» Student Research and Opportunities

In the School of Communication, we pride ourselves on offering a variety of opportunities and avenues for undergraduate students as well as our graduate students to participate in research projects. Whether it is through course work or an independent study, we work to prepare our students with the tools to collect and interpret data no matter their career path.

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Independent Study


An independent study gives you an opportunity to either assist a faculty member on their ongoing project or develop your own original project with faculty mentorship.


  • In-depth learning focused on a topic of special interest to you.
  • Work one-on-one with a professor; giving them the opportunity to learn more about you and provide a much stronger and meaningful reference for you in the future.
  • Gain work experience and skills that can be useful for your future career.
  • If you are considering continuing to graduate/professional school, an independent study is almost a “must-have”.
  • Potential for journal publications and conference presentations that enhance your CV and set your resume apart, regardless of your career path.


Students gain various skills that can serve them in their future careers. Depending on the specific independent study, students may:

  • Gain administrative experience operating labs and organizing events.
  • Design websites and educational materials.
  • Learn how to conduct interviews, focus groups, and surveys
  • Learn how to analyze various types of data, including analysis of open-ended questions, statistical analysis of survey results, analysis of physiological data, facial expressions, and more.
  • Work on writing and presentation skills for various target audiences and purposes (e.g., writing scripts, storyboards, educational materials, research reports, etc.)
  • Developing proficiency in various software packages (e.g., Adobe's image retouching and video editing suite, advance Excel functions, statistical analysis software, and more)


To find the right advisor you can do one of the following:

  • Approach your instructor for the course that interests you and ask if you can learn more about it in an independent study.
  • Check out our faculty’s profiles to find a professor whose research sounds interesting and reach out to them to learn more about what opportunities they offer.
  • Talk to your School of Communication program advisor and they will be happy to connect you to a professor who matches your interests.

Research Topics

In the field of communication research topics can be very diverse; ranging from studies on organizational to interpersonal communication or studies on the effects of media bias to effects of messaging on healthcare outcomes. Below are some examples of past independent studies and other research projects completed by our students.

Student-initiated Independent Studies

  • How advertisements featuring diverse body shapes and race influence consumers’ attitude toward the advertised products and their self-perceptions? (faculty mentor: Dr. Austin Lee; paper accepted for presentation at NCA 2019 and won Top Paper Award)
  • How do secondary education teachers perceive their communication with their students? (faculty mentor: Dr. Sara LaBelle)
  • How do television shows represent romantic conflict? (faculty mentor: Dr. Riva Tukachinsky)
  • How do students have conversations about mental health with their course instructors? (faculty mentor: Dr. Sara LaBelle).
  • A student wrote and produced a full-length play that was presented in a local theater (sold out) and submitted the screenplay for publication. (Faculty mentor: Dr. Michelle Miller-Day)
  • A student wrote a series of professional development workshops for dance studios. The student started her own business after graduation offering these workshops in SoCal. (Faculty mentor: Dr. Michelle Miller-Day)

Faculty-led Research Projects

  • How different types of music impact listeners’ well-being, altruism, and life satisfaction? (faculty mentor: Dr. Sophie Janicke-Bowles)
  • How to design more effective social media campaign messages for promoting water conservation? (faculty mentor: Dr. Kerk Kee)
  • How watching a movie in which an actress plays a sympathetic character or a villain can attenuate viewers’ perceptions of the actress herself, and compromise her persuasive appeal in a subsequent commercial? (faculty mentor: Dr. Riva Tukachinsky).
  • Students work closely with a faculty developing intervention materials to promote health knowledge and practices among parents (e.g., Dr. Michelle Miller-Day: alcohol and substance prevention in children; Dr. Riva Tukachinsky: educating parents about healthy media use habits for children, etc.) In these independent study projects, students worked on creating evidence-based booklets, videos, websites, instructional materials, and online e-learning modules.