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Students enrolling in the Communication, Rhetoric, and Digital Media degree program are expected to have completed a master's degree in a relevant field. A minimum of 56 credit-hours beyond the master's degree are required to complete the Ph.D. program.

The 56 hours include these requirements:

  • 15 hours of core courses, including research methods
  • 3 hours of research methods
  • 0 hours in an appropriate disciplinary area (taken as master's work)
  • 6 hours of professional preparation
  • 12 hours of elective focus
  • 20 hours of research and dissertation

Additional requirements include the following:

  • 3.0 GPA in all semesters
  • 2 residence credits in consecutive semesters (residence credits are earned at the rate of 1 credit for full-time enrollment @ 9 credit-hours, 2/3 credit for part-time enrollment @ 6–8 credit-hours, and 1/3 credit for part-time enrollment @ fewer than 6 credit-hours)
  • Plan of Work with course plan, committee, and dissertation topic submitted to Graduate School after 12 credit-hours
  • Preliminary exam, both written and oral, after coursework is completed
  • Oral defense of the dissertation
  • Completion of preliminary exam within 6 years after admission and completion of all requirements within 10 years after admission

You may download a PDF file showing a sample four-year curriculum for a student with a half-time teaching assistantship. See also the Timeline on the Policies page, which shows Graduate School deadlines, suggested coursework, and professional development milestones. 

Examples of the four-year curriculum successfully completed, or nearly completed, by CRDM students and alumni:

Core courses: 15 hours

All students take five core courses that have been designed expressly for this program. These courses provide a common foundation for inquiry into the issues posed by new communication technologies and for shaping each student's specialized research focus. They provide multiple perspectives from both the humanities and the social sciences.

A sixth core course, CRD 809, Colloquium in Communication, Rhetoric, and Digital Media, is described below under the Professional Preparation section of the curriculum.

Research methods: 3 hours

A student's program must include a minimum of 6 credits of research methods, one course in quantitative methods and the other in qualitative methods. One of the courses may be included in the master's degree. Depending on the student's background and research plans, the student's advisory committee may require additional methods courses.

Courses in the departments of Communication and English may fulfill this requirement, and in some circumstances a course in another department may be appropriate. The courses in Communication and English include

Quantitative methods

  • COM 541 Quantitative Methods in Communication Research
  • ENG 508 Usability Studies for Technical Communication
  • ENG 513 Empirical Research in Composition

Qualitative methods

Disciplinary area: 0 hours

Master's work must include 9 credit-hours in an approved "home" disciplinary area and 3 credit-hours in a second area, selected to prepare the student to contribute to an academic department after graduation. These hours do not count toward the doctoral degree. Disciplinary areas include:

  • composition studies, including writing across the curriculum
  • interpersonal/group communication
  • media studies
  • organizational communication or public relations
  • rhetorical studies
  • technical communication

If the master's program does not include appropriate courses, these must be made up after admission from master's level courses at NC State.

Elective focus: 12 hours

Each student will create a focus area that complements the disciplinary area and helps prepare for dissertation research. Courses for the elective focus are selected in consultation with the student''s advisory committee from offerings in Communication, English, and across the campus.

Among the many possibilities are areas such as technology and gender, human–computer interaction, instructional design, visual communication, linguistics and literacy studies, technologies in organizations, and globalization and culture. Students are encouraged to work with their advisory committee to develop an elective focus that advances their specific interests. Here is a sampling of courses that might be included in the elective focus:

Professional preparation: 6 hours

To ensure that students are prepared to contribute at a professional level in academic and business environments, the program requires a colloquium on professional and ethical issues in the context of interdisciplinary research, as well as an advanced course on teaching.

Colloquium: 3 hours

CRD 809 Colloquium in Communication, Rhetoric, and Digital Media
[description] [syllabus]
This one-hour course meets during each fall semester, and students register for it three successive times. In the colloquia, students will lead discussions of current research, present their own research findings, and discuss other students' and faculty members' research. The purpose of these colloquia will be to introduce students to the collaborative and interdisciplinary nature of research, to provide a forum where incoming students work with advanced students and faculty, and to encourage ongoing discussions of ethics and professionalism.

Teaching preparation: 3 hours

CRDM students take a minimum of three hours of teaching preparation plus a course in digital pedagogy (CRD 704, listed above under core courses). Preparation will be available in traditional areas such as composition, communication, and technical, business, and scientific writing pedagogy, which the current M.A. programs in English and Communication offer.
Students admitted to the program will be offered teaching or research assistantships commensurate with their abilities and potential. Those with no prior teaching experience or insufficient graduate credits to meet accreditation requirements to teach their own courses will follow the same course of training as students admitted into M.A. or M.S. programs in English or Communication. Those who enter with appropriate teaching experience and master's degrees or sufficient graduate credits to meet the requirements will be assigned to their own classes in the first semester of the Ph.D. program. Other students may work as consultants with the Campus Writing and Speaking Program to help faculty across campus incorporate writing and speaking into their courses. See section on Financial Aid under Admission.

Career options and partnerships

The CRDM program builds on existing relationships with industry established in both the Communication and English departments to provide opportunities for student internships, summer employment, and applied research projects.

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Research, exams, and dissertation: 

20 hours

Each student in CRDM will work with an advisory committee consisting of four members of the faculty in the Departments of Communication, English, and allied fields of study, based on the student's plan of work. The committee must include at least one member from Communication and one from English. This committee will oversee the student's research, examinations, and dissertation. For the purposes of the oral examinations, both preliminary and final, the committee will include a fifth member representative of and appointed by the Graduate School. More details on the exams and dissertation are linked from the Policies page.


Beyond their required coursework and professional preparation, students in CRDM will take 20 hours of research credits, including a minimum of 6 credit hours of dissertation credits (CRD 895). The remaining 8-14 credit hours will be made up of seminars and directed research in preparation for exams or the dissertation. Selection of these credit hours will be guided by the student's advisory committee.


Students must successfully complete two examinations in order to receive the PhD: the preliminary examination (written and oral components) and the final oral examination (dissertation defense).

The written portion of the preliminary examination will be geared toward assessing mastery of both core requirement subject matter and areas of specialization chosen by the student. The specific content will be based on reading lists developed in conjunction with the advisory committee. It will consist of three questions designed by that committee, focusing on the areas of specialization; answers to these questions are to be completed in a 72-hour period.

The oral portion of the preliminary examination follows successful completion of the written portion and includes a representative from the Graduate School. This portion will last approximately two hours, and while it may include material covered in the written examination, it should not be limited to the written work and will usually include discussion of the dissertation prospectus. A unanimous vote of approval of the advisory committee is required to pass the preliminary examination.

The final oral examination, also lasting approximately two hours, is the defense of the dissertation. In this examination, the doctoral candidate will defend the methodology, data, and conclusions developed in the dissertation. A unanimous vote of approval of the advisory committee is also required to pass this examination.


Following successful completion of the preliminary examination, the doctoral candidate will submit a dissertation prospectus to the advisory committee. Building on the candidate's research experience up to this point, the prospectus will outline the subject matter, methodology, and format of the proposed dissertation. Once the proposal has been accepted, the candidate will begin formal work on the dissertation.

The dissertation itself must contribute original scholarship to the field. It must be approved by all members of the advisory committee prior to the candidate's application for the final oral examination.