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The School of Communication provides a variety of courses, some at regular intervals, and others based on the expertise of faculty. For a list of current and recently provided courses, see the Purdue course catalog. Additionally, a variety of courses are described under each of the specialty areas in the school.

Students take courses both within and outside of the school and within and outside their areas of specialty. When a student’s interests are not accommodated by usual or regular course offerings, students may apply for directed study following the guidelines listed below.

Directed Study

Directed study courses, designated by the number “590” without accompanying letter designation, allow graduate students and faculty to work closely, through individually directed study, on projects of mutual interest not accommodated by usual or regular course offerings. Thus, Communication 590 or History 590 is a course in the same sense that any other curriculum offering is a course. The specific content and structure of this course is formulated by the faculty member and graduate student involved and is proposed to the Graduate Committee for consideration as part of the student’s plan of study.

The School of Communication also offers dual-level courses, numbered 590 with a letter designation (e.g. 590A, 590B). These are variable topic courses which are considered part of our regular curriculum offerings rather than requests for directed of independent study.

When is directed study appropriate/not appropriate?

COM 590 is appropriate when a faculty member and a graduate student wish to pursue topics not included in the regular offering of the school. Examples would be studies of in-depth topics or methods central to thesis writing, dissertation writing, or other research, pedagogical, or creative outlets.

COM 590 is appropriate in another special, but extremely rare, case that occurs when staffing problems necessitate that COM 590 replace a required course. When a student has registered for a course included on the plan of study; the course is listed but is canceled; no equivalent courses are offered, and the faculty member of the originally listed course agrees to supervise a directed study for the affected student, a “590” may be requested.

COM 590 is NOT the appropriate option when:

  • A regularly offered course in Communication or another department/school, identical to or similar to the proposed directed study, is available. The presumption is that the classroom experience is an important resource. Courses are considered to be offered “regularly” if they are available at least once every four semesters, excluding summer sessions.
  • A graduate student wishes to decline taking particular courses which are a usual and regular part of the curriculum.
  • A graduate student wishes to decline to take a particular course from a particular instructor.
  • A course is not available during a given semester but is offered on a regular basis.
  • Writing the prospectus for a thesis or dissertation.

How do I request permission to engage in a directed study?

Typically, the graduate student approaches the faculty member with whom s/he wishes to engage in directed study. Faculty members are under no obligation to agree to direct “590’s” and graduate students should not assume such participation. The graduate student and faculty member, who must be a member of the graduate faculty, should agree on the purposes of the course, the substantive materials to be considered, the number and type of assignments, and the frequency of consultation. The assumption of the Graduate Committee in the evaluation of these materials will be that those courses which most closely parallel regularly offered courses in structure, number and type of assignments, and frequency of consultation will be evaluated most favorably.R

COM 590 Request Form

To submit a COM 590 request, complete the COM 590 Request Form, with particular attention to the following:

  • What purpose is served by the 590 that is not approached by regularly offered courses? The 590 should offer a syllabus which discusses the order of, and schedule for, the completion of course goals.
  • What reading materials support the project? The 590 syllabus should offer a detailed reading list and supporting bibliography.
  • What assignments will be undertaken? The 590 syllabus should, as much as can be accommodated within the particular goals of the project, offer assignments in both number and complexity that would parallel those normally associated with graduate course offerings. These may include reports, examinations, reaction papers, formal research papers, book reviews, bibliographies, etc. The expectation is that most Com 590’s will include an array of these assignments, as do most other courses, and that these assignments will not be restricted to the creation of a single “paper.”
  • How often, and for what purposes, will the graduate student and faculty member meet in the conference? The expectation is for weekly meetings at a minimum, with variations examined ad hoc. The 590 syllabus should detail the number and types of structured interactions for the course.
  • Credit hours for the 590 may vary from 1 to 3 hours. The number of hours requested should be consistent with the assignments detailed.

The Graduate Committee will examine all requests for Com 590. The proposal may be approved, returned for more information, or rejected. If the proposal is returned for more information, the student and/or faculty member will be advised by the Director of Graduate Studies of the Committee’s concerns. The proposal may then be revised, withdrawn, or taken to the full faculty for consideration. If the proposal is rejected outright, the student and faculty member may revise the proposal or may appeal to the full faculty for approval of the request.

Directed Study and Degree Requirements

A graduate student may count two 590 (directed study, without a letter designation) toward the minimum requirements for the degree. Com 590’s with a letter designation (e.g. Com 590A, Com 590C) are considered regularly offered, variable topic, courses. They are not governed by the policies for Com 590, directed study, and may appear in such numbers as are appropriate to the plan of study.


The Graduate Committee must have all requests for Com 590 — except those which result from course cancellation (see above) — at least one working month prior to the semester in which the directed study is to take place. COM 590 must be requested by December 1 for spring and April 1 for fall. Requests which result from the cancellation of a crucial course on the plan of study must be forwarded to the Graduate Committee for action at least one week prior to the beginning of the semester. Since these circumstances are extremely rare, students should consult with the Director of Graduate Studies as soon as such a course cancellation occurs. The Graduate Committee will not consider any COM 590 requests on an ex-post facto or in-progress basis.

For more information contact Bart Collins, Director of Graduate Studies.