Each student, in consultation with his or her major professor and the M.A. committee, chooses either the thesis or non-thesis plan. Both plans require two years of study.

Thesis Option (Plan 1)

Because most of our master's students obtain the M.A. on their way to earning a Ph.D. degree, they are expected to opt for the thesis option to obtain valuable research experience.

Students who select the master's degree thesis option (Plan 1) must complete 32 units of coursework (usually eight courses) and prepare a thesis, which is a written report of original scholarship that makes an important contribution to knowledge about communication.

A thesis is a written report of an empirical research project that explores an important issue in communication. Theses within the program generally are expected to be quantitative, data-based and theory driven. Data may be generated by the student using one or more of the methods of the social sciences: survey research, experimental methods, content analysis, secondary data analysis and computational methods.

The thesis often is based on research that the student's major professor and the student conduct collaboratively, with the student primarily responsible for executing the study and writing the thesis report.

Thesis research begins with a thesis proposal, which the student must submit to the M.A. committee for approval before initiating data collection. For most projects, the thesis proposal will include the following parts:

•    Review of relevant research, including a theoretical rationale for the proposed study

•    Hypotheses or research questions

•    A description of the methods and instruments to be employed, and the data analysis strategy

•    A description of the statistical methods to be used to test the hypotheses

•    A References section

Plan 1 students are encouraged to think about their topic early in their program. Keep in mind as well that thesis research involving human subjects will require submission of a human subjects review application. Approval by the campus human subjects review committee can take several weeks to obtain.

The Department of Communication does not specify a minimum or maximum length for a thesis. The student's major professor and committee will offer guidance on thesis components and length. The thesis also must conform to UC Davis formatting requirements.

The student must defend the thesis before the M.A. committee in a thesis defense meeting. The best way to ensure a successful outcome is to interact often and in detail with all members of the committee throughout the thesis research endeavor. The committee has the option of accepting the thesis, accepting it with revision, or rejecting it.

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 sub-disciplines 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.

Other Requirements

In addition to the requirements for Plan 1 and Plan 2, students may be subject to other requirements and expectations, as described here.


Applicants' transcripts will be reviewed by the program's graduate committee to identify any deficiencies in training. If admitted, the student will be notified of any remedial coursework that must be taken during the course of his or her first year of study. Accomplished students who did not major in communication as an undergraduate are strongly encouraged to apply, but may be required to take undergraduate courses at UC Davis before enrolling in our graduate courses.

All students are expected to have completed an undergraduate course in inferential statistics before enrolling in the program's required graduate-level methodology courses. Students who did not complete such a course as an undergraduate will be expected to correct this deficiency during the first quarter of residency.


Students generally are expected to complete the M.A. degree work within two years (six quarters). Students who anticipate completing the degree in the summer following their second year of study must obtain the written consent of both their M.A. adviser and the program director. Students will be allowed to extend their studies into the third year only in the most exceptional of circumstances. Such an extension requires the written approval of the student's M.A. adviser and the program director.

If you may decide to request an exception to the normative time policy, please keep in mind that most members of the ladder-rank faculty are often out of town or unavailable during the summer.


Success in graduate school is a full-time endeavor. We do not admit part-time students into the program. Full-time status requires continuous enrollment in no less than 12 units of coursework per quarter. During most quarters you can satisfy this requirement by taking two 4-unit seminars and 4 units of CMN 299R (Directed Research, in preparation of a thesis proposal and thesis, required of Plan 1 students) or CMN 299 (Directed Reading in preparation for the comprehensive examination, required of Plan 2 students). The additional 4 units may come from enrolling in CMN 396 (Teaching Assistant Training Practicum, for students holding a teaching assistantship) during the fall quarter of the first year of study.


Plan 1 students: Students on the thesis option (Plan 1) will be enrolled in 4 units of directed research as they prepare and carry out their thesis. We take these credits very seriously.

Plan 2 students: Students on the non-thesis option (Plan 2) will take 4 units of directed reading to prepare for the comprehensive examination. These credits are earned by enrolling in CMN 299 (Individual Study), but do not satisfy 40-unit plan 2 credit requirements. Students should meet at the beginning of each quarter with their M.A. adviser to devise a research agenda (Plan 1) or develop a reading list (Plan 2) for the quarter. CMN 299 and 299R (Thesis Research) coursework will typically be carried out under the direction of the M.A. adviser, although other arrangements can be made when appropriate and with the approval of the program's graduate adviser.


CMN 299 also is used for adviser-approved independent studies on a topic not covered by the program's regular curriculum. Up to 4 units of independent study may be counted toward satisfaction of degree coursework requirements. Please visit the graduate coordinator to obtain the required form for Independent Studies.

Sample Plans of Study

Every student will devise a plan of study in consultation the master's degree adviser.

A typical plan of study under the thesis option appears below. In this plan, the student completes all required courses in the first two quarters. CMN 230 (Social Interaction Theory and Research) and 250 (Mediated Communication Theory and Research) are taken as CMN electives in the spring quarter. Two electives, one of which is in communication, are taken in the fourth quarter of study (fall of year 2). This student is enrolled in CMN 299R throughout the two-year program to provide ample time to prepare a thesis proposal and execute the research. These 299R (Thesis Research) credits do not count toward completion of the 32-unit requirement, however.

The sample plan of study for a non-thesis (plan 2) student is similar, with the exception that an additional 8 units (two courses) of electives will be taken during the winter quarter of the second year of study.

Plan 1 and Plan 2 students serving as teaching assistants will enroll in CMN 396 (Teaching Assistant Training Practicum) during their first quarter, rather than 299 or 299R. Course 396 is required of all TAs; these credits do not count toward the degree, however.

And now the disclaimer: These plans of study are offered as examples of what a student's programs might look like, and do not constitute a commitment by the Department of Communication to offer any specific course in any particular quarter.



Fall Quarter Winter Quarter Spring Quarter
CMN 201: Theoretical Perspectives on Strategic Communication CMN 202: Communication Theory Construction CMN 251: Digital Technology and Social Change
CMN 396: Teaching Assistant Training Practicum CMN 230: Social Interaction Theory and Research CMN 271: Communication Networks
PSC 204A: Statistical Analysis of Psychological Experiments CMN 299R: Thesis Research and Writing CMN 299R: Thesis Research and Writing


Fall Quarter Winter Quarter Spring Quarter
CMN 211: Survey Research Methods in Communication (offered in alternating years) CMN 299R: Thesis Research and Writing CMN 299R: Thesis Research and Writing
CMN 270: Diffusion of Innovations   Thesis submitted, revised, and approved.

CMN 299R: Thesis Research and Writing

Advancement to M.A. Candidacy


 * CMN 299, 299R and 396 do not satisfy program coursework requirements.