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Communication Studies

College of Liberal Arts

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Communication Studies - Graduate Programs

Master of Arts in Communication Studies (code COMMMA01)

The Department of Communication Studies at California State University, Long Beach offers a Master of Arts degree in Communication Studies. A student may construct a personalized program that draws from the following areas: rhetorical, interpersonal, organizational, or intercultural communication, performance studies, forensics, or instructional communication.


1. Application for Admission to the University. The office of Enrollment Services processes applications to the University (forms available through that office) and forwards those meeting University criteria to the Department.

2. Application to the Department. In addition to the University application, prospective students are also required to submit an application and supporting materials directly to the Department. An application form along with detailed instructions are available on-line at the Department's website ( Generally, the department accepts students who have a minimum 3.0 Overall Undergraduate GPA and a minimum combined score of 900 on the Verbal and Quantitative sections of the Graduate Record Exam (minimum of 400 per section). The decision to admit is never based on a single indicator. Students who do not meet these requirements may seek admission through appeal.

3. Admissions Appeal Policy. Students whose GPA and/or GRE scores are below the minimum may seek admission through an appeal letter to the Graduate Advisor. The Graduate Advisor shall distribute copies of any appeal letters to the Graduate Committee. The Graduate Committee shall consider the merits of each appeal letter and determine whether an exception ought to be made with regard to the GPA and/or GRE requirements. The decision of the Graduate Committee is final. Students who are not accepted into the program may not enroll in graduate courses in the Department of Communication Studies. Graduate courses taken through Open University will not apply to the student's degree program in the Department of Communication Studies.

4. Teaching Associateships and Graduate Assistantships. Employment as a Teaching Associate or Graduate Assistant falls under the jurisdiction of the Personnel Committee of the Department. The positions pay approximately $950.00 per month. Tuition is not waived. Interested students should send letters of application, transcripts, GRE scores, and three letters of recommendation to: Chair, Department of Communication Studies, California State University, Long Beach, 1250 Bellflower Blvd., MHB-717, Long Beach, CA 90840-2407.

5. Advising. Consult the Graduate Advisor to plan a program of study and to receive information regarding Department procedures prior to enrollment. The Graduate Advisor and/or a faculty mentor will guide students through their programs.

General Considerations

1. Requirements

  • A. All requirements date from the time at which a student receives approval for Advancement to Candidacy, not from when a student begins graduate study.
  • B. The Department requires a minimum of thirty semester hours (including four thesis credits in the Thesis Option) for the Master’s Degree. The University requires a minimum of twenty-four graduate credits be completed in residence.
  • C. Students must either pass the Department’s comprehensive examination or write an acceptable thesis.
  • D. The Department expects its graduate students to possess the writing skills necessary for advanced study. Fulfill the Graduation Writing Assessment Requirement (GWAR). Students should fulfill the GWAR no later than the end of the first semester of graduate study.If you believe you have taken an examination equivalent to fulfillment of the GWAR, consult the Graduate Advisor.

2. Prerequisites

  • A. Units obtained fulfilling prerequisites or deficiencies do not count toward the minimum of thirty semester hours needed to complete the Master's degree.
  • B. Students must meet all prerequisites before enrolling in graduate courses, except for COMM 541 or 546. Individuals may petition for waiver of this rule prior to registering for courses if compelling reasons warrant such a waiver.

3. Students must comply with all University regulations outlined in the CSULB Catalog.


Individuals with a Bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies (or its equivalent) from a fully-accredited college or university must have approved coursework in:

  1. Survey of Rhetorical Theory (COMM 300)
  2. Communication Criticism (COMM 301)
  3. Communication Theory (COMM 306)
  4. Measurement in Communication Research (COMM 307)
  5. Language and Behavior (COMM 309)


1. A minimum of thirty hours of graduate work in Communication Studies distributed as follows:

These requirements are those listed in the 1996-97 University Catalog and thus are relevant to students advancing to candidacy during or after Fall 1995. For requirements applicable to students advancing to candidacy prior to Fall 1995, consult appropriate University Catalog.

  • A. COMM 541 and 546 to be completed prior to advancement to candidacy and preferably within the first semester of graduate work (6 units);
  • B. Twelve units consisting of:
    • 1) COMM 640 and 646 (6 units),
    • 2) one course selected from COMM 633, 635, 636, 637, 638 or 639 (3 units), and
    • 3) one course selected from COMM 600, 610, 611, 614, 620, 630, 632, 648, 649, or 650.
  • C. twelve elective units of 500 or 600 level coursework approved by the student’s advisor and the Graduate Committee, including three thesis units (COMM 698) if the student elects the thesis option.

2. A minimum of six graduate units taken from one or any combination of the following areas:

  • A. graduate courses from within the Department of Communication Studies,
  • B. graduate courses from outside the Department of Communication Studies (maximum of 6 units)
    • 1) classes taken outside the discipline in a department at California State University, Long Beach require prior approval by the Graduate Committee,
    • 2) classes taken outside the discipline in a department at another university require approval by the Graduate Committee, or
    • 3) classes taken within the discipline in a department at another university.

3. Completion of the Department’s Comprehensive Examination or of an acceptable thesis.

4. Please note that Internships and student teaching cannot be included in the required thirty units.

Enrollment in Communication Studies 697

COMM 697 (Directed Research) should enable students to study topics and methods not normally available through regular coursework. Persons who choose the Thesis Option MAY NOT use COMM 697 to complete any part of the thesis project; however, COMM 697 may function to develop research proficiencies relevant to the thesis. The policy regarding COMM 697 is:

  • 1. The Graduate Committee will approve the inclusion of COMM 697 in a graduate program only if:
    • a. the research topic is not available through regular coursework during the student’s tenure in graduate study,
    • b. the student has completed 6 units from the graduate core courses,
    • c. the student has been advanced to candidacy or has submitted her or his Graduate Program to the Graduate Advisor.
  • 2. Students may take a maximum of three units of COMM 697.
  • 3. Candidates must secure approval for COMM 697 before taking the course. Prior to the semester of enrollment, students must submit two forms to the Graduate Committee:
    • a. a “Petition for Directed Research,”
    • b. an “Agreement for Independent Study Course” signed by the graduate faculty member directing the independent research (obtain this form from the Department office)
  • 4. The Graduate Committee will determine whether the proposed study conforms to the purposes of COMM 697. The faculty member directing the research has the responsibility of judging the student’s ability to complete the research and also assigning the grade for the project.
  • 5. Only members of the Department graduate faculty may direct COMM 697.

Advancement to Candidacy

Advancement to Candidacy defines a candidate's program of study and establishes her or him as an official graduate student in the University. Programs must meet the requirements in effect at the time of advancement. Candidates must submit the form for advancement required by the College of Liberal Arts (forms available in the Department office) to the Graduate Committee. Individuals are eligible for Advancement to Candidacy after completing COMM 541 and 546. Students should have an average of "B" or better to be advanced to candidacy. Candidates considering the thesis option should submit a list of ten or more courses, starring (*) the class or classes to be omitted if the thesis option is selected.

1. To qualify for advancement, a person must:

  • A. be enrolled in the University during the semester or session he or she requests advancement,
  • B. have removed all deficiencies,
  • C. have earned a minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.0 (B) for work taken – i.e., graduate courses and undergraduate prerequisites,
  • D. have completed six units of graduate core courses with an average of "B" or better,
  • E. have fulfilled the Graduation Writing Assessment Requirement.

2. If the student fails to petition for Advancement to Candidacy at the recommended time, he or she must do so at least one semester prior to the semester in which she or he intends to graduate. The deadline each semester is exactly four weeks before the last day of instruction. Do not wait for the deadline! The Graduate Committee may require the student to resubmit a program. Students can neither take the Master’s Comprehensive Examination nor enroll in COMM 698 until a program is approved.

3. All submitted programs should indicate the semester in which courses were or will be taken and should report ALL grades in courses completed. No grades of Incomplete (I) or Satisfactory Progress (SP) can appear on the program.

4. If a program contains courses taken outside the Department, a student must obtain approval from the Graduate Advisor and the Graduate Committee before including such classes in her or his course of study. This restriction applies to courses taken at CSULB and to ones transferred from other colleges or universities. Failure to obtain Graduate Committee approval for including such courses prior to enrollment may result in students’ taking classes which cannot be included in their programs of study. Candidates must submit the appropriate petition to the Graduate Committee to obtain the necessary approval.

5. After receiving the appropriate form, ”Petition for Advancement to Candidacy,” the Graduate Advisor will seek approval of the Graduate Committee and the Graduate Dean of the College of Liberal Arts.

Change in Graduate Program

If a student desires to amend her or his program of study after its approval, he or she must submit the College of Liberal Arts "Change of Program" form (available in the Department office) to the Graduate Committee for approval. Approval must be given prior to enrollment in any courses involved in the change; otherwise, the course will not be considered part of the minimum thirty units needed to complete the degree.

Comprehensive Examination Option

1. Comprehensive Examinations are given during the third weeks of November and April for the Fall and Spring semesters, respectively. Students may not take their Comprehensive Examinations during either the Winter or Summer sessions.

2. The following provisions govern election of the Comprehensive Examination Option:

  • A. If a student elects the Comprehensive Examination option at the time of approval of her or his Graduate Program, the student may not change to the thesis option except with a special permission from the Graduate Committee.
  • B. Eligibility: Candidates may take the Comprehensive Examination if they have:
    • 1) been advanced to candidacy, and
    • 2) maintained a grade point average of at least 3.0 (B) in courses in the Master’s degree program (i.e., graduate classes and prerequisites).

3. Description and Preparation

  • A. Description. The Examination consists of two sections:
    • 1) a written section spanning three, three-hour sessions during a single week,
    • 2) an oral defense, generally held within two weeks of writing the examination. The oral defense permits the student to elaborate on written answers and to answer questions that may develop out of those answers. Other discussions may arise from issues that occur to the examining committee during the oral segment of the Comprehensive Examination
  • B. Preparation. Students should prepare for the Examination by beginning their study well before the actual assignment of an examining committee. Once the Graduate Committee appoints that group, a candidate should meet with his or her Committee Chair to discuss procedures relevant to the Examination. Individuals are responsible for the subject matter of their courses regardless of whom the instructor is. The persons on their committees may or may not be those who have taught the actual seminars taken by the candidates. Professors writing questions are under NO obligation to discuss them with the students. The professors may, however, choose to provide candidates with general guidelines to aid in preparation for the Examination. Students should be familiar with all relevant literature integral to a particular area. Because the Examination is “closed book,” no notes may be taken into the examination room. Students may obtain bibliographies from individual instructors or from the Graduate Advisor.

4. Student Petitions, Committee Formation, Guidance, and Facilities/Supervision

  • A. Petitioning. Students must petition to take the Comprehensive Examination no later than the end of the semester prior to the term in which they will write the Examination. Students may not petition to take the Comprehensive Examination until all grades of Incomplete (I) and/or Satisfactory Progress (SP) have been removed.
  • B. Committee Assignment. The Graduate Committee will consider petitions and assign committees during the last week of the first month of each semester. The examining committee consists of three examiners with one member serving as chair. Each member will compose questions for one of the three sessions of the examination.
  • C. Guidance. Graduate students taking the Comprehensive Examination should understand that faculty are free to develop questions from the subject areas in which students take courses, including the undergraduate core. Candidates are responsible for the subject matter in those areas whether or not such material is addressed in a particular class. Faculty may, but are not required to, provide guidance about the content for which the student is responsible. Faculty may, but are not required to, provide sample questions, reading lists, and/or assign open-ended questions for study. Furthermore, graduate students should understand that questions normally require integration of material in original ways.
  • D. Facilities/Supervision
    • 1) The Department will provide rooms in which candidates can write the examination.
    • 2) Students wishing to use computers may bring their own computers, or make arrangements with a specific faculty member to use that person's computer.
    • 3) The Graduate Advisor or his/her designee will be available on each day of the Examination to answer questions and cope with difficulties.

5. Defense, Decision, and Appeal Procedure

  • A. Each Comprehensive Examination Oral Defense will begin by giving candidates the opportunity to explain any revisions they feel will strengthen their written responses.
  • B. Decisions of the Comprehensive Examination Committees. Individual members of the Comprehensive Exam Committee have three voting options: Pass, Fail, or Rewrite.
    • 1) Comprehensive Examination Committees may render one of the following decisions:
      • Pass — three votes to pass.
      • Fail — three votes to fail.
      • Rewrite — any other possible combination of votes.
    • 2) If students are required to REWRITE all or part of the Comprehensive Examination, they will be given the opportunity to rewrite only once in the area(s) of deficiency. Students must receive question(s) for revision within three working days of the Oral Defense. The student must respond in writing to the committee member(s) by the final day of instruction of the semester as specified by the University calendar. The committee may require a second meeting during the final examination week to review the student’s rewrite and decide whether the student passes or fails the Comprehensive Examination.
    • 3) If the Committee's decision is that the candidate failed the Examination, members shall make themselves available to the candidate to explain their decisions and to facilitate his or her preparation to retake the Examination. A student may petition to retake the Examination no earlier than the semester following that in which she or he has first taken the test. The Examination may be retaken only once.
  • C. The Department will use the following procedure if a student appeals the decision of a Comprehensive Examination Committee:
    • 1) The Graduate Committee of the Department will serve as the review board to determine whether the appeal has merit on procedural grounds.
    • 2) Members of the Graduate Committee will be ineligible to serve on the review board if they are part of the original examining committee.
    • 3) If such eligibility reduces the membership of the Graduate Committee to fewer than three persons, a replacement will be selected by lottery from among remaining eligible members of the Department faculty.

Thesis Option

1. Electing the Thesis Option

  • A. This option requires a candidate to include three units of COMM 698 (Thesis) in her or his program of study.

Students may not enroll in COMM 698 until after Advancement to Candidacy or, in rare cases, when advancement occurs in the same semester as the initial enrollment. Note that the Department facilitates timely Advancement to Candidacy of persons writing a thesis by allowing them to submit an advancement form listing ten courses (30 units) or more and starring (*) the course or courses to be omitted if the thesis option is selected.

  • B. The “Petition for Permission to the Elect the Thesis Option”
    • 1) The candidate must submit the petition to the Graduate Committee through the Graduate Advisor. The form provides space for the signatures of the proposed committee members certifying their willingness to serve on the committee and their approval of the candidate’s prospectus. Acceptance of the prospectus by the Thesis Committee certifies both the acceptability of the thesis topic and the willingness of the Committee to direct the student’s thesis.
    • 2) The Graduate Committee will not approve the petition until the student completes all requirements in COMM 541 and 546.
  • C. The Thesis Committee
    • 1) The student is responsible for securing faculty to serve on her or his Thesis Committee. At least two members of a three-person committee or three members of a five-person committee must be tenure-track or tenured faculty from the Department of Communication Studies. Faculty holding parallel status in other departments at CSULB or in other Communication Studies departments in the CSU system may fill the other slots on the committee.
    • 2) The Committee Chair must be a member of the Department’s graduate faculty.
  • D. The candidate shall prepare a prospectus in consultation with the Thesis Committee Chair and other committee members. The project should be more than a minor extension of a seminar project. It should constitute an original contribution to literature in communication studies and should develop a student’s research abilities. Candidates must submit a completed, approved prospectus to the Graduate Committee no later than the semester prior to that in which the thesis is to be completed.

2. Completing the thesis

  • A. COMM 698
    • 1) If the “Petition for Permission to Elect the Thesis Option” is approved by the Graduate Committee, a student may not change to the Comprehensive Examination Option except by special permission of the Graduate Committee. If a student has been enrolled for a semester or more in COMM 698, he or she cannot change options under any condition.
    • 2) If a candidate does not demonstrate satisfactory and continuous progress on the thesis after enrolling in COMM 698, the Graduate Committee, on the recommendation of the Thesis Committee and/or the Graduate Advisor, may terminate the student’s graduate program and, if the student is enrolled in COMM 698 at the time, will assign an “F” for the semester.
    • 3) The Department may endorse a petition for one semester of concurrent enrollment in COMM 698 and in another graduate or professional school only if the candidate’s Thesis Committee presents evidence that a draft of the thesis requiring only mechanical revision has been submitted.
  • B. Neither the Thesis Committee nor the Department is responsible for advising or supervising thesis candidates when they are not enrolled in the graduate program.
  • C. For thesis specifications and deadlines consult:
    • 1) The University Thesis Reviewer whose office is in the Library;
    • 2) the official thesis document: Master's Thesis and Projects: Guide to Style and Format;
    • 3) the Thesis Committee;
    • 4) thesis guidelines available in the following manuals:
      • a) typing requirements (e.g., formatting, table of contents, appendices, etc.): Turabian, Kate. A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, latest edition
      • b) style sheets for technical requirements:
        • i) Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, latest edition, or
        • ii) MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, latest edition
  • D. Approval of the completed thesis
    • 1) Upon completion of an acceptable thesis, the student will defend the thesis before the Thesis Committee. Other departmental faculty and students may choose to attend. The Chair of the Thesis Committee will make all necessary arrangements for the oral defense and announce its time and place to the Department. The decision of the examining committee is by secret ballot and requires a majority vote. The Committee will notify candidates of their decision immediately after the oral defense. A candidate whose thesis and/or defense does not receive approval may revise and resubmit the thesis and/or defend it no sooner than the following semester. Resubmission or redefense, however, may take place only once.
    • 2) The completed draft of the thesis must meet the approval of the University Thesis Reviewer.
    • 3) Candidates must deposit the thesis in the University Library. Copies are given to the Department Library and to the Chair of the Thesis Committee if requested.

To Graduate

The CSULB Catalog states: “All requirements of the degree program must be completed within seven years of the date . . . when the first course appearing on the student program was completed. . . . A graduate student who expects to receive a degree at the end of any semester or summer session must be enrolled during that . . . [term] and must complete the Request to Graduate Form within the first three weeks of classes of the prior semester. Students completing their degrees in May or in the following summer session should file the application by the preceding October 1. Students completing their degrees January should file by the preceding February 15 at the Admissions and Records Office. . . . Graduate Studies 700 may be used to fulfill the enrollment requirement if the applicant has completed all degree program coursework prior to the semester of graduation.”

Graduate Student Honors

Several honors for graduate students are awarded each year at commencement. In accordance with the Department policy, such honors shall be awarded to deserving students using criteria such as the following:

  1. Grade point average
  2. Papers published or presented at professional conferences
  3. Conventions attended
  4. Professional community service not a part of a student’s employment
  5. Graduate Communication Association involvement
  6. Student Communication Association involvement
  7. Departmental service — e.g., volunteer forensic assistant, class lecturer, committee membership

Financial Assistance

Refer to the University Catalog for information regarding financial assistance which is available on a University-wide basis.

Forms and Petitions

Sample forms and petitions relevant to enrolled graduate students appear in the Appendix of the Graduate Handbook available only to students registered in the Graduate Program.


Any questions not answered in these pages should be directed to the Department Graduate Advisor.

Graduate Courses in Communication Studies

Students may apply the following graduate courses in Communication Studies toward the Master’s Degree: COMM 531, 541, 546, 590, 600, 610, 611, 614, 620, 630, 632, 633, 635, 636, 637, 638, 639, 640 (540), 646 (696), 648, 649, 650, 697, 698

Undergraduate Core Courses

COMM 300 (440), 301 (435), 306 (446), 307 (230), 309 (448) and 330. Course numbers in parentheses are old course numbers.