PhD in Media Study

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The Department of Media Study’s PhD is one of a small set of innovative doctoral programs in experimental media theory and practice-led research in the United States. This program responds to the rapid development and transformation of media due to advances in digital technologies and to the growing number of artist-scholar-researchers working in technology-based art forms.

A new community of artist-scholar-researchers has emerged in the spaces between media art practice, the humanities and the sciences. This work is not easily categorized and often spans disciplines that traditionally have little overlap. Students of this program become experts in the hybrid set of conceptual and technical abilities that this field requires while they engage with the aesthetic, political and social challenges of media making. The department offers courses in film and video production, interactive media, digital media, physical computing, media networks and web-based media.

Learning Environment

This doctoral program is designed to create a framework for practice-led and scholarly research into media arts. Commensurate with the traditional PhD framework, most of the credits are earned in research and independent study. Consequently, students are free to organize their course of study around specific research trajectories. Coursework gives students opportunity to showcase and critique their work with peers. Students work closely with members of the faculty who share their research area. The dissertation combines both written and production components in a proportion and manner appropriate to the student’s area of research. The program only requires that the conversation between these two components be substantial and original. This PhD is most obviously appropriate for artists who plan to conduct their research in an academic context. However, the PhD is equally appropriate for media artists who want to explore the theoretical implications of their work or for ‘scholarly’ researchers who want to move from the purely discursive to explore practice-based research. This program is designed to be completed in five to six years. 

Program Requirements

Seventy-two credit hours are required, and students are expected to create a substantial and original media project to accompany their doctoral dissertation.

The PhD Requirements Manual offers a more comprehensive explanation of degree requirements. 

See Brad Hendricks for forms.

Description of required coursework follows:

Production (9 credits): PhD students must be literate in media creation. (This category was previously Methods of Making.) Students should discuss with their faculty advisor whether any particular courses in this category would benefit them.

Media Theory and History (18 credits): The required course DMS 570, Media Theory, provides a graduate-level introduction to media theory and research methodologies. Additional media theory and history courses prepare students to take their qualifying exams and eventually to contribute original research to the field. The preliminary media theory course should be taken in the first semester, the other two media theory courses should be taken in the semester prior to the qualifying exam.

PhD Seminars and Research Ethics (6 credits): Students are encouraged to take these courses (I and II) in semester 1 and semester 4. PhD Seminar I focuses on research methods and practices; PhD Seminar II focuses on research strategies and preparation of manuscripts for publication in peer-reviewed journals. Students will identify appropriate professional journals, publication venues and conferences for the presentation of their doctoral research. Students must also pass a research ethics course, either by taking a 2 credit seminar (PHI 640 or RPN 541) or by completing the online Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI) with a passing score of 80% or higher. Students taking the CITI course must submit documentation of their successful completion of the course with their Application to Candidacy.

Directed Electives (30 credits): Students may choose any UB graduate courses that support their doctoral research, chosen in consultation with their faculty advisor. Students must keep records (course work and syllabi) of all course activities performed outside of DMS. This information will become important when applying for candidacy. Some directed electives (at least 8 credits) must be taken in additional media theory classes.

Dissertation and Project Guidance (9 credits): Thesis and project work is usually credited by registering for DMS 598 project supervision during one of the last three semesters, and DMS 702 Dissertation guidance in the final two semesters, in any combination of credits suited to the work.

Required Coursework outside DMS: Students must take at least 3 classes outside of DMS as part of their requirements for the major. Usually these courses will be used for electives and will be chosen in concert with the student’s faculty advisor. Use of these courses for PhD requirements, other than as electives, must be approved by the DGS. Students are required to keep documentation (syllabi, semester papers, etc.) for these courses. All credits must be in graduate level courses External Courses (counted under electives or other categories)(500 level and above).

Requirements for Student Starting Prior to Fall 2021

Production (8 credits)

Media Theory and History (12 credits)

PhD Seminar I and II (8 credits)

Research Ethics (0 credits, or counted under electives)

Directed Electives (38 credits) Includes at least 8 additional credits of Media Theory and History

Dissertation and Project Guidance (6 credits)

[Includes at least 3 classes outside of DMS]


Apply Today!

Join a community of scholars and researchers working together to solve pressing global problems. We are committed to recruiting the very best PhD students and preparing doctoral students for career success. UB features:

  • World-class faculty experts mentor PhD students in a dynamic research and learning environment. Students can focus on their research and scholarship alongside renowned faculty while preparing for the careers and professions that await them after graduation.
  • A city on the rise. Buffalo, N.Y. offers affordable housing, arts, culture and community. Learn more about Buffalo.

PhD Funding Opportunities

  • Academic year stipends of $23,000 for all full-time, funded PhD students on 10-month academic teaching assistant, research assistant or graduate assistant appointments.
  • UB’s stipend levels are competitive among public Association of American Universities (AAU) member institutions.
  • Additional Fellowship Opportunities:
    • Arthur A. Schomburg Fellowship Program: To be eligible for a Schomburg Fellowship, candidates must contribute to the diversity of the student body, and can demonstrate that they have overcome a disadvantage or other impediment to success in higher education. Only U.S. citizens and permanent residents are eligible to receive Schomburg Fellowships.
    • Presidential Fellowships: To be eligible for Presidential Fellowships, candidates must meet the criteria listed on the Presidential Fellowship page. Both domestic and international students are eligible, if they meet these criteria. For any questions regarding funding for academic year 2024–2025, contact the director of graduate studies or department chair.

Learn more about the Department of Media Study Graduate Programs