Approved by Faculty Senate

University Studies Course Approval

Department or Program: Communication Studies

Course Number: 282

Semester Hours: 3

Frequency of Offering: Every Semester

Course Study: Introduction to Communication Studies

Catalogue Description: Provides an overview of the basic communication theories applicable
to a number of communication contexts (including small groups, interpersonal, organizational).
This course moves beyond CMST 191 by emphasizing theories instead of skills. Offered every

This is an existing course previously approved by A2C2: Yes

This is a new course proposal: No

University Studies Approval is requested in: The Arts and Sciences Core: Social Science

As required in points 1 and 2 of the approval process the following address the seven outcomes
listed for Social Science courses and documents course content and learning activities relevant
to the course outcomes.

a. Understand humans as individuals and parts of larger social systems.

Communication Studies as a discipline is grounded, but is not limited to the study of human interaction
as a symbolic, social, and negotiated process. We also recognize and study how the communication
process is impacted by the message construction of individuals and the negotiated shared meanings interlocutors realize through their social interaction while recognizing the influence of the context in which
the communication occurs.

Our discipline recognizes that human interaction does not occur in a vacuum. One tenet of our field is
that human communication is not retrievable, has consequences and is significantly influenced by
larger social systems. Communication Studies addresses the understanding of individual human
interaction as a component of the larger social context or system from which we operate. We examine
social influence from perspectives such as; reduction of uncertainty, organizational assimilation,
symbolic convergence, expectancy violation, interpersonal deception, relational dialectics, cultural
adaptation, face negotiation and anxiety/uncertainty management among others.


Specific course outcomes: Students demonstrate understanding of humans as individuals and
members of a larger social system through tests and an APA style research paper examining theory,
quizzes, tests, class exercises and lecture.

 b. understand the historical context of the social sciences

a. The field of communication has a rich intellectual history. Our roots range from the great thinkers
Plato and Aristotle to significant research conducted immediately after World War I. Increasing
technologies and literacy made the study of human communication significant and a means to
advance society and evoke social change. Intense interests in human communication intensified
following yet another World War as our discipline’s research grew exponentially. The topics covered
in our courses include but are not limited to message influence, communication apprehension,
communication education strategies, public communication and persuasion, and interpersonal
relational development. From these rich experiences current topics that are covered in our
discipline include but are not limited to communication competence, relational maintenance
strategies, conflict management, teacher – student affinity, functionalistic group decision making
and intercultural face-saving communication strategies. It is clear that understanding the historical
evolution of the social sciences contributes to the increasing importance and strength of the field of communication.

As Littlejohn (1992) concluded, "The study of human communication is a social science. It involves understanding how people behave in creating, exchanging and interpreting messages." p. 10.

Specific Course outcome: The students come to understand the historical context of social
science through lectures, quizzes, tests, and group activities aimed at educating students about
the historical grounding and basic understanding of different types of research methodologies.


c. identify problems and frame research questions relating to humans and their experience

The study of Communication Studies necessitates the understanding of a multitude of theories in
order to have any significant impact on one’s communication competence. Communication research
has demonstrated that without a theoretical knowledge base sequential effectual skills education is
negligible. For example, before a student considers impact of disability disclosure by a person with
a visible disability, they should ask what is the intention of the message? By understanding Uncertainty Reduction Theory, Privacy Boundaries Theorette , or Predicted Outcomes Values Theory the student
would better be able to form a research question that gets at the motivation for the message construction. Armed with this knowledge the student could more effectively answer whether the disclosure was
created with the purpose of reducing uncertainty, managing interpersonal privacy boundaries, or
perhaps influenced by the predicted outcome value.

In sum, we help student’s recognize that research questions include identifiable variables to improve
the construction of their investigation and eventual understanding of human communication.


Specific course outcome: Besides lectures, class-discussion, quizzes, and tests students are
expected to understand communication problems by reading communication research journals
and to construct a research question that has identifiable variables. These variables are then
developed in a 3-5 page paper that is geared toward their research question.

d. become familiar with the process of theory building and theoretical frameworks
used by the social sciences

Typically this course presents the functions of theory and the process of theory building by
examining several theoretical perspectives including; traits approaches, persuasion approaches,
verbal approaches, and nonverbal approaches to understanding human communication. They
are presented in the contexts of interpersonal, group, organizational, intercultural, and public

Theory building is based on knowing the four functions of theory, which are, 1) to organize
experience, 2) extend knowledge, 3) stimulate further research and 4) serve an anticipatory
function. This course contributes to the student’s understanding of theory building by having
them examine theory development and consider how theories are tested and improved. Their
understanding is enhanced by developing an understanding of what are the desirable criteria
for comparing and contrasting theories. We believe this contributes to the student’s ability to
evaluate what constitutes good communication theory.

Specific course outcome: In this course students are exposed to the four functions of theory,
criteria for testing theory, and the basic components of theory building through class discussion,
lecture, readings in communication based research journals, quizzes, tests and their research
based paper.

e. understand the research methods used in social sciences

Several research methods are introduced in this course including; experimental, survey
questionnaire, interview, textual analysis, and ethnography. Methodological discussion is
presented concurrently with the particular theory, and the strengths and the weaknesses o
each research methodology is also covered. Basic statistical analysis along with the discussion
of variables, definitions, hypothesis, research questions and sampling are examined.

Specific course outcome: Students are evaluated regarding this material on quizzes, tests,
and their research paper.

f. describe discipline specific knowledge and its applications

The core of the discipline of communication studies is to focus on the intentional semiotic
process of generating and attributing shared meaning. From that point this course examines
several specific knowledge areas including but not limited to; communication trait differences,
style influences, constructionism, message design logics, language and power, communication
styles, intention and violation of nonverbal behavior.

In addition, depending on the expertise of the instructor, health communication, disability and
communication, computer mediated communication, political communication, marriage
couple typologies, argumentative skill deficiency may be covered in the course. For example
on the 10th anniversary of the passage of the ADA law the instructor might allocate time to
discuss communication strategies for persons with disabilities in regard to relationship
development, or in the pursuit of employment. Or another expert might examine the three l
levels of uncertainty a patient experiences when visiting their physician, and explain why
effective medical treatment is directly correlated to the effectiveness of the interpersonal
competence of both the care provider and the recipient of the care. In our discipline the
communication theorist’s primary mission is to conduct research and build basic theory
that can be tested in applied natural settings.

Specific course outcomes: In this class attention is paid to the student’s ownership of
theory. By this we encourage students to examine several theories, but to focus on a core
set of theories that are of special interest or are most applicable to their lives. We believe
that student’s specific theory knowledge is best understood when applying theory to their
lives and future careers. To do this we strongly encourage the students to develop a
research question that encourages them to how this knowledge might be applied to their
future careers. The end result we hope is a paper that examines communication theory,
research methodology and applicability of the theory. Questions regarding this connection
are also asked in quizzes, exams and throughout class discussion.

g. understand differences among and commonalties across humans and their
experience, as tied to such variables as gender, race, socioeconomic status,
disability, etc.

A communication theory course explains that the ultimate hope is to discover covering laws
and perhaps to create a meta-theory in order to generalize across several populations. At
the same time this course makes clear that the process of communication interaction is
dynamic. Because the sender/receiver and receiver/sender of messages co-create
understanding no two message effects are identical. In this course the complexity of
human communication is emphasized to better explain that while a theory seems to
predict and explain behavior – we must keep in mind that this is not always the case.
A theory needs to continue to be tested and applied to several human experiences. For
example, reduction of uncertainty through self –disclosure is theoretically sound and
generalizable to most communication contexts, but when tested across a disability
population it was proven that self-disclosure did not reduce uncertainty. From this we
can conclude there seems to be a difference between how theory can be applied to
disabled and nondisabled communicators.

Specific course outcome:

This is also covered through exams, quizzes, class discussion and class exercises. The
most pointed area though - - is the research paper assignment. In that assignment students
are asked to examine a research question and to provide in their paper the limitations of
their argument. In this course differences regarding generalizability are examined, and
validity of findings are discussed. In addition, we believe this is a excellent way to ensure
that students reflect on how theoretically suggested predicted outcomes are often changed
when several variables are applied.

Littlejohn, S. W. (1992). Theories of human communication. Belmont, CA:

Wadworths Publishing.