COM 4480: Seminar in Communication Theory
Section 01—Monday & Wednesday, 2:00–3:15 p.m.
Social Science Building (#22) Room 2025
Section 02—Monday & Wednesday, 6:30-7:45 p.m.
Social Science Building (#22) Room 2025
Instructor: Dr. R. Glenn Cummins
Office: Social Science Building (#22) Room 5098
Course website: http://ksuweb.kennesaw.edu/~rcummins/comtheory
Office hours: Monday 10 a.m. – 12 p.m.
Tuesday 11 a.m. – 12 p.m.
Also by appointment; please contact instructor for info.
An in-depth and diversified examination of various theories analyzing and describing the
human communication process from different perspectives, including interpersonal,
organizational, and mass communication. Students are expected to select theories upon which
they will base their senior thesis. (Course Catalog, p. 287)
This is a senior-level course designed to introduce students to theories of human
communication. The focus of the course spans all areas of contemporary communication theory,
ranging from theories of interpersonal, organizational, and mass communication, as well as the
areas of persuasion, verbal, and nonverbal communication. As such, the course is designed to
provide the basic fundamentals of numerous areas of communication theory, although none will
be covered in tremendous depth. In short, the class is often a mile wide and an inch deep.
The course begins with a brief overview of the communication phenomenon, examining
its distinguishing characteristics. The impact of these characteristics on theory building will be
discussed. We will also discuss the nature of theories in general, as well as discuss various
perspectives on epistemology (how we come to know things). Then we will examine the various
approaches and contexts from which scholars have developed communication theory.
You will select a single theory to examine in more depth in a theory application paper. As
such, this course is an excellent springboard into further exploration of communication theory at
the graduate level, should you choose to pursuer further education. Moreover, this course will
also help you crystallize your interest in a particular area of communication scholarship that you
may wish to explore further in your senior thesis (COM 4499). Even if you do not plan on
pursuing a graduate degree, this course will help you understand the importance of
communication research in everyday life. If nothing else, you can impress your friends and
family with your super-cool knowledge of the elaboration likelihood model!
COM 4435 and 60 credit hours.
Infante, D.A., Rancer, A.S., and Womack, D. F. (2003). Building communication theory (4th ed.).
Waveland Press: Prospect Heights, IL.
The textbook is available in the campus bookstore as well as on several online retailers.
I will also assign reserve readings that will be held at the reference desk at Sturgis
Library. These readings will be announced in class in advance of the date they will be discussed.
American Psychological Association. (2000). Publication manual of the American Psychological
Association (5th ed.) Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
All written assignments are to be in accordance with current APA style. If you do not
know what this means, then I suggest referencing the official manual, although it is not required.
Most of our class time will be devoted to lecture. However, this is a senior-level course,
and you are expected to be nearing the end of your college career. Because of this, I will expect
you to come to class prepared to discuss the day’s topic. In short, answer me when I ask you a
question! In addition to lecture, you will also periodically write short in-class essays and
participate in group assignments designed to probe your knowledge about the day’s topic and
encourage critical thinking about the course material.
You are expected to be present and prepared for all class meetings. In addition, I will
periodically assign in-class essays and activities about the day’s topic that cannot be made up.
End of story. These activities will account for 5% of your final average. Thus, your attendance
and active participation and completion of all assignments will have a direct bearing on your
grade as well as your overall experience in this class.
Test & Make-up Policy:
Make up tests will only be given for well-documented emergencies. The format for all
make-up tests will be at the instructor’s discretion, and they will vary in terms of length and
question format. Except in extremely unusual circumstances, you have 24 hours from the time of
the start of the test to contact the instructor regarding the absence. Failure to do so will result in
an automatic 0 for that test. Failure to arrive at the appointed time to take the make-up test will
result in an automatic 0 for that test. Except in extremely unusual circumstances, all make-up
tests must be taken within 5 days of the original test date (and preferably sooner).
Scheduling conflicts that arise through participation in official University functions must
be documented and discussed with the instructor in advance. No make up tests will be given for
the final examination, so all travel arrangements should be made accordingly.
Academic Integrity Statement:
Every KSU student is responsible for upholding the provisions of the Student Code of
Conduct, published in the Undergraduate and Graduate Catalogs. Section II of the Student Code
of Conduct addresses the University’s policy on academic honesty, including provisions
regarding plagiarism and cheating, unauthorized access to University materials,
misrepresentation/falsification of University records or academic work, malicious removal,
retention, or destruction of library materials, malicious/intentional misuse of computer facilities
and/or services, and misuse of student identification cards. Incidents of alleged academic
misconduct will be handled through the established procedures of the University Judiciary
Program, which includes either an ―informal‖ resolution a faculty member, resulting in a grade
adjustment, or a formal hearing procedure, which may subject a student to the Code of Conduct’s
minimum one semester suspension requirement.
Disruption of Campus Life Statement:
It is the purpose of the institution to provide a campus environment, which encourages
academic accomplishment, personal growth, and a spirit of understanding and cooperation. An
important part of maintaining such an environment is the commitment to protect the health and
safety of every member of the campus community. Belligerent, abusive, profane, threatening
and/or inappropriate behavior on the part of students is a violation of the Kennesaw State
University Student Conduct Regulations. Students who are found guilty of such misconduct may
be subject to immediate dismissal from the institution. In addition, these violations of state law
may also be subject to criminal action beyond the University disciplinary process.
In addition, the use of cell phones, beepers, CD/MP3 players & radios, portable gaming
or video devices, or reading newspapers is prohibited during class meetings! Furthermore, the
teacher reserves the right to request that students remove all sunglasses and caps/hats during tests.
The use of laptop computers has become increasingly common in the academic
community, and they serve as a wonderful means of enhancing the classroom experience for
some students. However, the also have the potential to serve as a significant distraction for
others when they are not being used for classroom activities. Thus, the official policy for this
class regarding laptop computers is that they may be used for note-taking purposes only. Any
student found violating this policy forfeits the privilege of using his or her computer for the
remainder of the semester. The most obvious violations include but are not limited to surfing the
internet and IMing and/or chatting.
KSU’s Mission Statement:
Kennesaw State University is a learning-centered institution emphasizing creativity,
diversity, global awareness, leadership, ethics, teaching excellence, digital literacy, technological
competence, and community engagement.
KSU’s Quality Enhancement Plan:
Global Learning for Engaged Citizenship is an educational process that enhances one’s
competencies for participating productively and responsibly in the diverse, international,
intercultural, and interdependent world.
Students requesting special consideration due to disabilities must be registered with
Student Development Center’s Disabled Student Support Services located in the Carmichael
Student Center Room (Building #5) Room 267. You may reach that office at (770) 423-6443. If
you have a documented disability, please make an appointment with me as soon as possible to
discuss any course accommodations that may be necessary. I’m happy to help you as best I can
to accommodate you in any way, but failure to produce documentation of your disability will
prevent me from doing so.
Tests & Grading:
Tests. Four tests will be given in this course, each accounting for 18% of your final grade.
Again, make up tests will only be given for well-documented emergencies, so it is imperative
that you be prepared and in attendance on all test days. With the exception of your final exam,
tests will not be cumulative, so you will only be tested on material covered since the prior exam.
However, the final exam will cover material from the entire semester. So be ready! Tests will
be composed of a number of multiple choice, true/false, matching, short answer, and essay
questions. However, I reserve the right to alter the test format. Any such changes will be
announced in class in advance of the test.
Students arriving late on test days will only be allowed to take the test if no student has
completed the exam. Once a student has finished the exam and left the classroom, no one may
begin the test. So arrive to class on time!
Because some of the questions are open-ended, you may receive partial credit on some
questions. If you believe you should have received more credit on a question, you have one week
to challenge my grading on that question. To challenge a grade, you must submit a typed
statement that notes the question you are challenging and provides thorough justification and
support for your challenge. This includes but is not limited to citing the specific page of your text
that supports your argument. In addition, you must schedule an appointment with me to discuss
Papers. You will be required to write two papers in this class. The first paper will be a
brief summary of an article examining, testing, or expanding a theory, and it will count for 5% of
your final grade. The second will a larger paper exploring and applying one communication
theory of your choice, and it will count for 18% of your final grade. The final paper must be
turned in at the beginning of class on April 23rd, although portions of it will be due at periodic
intervals throughout the semester. Details on the paper will be discussed early in the semester
and are available on the class website. Electronic copies of assignments will not be accepted.
In-class assignments. In addition, the previously discussed in-class assignments will also
account for another 5% of your final grade. Thus, your grade is based on the following:
Test 1 18%
Test 2 18%
Test 3 18%
Test 4 18%
Theory application paper 18%
Article summary 5%
In-class assignments 5%
The following grading scale will be used in this class. Please note that I will not be rounding up
F 59.99 and below
January 11—Last day to petition to graduate in Spring 2007
March 2—Last day to withdraw without academic penalty
April 23—Theory application paper due
April 30—Final exam for Section 02
May 2—Final exam for Section 01
May 10 & 11—Graduation
NOTE: Subject to change.
Date Topic Reading
Jan. 8 Course Intro & Syllabus Review Syllabus
Jan 10 What is communication? Ch. 1
Jan. 15 Martin Luther King Holiday. No class.
Jan. 17 Points of view about theory Ch. 2
Jan. 22 Points of view cont. Ch. 2 cont.
Jan. 24 Paradigms and communication theory Ch. 3
Jan. 29 Mapping the territory Griffin Ch. 2
Jan. 31 Test 1
Ch. 1-3, Griffin Ch. 2
Feb. 5 Discuss theory paper. Reserve reading.
Feb. 7 Field trip.
Feb. 12 Persuasion—Cognitive Dissonance Ch. 5; Griffin Ch. 16
Feb. 14 Persuasion—Elaboration Likelihood Model Ch. 5; Griffin Ch. 15
Feb. 19 Persuasion—Social Judgment Theory Ch. 5; Griffin Ch. 14
Feb. 21 Verbal communication Ch. 6
Feb. 26 Ch. 6
Feb. 28 Test 2 Ch. 5-6; Griffin Ch. 14-16
March 5 & 7 Spring Break. No class. Rest.
March 12 Nonverbal communication Ch. 7
March 14 Nonverbal cont.—Expectancy violations theory Ch. 7; Griffin Ch. 6
March 19 Ch. 8; Griffin Ch. 9
March 21 Interpersonal communication Ch. 8
March 26 Coordinated Management of Meaning Griffin Ch. 5
March 28 Group communication—Functional Theory Ch. 9; Griffin Ch. 17
April 2 Group communication—Groupthink Ch. 9; Griffin Ch. 18
Ch. 7-9, Griffin Ch. 5, 6, 9,
April 4 Test 3
17, & 18
April 9 Organizational communication Ch. 10
April 11 Organizational communication cont. Ch. 10
Mass media contexts—Media effects & Diffusion
April 16 Ch. 11
April 18 Work on Theory Application Papers.
Mass media cont.—Uses & grats. Theory
April 23 Ch. 11
application papers due.
Agenda setting & Cultivation theory. Course
April 25 Griffin Ch. 27 & 28
Ch. 10 & 11; Griffin Ch. 27
April 30 or Final exam (Test 4)