COMM 453



Course Information

Course Policies


Study Aids

Class Notes


You should keep a journal of observations you are making about the world around you based on the concepts that you are learning in this course. You need not make entries everyday in your journal, but there should be at least two entries per week.

Primarily, the journal should give evidence of your applying the things you are learning to things you are experiencing outside the class. Early in the course, your journal entry may focus on particular ideas in the lectures on theory that strike you as helpful in understanding a moment you have experienced or, more generally, in giving you a different understanding of the way communication works. You must not just repeat the content of the lecture, but explain how the point relates to things you have experienced, or how they have changed the way you looked at communication. But as the course proceeds, and especially when we move into applications, your entries should use the perspective that you have learned to interpret things you observe around you. These journal entries will be excellent preparation for the essay final.

On those days when you have reading, I will ask that you do a journal entry of reading that may be assigned from time to time during the semester. This entry should be an abstract, summarizing the reading as you understand it, and reacting to it with some thoughts of your own that you might introduce in the classroom discussion.

Each entry should be dated, list its subject and be at least a page long.

I will read your journal three times during the semester. The first time I will just comment on how well you are incorporating the material from the class into your work. The other two times I will assign a grade to the journal. Each grade on these last two readings will be worth 10 percent of your grade.

Your journal entries should be entered on the ELMS website. I will access them there to read, comment, and grade.

Mid-term Examination

Tentatively scheduled for March 11, 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 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. So will your journals.

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 May 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: Journal, 20%; Mid-term, 35%; Final exam, 45%.
Graduate students: Mid-term, 30%; Final exam, 30%; Paper, 40%.