Non-thesis Option (Plan 2)

The non-thesis option is often – although certainly not always – preferred for students who have a change of heart about doctoral studies.

Students who choose the master's degree non-thesis option (Plan 2) must complete 40 units of coursework (typically 10 courses) and pass a comprehensive examination that includes written and oral components.


Plan 2 students are required to pass a comprehensive examination. The student's M.A. adviser and the M.A. committee have responsibility for preparing and evaluating a student's comprehensive examination. At the discretion of the adviser, questions may be solicited and evaluated by other members of the M.A. Program faculty. Because students' programs of study differ, so too will the scope and nature of their respective comprehensive examinations.

Planning meeting

Students on Plan 2 should meet with their M.A. committees in the spring quarter of their first year of study to negotiate the nature of their examination and develop a study plan for preparation. Students may enroll in directed study (CMN 299) throughout the duration of their studies to enable ample preparation time.

Comprehensive examinations in the program consist of two components: a written examination (essay) and an oral examination. The format for the written examination can include a "sit down" essay examination, a "take home" essay assignment, or some combination of each format. The student's academic adviser and the M.A. committee, in consultation with the student, will determine the most appropriate format.

Written examination

At minimum, every student's written examination will cover the core theories and methodologies that define the subdisciplines of social interaction and mediated communication. These theories and methodologies are covered in the core classes and other coursework. The examinations will go beyond the scope of these courses to examine topics that any "master" of communication should reasonably be expected to know. Students surely will be tested, for example, on current trends and controversies in the field. These examinations often ask the student to integrate issues covered across courses, and to apply theories and principles to new situations. Each examination will also concentrate on the student's primary interest area.

Evaluation of the written component of the examination will be the responsibility of the student's M.A. adviser and the M.A. committee. All written components of the examination must be acceptable to the student's M.A. committee, which has the option of requiring a rewrite of unacceptable work. Only one revision of written work is permitted. If the rewrites are judged to be unacceptable, the student will be dismissed from the program.

Oral examination

The oral examination has the format of a cross-examination, in which students are asked to defend or expand upon their written examination answers. At the conclusion of the cross-examination, the student will be asked to leave the room. The M.A. committee will then confer and make a determination of whether the student has passed or failed the oral examination.

After a decision has been made, the student will be called back into the room, and the M.A. adviser will tell the student what the committee determined. At the sole discretion of the student's M.A. committee, a second oral examination may be scheduled if a student fails on the first attempt. If the student's performance is unacceptable for a second time, the student will be dismissed from the program.


The written component of the comprehensive examination must be administered no later than the last weekday of the month of April of the student's second year of study. Oral examinations must be scheduled no later than the last weekday of the month of May of the student's second year of study.