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The program is designed to provide in-depth knowledge of the field of film and media, while allowing students to develop and design interdisciplinary research by taking coursework and attending events in other programs across the humanities and social sciences.

There are 9 classes that comprise the foundation of the Screen Cultures graduate program.  In addition, students take a combination of electives and independent studies as described below.  Students who start with an MA have six quarters of full-time work before taking their exams; students who start with a BA have 8 quarters of full-time enrollment prior to exams.

Students who start the program with a BA may take up to three (3) 300-level courses in the department.  Students register for research during the summer as long as they are funded, and pursue research and directed reading under the supervision of their faculty advisor.

Coursework Requirements

Required Core Courses (9 units)

  • RTVF 501-0 Foundations of Screen Cultures
  • RTVF 502-0 Writing Practicum
  • Three 400- or 500- level Screen Cultures courses with a media historical/historiographic emphasis
  • Three 400- or 500- level Screen Cultures courses with a media theory/criticism emphasis
  • One elective course taken either inside or outside Screen Cultures

Electives and Independent Studies

In addition to the required courses, students take a mix of elective courses and independent studies. Options for electives taken outside of Screen Cultures could include a relevant graduate level course within RTVF or a relevant graduate level course in an affiliated program or department (Rhetoric & Public Culture; Media, Technology & Society; Interdisciplinary Program in Theatre & Drama; Performance Studies; Gender & Sexuality Studies; African American Studies; English; Comparative Literature; etc.) 

Students arriving at Northwestern with a MA must complete 9 additional elective courses. Students arriving at Northwestern with a BA must complete 16 additional elective courses. 

Exams and Other Ph.D. degree requirements

  • Annual Graduate Student Review is submitted in the Spring quarter of every academic year
  • Students submit a prospectus after their final year of coursework

Master’s Exam

Students who enter with a BA will be expected to take a Master’s exam in the early-to-mid spring quarter of the first year of coursework. This one-day, open-book take-home exam covers only coursework; students choose two of their Screen Cultures PhD courses on which they will be examined. The courses must be taught by core (steering committee) Screen Cultures faculty, who write the questions. Students respond with a 7 to 9 page answer per question. Students may continue toward the PhD if they pass the exam and maintain at least an overall “B” average.

Ph.D. Qualifying Exam

To advance to candidacy, students take a qualifying exam at the end of their final year of coursework. The qualifying exam is a take-home, open-book exam taken over three days; it covers three fields of expertise.

The main activity after passing the PhD Qualifying Exam is research and writing for the dissertation.