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1) To be able to analyze and evaluate interpersonal communication theories

2) To understand some of the major theories in the area of interpersonal communication

3) To be able to analyze interpersonal communication research

4) To be able to write and propose interpersonal communication research

5) To gain an understanding of the breadth of the field of communication

6) To understand and appreciate the diversity which exists in ways of relating

Text: E.M. Griffin's A First Look at Communication Theory. Eighth Edition.

>Texbook website

Class policies:

Late work: While I do accept late work, each day (including weekends) late is subject to up to 20% reduction in points (which means after five days, you have pretty much earned a 0). If you are having a technical problem, have questions about the assignment, or are having other issues which make it difficult for you to complete the assignment on time, always let me know before the assignment is due. Plan for technological obstacles, i.e, if your computer or internet at home goes down, what can you do (get to campus, go to a library etc.). As is stated elsewhere, waiting until the last minute, almost assures you will have technical problems!

My availability: I check my email multiple times a day during the week. I check it once or twice on Saturday. I do not do email on Sunday as that is reserved for family, football and, having some down time. So, you can expect me to get back to you fairly quickly, but not necessarily within a half hour or so. Remember, you can also call me in the office during office hours or come by. Because I'm very popular (mainly because I am Chair :), it's best to make an appointment in advance if you can.

Civility expectations: While you are not required to agree with everyone's opinions, you are required to respect them in class (including, email, blogs, discussion forums etc.). However, because you have an opinion, does not mean it is a valid opinion! Back up your statements with facts, direct experiences, concepts from the text, etc.

Academic Misconduct : Academic Misconduct, including plagiarism (using other people's ideas/words and not giving them credit thus implying the work is your own original work), is taken very seriously at any learning institution. It is taken very seriously in this class. Please be aware of what academic misconduct is and the potential consequences (including dismissal from the university) of such behavior.

Helpful places on campus:

Services for Students with a Disability: If you have a disability or acquire one and want to find out about what special services and accommodations are available, you may contact Services for Students with Disabilities in WALB 113.

Writing Center: Can help you with general writing problems or specific assignments (including APA research papers) in KT G19

CASA (Center for Academic Support and Advancement): Offers many kinds of services to students including tutoring in KT G23.

Helmke Library offers research librarians who can help you find what you need.

Course requirements and grade breakdown:

Research project w/oral presentation 30%
In-class participation/homework 10%
Group discussion leadership 10%
Midterm/Final 30%
Two application/observation papers 10%
Continuing the conversation - discussion forum for each week's conversations - lead one discussion; participate in seven forums 5%
Public posting of paper highlights - blogs 5%


Research project/presentation:

A 12-15 page paper including: 1) a literature review (at least 7-10 recent journal sources) addressing a particular question relevant to interpersonal communication from the perspective of one of the studied theories; 2) hypotheses for further exploring this question; 3) methods for testing the hypotheses; 4) data generated piloting those methods; 5) results of the pilot test; 6) discussion of the results including limitations and implications sections. If data can be gathered in conjunction with another student's research project, then such collaborative effort is encouraged. Need help? Try: how to write a research paper.

Also check out the services available from Helmke Library, including their Integrated Information Foraging Environment.

If you intend or want to be able to submit your paper for a conference or publication, you MUST complete and receive human subjects permission. You can find information on human subjects as well as the forms to complete under human subjects on the purdue website.

bulletOral presentation:

5-7 minutes long - absolutely no longer! It should be a polished, well organized presentation which VERY BRIEFLY summarizes the conclusions you drew from the literature and then focuses on your piloted method: i.e., what you did, why this is important to do, what hypothesis/research questions you explored.

PRIOR TO YOUR PRESENTATION DATE: Add the following to your blog: Paper topic, Summary of primary points from your literature review, RQ or H, method, results. Please use bullet points etc. to make for easy reading.

In-class participation

A good deal of what you will learn in this class will be from scholarly discussion with your peers. Therefore, attendance is important to your learning. Be here, be prepared, contribute! We will do small group exercises as well as whole class discussions critiquing the readings or particular applications of the concepts from the readings. Points for these may be awarded. It is very difficult to obtain group points by yourself, making class attendance important to your grade as well.

bulletContinuing the conversation

We will use a discussion forum to allow for continuing the conversation about the theories discussed that week. You will be expected to facilitate one discussion (begin the discussion on Wednesday following class, pose an issue, example, question that invites feedback and then check in to see if the conversation needs clarification, summarizing etc.) and to participate in at least seven forums. Forums will run from Wednesday morning to Tuesday afternoon at at 5:00 pm.

Group discussion leadership: Link to Groups

In groups of three you will lead the discussion on a particular reading. Lead discussion to:

  • get main points/concepts from the theory,
  • provide an example of how the theory might be used in research or critiqued by scholars: one or two outside sources (i.e., research done from this theoretical perspective, original article about the theory, critiques of the theory) are required,
  • evaluate the utility of the theory for understanding interpersonal communication or research.

This includes clarifying terms, asking questions, offering applications or contrasting views of the reading. Expect that your audience has done the reading. I expect a clean, well organized, interactive presentation with excellent, indepth understanding of the theory. You will have 60 minutes.


The midterm will cover the readings and discussion for chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 9, 10, and 11 along with the Duck and Wood/Inman articles. The final will cover the remainder of the semester. More details about each test will be presented closer to testing.

Application/Observation Papers

Application/observation papers are 1-3 page case studies in which you choose a particular concept, theory or relational phenomenon and observe a particular interaction from that perspective or try to "use" what you have learned within a relationship. You should briefly describe the interaction/behavior and then analyze it from the perspective of the concept you are applying. You will be expected to talk about these in class the night we cover the concept. Bullet point summaries of these should be to your blog before class.

Public Presentation - Blog

Each student is also required to create and update a blog in Blackbord summarizing his/her research and application/observation papers. Please also take a look at Writing for the Web (even though we are using blogs) - don't put your entire paper on the web!


Tentative Agenda


21 Orientation to the class. What's a theory anyway? Social construction of reality theory. Writing a social science research paper.

28 Chapters 1, 2, 3, 4: Be prepared to answer the following:

Group decisions for teaching a theory are due

Foundational Theories


4 Chapter 5 Symbolic Interactionism and Chapter 14 Interactional View

Facilitators: Symbolic Interaction: Mackenzie; Interactional: Jeremy

11 Chapter 6 Coordinated Management of Meaning with Pearce article and Chapter 8 Constructivism with Irwin article (in Blackboard)

Facilitators: CMM: Krystle; Constructivism: David

Relational Development Theories

18 Chapter 9 Social Penetration Theory with Wood and Inman Article (in Blackboard) - Getting to Know You and Chapter 11 Social Interaction Processing Theory

Facilitators: Social Penetration: Katie; Wood and Inman: MaryLou; SIP: Darryl

25 Chapter 7 Expectancy Violation Theory - Work Well and Chapter 10 Uncertainty Reduction Theory -We're Not Sure . . .; Research Topics Due - peer group consultation on how to proceed.

Facilitators: Expectancy Violation: Sarah W.; Uncertainty Reduction: Andrea


2 Midterm

9 Fall Break - No Class

Relational Maintenance and Dissolution Theories/Models

16 Chapter 12 Relational Dialectics with "A tale of two voices: Relational dialectics theory" (in Blackboard) and Chapter 13 Communication Privacy Management Theory -Team 3-5

Facilitators: Dialectics: Sarah H.; Communication Privacy: Jillian

23 Social Exchange Theory and Dissolution Models (in Blackboard)

Facilitators: Social Exchange: Diana; Dissolution: Ryan

30 Research Paper Workshop - literature review and proposed methods for pilot due

Understanding Relationship Theories/Perspectives


6 Attachment styles and Theories of Love (in Blackboard) - Love Doctors

Facilitators: Attachment: Christie; Love: Aimee

13 Chapter 34 Genderlect Styles - SAK and Chapter 35 Standpoint Theory

Facilitators: Genderlect: Julie; Standpoint: Kendra

20 Time to finish research papers

27 Presentations and Papers Due


4 Presentations and Papers Due

11 5:45 - 7:45 pm Final


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COM 512 Theories of Interpersonal Communication

Fall, 2012


"See, here we can learn about interpersonal communication!"

Dr. Marcia Dixson

Office: NF 230B
Office Phone: 481-6558 Home Phone: 485-2720
Office hours: T 4:30 - 5:30; R 12:30 - 2:30 and by appointment

E-mail: dixson@ipfw.edu