Introduction to Communication Studies

Instructor & Course Objectives



Assignments & Privileges

Professor: Chris Richter, Office: 119 Pleasants Hall, 362-6358
Office Hrs: Office Hrs:
M. & W. 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.; Tu. 11:00 a.m. -noon and by appointment.

The purpose of this survey course is to introduce you to the field of Communication Studies. In order to do this, the course will:

  1. provide an overview of what constitutes communication, including verbal and nonverbal processes;
  2. introduce you to the areas of interpersonal, group, organizational, rhetorical and political communication, mass media & telecommunication, and cultural studies;
  3. introduce you to basic theories relevant to the above specialty areas;
  4. give you assignments designed to encourage you to understand these areas and their relevance to your lives;
  5. use a common theme to illustrate the complexity and importance of communication and communication studies, and to introduce you to interdisciplinary research methods. This year the shared topic is gossip.

Ruben, Brent D. & Stewart, Lea P.(1998). Communication and Human Behavior. Fourth Ed., Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Potter, James W. (1998). Media Literacy Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

American Psychological Association. (1994). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association, 4th ed. Washington DC: APA.

The following are on reserve in Robertson Library for use in preparing assignments:
Bergmann, J. R.1993. Discreet indiscretions: The social organization of gossip.New York: De Gruyter

Goodman, Robert F. And Aaron Ben-Ze'ev, eds. 1994. Good Gossip.Lawrence KA:University Press of Kansas.

Levin, Jack, and Arnold Arluke. 1987. Gossip: the Inside Scoop. NY:Plenum Press.

Shibutani, Tamotsu. 1966. Improvised News: a Sociological Study of Rumor. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill.

Spacks, Patricia Meyer. 1985. Gossip. NY: Knopf.

Additional Reserve Readings TBA.

A brief description of each assignment and point breakdowns are given below. Detailed instructions for each assignment will be linked to this page and discussed in class.

One Abstract and Critique: An abstract is a brief summary, abstracting is the process of writing such a summary. For this course, you will abstract and critique an article from a communication research journal.

Model of Communication: Based on reading, in-class discussion, and brainstorming, each of you will theorize, develop and present a model of a communication process.

Quizzes: Quizzes will be based on the assigned reading for the week. They will not be announced in advance. They will be given during the first five minutes of class. If you miss a quiz you get a zero. Eleven quizzes will be administered. Your grade will be based on the top ten.

Exams: The Mid-term and Final exams will consist of multiple choice, short answer and essay questions designed to allow you to demonstrate your understanding of reading and lecture/discussion materials. The final will be comprehensive. If you are going to miss exams due to excused absence, you must make arrangements for a make-up exam IN ADVANCE. There will be no make-ups for exams missed due to unauthorized absence.

Point Distribution

Class Attendance & Participation

100 points

Abstract & critique

100 points

Model of Communication

100 points

Group Project

150 points

Eleven Unannounced Quizzes (10 pts. each--drop lowest score)

100 points

Midterm Exam

200 points

Final Exam

250 points


1000 points

Attendance, Lateness & Participation:
Attendance: Much of what we learn will grow out of our discussions in class, and lectures will involve important concepts not covered in the readings. Thus, regular attendance is expected. You are permitted three absences
(athletes must inform me in advance of games/events that will necessitate excused absences). After three absences, your final course grade will be lowered by five points per additional absence. Eight or more total absences will result in course failure. On any day marked with an "*" in the schedule below, attendance is required of all students

Lateness: If you show up for class late, you miss important information (and possibly a quiz). Furthermore, to be late regularly is rude to other students and the instructor. Repeated lateness will result in grade reduction.

Participation: You are expected to complete all reading assignments prior to class, and to ask useful questions and engage in discussions in an informed and thoughtful way.

Honor code
You are expected to be familiar with, and abide by, the student honor code, as laid out in the Student Handbook. In particular, pay attention to the definition of plagiarism.

I will make every effort to grade and return all assignments by no later than one week after they are turned in. The Grading Scale for each assignment and for the final grade is based on a total of 100%, as follows:





















44 or lower







Aug. 30
Sept. 1

Ruben Ch. 1 & 2

What is Communication Studies?

Sept. 4
Sept. 6
Sept. 8

Ruben Ch. 3 (pp.47-51 only)

Ruben Ch. 4

Complexities of Human Communication
(Discuss Comm. model assignment)

Sept. 11
Sept. 13
Sept. 15

Ruben Ch. 5

Complexities of Human Communication
Perception and Meaning-Making

Sept. 18
Sept. 20
Sept. 22

Ruben Ch. 6

Communication model due

Communication as Codes: Verbal

Sept. 25
Sept. 27
Oct. 29

Ruben Ch. 7

Communication as Codes: Non verbal

Assign gossip project & groups

Oct. 2

Oct. 4
Oct. 6

Wood Ch. 3: "Communication & Personal Identity" (Reserve)

Definitions of gossip due

Communication and self

Mid-term review, 2d half of class

*Oct. 9
*Oct. 11
Oct. 13

Mid-term exam

Ruben Ch. 10

Mid-term exam
Discuss gossip project
Communication as Interaction: Relationships

Oct. 16
Oct. 18
Oct. 20

Ruben Ch. 11

Ruben Ch. 12

Communication as Interaction: Groups

Communication as Interaction: Organizations

Oct. 23
Oct. 25
Oct. 27

Reading TBA

NO CLASS: Fall break


Oct. 30
Nov. 1
Nov. 3

First Amendment , Potter Ch. 5
Potter Ch.13

Media Studies: Basics & Effects

Nov. 6
Nov. 8
Nov. 10

Potter Ch. 14 & 15

Media Studies: Effects

Intro. To library research in communication: Elizabeth Doolittle, reference librarian.

Nov. 13

Nov. 15
Nov. 17

Potter Ch. 7; Submit research article title for approval (abstract assignment)
Potter Ch. 6
Potter Ch. 8,

Media Studies: Advertising
Media Studies: What Shapes Programing?

Nov. 20- 24

Give Thanks!!

Give Thanks!

Nov. 27

Nov. 29
*Dec. 1

Ruben Ch. 13
Abstract due

Communication as Culture

*Dec. 4
*Dec. 6

Gossip presentations
Gossip presentations
Critique due Dec. 8 (no class) by 5:00 p.m. in my mailbox

Review for Final second half of class


Student Administered Independent FINAL EXAM