PhD in Communication

Program Director – Dr. Jeremy Stolow

Please direct questions about the program to email hidden; JavaScript is required

A Word from the Director

Stolow PhD DirectorConcordia University has one of the best doctoral programs in communication studies in the country and an international reputation for excellence in research and teaching.  Founded in 1987, as a radically innovative experiment in inter-university collaboration, the program has continued to evolve over the past thirty years as new faculty have joined the program.

Our department possesses a rich and vibrant research culture, comprising numerous nationally and internationally reputed, award-winning scholars, artists, and film-makers, with extensive track records in graduate supervision, research training, and mentoring (for further information about individual faculty areas of expertise and ongoing research projects, please consult the department’s individual faculty pages). Some of our department’s particular areas of research and teaching strength include: cultural studies; feminist media studies; research-creation; media history; digital culture; visual culture; sound studies; and games studies.  Our approach to communication studies traverses the humanities, social sciences, and media arts, and several members of the department conduct research at the crossroads of science and the humanities.  Broadly speaking, our department supports research and graduate study in the forms and formats of communication technologies; in the meaning-making aspects of communications; in issues of power and politics; and finally, in the emancipatory potential of communications for diverse constituents and communities. For a sense of the range of topics addressed by PhD students in our department, see our list of theses completed.

In addition to their coursework and doctoral projects, students in the PhD in Communication program are given opportunities to teach courses in our department, to present their work at local, national, and international conferences, and to participate in the ongoing activities of numerous research centres based at Concordia, including: Fluxmedia, ARC, the Mobile Media Lab, TAG, Hexagram, the Media History Research Centre, the Centre for Sensory Studies, the Screen Culture Research Group, and ARTHEMIS.  The intellectual energy of our Ph.D. students is a constant source of inspiration. Over the years, students have organized ground-breaking conferences (including a highly successful biennial conference run by students in the Joint Program), established reading and thesis support groups, and instigated numerous social events. Our students have also been successful in securing highly competitive scholarships and awards, including the Trudeau Scholarship and the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship. Graduates from our program have gone on to take up post-doctoral fellowships, employment in the public and private sectors, and academic positions across Canada and around the world.

Concordia’s PhD in Communication is offered under the rubric of a Joint PhD program that combines the talents of professors, students and staff from three institutions: Concordia University; the University of Montreal; and the University of Quebec at Montreal.  Students in our program are encouraged to take advantage of these expanded resources in their selection of courses and in the composition of their committees, and more generally, to benefit from the fertile research and media arts environment that makes Montreal the leading destination for Communication Studies in Canada.

A PhD is a serious, long-term undertaking, and so you must research potential graduate schools carefully. I hope that in the process, you discover that Concordia’s PhD in Communication is the right program for you, and in that case, we look forward to receiving your application.  If you have any questions about the program or the application process, you are most welcome to contact me.


Dr. Jeremy Stolow
Director, Concordia PhD in Communication


2015 – 2016 Application deadline

Completed applications (including transcripts and letters of reference) are due January 15, 2016. Admission is done annually. Students must enter the program in the Fall term.

For eligibility requirements and further information, please contact Graduate Awards.

How to apply

Please refer to our PhD Application page.

Admission requirements

Applicants must have a Master of/Magisteriate in Arts in Communication or its equivalent. Applicants will be selected on the basis of the excellence of their past academic record.

Applicants must include a thoroughly articulated outline of a research project with their application.

Admission criteria

  • Excellence and pertinence of academic background
  • Promise as a scholar
  • Relevance of proposed research to the program
  • Feasibility of proposed research in terms of material and faculty resources
  • Ability to understand English and French
  • Availability of a faculty member to direct the applicant

While there are no fixed quotas, admission is limited by the availability of the program’s faculty to supervise students.

Language requirements

Since this is a bilingual program, applicants must demonstrate a level of competence that would allow them to read technical material and follow lectures and discussions in both English and French. The ability to speak and write with facility in both languages is not required; students may participate in discussion, write reports, examinations and theses in English or French, as they choose.

Applicants whose prior degrees are not from an English or French-speaking university are required to submit TOEFL scores. The minimum TOEFL score required is 623.

Admission procedures

The admissions committee, named by the Joint Program Committee, will review applications. This committee will then submit recommendations to the Joint Program Committee who will recommend candidates for admission to the respective universities.

Requirements for the degree

  1. Credits: A fully qualified candidate entering the program with a master’s/ magisteriate degree is required to complete a minimum of 90 credits. These are apportioned as follows: courses and seminars, 21 credits; thesis proposal, 6 credits; and thesis, 63 credits. Typical progress in the program consists of:
    Year 1
    • Courses and seminars: four courses and seminars (12 credits)
    • Doctoral examination: COMS 810 (non-credit)
  1. Year 2
    • Courses and seminars: Doctoral Pro-seminar COMS 830 (6 credits) and one additional course or seminar from among the programs offerings (3 credits)
    • Doctoral Thesis Proposal: COMS 890 (6 credits)

    Year 3

    • Thesis: COMS 896 (63 credits)
  2. Residence: The minimum period of residence is six terms including two summer terms of full-time study, or its equivalent in part-time study. Of this, three terms must be taken consecutively. Students will be assigned an academic advisor when they first register. Students will be required to choose a thesis director before the end of their third term in the program.
  3. Courses: In order to favour inter-university exchange and broaden the training of the students enrolled in the program, all the program’s courses are open to all students in the program, regardless of the university at which they are enrolled. All students must enroll in the Doctoral Pro-seminar, COMS 830 (6 credits); and enroll in seminars and courses from among the Program’s offerings for a total of 21 credits.
  4. Doctoral Examination: The Doctoral Examination takes place in the summer of Year 1, and examines the student’s ability to carry out conceptual and analytical reflection pertinent to their research. The student will prepare for the examination beginning on May 1, will write the exam based on two questions posed by committee members in the summer beginning on June 15 and due right after Labour Day in September, and defend the exam in an oral defense between early September and mid-October. The examination committee is composed of 3 committee members from at least 2 universities. The prerequisite to undertaking the Doctoral Examination is the successful completion of 9 course credits, and must be successfully defended in order to register for the Doctoral Forum.
  5. Doctoral Pro-seminar: In order to promote the growth of an intellectual community within the program and an exchange among the program’s four areas, students are required to register in the theory and research pro- seminar known as the Doctoral Forum. Students registered in this seminar are required to present a first draft of their thesis proposal. Students typically register in the doctoral forum in the second or third year of their studies. It is compulsory to finish the synthesis exam before registering in the Doctoral Forum. All members of the program are invited to attend the seminar.
  6. Thesis Proposal. In the term following the completion of course work (usually the sixth term) students should submit a thesis proposal to their thesis director. Students must have completed the synthesis examination before registering for the thesis proposal. The thesis proposal should be completed within three years of the student’s first enrollment. The proposal must be defended orally before a committee of three professors appointed by the program. This committee will usually be composed of members from at least two of the participating universities. Students must demonstrate the viability of their project and their capacity to undertake doctoral-thesis research. The proposal may be accepted, returned for modifications, or rejected. The rejection of a proposal will result in the student being withdrawn from the program. A student whose proposal is accepted will be admitted to candidacy for the Ph.D.
  7. Thesis Research. All degree requirements, including the thesis, must be completed within six years of the student’s first enrollment for full-time studies and eight years for part-time studies. The thesis must be based on extensive research in primary sources, make an original contribution to knowledge, and be in an acceptable literary form. For purposes of registration, this work will be designated as COMS 896: Thesis Research.The doctoral thesis is based on extensive primary research; the goal is to make an original contribution to knowledge. The traditional research thesis is ideally no less than 225 pages and no longer than 350 pages. It must be written in an acceptable literary form and represent a contribution to theoretical or empirical knowledge in the field of communication. Students also have the possibility to produce a research-creation thesis which is to meet the same standards of rigour as the traditional research thesis. The research-creation thesis includes a practical component of creation or innovative production in the field of media/communications or digital/computerized communications, as well as a written component of approximately 150 pages demonstrating the contribution to the advancement of knowledge in the field. A digital reproduction of the practical component must be attached to the manuscript at the time of submission.

Academic regulations

  1. GPA Requirement. The academic progress of students is monitored on a periodic basis. To be permitted to continue in the program, students must obtain a cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 3.00 based on a minimum of 12 credits. Students whose GPA falls below 3.00 are considered to be on academic probation during the following review period. Students whose GPA falls below 3.00 for two consecutive review periods are withdrawn from the program.
  2. C Rule. Students who receive more than one C during the course of their Ph.D. studies will be required to withdraw from the program. Students may appeal for readmission. Students who receive another C after readmission will be required to withdraw from the program and will not be considered for readmission.
  3. F Rule. Students who receive a failing grade in the course of their Ph.D. studies will be withdrawn from the program. Students may apply for readmission. Students who receive another failing grade after re-admission will be withdrawn from the program.
  4. Time Limit. All work for a doctoral degree must be completed within 18 terms (6 years) of full-time study or 24 terms (8 years) of part-time study from the time of initial registration in the program.
  5. Graduation Requirement. In order to graduate, students must have a cumulative GPA of at least 3.00.

Domains and courses

COMS 800 Integrative Seminar (3 credits)

This course proposes to engage first-year students in an epistemological conversation concerning different approaches to the conceptualization of communication and to the range of research problematics elaborated in the field and in the program. The expected outcomes would include: a broad understanding of the relations between different domains within the discipline; the ability to recognize the links between epistemological assumptions, theory construction, the formation of research problematics and methodological approaches; a familiarization with the main fields of strength within the program; and the development of the ability to engage in dialogue with colleagues in different domains of research.

ICTs (Information and Communication Technologies) and Society

COMS 841 Cultural Industries (3 credits)

This course examines commodification and industrialization processes as well as the dissemination and consumption of culture within contemporary social formations, while focusing on one or more sectors of the cultural industries. The analytical approach considers themes such as characteristics of merchandising cycles, work and market organization, symbolic and cultural specificity of cultural-industries products, and relationships between technological innovation and cultural form.

COMS 843 Communication Policy (3 credits)

This course examines the history and development of state intervention and regulation of the media. It may focus on communication policy nationally or internationally. The course considers such issues as the role of public policy in the development of public media and the public sphere, models of regulation and deregulation, the relations between regulatory agencies and interest groups, and the position of communication policies within larger governmental structures.

COMS 844 Uses of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) (3 credits)

Observing usage of information and communication objects and technical devices allows us to understand the effect of technologies within society. This course explores different theoretical and methodological approaches pertinent to analyzing ICT usages. With respect to course discussions and papers, particular attention may be paid to the interaction between user and technical device; articulation between artifact user and creator; usage situation within the organizational context; embedding of political dimensions in technological design; usage micro-situations and macro-sociological issues. Some major research traditions may be introduced, namely, dissemination of artifacts, sociotechnical innovation, common practices and significations, pragmatic approaches, social and socio-political appropriation of usages.

COMS 882 Communication, Democracy and Power (3 credits)
This course considers the communicative structure and performance of democracy within modern society. Attention is paid to the discursive resources available to perform and affect democracy, the constitution of democratic agents, the role of media in constituting and maintaining a public sphere, communicative strategies, norms of regulation and power, the performance of difference and various aspects of public culture.

COMS 891 Communication Technologies and Society (3 credits)
This course introduces students to and contextualizes the main paradigms with respect to research on social, economic and cultural aspects of information and communication technologies. Critical analysis focuses on their epistemological assumptions and premises, main categories of analysis, and privileged issues. Attention is paid to the political economy of the information system.

Media and Cultural Studies

COMS 842 Media Reception (3 credits)
This course examines media reception. It explores different theoretical and methodological approaches to the study of individual group practices and cultural consumption. The course looks at case-study material drawn from specific media or media genres (e.g. popular music, téléromans, children’s programming). The seminar considers such approaches as media ethnography, focus-group research, audience research, life histories, and other context specific micro-social approaches.

COMS 883 History and Historiography of Media and Culture (3 credits)
This course examines the development of communication technologies and the media in comparative and historical perspective. Themes of time, space, place and power and their reconfiguration in relation to media and communication are given particular attention. Class members are encouraged to think about how they might engage in research on the history of media as part of their dissertation projects. To this end, historiographical issues are examined throughout the course, along with methodological consideration given to how one works with documentary and archival records.

COMS 884 Cultural Theory in Communication Studies (3 credits)
This course introduces students to cultural studies and its entwinement with the development of the field of communications. Key readings in Marxist approaches to culture, British Cultural Studies, and its US and Canadian variants are covered in the first half of the course. The remaining weeks expand the national and conceptual specificity of the “cultural studies tradition”. Topics include cultural and representational politics, issues of identity, resistance, hegemony, and ideology.

COMS 885 Popular Culture (3 credits)
This course focuses upon the political dimension of popular culture and the intellectual challenges it poses to scholarship. It concentrates upon the conceptual and historical aspects of the study of popular-cultural forms, their production and consumption, as well as their assessment. The course introduces key ideas and issues in popular-cultural studies, beginning with the rise of interest in mass culture during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It also encounters modes of examining and understanding popular texts and sites of popular consumption. Issues of subjectivity, community, ideology, cultural hierarchies, and mass society are addressed.

COMS 886 Alternative Media (3 credits)
This course examines the array of alternative communication practices that inform social movements emerging from the margins. It focuses on the conditions of their effectiveness and mechanisms that facilitate or impede their success, such as the external social forces that influence their cooptation, commodification and evacuation of revolutionary potential.

Discourse Studies

COMS 851 Speech Communication (3 credits)
This course examines discourse as action. Forms of discourse considered may range from interpersonal communication to public address. Possible theoretical approaches include ethnomethodology, conversational analysis, rhetorical theory, and performance studies.

COMS 853 Discourse and Representation (3 credits)
The course examines discourse with respect to representation. It focuses upon the structuring of knowledge and identity within sign systems. Emphasis may range from the cognitive and psychological to the social and cultural.

COMS 854 Discourse within Social Formations (3 credits)

This course examines discourse as social mediation. Possible themes include the interrelation of power and knowledge, the organization of culture through signifying practices, and the production of discourse and social institutions.

COMS 887 Strategies and Styles in Communication (3 credits)
This course considers the strategies and styles of communication as intentional symbolic activity. Communication is examined as a practice that responds to and transforms situations and contexts. Emphasis is placed on the form, manner, and consequences of such practices, as well as on the major paradigms informing different approaches to the study of discourse and mediated messages.

COMS 888 Discourses of the Body (3 credits)
Critical theorists have identified the body as a site of competing and multiple discourses. The course examines some of the ways in which different bodies have been constructed in the media and how these both constrain and provide latitude for the expression of identities. A central area of inquiry is the context of the historical and contemporary terrain that informs the expression and categorization of these identities.

Organizational Communication and Networks of Communication

COMS 861 Organizational Culture (3 credits)
This course examines how cultural analysis can be brought to bear in understanding organizational life. To this end, a range of theoretical approaches are drawn upon, including conversational analysis, ethnography,
ethnomethodology, symbolic interactionism, enactment theory, and socio- linguistics. Aspects of organizations such as norms, rituals, folklore, traditions, common ideals, ideologies, shared symbols, core values and interaction are given particular attention.

COMS 864 Communication and Change in Organizations (3 credits)

This course addresses a major question within organizations at both theoretical and practical levels. It focuses on issues of innovation or transformation in an organizational framework using various approaches (functionalist, critical, post-modern, constructivist, interpretative). This perspective is pertinent for analyzing the context and process of change within cultural or development organizations as well as private, public or charitable undertakings.

COMS 875 Technology and Organization (3 credits)

This course analyzes and critiques various theoretical approaches which account for the relationship between technology and organization. It also provides the grounds for a communicational reflection on phenomena associated with the presence of information and communication technologies within organizations.

COMS 880 Communication Networks and Organization (3 credits)
This course examines and analyzes communication networks in a constructivist perspective with respect to two main “social-networks” traditions (anthropological and structural). It considers communication networks according to the themes explored by scholars in the field such as diffusion, social support and capital, organizational phenomena, social movements or ICTs. The seminar also includes methodological aspects of the study of communication networks, their emergence, and their transformation.

COMS 889 Theories of Organizational Communication (3 credits)

This course surveys and juxtaposes how some of the main approaches to organizational studies have dealt with issues related to communication. Paradigms considered may include scientific management, human relations, cybernetics, political economy, rational decision making, cultural studies, feminism, and post-modernism. An effort is made to examine how these various approaches emerged historically in relation to shifting patterns of power, inequality, and technological change. Issues such as the nature of bureaucracy, domination and resistance, systematically distorted communication, and public relations/external communication are addressed.

International Communication and Development

COMS 873 Identities and Cultural Exchange (3 credits)
Within the context of electronic, information, and market-globalization forces, traditional geopolitical borders have become porous and easily penetrable. This course focuses on the hybrid identities emergent and negotiated from cross-cultural engagements and transnational communication at the beginning of the 21st century. Curricular materials include theoretical readings, case studies, and audiovisual materials focused on bridging cultural and political gaps.

COMS 874 Globalization of Communication (3 credits)

This course examines the emergence of a global communication system. Possible topics include international information flow, the circulation of communication products and communication issues as they are reflected in international accords and debates, and the role of media in issues of cultural development, democratization, and resistance to globalization.

COMS 877 International Communication and Development (3 credits)

This course traces the history of the different paradigms related to communication and development. It proposes a critical analysis of the theoretical perspectives suggested in both Southern and Northern contexts. The topics considered include Canadian and foreign institutions, policies, and programs, the role of international fora, as well as globalization and development. Case studies may focus on a specific region of the world.

COMS 878 Communication, Conflict and Peace (3 credits)

This course examines the various ways in which discourses of war, conflict, and peace are constructed and relayed through the mass media and other forms of technologically-mediated communication. In particular, how do the inherent properties of different modes of communication intersect with larger discursive formations to reproduce dominant definitions and unquestioned categories of social knowledge related to issues of peace and conflict? What role do the media play in shaping our understanding of war and warfare? How does the internet contribute to promoting both conflict and peace? How is peace represented as an end state that is desirable; for whom is peace being constructed; and what are the kinds of actions being promoted or encouraged in the name of peace?

Media Creation, Design and Practices

COMS 876 Media Technology as Practice (3 credits)

This course examines relationships between theory and practice in the work of individuals and groups of media practitioners across a range of genres and working contexts. Analysis can focus on the organization of the workplace, the creative process and social forces influencing media praxis.

COMS 879 Human-Computer Interactions (3 credits)

This seminar examines human-computer interaction models and research in various fields of media communication; virtual worlds, e-commerce, distance education, sharing of knowledge and resources, adaptive technologies, systems intelligence and customization. Other topics include principles of interface design and assessment in cognitive ergonomics.

COMS 892 Epistemology and Methodology of Media Creation (3 credits)
This seminar seeks to develop a position of poiesis (production) and to differentiate it from the position of aisthesis (reception). In order to define the multiple aspects of media creation, the following themes will be discussed; creationistic accounts and theses; the spectacle as ritual, achievement and imitation of reality; agents, machines and living organisms; functions of transmitting information and story telling. Operational concepts considered include granularity, linearity, interactivity, diegesis, spatialization, indexicalization, enuciation, etc.

COMS 893 Advanced Seminar in Special Topics in the Joint Ph.D. in Communication (3 credits)
This seminar permits the in-depth examination of particular special topics in media and communication. Topics vary from year to year.

Examinations and research

COMS 805 Research Workshop (3 credits)

This research workshop is supervised by the student’s thesis director and is intended to respond to a particular need unfulfilled by the program. It can take various forms, namely a directed readings program, a specific project within a research group, an elective course (including a masters level course) or a research or creation internship. The research workshop must be defined in a specific agreement between the thesis supervisor and the student, which shall be approved by the program director and added to the student’s file.

COMS 810 Synthesis Examination (non-credit)

COMS 822 Advanced Seminar in Research Methods I (3 credits)

This course provides an in-depth analysis of methodological problematics. Major contemporary methods of analysis will be considered. Possible themes include research design, data-gathering techniques and instruments, and qualitative or quantitative procedures for data analysis. Specific topics may vary from year to year.

COMS 823 Advanced Seminar in Research Methods II (3 credits)
Students who have registered for COMS 822 will register for COMS 823 when taking a second Advanced Seminar in Research Methods course.

* Topics vary and are determined by the Joint Program Committee.

COMS 830 Doctoral Pro-seminar (6 credits)

COMS 890 Thesis Proposal (6 credits)

COMS 896 Doctoral Thesis Research (63 credits)