Thesis Track

The thesis option is consistent with a key North Carolina State University and Department of Communication goal: Provide rigorous and high quality preparation for Ph.D. work in communication.

Thus, this option may be appealing to students who seek a stronger foundation in the communication discipline that can be used in continued work within academia. The exact nature of the thesis will be negotiated with the student's Committee Chair and additional committee members. A written thesis will take the place of written comprehensive exams in the final semester of study. Both require an oral examination following completion. The thesis oral exam is known as the Oral Defense.

The thesis track consists 36.00 hours of coursework, with at least 27.00 credit hours of Department of Communication classes (prefix “COM” in the NC State Course Catalog). The program of study includes the same core courses required of all M.S. students. Students who complete this option are required to successfully complete the core requirements as early as possible. The option of taking up to 
6.00 credit hours of Master's Thesis Research (COM 695) will count towards elective hours and enable students to devote more time to their research. Students and the Committee Chair must indicate their desire to enroll in COM 695 on the Thesis Intent form (located in the Forms Library). This is a permission-only course so students cannot enroll themselves; the Graduate Services Coordinator will enroll the student.  If a student does not complete 6.00 hours of COM 695, he or she will need to fulfill required hours with elective credits either within or outside of the department.

The Graduate School’s Thesis and Dissertation Support Services (TDSS) includes a variety of writing workshops, seminars, and other programs to help students through the thesis / dissertation process. From the TDSS website, you can view a calendar of events, register online for workshops and seminars, and find links to many helpful resources. We encourage you to take advantage of these services — free to NC State graduate students.

Choosing the Thesis Track

By pre-registration in the second semester of the first year for full-time students, or after 9.00 credit hours of completed course work for part-time students, a decision must be made on whether to take the thesis track or take the traditional route of comprehensive exams in the final semester. The thesis track option requires more planning than opting for comprehensive examinations that includes meeting deadlines set by The Graduate School, so students should refer to the current Thesis Essentials guidelines sheet available from Dr. Andrew Binder, Director of Graduate Programs.

As a first step, the student will select a thesis committee consisting of a Chair and at least two other faculty members. (One of the faculty members may be from a department other than Communication.) The student should consult with his or her Committee Chair (also referred to as the Thesis Advisor) and complete the Thesis Intent Form (available from the Forms Library page). The form requires signatures from the student, his/her Committee Chair, and the Director of Graduate Programs, Dr. Andrew Binder.  

Following approval of the Thesis Intent Form by the student's Committee Chair / Thesis Advisor and Dr. Binder, a thesis proposal will be developed in consultation with the Chair, although the student must have the methodological competence necessary to complete the proposed project as an independent researcher. The proposal, in general, will include a review of the literature on the student's topic and a proposal for the methodology to complete the study. Once the proposal is approved by the Chair, it must be presented to the thesis committee for approval. The completed proposal will constitute the first half of the thesis (introduction, literature review, and proposed plan of research) and serves, essentially, as a contract between the student and the committee. 

Students may register for 3.00 credit hours per semester of Master's Thesis Research (COM 695) during the term that the proposal will be presented to the thesis committee for approval. Complete the Thesis Proposal Defense Form at least a month prior to the date of the defense.

After the proposal has been approved, the student may register for an additional 3.00 credit hours of COM 695 while completing the thesis. Subsequently, the student will complete the methodological plan approved in the proposal. Once completed, the proposal will become the first half of the thesis, followed by a chapter reporting the results of the study and a chapter discussing the implications of those results. The thesis will be revised until the Chair considers it satisfactory, at which time it will be presented to the members of the thesis committee by the student, who will orally defend the thesis in an examination conducted by the thesis committee. The master's degree is not completed until the thesis has been approved by The Graduate School.

Thesis Option Oral Defense

The oral defense must be completed in a timely manner so that the student can meet the Graduate School electronic theses deadlines. The registration deadline is typically near the end of March for those planning to graduate in spring. According to The Graduate School, this is "the date by which a thesis or dissertation student must unconditionally pass the final exam and have an Electronic Theses and Dissertations (ETD) Review while being registered for the semester s/he is graduating in."  Therefore, the oral defense must occur before this deadline, with enough time for the student to make requested changes and submit the thesis to the ETD editor for review.

Following this submission to the ETD editor, the student will need to have the final error-free thesis submitted by The Graduate School deadline. Prior to the oral defense date, the Committee Chair will discuss the oral exam process and indicate areas that may be queried during the defense with the student. During the oral exam, committee members will probe and ask for clarification or elaborations on the thesis. After the oral exam, the committee will assess the student's performance and the student will "pass unconditionally," "pass conditionally," or fail. 

A unanimous decision by the committee is required to unconditionally pass the defense. If the student is passed conditionally, the committee will provide explanation of the conditions that must be met in order for the student to pass the oral defense examination. If the committee votes to fail the student via a majority vote (two of three members), the student will be terminated from the program, unless the committee determines that another course of action is warranted. An alternative course of action might be to defend the thesis a second time, following some instruction from the committee. A student who is granted this alternative course of action will have only one additional opportunity to satisfactorily pass. In other words, should the committee decide to request a second defense, the second defense is final. Failure of the second oral defense will require a majority vote of the student's thesis committee (two out of three committee members).