COMM 453
Fall 2009



Course Information


Study Aids

Class Notes

Mid-term Examination

Tentatively scheduled for October 13, but may be delayed if we have not covered the material. This exam will be objective. It seeks to assess your mastery of the theory that I will lay out early in the semester. There will be multiple choice, definition, and may be short essay questions. All examinations are "closed book" and all rules of the Code of Academic Integrity apply, including the use of the University Honor Pledge on each exam.

Final Examination

This exam will be two essay type questions testing your ability to apply the things you have learned to reading and experiences around you. The questions may ask you to compare (for example, compare the styles of political discourse we have called “democratic” and “policy”), to apply the perspective (describe the power of language in responses to the media’s presentation of Michael Jackson’s death), or to expand on an aspect of the course (discuss the methods by which language forms, perpetuates, and destroys social hierarchy). I will post some sample questions on the website to help you prepare for the examination. I also recommend study groups in which you invent questions for each other, listen to answers, then critique the answers to help each other improve your performance. The days when the class is yours will also be days to try out your understanding in a way that will help you prepare for the final.

Procedures for missed exams

Make-up exams will only be available for those granted an “excused absence.” They will be a different exam and may have a different format than that described above. You will need to request an excused absence. University policy requires that you do so in writing and "provide documentary support for [your] assertion that absence resulted from one of the [approved] causes" (emphasis added). There are thus several obligations if you are going to be absent for the midterm or the final. (1) Notify me as soon as feasible of your upcoming or recent absence and provide documentation for the reason. I am serious about prompt notification. In general you should notify me before your absence. When that is not possible, you need to notify me as soon as you are near a telephone or email. I have voice mail and email that provides a timestamped documentation of your notification. (2) You need to request the make-up (an excused absence) in writing specifying the reason for your absence. The university has a limited number of legitimate reasons for absence (see University of Maryland Undergraduate Catalog ) and these are the ones I accept. (3) You must document the validity of the reason you have provided for the absence. Such documentation must be signed by an person who testifies to the reason, and should contain information on contacting (phone or email) someone who can verify the reason. Medical excuses must be from licensed medical personnel, must contain contact information for that personnel, and must indicate a condition requiring absence not simply that you were seen by medical personnel. Please note that it is now the policy of the University Health Center to no longer provide documentation of illness. Thus, if you are ill enough that you need to miss an exam or assignment you will need to find medical personnel that will provide such documentation.

Graduate Papers

In addition to the exams, graduate students should submit a paper (3000 to 4000 words) exploring an idea germinated through the lectures or the readings. You should have a claim and marshal some support for that claim, but full documentation is not as important as insight. I am primarily looking to see that you use the material as a stimulus to your own thinking. Due December 1. Papers will be evaluated based on: (1) the quality of insight, (2) the degree to which the paper shows your understanding of the material of the course, (3) the quality of the writing including the clarity with which you advance and elaborate a thesis, and (4) the following of proper form. Chicago (Turabian) or APA form will be accepted. An “A” paper will be superior on all four criteria.


Undergraduates: Mid-term, 40 percent; Final exam, 60 percent.
Graduate students: Mid-term, 30 percent; Final exam, 30 percent, Paper, 40 percent.