Communication theory | Literature homework help


Objective: This activity is designed to help you understand the process of communication that you will be exploring in your final project.

Background: Please begin this exercise by reading the following information carefully.

Although the study of effective communication practices dates back to such ancient scholars as Aristotle and Cicero, communication as a separate field of study is relatively modern, propelled in part by interest in twentieth-century advances in electronic communications. Scholars look at particular combinations of people communicating with each other in specific contexts. Our readings this week in the Encyclopedia of Communication Theory tell us the resulting theories can be categorized according to communication context:

  • intrapersonal communication focuses largely on our cognitive abilities; 
  • interpersonal communication addresses the communication between dyads and triads (two-three people); 
  • group communication deals with small group interactions; 
  • organizational communication addresses communication across organizations; 
  • public/rhetorical communication examines face-to-face communication to a large group of listeners;
  • mass/mediated communication encompasses messages produced for mass or mediated audiences;  and 
  • intercultural communication looks at communication among people of different cultures.  

Some researchers also specialize in gender communication, which focuses on communication issues of women and between the sexes, health communication, and computer-mediated communication.

Whatever the context, most scholars agree there are five facets to communication that come together to define it as a social process in which individuals employ symbols to establish and interpret meaning in their environment.

Let’s see if we can collaborate on enhancing our understanding of these terms!


Select and respond to <one> of the following questions:

1.  Communication is social in that it involves people and interactions, whether face-to-face or mediated.  Can you think of a few more categories for the social patterns of human communication?

2.  Communication uses symbols, arbitrary labels or representations of phenomena that are sometimes concrete in that they represent an actual object, and sometimes abstract because they can represent ideas and thoughts.  Explain a time when you did not understand a “symbol” — what was it, and how did you realize you did not understand what was being communicated?

3. Communication is a process that is an ongoing, dynamic, and unending occurrence. It also is complex and continually changing. If it were not dynamic, compromise and resolution would not be possible. Communication also is irretrievable, irreversible, and unrepeatable; as such, each communication “episode” is unique. Describe a communication interaction – perhaps one you have had — that exemplifies how people can end up in a very different place once a discussion gets underway.

4. Meaning is what people extract from what researchers might call a communication episode. What are some examples of situations in which communication may succeed even without shared meaning?

5. The term environment is used by communication scholars to describe the situation in which communications occurs, and can include time, place, method (that is, whether the communication is mediated by technology), historical period, relationships among the participants, and their ages, genders, education, and cultural backgrounds. All of these elements will influence each person’s perspectives and perceptions during the communication process. For example, the context of Bob Dylan’s music was the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s. What are some major contemporary media messages for which the context has changed in recent years?

Complete your response by telling us some of the challenges that you see to studying the elements of “communication.” 

Make sure to connect your ideas to the course content that you were asked to read by using American Psychological Association-style references. If you are unfamiliar with that reference style, you can find examples at the following link:


Griffin, E. (2009). A first look at communication theory. (7th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Keyton, J. (2011). Communication research: Asking questions, finding answers. (3rd ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Severin, W. J., and Tankard, J. W. (2001). Communication theories: Origins, methods, and uses in the mass media. (5th ed.). New York, NY: Longman

West, R., and Turner, L. H. (2010). Introducing communication theory. (4th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

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