Skip to main content Skip to secondary navigation

Major in Communication

Main content start

Thinking of majoring in Communication?

Talk to the peer advisors. Check out the possible pathways through the Communication major. Discover the diverse career paths that you can follow with a communication degree. Find out who’s hired our recent graduates. Visit Handshake for career related articles, events, and meet-ups offered through BEAM, Stanford Career Education, and consider setting up an appointment to meet Colleen McCallion, our Career Coach at BEAM who can offer advice and help regarding resumes, cover letters, networking contacts and career paths.

Declaration Process

In order to declare the Communication major, students must have completed or be currently enrolled in one of the core courses:

1. COMM 1 – Introduction to Communication
or COMM 1B – Media, Culture, and Society
2. COMM 106 – Communication Research Methods
3. COMM 108 – Media Processes and Effects

Once they are enrolled in or have completed one of these core courses, prospective majors should declare via Axess and then email the Student Services Manager to set up an appointment to go over the major requirements, to be assigned an advisor and to discuss any questions they may have.

Transfer Students

Generally, required Communication courses must be taken at Stanford. No more than 10 units of transfer credit may be applied to meet departmental requirements for the major, and no more than 5 credits for the minor.

The Office of Undergraduate Admissions asks transfer students to furnish an official transcript, which is evaluated by the University. Students who transfer to Stanford and enter the Department of Communication should know that the only Communication course likely to be waived is COMM 1.

Combined and Multiple Majors

Formal options exist for all Stanford undergraduates who are interested in pursuing more than one academic discipline. Students should refer to the Stanford Bulletin and the Vice Provost of Undergraduate Education. Remember that participation in any multiple major program requires declaration of each major/minor via Axess.

Students who pursue either of these options must complete a Major Minor and Multiple Major Course Approval form in Axess in their final quarter indicating which courses they plan to apply toward each major and/or minor.

Major Curriculum

The undergraduate curriculum is intended for liberal arts students who wish to build a fundamental knowledge of communication in society. Majors take courses from two orientations within the Communication Department, one class in statistics, and a selection of elective courses.

Courses include both theory and practicum courses in media and society, journalism, and communication research. Through electives, including an optional honors thesis, a student may build greater depth in any of these areas.

To be recommended for the Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication, a student must complete at least 60 units within the Communication Department, plus statistics. No more than 10 units of transfer credit or courses from outside the department may be applied to meet the department requirements. Students are required to pass a writing-intensive course within the major (WIM). The 2023-2WIM courses are COMM 104W Reporting, Writing, and Understanding the News, COMM 120W The Rise of Digital Culture, COMM 135W Deliberative Democracy and its Critics, COMM 177SW Specialized Writing and Reporting: Sports Journalism, and COMM 186W Media, Technology, and the Body.

Communication majors and minors must register for all Communication courses for a letter grade if offered and must maintain a C average (2.0) in courses towards the major/minor. Only courses with a grade of C- or above will be counted towards the major/minor. Majors who receive a grade of D+ or below in one of the core courses will have to repeat that course.

The statistics prerequisite (typically STATS 60) does not count toward the 60 units needed to complete the Communication major and may be taken for a letter grade or credit. This introductory statistics course should be taken either prior to or concurrent with registration in COMM 106, Communication Research Methods, in preparation for courses in methodology and advanced courses in communication processes and effects.

1. Five Core Courses

1. COMM 1 – Introduction to Communication
or COMM 1B – Media, Culture, and Society
2. COMM 106: Communication Research Methods (prerequisite – Statistics)
3. COMM 108: Media Processes and Effects
4. COMM WIM (writing in the major) Courses:

  • COMM 104W, Reporting, Writing, and Understanding the News,
  • COMM 120W, The Rise of Digital Culture,
  • COMM 135W, Deliberative Democracy and its Critics
  • COMM 137W, The Dialogue of Democracy,
  • COMM 142W Media Economics, or
  • COMM 143W Communication Policy & Regulation
  • COMM 177SW Specialized Writing and Reporting: Sports Journalism
  • COMM 186W Media, Technology, and the Body

5. Statistics 60 (does not count toward the 60 units in the major)

2. Area Courses

Students must take a minimum of four courses in the following two areas, including at least one course from each area, as specified below:

Area I: Communication Processes and Effects

COMM 124: Lies, Trust, and Tech
COMM 135W: Deliberative Democracy and its Critics
COMM 137W: The Dialogue of Democracy
COMM 145: Personality and Digital Media
COMM 162: Campaigns, Voting, Media and Elections
COMM 164: The Psychology of Communication About Politics in America
COMM 166: Virtual People
COMM 172: Media Psychology
COMM 326: Advanced Topics in Human Virtual Representation

Area II: Communication Systems & Institutions

COMM 104W: Reporting, Writing, and Understanding the News
COMM 116: Journalism Law
COMM 120W: The Rise of Digital Culture
COMM 125: Perspectives on American Journalism
COMM 132: Just Algorithms? Race, Regressions, and Resistance
COMM 142W: Media Economics
COMM 143W: Communication Policy and Regulation
COMM 151: The First Amendment: Freedom of Speech and Press
COMM 154: The Politics of Algorithms
COMM 158: Censorship and Propaganda
COMM 177A: Advanced Data Journalism
COMM 177B: Big Local Journalism
COMM 177C: Health and Science Journalism
COMM 177D: Narrative Journalism
COMM 177E: Telling True Stories
COMM 177I: Investigative Watchdog Reporting
COMM 177SW: Sports Journalism
COMM 177T: Building News Applications
COMM 177Y: Foreign Correspondence
COMM 184: Race and Media
COMM 186W: Media, Technology, and the Body

3. Capstone Experience

Effective for the class of 2025, all undergraduate students will have to complete a capstone experience in their junior or senior year, through which they can integrate knowledge and skills developed in the major and learn to think independently with the tools of the discipline.  For the Communication major, this requirement may be met in one of the following three ways:

a. Honors thesis with a COMM faculty advisor in autumn, winter, and spring senior year earning 15 units of elective credit toward major requirements. 

With approval from the DUS, an honors thesis in one of the following interdisciplinary programs may also fulfill the COMM capstone requirement: Arts; Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity; Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law (CDDRL); Education; Ethics in Society; Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies; International Security Studies (CISAC); Science, Technology, and Society (STS). To receive approval, students should submit their honors thesis proposal to the Student Services Manager.

b. Department of Communication’s capstone Seminar: 
COMM 100C: Social Media Cultures. During the past decade, social media platforms have transformed many areas of social life, from news to labor markets, retail, activism, fandom, arts, and romance. Many distinct cultural and political niches have emerged across social media platforms, often becoming vibrant sites of connection and conflict. In this course, students will use a communication toolkit of theories and methods to analyze social media cultures. Students will conduct their own qualitative study of a social media culture and analyze its social, economic, and political implications. 5 units, letter grade, C- or above required to complete capstone requirement.

c. One quarter of supervised research with a faculty member (COMM 199C, 3 units). Written proposal and permission of the research advisor and the Director of Undergraduate Studies required before enrollment. 

The list below shows the prerequisites that must be fulfilled before capstone research advising will be considered and any research proposal specifics for each COMM faculty. Students email their research proposal to the faculty member whom they would like to work with. If approved, the proposal will be forwarded to the DUS and the Student Services Manager. Upon approval of the DUS, the student will receive a permission number to enroll in COMM 199C.

  • Jeremy Bailenson, Virtual Human Interaction Lab; Not advising students 2023-24.
  • R.B. Brenner, COMM 104W, send research proposal not exceeding 750 words.
  • Angèle Christin, not advising capstone projects at this point.
  • Jim Fishkin, Deliberative Democracy Lab, COMM 135W or 137W; send research proposal.      
  • Jay Hamilton, COMM 125; provide one-page memo not exceeding 500 words about your research question, anticipated results, and likely methodology.           
  • Jeff Hancock, Social Media Lab; COMM 1 or COMM 124 plus two quarters of research in the Social Media Lab or the Stanford Internet Observatory; provide brief summary (up to 500 words) stating the research question, planned methods, and how the data will be analyzed.
  • Gabriella Harari, Media and Personality Lab, COMM 108 or COMM 145 plus two quarters of research in the lab; discuss project plans with Prof. Harari and provide a brief summary (up to 1,000 words) of the project proposal (e.g., research questions, planned methods and analyses, anticipated results).
  • Jon Krosnick, Political Psychology Research Group, COMM 164, COMM 308, or COMM 339 plus two quarters of work in the lab; work with Professor Krosnick to develop a research idea and write it up.
  • Xiaochang Li, COMM 186; provide a 1-2-page proposal (up to 1,000 words) describing your research question, case study, likely methodology, and anticipated outcome of your project.
  • Geri Migielicz, COMM 104W plus COMM 280, 176, or 199 and demonstrated proficiency in audio, photo or video; provide a 300-word outline of project including description of media to be used and approach.
  • Jennifer Pan, COMM 106 plus COMM 158 or COMM 382/383. Send a proposal of up to 1,000 words clearly stating the research question, the data to be analyzed, and how this data will be acquired and analyzed.
  • Cheryl Phillips, Big Local News; COMM 104W or COMM 177B and demonstrated proficiency in either data analysis or other technical skills necessary for the execution of the project or in requesting and negotiating for public records; provide an outline of project of up to 1,000 words, including data or other records sources and approach. Detail how it may be related to any collaborative journalism efforts.
  • Nilam Ram, The Change Lab + Screenomics Lab, COMM 172 and demonstrated proficiency in data analysis or other technical skills necessary for the execution of the project; submit 300-word abstract about proposed project plus discussion with Prof. Ram.     
  • Byron Reeves, COMM 172, submit 300-word abstract about proposed project plus discussion with Prof. Reeves.
  • Serdar Tumgoren, Demonstrated proficiency in data analysis or other technical skills necessary for the execution of the project; provide a one-page memo about your research question, how it relates to the areas of data or computational journalism, anticipated results, and likely methodology.
  • Fred Turner, COMM 120; provide a one-page memo about your research question, anticipated results, and likely methodology.
  • Janine Zacharia, COMM 104W or COMM 177Y; provide a 300-word summary of project.

4. Elective credit

The remainder of the 60 required units may be fulfilled with any elective communication courses, or a combination of communication courses and up to 10 units of pre-approved courses in other departments.

Approved Outside Electives for Communication Majors/Minors

Communication majors may take up to 10 units outside of the department. All outside electives must be taken for a letter grade if offered. If a course also meets a WAYS requirement, it may still be used towards the major. However, a course may not be used for two majors or a major and a minor. It is the student’s responsibility to determine scheduling of these courses. Not all of the listed courses are offered every year.

Taking SOC 180A instead of COMM 106 will count towards the units outside of the department.

Majors have the option to petition approval of a course that is not on the list of pre-approved courses in other departments. To petition, please email the syllabus to the Student Services Manager.