Please note that this manual is currently unofficial pending faculty review.
The PhD in Media Study is a practice oriented degree with the expectation of a final dissertation submission consisting of a fully realized professional project and a rigorous historically and theoretically grounded written component. The project and the written component taken together are expected to make a significant contribution to the field through innovation in theoretical framework, technique, historical analysis, and creative production of works that operate in a “more than discursive” manner. That said, it is understood that each student will come with a varying degree of background, interest and expertise across these domains. Thus, the expectations and evaluation of each student will vary in weight across the spectrum of the written and the made work. While the configuration of practice will vary with each student’s research agenda, in all cases we expect practice to be put into action in such a way that it produces knowledge and insights that text-centric activities alone cannot create. It is expected that students take on the challenge of defining their own place within different practice oriented methods and approaches.
Course credits required for graduation must be distributed as described below. There is some latitude in how a particular course might fit into this scheme. A student may apply to have suitable courses not previously listed as “production” or as “media history/theory/interpretation” accepted for credit in these categories. Students must first consult with their faculty advisor in this regard.
Note regarding credit distribution: It is the intention of the department to switch most or all of its classes to 3 credits apiece beginning in the Fall 2021 semester. This may complicate accumulating the exact number of credits in each category. In the event that a targeted number of credits cannot be met exactly, it must be exceeded. The additional credit will count as elective.
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.
Students are encouraged to take these two courses in semesters 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.
PhD students are required by the graduate school to understand the implications of research work and its impact on society. This requirement can be met by either (1.) Enrolling in and passing PHI 640 /Graduate Research Ethics/ or RPN 541 /Ethics and Conduct of Research/ or (2.) Completing the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI) online Responsible Conduct of Research course with an average score of 80% or higher. Students opting to complete the CITI online course must supply documentation of its successful completion with their Application to Candidacy. You may wish to visit this website to find out more information about how to access CITI training through UB. You do not need to take any credits to fulfill this requirement. Any credits students earn from a course in this category counts in the student’s elective category.
Students usually earn their dissertation/project credits by registering for DMS 598 Project Supervision during one of their last three semesters and DMS 702 Dissertation Guidance in the other two, in any combination of credits suited to the work. Students may take four additional credits in 598 or 702, and these additional credits would go toward the Directed Electives category.
It is also a requirement that at least three courses be taken in one or more external departments. This requirement does not represent an additional credit requirement, as these courses count toward other categories, usually directed electives and/or Media Theory and History. These may be DMS cross- listed courses. However, the idea is to show diversity in research. Students should keep record that their faculty advisor approved these courses to avoid questions later. All credits must be in graduate level courses (500 level and above).
There are several key moments of evaluation and forward progression over the course of the PhD student’s matriculation:
At each juncture, the faculty will evaluate the practice and the critical context for the practice in varying percentages.
Faculty teaching PhD Seminar I evaluate the end of first semester presentation
The entire DMS faculty evaluate the First Year Review.
The Qualifying Exam is evaluated by the Qualifying Exam Committee; the final Defense is evaluated by the Doctoral Committee.
The Director of Graduate Studies may observe the Qualifying Exam and doctoral defense and evaluate (approve / deny) the final submission of project and dissertation.
Within these expectations, we recognize a broad diversity of student profiles that can include, but are not limited to:
- the maker’s maker
- the theorist / historian (primarily discursive and critical where actual production is in supporting role)
- the technical innovator
- the tinkerer / hacker
- the situated ethnographer
- the social / tactical media practitioner
- the collective / organizer / networker
- the media activist
- the community engaged maker
- the hybrid
All first year graduates are required to present their work and work in progress to the DMS faculty in their second semester of the PhD program. The first year review provides the faculty with an opportunity to assess students’ engagement with the department, and to appreciate their progress. It allows students the opportunity to situate their practice within the field they identify with and to indicate new directions of their research/art practice.
In selecting material to show for the first year review, students should consider that the presentation will be limited to 15 minutes including work and explanations. Students should choose work that gives some sense of the level of productivity and intellectual engagement. If the material is very specialized, a brief statement for faculty can be helpful. An artist statement should include critical self-assessment, including progress made or not made during this first year in the PhD program.
Students must send the department secretary, Elaine Schwartz, a link to a URL with all required materials 4 days before the review date. Students are responsible for ensuring that their presentation materials can be viewed on the computer in CFA 232 (internet browsers and pdf viewer are available. Specialty software must be installed prior to the presentation - contact the equipment manager of DMS well in advance).
After the review each student will receive written notice as to whether they have passed or not. Students with a provisional pass will be asked to complete a summer study package. Completion of this package is mandatory.
Most doctoral programs require some form of a general examination after the completion of a student’s coursework. This is the point of the Qualifying Examination. It is a culminating moment in your studies. It asks you to demonstrate conceptual as well as bibliographical control over a range of scholarly interests and areas in which you plan to do research and teach. In the lead-up to the exam, you will identify those areas in dialogue with your qualifying exam committee. In that sense, this is a moment where you formulate an intellectual and artistic self-definition.
After finishing all required coursework, students must take and pass the qualifying exam in order to continue towards the PhD degree. Completing the qualifying exam involves five steps normally taking two semesters:
Since plans of study are individualized in DMS, much of the responsibility for this devolves upon the student, in consultation and with the approval of the committee chair.
Committee and Timeline
The Qualifying Examination committee is comprised of a chair from DMS and two additional faculty members. Identify the chair first and choose the committee in consultation with the chair. The timeline for the completion of the Qualifying Exam must be established in consultation and with the approval of the committee chair. This committee may but need not be the same as the final dissertation committee.
Fields, Bibliography, Research Questions
Taken together, the two fields should delimit academic areas in which the student is preparing to teach, as well the scholarly contexts for the student's projected research. The configuration of the fields for all students will be as follows:
* Field 1 general media history and theory
* Field 2 candidate’s research area
The two field lists, one for each field, will be composed of approximately thirty key scholarly books, or the equivalent composed of articles, chapters, and/or books. In addition, the core bibliographies will include a comparable body of pertinent media examples. All of these texts will be chosen in consultation with committee members and the final lists must be approved by the committee chair. Subtopics such as research methodology can be included if requested by the qualifying exam committee.
Throughout the process of reading and refining the lists, students will devise six research questions (three for each field) in close consultation with the committee, that indicate the direction of their lines of inquiry.
Written exam - general media theory and history and candidate’s research area
Upon the completion of the Fields, Bibliography, Research Questions step, the committee will formulate three essay assignments based on the student’s two field lists and research questions. While the implementation details for the written exam are left to the qualifying exam committee chair (in consultation with the director of graduate studies), the standard approach is to complete one essay per five days.
Oral exam – general media theory and history and candidate’s research area
After passing the written exam, the student proceeds to the oral examination which lasts approximately two to three hours. The oral exam covers the student’s research questions, the field lists, and the written essays. The purpose of the written and oral exam is to establish both the breadth and the depth of the student's competence and knowledge in areas where she or he plans to teach and do research.
Proof of artistic achievement and research ability – engaging peer communities and professional practice
The second requirement of the Qualifying Exam is the creation and submission of work to peer-reviewed venues. This includes submission of at least one of the following: publication or exhibition. Students are encouraged to choose the format that is least represented in their past professional track record (the DGS or the student's primary advisor should be consulted in making this selection):
1) The (single or lead author) crafting and submission of a high quality research paper to a peer reviewed journal or committee approved conference venue.
2) The creation of a media/art work and subsequent application to a juried, curated, or peer-reviewed venue.
In both cases the venues as well as the work must be acceptable to the exam committee and reviewed by the exam committee prior to submission. In both cases acceptance of the work is desirable but not a requirement for passing this part of the qualifying examination.
If a student fails either the written or oral exam, s/he will have one opportunity to re-take it once.
After passing the qualifying exam, the student will turn their attention toward the dissertation. Part of that process involves forming the dissertation committee. This committee may or may not be the same as the committee for the qualifying exam, but the student should secure the agreement of dissertation committee members, starting with the chair, shortly after their qualifying exam. Upon successfully passing the qualifying exam, the student shall develop a dissertation/project proposal in consultation with the anticipated dissertation committee chair. The proposal should outline key research questions and methodologies, as well as a general plan for addressing the questions and carrying out the doctoral research. The proposal should include a clear outline of the concepts underlying the practical component of the doctoral research with details as to production timeline, resources required to realize the work, and a plan for presentation and/or distribution. Proposals will be evaluated on the basis of significance, originality, contribution to the field and feasibility.
If the proposal passes, the student will be recommended for candidacy and may proceed to select the members of the dissertation committee. The student files the Application to Candidacy at this time. The remaining time in the program is spent in dissertation guidance and supervision. The final doctoral defense shall include public presentation of both the written dissertation and the project. The dissertation/project is successfully completed once the committee members have approved the submission and signed off on the dissertation M-form.
Students are considered to be enrolled full-time if they have at least 12 credits in a given semester, or 9 credits if they hold a Teaching Assistantship. Although students may decide to take classes part-time in some semesters, many students are required to have full-time status. Teaching Assistants must be enrolled full-time. Most international students are required to be full-time due to their visa requirements. Students may have guidelines through their parents’ insurance company or through the university’s insurance about whether they must be full-time or at least half-time. Many students with loans will need to be at least half-time so they do not go into repayment.
Students who have begun work on their dissertation may petition the graduate school for full-time status once they have begun to do work on their dissertation. The idea here is that the student will do additional work beyond their coursework in working on their dissertation and are therefore full-time students even if their credit load does not reflect that fact. Students needing additional help to fill out this form may contact Brad Hendricks at firstname.lastname@example.org.
While each student may consult the graduate coordinator at any time, their primary source of information for academic matters should be their faculty advisor. For incoming students, this will be your interim advisor, who you are assigned prior to your first semester of study. If another faculty member agrees to be your advisor, you may change your advisor any time after the first year review, with the cooperation of the faculty. Once you pick a committee chair, the chair becomes your faculty advisor.
There have been questions from students and faculty about DMS 600 Independent Study and DMS 627 Supervised Reading. Theoretically, 600 is charged a lab fee unless there is reason not to. 627 has no lab fee. Based on that and their titles, it should be obvious that 600 is more appropriate for production work. However, if a student wants to have a non-production DMS 600, they should make clear in their independent study proposal that no equipment will be needed. Though professors and students are welcome to use the DMS 600 title for theory courses if they wish, using 627 is also acceptable and may be more appropriate in some cases. Students may prefer to have a mix of 600 and 627 courses on their record to avoid appearing to have too many of the same course. Either 600 or 627 may count as an elective or a theory course but only 600 may count as a production course.
The ATC form requires that students specify courses and as well as the finalized concept of the dissertation/project proposal. Later adjustments or changes require approval by the graduate school by petition. The ATC is submitted to the graduate secretary during or after semester 5. The ATC for PhD candidates must include the following attachments:
The M-form, which must be signed by the dissertation committee members, certifies completion of all degree requirements. It serves as the master control document ensuring a student’s compliance with DMS requirements. Students should meet with their dissertation committee prior to the M-form submission date. Also, students should meet with the graduate coordinator/advisor, Brad Hendricks, well ahead of time to ensure that courses, dissertation/project, and all paperwork are in order by the deadline.