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Theory Outlines
11th Edition

From the Instructors Manual

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Chapter  1Launching Your Study of Communication Theory


  1. What is communication?
    1. No singular definition of communication is agreed upon by communication scholars.
    2. Frank Dance, who published the first comprehensive book on communication theory, concluded that we’re “trying to make the concept of communication do too much work for us.” 
    3. Michigan Tech professor Jennifer Slack declares, “there is no single, absolute essence of communication that adequately explains the phenomena we study. Such a definition does not exist; neither is it merely waiting for the next brightest communication scholar to nail it down once and for all.”
    4. Communication is the relational process of creating and interpreting messages that elicit a response.
      1. The Creation of messages is central as well as the things that shape our choices.
        1. The word creation implies that the content and form of messages are usually constructed, invented, planned, crafted, selected or adopted by the communicator.
        2. But we aren’t always mindful of the nature and impact of our messages. 
      2. The intense focus on messages is what sets the communication major apart from related disciplines.
        1. Every message has two levels: content and relational.
        2. The content message is the topic addressed by the message.
        3. The relational level communicates how each person thinks and feels about the other.
      3. No matter how carefully you craft a message, you cannot control how other people interpret and respond to it.
      4. Communication is an ongoing relational process between two or more people, which both affects their interpretation of the messages as well as the nature of the connection between the people.  Messages are polysemic and subject to different interpretations.
  2. What is a theory and what does it do?
    1. Judee Burgoon suggested that a theory is nothing more than “a set of systematic informed hunches about the way things work.”
      1. Set of hunches.
        1. If a theory is a set of hunches, it means we aren’t yet sure we have the answer.
        2. Theories always involve an element of speculation or conjecture.
        3. A theory is not just one inspired thought or an isolated idea.
        4. Good theories define their key terms.
      2. Informed hunches.
        1. Good theory and good research go hand in hand.
        2. A theorist’s hunches should be informed.
        3. A theorist has a responsibility to check it out.
      3. Hunches that are systematic.
        1. A theory is an integrated system of concepts, laying out both relevant terms and their relationship to one another. 
        2. A theory ties together ideas into a unified whole.
      4. Images of theory.
        1. Theory might also be understood using some concrete images.
        2. Karl Popper described theories as nets, a tool used to grasp an elusive concept.
        3. Theories can be seen as lenses which help focus attention.
        4. A communication theory is a kind of map that’s designed to help you navigate some part of the topography of human relationships.
  3. What to expect as you read this book
    1. The arrangement of the book’s chapters is explained.
    2. The theory chapters are divided into six major divisions: interpersonal communication, social influence, group and public communication, cultural context, and mass communication.
  4. Resources to help you learn communication theory
    1. Try to read consistently.
    2. Think about the big picture.
    3. In every chapter we include a cartoon for your learning and enjoyment.
    4. The website is a valuable resource.


You can access the Outline for a particular chapter in several ways:

  • Switch to View by Theory, then select the desired theory/chapter from the drop-down list at the top of the page. Look in the list of available resources.
  • To quickly find a theory by chapter number, use the Table of Contents and link from there. It will take you directly to the theory with available options highlighted.
  • You can also use the Theory List, which will take you directly to the theory with available options highlighted.

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CHANGE TO View by Theory
Theory Outlines
11th Edition

From the Instructors Manual

List mode: Normal (click on theory name to show detail) | Show All details | Clear details

Chapter  1Launching Your Study of Communication Theory


  1. What is communication?
    1. No singular definition of communication is agreed upon by communication scholars.
    2. Frank Dance, who published the first comprehensive book on communication theory, concluded that we’re “trying to make the concept of communication do too much work for us.” 
    3. Michigan Tech professor Jennifer Slack declares, “there is no single, absolute essence of communication that adequately explains the phenomena we study. Such a definition does not exist; neither is it merely waiting for the next brightest communication scholar to nail it down once and for all.”
    4. Communication is the relational process of creating and interpreting messages that elicit a response.
      1. The Creation of messages is central as well as the things that shape our choices.
        1. The word creation implies that the content and form of messages are usually constructed, invented, planned, crafted, selected or adopted by the communicator.
        2. But we aren’t always mindful of the nature and impact of our messages. 
      2. The intense focus on messages is what sets the communication major apart from related disciplines.
        1. Every message has two levels: content and relational.
        2. The content message is the topic addressed by the message.
        3. The relational level communicates how each person thinks and feels about the other.
      3. No matter how carefully you craft a message, you cannot control how other people interpret and respond to it.
      4. Communication is an ongoing relational process between two or more people, which both affects their interpretation of the messages as well as the nature of the connection between the people.  Messages are polysemic and subject to different interpretations.
  2. What is a theory and what does it do?
    1. Judee Burgoon suggested that a theory is nothing more than “a set of systematic informed hunches about the way things work.”
      1. Set of hunches.
        1. If a theory is a set of hunches, it means we aren’t yet sure we have the answer.
        2. Theories always involve an element of speculation or conjecture.
        3. A theory is not just one inspired thought or an isolated idea.
        4. Good theories define their key terms.
      2. Informed hunches.
        1. Good theory and good research go hand in hand.
        2. A theorist’s hunches should be informed.
        3. A theorist has a responsibility to check it out.
      3. Hunches that are systematic.
        1. A theory is an integrated system of concepts, laying out both relevant terms and their relationship to one another. 
        2. A theory ties together ideas into a unified whole.
      4. Images of theory.
        1. Theory might also be understood using some concrete images.
        2. Karl Popper described theories as nets, a tool used to grasp an elusive concept.
        3. Theories can be seen as lenses which help focus attention.
        4. A communication theory is a kind of map that’s designed to help you navigate some part of the topography of human relationships.
  3. What to expect as you read this book
    1. The arrangement of the book’s chapters is explained.
    2. The theory chapters are divided into six major divisions: interpersonal communication, social influence, group and public communication, cultural context, and mass communication.
  4. Resources to help you learn communication theory
    1. Try to read consistently.
    2. Think about the big picture.
    3. In every chapter we include a cartoon for your learning and enjoyment.
    4. The website is a valuable resource.


You can access the Outline for a particular chapter in several ways:

  • Switch to View by Theory, then select the desired theory/chapter from the drop-down list at the top of the page. Look in the list of available resources.
  • To quickly find a theory by chapter number, use the Table of Contents and link from there. It will take you directly to the theory with available options highlighted.
  • You can also use the Theory List, which will take you directly to the theory with available options highlighted.

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