COM 500 Communication Theory Development

Communication 500 Communication Theory Development
Autumn 2009
Instructor: Professor Gerry Philipsen
The purpose of the course is to help you develop the capacity to think, talk, research, and write,
theoretically, about communication.
The major activities of the course are (1) reading theories of communication, (2) talking about
theories of communication, and (3) writing theoretically about communication.
Student speeches of aspiration
10/06 Reports and discussion – Communication Theory papers volumes 1-4
10/08 Reports and discussion – Communication Theory papers volumes 5-8
Reports and discussion – Communication Theory papers volumes 9-12
Reports and discussion – Communication Theory papers volumes 13-16
Reports and discussion – Communication Theory papers volumes 17-19
Specific theory type – reports 1 and 2
10/27 Specific theory type – reports 3 and 4
10/29 Specific theory type – reports 5 and 6
Specific theory type – reports 7 and 8
Key theory paper–student presentations
Position papers on communication theory—student presentations–
Midterm notebook due
University holiday
No class today
Paraphrast presentations of student in-progress paper drafts
Paraphrast presentations of student in-progress paper drafts
Student presentations of final paper draft
Students presentations of final paper draft
Final paper due by 5 pm today
Everyone should purchase (or have available to share) a copy of:
Donal Carbaugh and Patrice Buzzanell, Editors, Distinctive Qualities of Communication
Research. New York: Routledge, 2010.
Beyond the Carbaugh and Buzzanell volume, you will be responsible for finding and
studying a wide variety of published work on communication theory.
1. Write a one-page, single-spaced, typed paper in which you say something about your
intellectual and scholarly aspirations as a graduate student. In class on October 1,
present an eight-minute oral version of what you have to say.
2. Notebook of readings and comments. This is due November 10th. It should consist of
20 entries of one page each. Each of these pages is a separate report and commentary
or commentary. The first 19 should be about a particular article, chapter, or book
pertaining to communication theory. The 20th should be your position paper on theory
in the study and practice of communication.
3. For the three class sessions from 11/17 through 11/24 you will be responsible to work
collaboratively with two or three other students in the class to plan and present
something for the class. One possibility is to arrange for a visit to class by a member of
the Department of Communication faculty who will talk, or be interviewed, about their
own theoretical work. There are other possibilities as well.
4. On 12/01 and 12/03 you are responsible to give a presentation about the paper-inprogress being written for the course by another student in the course. Your role will be
paraphrast, that is, someone charged to present the views of another in your own
5. On 12/08 and 12/10 each student is expected to make an oral presentation version of
their final paper-in-progress.
6. The final paper, due 12/17, is an original essay, suitable in content and form for
publication in the journal Communication Theory.
Your grade will be based mainly on the notebook that is due November 9th and the final
essay. Your participation in class is taken for granted and could weigh into your grade,
positively, in the case of a close call.
The notebook (due November 9) should consist of twenty one-page entries, typed
single-spaced. It should have the following entries:
1-10. Each should be a report and comment on one paper published in
Communication Theory, distributed over the 19 decades as indicated in the
schedule above.
A theory authored by a member of the faculty of the Department of
A theory authored by a doctoral graduate of the Department
A theory authored by someone whose life and work has been centered in Africa,
Asia, or Latin America
A theory that is intrinsically tied to a mode of communication other than natural
language, e.g., gesture, drawing, music, body motion
A theory that was published before 1900
A theory that was first published in a language other than English
A theory that you think has been almost forgotten, neglected, or underappreciated
A theory that grew out of a practical concern
The one theoretical statement you will try to persuade the other members of
the class to read
Your position paper on Theory (with or without a capital “t”)
There is a vast literature on communication and communication theory. Here are some
books that I recommend to help you acquire a working coverage of communication
theory per se:
Robert T. Craig and Heidi L. Muller, Editors, Theorizing Communication: Reading across
Traditions. Los Angeles: Sage Publications, 2007. This reader is an excellent place to
start for a sampling of major approaches to communication theory, with readings by
original authors.
Em Griffin, A First Look at Communication Theory. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2007, 9th
edition. This is a through-written book by an author who provides an overall approach
to communication theory and then his own chapter-length treatment of 31 of the most
prominent communication theories, including two chapters based on theories written
by doctoral graduates of the communication program at the University of Washington.
Ruth Finnegan, Communicating: The Multiple Modes of Human Interconnection.
London: Routledge, 2002.
These three make a decent first cut at an independent-reading version of surveying
communication theory. Many could be added, and we will talk about the available
literature throughout the quarter.