted to graduate students only.
MDST 6301 Communication, Media and Concepts of the Public—3
Introduces students to historical and contemporary uses of fundamental concepts in research and theory about media institutions, particularly public, community, mass, publicity, public space, public opinion, public interest and the public sphere. Prerequisites: Restricted to graduate students only.
MDST 6311 Power, Politics and Mediated Culture—3
Examines various literatures that consider the role of power in shaping social orders and the social beings that constitute that order and the place of media in both processes.
CMCI 6331 Political Communication—3
Explores the relationships involving media and politics. Incorporates normative and empirical perspectives on the media-politics complex. Areas covered include media effects on public opinion and policy, uses of media ingovernance, journalism sociology, coverage of elections and implications of interactive media for governance and civic participation. Requisites: Restricted to graduate students only.
MDST 6341 Children and the Media—3
Examines the concepts of children and childhood from the historical, social, cultural, economic and political perspectives, this course explores the interaction between mass media and the socialization and cultivation process of children and youth. Multiple theoretical traditions are used as a framework to study a variety of issues related to children and media. Prerequisites: Restricted to graduate students only.
MDST 6551 Media and Communication Policy—3
Surveys historical and contemporary developments in media and communications policy, emphasizing social and cultural dimensions. Prerequisites: Restricted to graduate students only.
MDST 6671 Media, Myth and Ritual—3
Anthropological and interpretative exploration of cultural practices of media audiences. Addresses theoretical and methodological implications of studying audiences from a culturalist perspective, with particular focus on media audience practices. Students engage in field research projects related to course content. Prerequisites: Restricted to graduate students only.
MDST 6711 Media and Popular Culture—3
Introduction to fundamental methods for understanding the construction of meaning in film, television, popular music and advertising. Traces the study of popular culture through film theory, mass media analysis and cultural studies. Surveys various strands of research that seek to understand popular culture and its effects. Prerequisites: Restricted to graduate students only.
MDST 6771 History of Media and Communication—3
Examines history and the history of communication, including the means (technologies) of communication, social practices (institutional, collective, individual) that intersect with the study of communication and media and cultural forms (texts, products). Situates the study of media, technology and culture within historical contexts, comparative historical research, media archaeology, genealogy and media history. Prerequisites: Restricted to graduate students only.
MDST 6781 Economic and Political Aspects of Media—3
Examines economic problems and political issues relevant to media institutions and industries. Prerequisites: Restricted to graduate students only.
CMCI 6861 Visual Communication—3
Visual communication involves understanding both perception of messages and construction of them. Students analyze their visual thinking abilities and develop habits of visual analysis and criticism, as well as visual communication skills. Requisites: Restricted to graduate students only.
MDST 6XXX Youth and Media Engagement—3 (course number to be determined)
Young people today have unprecedented access to information and modes of media production, but how much of this access can translate into political and social engagement? What factors indicate youth involvement in media and participation in social and political processes. This course examines how youth engage media practices for greater civic participation. Restricted to graduate students only.
MDST 6XXX Practices of Social Mobilization—3 (course number to be determined)
This course explores the role of mainstream and alternative media in the history of social advocacy, engagement and dissent. Through theoretical readings and case studies, the course provides an overview of the relationship between social movements and the media. Students learn theories and concepts of dissent, communication and social movements and develop critical analytical skills to apply to the analysis of specific cases. Case studies explore activist media across platforms (print, radio, broadcast, internet), contexts (from local to global, present-day to historical) and use (dialogic, contentious, hacktivist). Restricted to graduate students only.
MDST 6871 Special Topics—3
Variable topics. Restricted to graduate students only.
- Advertising, Public Relations and Media Design
- Critical Media Practices
- Information Science
- Intermedia Art, Writing and Performance (PhD)
- Media Studies
- CMCI Certificates
- CMCI Minors
- Communication & Society Residence Academic Program (CMCI CommRAP)
- CU in DC Program
- Graduation with Honors in CMCI