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Graduate Programs Information

Attendance Policy

The Department of Communication Graduate Program develops student knowledge and skills through a varied curriculum in applied organizational communication. Our courses are special learning communities in which professors and students join together to study course-specific literature from the Communication discipline. Students process and evaluate scholarly work through written and oral presentation of information and ideas. Therefore, attendance and active participation are essential for all students' success.

Punctual attendance at each class is an obligation of the student. By registering for this course, you are indicating that you will be able to attend classes on time and without early departure on the dates published. A student missing a weekend class meeting or more than one meeting of a semester-long class should NOT expect to pass the course. Students should have their personal or professional schedules well in mind when they choose courses for the semester. Therefore, do not register for a course if you know you will not be able to attend class on all the published dates. Graduate faculty may supplement this departmental attendance policy through specific announcements in each course syllabus.

Academic Integrity Policy

Western Kentucky University and the Department of Communication are committed to the highest standards of ethical conduct and academic excellence. Issues of academic misconduct include a range of offenses including: copying the work of other students, plagiarizing other sources by incorrectly citing sources, presenting someone's information as your own without crediting the source, incorrectly citing primary sources from a secondary source, submitting assignments previously submitted for another course without prior consent of both professors, and cheating on exams.

The Department takes academic offenses seriously. Professors may routinely ask students to submit their written work to a plagiarism detection database. Any student found guilty of academic dishonesty will receive one of the following consequences at the discretion of the faculty member: written warning, reduced grade on the assignment, failing grade on the assignment, reduction in course grade, failing grade in the course, and/or referral to the University Disciplinary Committee.

Course Load

Full-time load for Graduate Students is 9 credit hours per semester and is the normal course load for graduate work. Students wishing to take more than 9 hours in one semester should consult their advisor prior to enrolling. According to university policy, no more than 15 hours can be taken in one semester. International students must take 9 credit hours/semester; at least 6 of those credit hours must be in face-to-face classes.


A cumulative GPA of at least 3.0 must be maintained for good standing in the program. A grade of 'B' or higher must be earned in all Core Courses. No grade below a 'C' will be acceptable toward the degree in any category.

Required Core Courses (COMM 547, 501, & 502)

In order for students to matriculate through the program successfully, appropriate sequencing of the Core Courses is required. Students should complete the required courses within their first 18 hours of coursework.  

Transfer Courses

If desired, a maximum of 6 hours compatible with the degree may be transferred in or taken outside the department.Transfer credit requires prior approval of the Graduate Program Director and/or Department Head. Courses taken at WKU outside the Department must also be approved.  As a general policy, the Communication Department does not accept the transfer of research methods courses to fulfill our research methods requirements.

Comprehensive Exam Guidelines

Students pursuing the non-thesis capstone option will complete a 6-hour written comprehensive exam in their last semester of coursework. The exam consists of three questions addressing theory, research methods, and students' areas of interest and course specialization. The questions should cover both organizational and human communication concepts.

The following sections describe the process in more detail:

  • First, in their last semester, students will form a comprehensive exam committee consisting of a chair and two other members from among the communication graduate faculty and submit a Comprehensive Exam Committee Form to the Graduate Program Coordinator.

  • Second, students will meet with the committee in the 3rd week of the semester they intend to graduate.

During this meeting, the candidate and the committee should come to an agreement about the theories, methodologies, and areas of specialization for testing. Each student will take exams over:

  • Two theories/typologies/models 

  • One research design (e.g., interviewing, focus groups, experiments, surveys, rhetorical criticism)

  • Two areas of specialization (e.g., narratives, sibling communication, crisis, health, etc.)

Then, the committee will develop a set of 10 potential/sample exam questions to be shared with the student (ideally, there will be two potential/sample questions that cover each theory chosen, two that cover the research design chosen, and two that cover area of specialization chosen). Once the committee has approved the student’s bibliography (see below for requirements), the chair of the committee will facilitate the creation of three, synthesized final exam questions to be submitted to the Graduate Director. Keep in mind that a topic can only appear in one category, even though the argument could be made that a specific theory is also an area of specialization. For example, if a student chooses to use image repair as one of the theories, then this may not be listed again as an area of specialization. Something like “Best Practices in Crisis Response” could be used as an area of specialization, citing different articles. Final questions, however, may cross categories. For example, the committee may ask the student to use a particular theory in formulating hypotheses for a research design question.

By an agreed upon date before or during the 5th week of the semester, the student should e-mail a bibliography to their committee for approval. The bibliography should contain the proper APA formatted citations for a minimum of 20 academic journal articles or book chapters that explain, support, or criticize each theory, research design, and area of specialization selected in the initial meeting. Chosen sources should allow the student to answer any combination of the 10 potential/sample questions posed or similar questions that may be used as final exam questions. The bibliography will serve as a study guide for the exam. The committee and the candidate should agree on the completed bibliography by the end of the 7th week of the semester for the student to have adequate time to study for the exam.

Finally, comprehensive exams are scheduled by the department during the 10th week of the Fall and Spring semester and will not be administered in the summer. All exams will be completed in-house in a room and time set by the department. Students are allowed the use of a six-page (front-side only, 10-point font) annotated bibliography during the exam. The annotated bibliography is due to the exam proctor via e-mail attachment 48 hours before the exam for approval. If the annotated bibliography is not approved, the student must make the proctor’s suggested changes by the time of the exam or the student will not be allowed use of the annotated bibliography during the exam. The proctor will print all approved annotated bibliographies and bring them to the exam for student use.

Students are expected to develop high quality responses and include important communication sources. Although a reference page is not required, students should use APA parenthetical citations (author last name, year) throughout. All responses should be at least 1,000 words and cite at least 5 sources. All students will complete exams in the Communication Success Center lab. 

Once submitted, the committee will evaluate the responses and indicate the quality of the response using the following scale: H (Pass with Honors); P (Pass); F (Fail). Students must receive a “P” on all exam questions in order to graduate. Each question will be evaluated using the exam rubrics located on the department website. Students will be notified about the results of their exams by the exam committee chair by the end of the 12th week.

If a student receives a failing grade on an exam question, they will have one additional opportunity to pass the comprehensive exam by writing a literature review on the topical area needing work (as indicated by the committee). The paper should be 12-15 pages, written in 12-point font, Times New Roman, and double-spaced. The Comprehensive Exam committee will evaluate the paper and make a determination on whether the student has successfully passed. In order for a student to graduate in the same semester the exam is taken, the literature review should be submitted at the end of the 15th week of the semester.

Comprehensive Exam Committee Form | Comprehensive Exam Rubrics

The Department of Communication is eager to acknowledge the great work of our graduate students.  Accordingly, we have created a number of awards that showcase what our graduate students do in and out of the classroom through their research, projects, and teaching. 

Below you will find links to awards our graduate students have the opportunity to earn through their dedicated work.

Thesis/Dissertation Committee Selection

There are three major items all graduate students should use and complete:

  • Degree Works 

  • Graduate Curriculum Exception 

  • Application for Graduation 

Degree Works:

Degree Works maintains student degree and certificate audits. Degree Works is a web-based advising tool designed to assist students and advisors in reviewing program progress. Degree Works audits display up-to-date information about the student’s progress towards graduation. Degree Works organizes a student’s transcript chronologically and categorically, easily identifying courses/requirements that have been completed and courses/requirements still needed in order to complete a degree or certificate program for graduation. 

Please visitDegree Works Audit to see your progress. 

Graduate Curriculum Exception:

If you need to take a different course from your degree requirements as denied in the University Catalogs, you will need to discuss this with your academic advisor for approval. Following their approval, your advisor will initiate the Graduate Curriculum Exception. 

Pleases visitGraduate School-Forms Page for the list of forms.

Application for Graduation (for those graduating in December, May, or August):

This application should be submitted on topnet with the appropriate fee at least one semester prior to the date on which the degree is to be conferred.

To submit your application for graduation, follow these steps:

  1. Sign on to TopNet with your WKU ID and PIN.

  2. Follow the 'Student Services' link.

  3. Follow the 'Student Records' link.

  4. Follow the 'Application for Graduation' link and fill out the form provided

Incomplete Coursework:

If any course work remains incomplete at the time of expected degree completion, a student will not be permitted to graduate until the grade changes are available from the Registrar's Office. Students are responsible for keeping up with incomplete grades and contacting individual professors for directions in completing the course requirements. The Graduate School office is not responsible for notifying students of incomplete grades, nor changing these grades. 

For a list of all Graduate Student Forms, please visit the Graduate School website.

For more Graduate School related information visit Graduate School Catalog

Jieyoung Kong, Ph.D.
Jieyoung Kong, Ph.D.
- Associate Professor, Graduate Academic Program Coordinator




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 Last Modified 8/21/23