Communication Theories


Communication 611 - Fall 2001 - George 214 – Mondays 5:30-8:00

D. Davis -- School of Communications


Office: George Hall, Room 340


Office hours:  T/R: 1:30-5:30

Phone:  956-3332

(Other times by appointment)

Listserv: COM611-L and Commgrad-l


Catalog Description: Systematic study of major theories of communication and current status of communication research.


Objectives:  As a foundation course for the Master’s Program, Communication 611 serves multiple purposes in providing a cohesive perspective on communication theories.  Expanding on the catalog description (above), this course will strive for the following outcomes:


(1)  To put in perspective the full scope and impact of the discipline of communication - not as an isolated set of theories, technologies, and skills but as the overarching and underlying philosophies of how each of us approaches the study of communication – we will begin by exploring integrated concepts or worldviews.  This will entail a differentiation and identification of alternative perspectives of historical, scientific, and social approaches to building communication theories.


(2)  While introducing the student to the widest range of current communication theories, we will emphasize the specific foci of the School of Communications, occasionally  inviting our faculty to share their own particular perspectives on communication theories as their time and interests permit.


(3)  Develop the students’ ability to make well-founded generalizations about communication by learning to recognize similarities and differences among theories.


(4)  Provide opportunities for student-based inquiry and theory-building based upon individual, small group, and full-class assignments.


(5)  Develop student competencies in using theories to analyze actual events while building - or enhancing - research, analysis, synthesis, writing, and presentation skills.


Required text:  Littlejohn, Stephen W.  Theories of Human Communication, 7th edition.  Belmont, CA:  Wadsworth, 2002.



Additional readings will be on reserve, distributed in class, or should be obtained independently by each student, as appropriate to each assignment.  The text includes a complementary online database for Infotrac – College Edition.  Use the codes provided on the card shrink-wrapped with your text:


Course Requirements:  Each student is required to provide concrete evidence of knowledge s/he has gathered, processed, and disseminated throughout the semester.  In short, this evidence will take the form of classroom contributions; short critical or evaluative response papers to lectures, text & other readings, or class discussions.


Attendance is required at all sessions; with each absence reducing your grade by two points.  As a courtesy to all of us, please come to class on time and do not leave until the class is over, unless you have encountered an emergency.


Evaluation:  Total of 100 points; scale: 90-100 (A); 80-89.9 (B); 70-79.9 (C)

            Weekly response papers (1000+ words) to class & text topics (ALL must be theory-based): ten @ 5 pts./ea (50% of total grade).  Due each week from September 10 – November 19th. 

            Group (or individual) in-depth focus on a theorist, a theory, or a set of related or contrasting theories.  Class presentation (group effort, or individual masochist!):  10%; paper by each individual: 15%.  Half-hour presentation date corresponds with topic list on calendar below, (10/1-12/3).  Papers due two weeks from presentation date (3000+ words).

            Contributions to a positive learning environment:  10%

            Faculty & student assessments:  10/5: 15%



Topics & Activities:


Part I:  Nature of Inquiry and Theory


8/27    Introduction and overview: the course, its structure, content, students & instructor.  Communication theory and scholarship.  Building a language & culture consensus: world-views & agreeing to disagree.  Review of resources.


9/3      Holiday


9/10    Theory in the process of inquiry.  (Text: Chapters 16, 1, 2)  Library Resources & research options, contd.

Papers Due:  Beginning this week & continuing through November 19th, your weekly paper will be collected at the beginning of each class period.  Late submissions will be posted as received for the following week’s paper due date.


Part II:  Topics in Communication Theory


9/17    System theory (Text: Ch. 3)


9/24    Theories of signs & language (Text: Ch. 4) (No tuition refund after today!)


10/1    Theories of discourse (Text: Ch. 5)


10/8    Theories of message production (Text: Ch. 6)


10/15  Midterm assessment.  Theories of message reception and processing (Text: Ch. 7)


10/22  Theories of symbolic interaction, structuration, and convergence (Text: Ch. 8)


10/26 (End of restricted “W”)


10/29  Theories of social and cultural reality (Text: Ch. 9)


11/5    Theories of experience and interpretation (Text: Ch. 10)


11/12  Holiday


11/19  Critical theories (Text: Ch. 10).  “Final” options.  Final date for submitting 10th and final weekly paper.  No additional weekly papers will be accepted after this date.


Part III:  Contextual Themes


11/26  Communication in relationships & group decision making (Text: Ch. 12 & 13)


12/3    Communication in organizational networks & intercultural settings (Text: Ch. 14)


12/10  Communication and media (Text:  Ch. 15)  Course Evaluations.  Wrap-up, review, & reflections on course contents and process.


12/17  Final exam week – Please save this date if a final exam becomes necessary.  You will be notified by November 19th if we need to use this session for an exam or as extended time for student presentations.