Students have the option of following the strategic planning or the research track. Note that the orders of the courses in the lists below do not necessarily reflect the order in which students take their courses; students work with their advisors to determine the best coursework plan. The strategic planning track does not require a thesis.

Strategic Planning Track Requirements

  • 480.600 Research and Writing Methods
  • At least three core courses from the Informing Practice through Research group
  • Six electives

Research Track Requirements

  • 480.600 Research and Writing Methods
  • At least two core courses from the Informing Practice through Research group
  • At least one core course from the Applied Research for Communication Professionals group
  • 480.800 Thesis (required in the last semester of study): Students in the Research Track must complete a Thesis. Graduation is subject to completion of the thesis course and approval of the thesis by the thesis committee. All core courses must be completed before starting the Thesis. Students generally require two semesters to complete the Thesis, and must register for Thesis Continuation for every subsequent semester (including summer) until they complete their degrees. Students may not take leaves of absence while completing their theses. The Thesis continuation course may not be substituted in lieu of the required 10 courses for the degree.
  • Five electives

Required Courses

Strategic Planning track and Research track students must complete Research and Writing Methods during their first semester and before enrolling in any core courses. In addition, Research track students must take Thesis and if necessary Thesis Continuation during their last semesters. Students who earn a C or below in a required course must repeat that course.

Communication professionals take on diverse and multiple roles within and across organizations, but they share one role in common as strategic problem solvers. This course will teach you how to find, read, interpret, evaluate, and apply scientific research studies to solve practical problems encountered by communication practitioners. Topics covered include how to effectively use library resources to find research that can be of strategic value; how different research methods, including focus groups, case studies, surveys, and experiments are used in communication research; how to evaluate the quality of research reports; how to interpret qualitative and quantitative findings, including statistics; and how to distill the information found in research reports down to what is most relevant and usable. In addition to learning how to become a competent and critical research consumer, you will also be exposed to current research across different areas of the communication discipline.

This course is designed to guide students though the thesis process. It is the last course students take in finishing their masters’ degrees. Students select a topic for original research and conduct and write up their research in the course of the class. Students are encouraged to select a topic that will be useful in the workplace and that can be part of their professional portfolio. Graduation is subject to approval of the thesis by the thesis committee and completion of a successful defense. Students are encouraged to enter the class with a clear idea of what they would like to research. All core courses must be completed before starting Thesis.

Students not finishing the thesis during the term in which they enroll in the Thesis course must enroll in Thesis Continuation in every ensuing semester (including summer) until they complete their degrees. It is not possible to take a semester off or a leave of absence while working on the thesis.

Core Courses: Informing Practice Through Research

Students must complete Research and Writing Methods before they can take a course in this group.

The digital age is changing how communication professionals communicate with public groups and how people access, understand, and process information. As a result, digital tools are an increasingly important part of the modern communicator’s tool kit. This course examines empirical research that will help communication professionals in the digital age. Topics include creating usable and credible websites and effective internet advertising. The course also examines blogs, social networking, and digital journalism. The digital age is explored through primary research across a range of subjects including public relations, political communication and health communication. Prerequisite: Research and Writing Methods

The goal of many communication initiatives is to encourage some type of behavior change. Communication professionals who understand how people change their behavior can create more successful campaigns. This course surveys major theories used to predict when and under what circumstances individuals are most likely to change their behavior. Behavior change includes a variety of actions, such as voting for a candidate, purchasing a product, joining a social networking group, or adopting a new health habit. Individual-level, interpersonal level, and community-level models of change are covered. By becoming familiar with specific theories and the empirical support for those theories, students learn how to use social science based models to guide their communication strategies effectively. Prerequisite: Research and Writing Methods

This course surveys major theories and perspectives on how mass media can influence individuals, organizations and society, with a focus on content areas that have the most strategic relevance for public relations practice. The course covers readings on the role media plays in shaping what issues people attend to, how they think about those issues and potential outcomes; how public relations practitioners attempt to use media strategically to meet their objectives; and the implications that current media systems, technologies, and practices have for their media relations efforts. Prerequisite: Research and Writing Methods

This course addresses two questions of vital importance to communication professionals: what aspects of a message make it persuasive (or not), and what attributes of individual people and audiences make them susceptible or resistant to influence. The course examines all varieties of messaging, from individuals communicating one-on-one, to messages communicated via mass media. We study topics such as how the expertise, trustworthiness, and likeability of a spokesperson can enhance or weaken a message’s persuasiveness, and how people’s social groups can affect their willingness to believe. The course draws on both theory and empirical evidence to provide students with a well-rounded understanding of influence and persuasive strategies in today’s world. Prerequisite: Research and Writing Methods

Strategic-planning students complete the Practicum course during their last semester in the MA in Communication program. This optional core course offers a culminating experience that helps students integrate new or enhanced capabilities into a significant evidence-based project relevant to their profession. Each student can identify an organization or individual in need of support for a communication-related project and how to fulfill that need. In addition, the student must prepare (a) a proposal that outlines objectives, scope of work, any deliverables, timeline, and method for evaluating achievement of objectives; and (b) any final deliverables. The student must complete the Practicum course in one semester.

Core Courses: Applied Research for Communication Professionals

Students must complete Research and Writing Methods before they can take a course in this group.

This course will explore quantitative research methods, but will take the next step into quantitative communication research by investigating quantitative tools used by communication practitioners, in particular to measure the effectiveness of campaigns. In addition to standard quantitative methods, you will gain an insight on digital analytics, how to understand them, and how to make important information out of the data to report on the effectiveness of campaigns and messages. This class will satisfy the requirement for Applied Quantitative Research. Students should take this course prior to the semester in which they begin their research for Thesis . Prerequisite: 480.600 Research and Writing Methods.

Communication professionals use qualitative methods to craft messages that resonate with audiences. This hands-on class exposes students to qualitative research methods that can be used on the job to guide communication efforts more strategically. Students learn how to design and conduct studies to gain insight into audience perceptions on a variety of issues. Specific techniques covered include in-depth interviews, focus groups, qualitative content analyses, and case studies. Through applied activities, students learn how to collect, analyze, and present qualitative research data. Students should take this course prior to the semester in which they begin their research for Thesis. Prerequisite: 480.600 Research and Writing Methods.

Elective Courses

Students may take electives in any of the concentrations, regardless of whether they have declared one or more concentrations. In addition, students may select additional core courses as electives.

Students are not required to specify a concentration. But those who are interested may choose to identify one concentration, or possibly two, of the options listed below. A single course cannot count toward two concentrations. Although it is possible for online students to earn a concentration, we cannot guarantee enough courses will be available online for all concentrations.


Students should be aware of state-specific information for online programs. For more information, please contact an admissions representative.

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