Instructor: Dr. Marcia D. Dixson

Office hours: MW 4:00 - 5:00 pm - online and offline - please schedule an appointment first as my time is not always my own to control :)

Office: KT 176

Need an appointment?

Phone: 481-6558 Email:

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COM 523 Communication in Personal Relationships













Duck, S.W. (2011). Rethinking Relationships. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Available via BryteWave*

Galvin, K.M. (2011). Making Connections: Readings in Relational Communication. Fifth Edition. New York: Oxford University Press.

Regan, P.C. (2008). The Mating Game: A Primer on Love, Sex, and Marriage. LA: Sage Publications. Available via BryteWave*

Wright, K.B. & Webb, L. M. (2011). Computer-mediated Communication in Personal Relationships. New York: Peter Lang Publishing, Inc.

BryteWave* is a reading app that you can use on your computer or mobile device. It allows you to take notes and share those notes with the rest of the class. If you choose to buy these two textbooks in this format from Follett's, you will be able to access your classmates notes and comments as well as my comments and suggestions for mini-projects based on these books.

Course Objectives:

1. You will be aware of the breadth of research on communication in personal relationships;
2. You will understand the primary theories involved in explaining communication in personal relationships;
3. You will be able to critically evaluate the research and writings on communication in personal relationships;
4. You will be able to apply relational concepts and theories and use them to analyze relational phenomenon;
5. You will be able to synthesize the research on a particular aspect of communication in personal relationships.


Teaching Philosophy:

My job here is to facilitate your learning: to provide you with a variety of opportunities to learn the content of this course. This means I do my best to structure a course that makes sense to you and gives you opportunities to learn, apply, analyze and evaluate the concepts. I do not tell you what or how to think, just to stimulate and stretch your abilities to do that thinking. To that end, I am generally willing to work with any student who is willing to work as well. But, I expect you to work. If you do your part; i.e., read and consider the material,participate in discussions, and complete assignments thoroughly and on time, I absolutely enjoy doing my part. If you have questions or concerns about the class, assignments or content, you should consult with me about those either in person or via email. If you have technical problems, you should contact me or the help desk (x16030) immediately. My services as a facilitator and guide (and occasional technical consultant) come with the tuition you paid for the course, do not be shy about using them!

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.). 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, puppies, 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 check my office chat room at that time.

Civility expectations: While you are not required to agree with everyone's opinions, you are required to respect them in class. 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. Show good netiquette!

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 and campus policies:

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. Make an appointment with one early in your research process and your life will be much easier in April :).

New Policies on Withdrawing from Classes: Beginning Fall 2015, the Center for Student Success & Transitions (SST), in collaboration with the Offices of Academic Affairs and Student Affairs, is instituting changes in the procedures for course withdrawal and support for students on academic probation.

Grading Breakdown:

90 - 93% A-
94 - 100% A
80 - 82% B-
83 - 86% B
87 - 89% B+
70 - 72% C-
73 - 76% C
77 - 79% C+
60 - 62% D-
63 - 66%; D
67 - 69% D+
0 - 59% F

Course requirements:     



Research project/webpage/presentation:

Project: You are required to write a 10 -15 page paper including: 1) a literature review (at least 7-10 recent journal sources) addressing a particular question relevant to relational communication; 2) hypotheses or research questions for further exploring this question; 3) methods for testing the hypotheses/research questions; 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.  Papers are due the day you present.

Click here for more information on writing a social science research paper.

Click here for general information on social science research methods (applied to the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) but applicable here as well).

Webpage/Blog: You are also are expected to add the primary points from your literature review and findings to your webpage/blog.

Blogs are in Blackboard.

If you choose to use a webpage, please email the URL to me so I can make it accessible to the rest of the class. Many sudents have found very easy to use - they offer limited website hosting for free (be sure you keep copies of everything you post, just in case). You are welcome to check this out but I cannot offer technical support for this site.

"In-class" virtual work

Much of your learning in this class will occur in discussions with your peers when you will have the opportunity to apply, analyze and evaluate what you are learning. You are expected to be prepared. having read and considered the assignment for the week, before participating in blogs, wikis, discussions etc.

Mini-Research Projects on Wiki

In groups, you will undertake a mini-research project based on some concept/idea from The Mating Game or Rethinking Relationships. These may include observations, surveys, web or popular media based empirical research, these are not academic journal research projects but informal "testing" of the theory or concept. You can use your group discussion forum to collaborate about this before you post into the class blog. You will be asked to turn in a plan for the project: question to research, method you intend to use, who will do what for the project, by September 30th. Projects should be completed and posted by October 26th. Each individual will then re-submit the plan with their estimation of what each person in the group accomplished (it's fine to have changes in the plan as long as everyone contributes!).

Application/Observation Papers on Blog

Application/observation papers are 1-3 page (about 500-750 words) case studies in which you choose a particular concept, theory or relational phenomenon from one of the textbooks 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. Post these to your blog by Monday of the week we talk about this topic. Please email the class as soon as you have posted your application paper so your results can be part of our discussion that week.


Final Reflection Paper: Choose a particular concept that you find interesting/important to understanding relationships. Synthesize your understanding of that concept using at least: two readings and three sources from your classmates (application papers, mini-projects, research projects). Two - four pages, cover page, APA format (double-spaced, 1 inch margins, 12 point font). Due by Wednesday, December 16th.

OR (new option just added August 22 because I went to a great teaching conference on Thursday and heard about something going on in my own department! So, with his permission, I have borrowed this idea from Dr. Herbig :):

Final Project: You may choose to complete a final project of your own design. This project will represent what you have learned in the course and will be graded based on how it reflects a mastery of some of the key concepts and ideas discussed throughout the course. These projects can take a variety of forms, including (but not limited to) a paper, webpage/blog, video project, or public event. There are three stages to this project. The first stage is the proposal. You are required to propose a project by October 5th that you think merits the completion of this course (and 10% of your grade). Proposals will either be accepted, rejected, or require revisions based on the evaluation of the professor. Once accepted and agreed to, projects cannot be altered. This means that you must be diligent in proposing projects that you are certain you can complete in the required time. Once accepted, you may enter the second stage: completing your designed project. Projects will be due at Wednesday, December 16th. Evaluation of this project will be based on your ability to create a project that conforms to the proposal you created, display a mastery of the concepts/ideas you have engaged, and present your materials coherently.

Tentative Agenda

For many of the reading assignments there are associated questions or activities which need to be considered/completed before the week begins - Please click on the link to discover these.


Week of:


24 Get to know your class; Making Connections: Readings 1-4

  1. Read Making Connections: 1-4 and answer questions in the forums in Blackboard (including creating a name for your group)
  2. Please introduce yourself in the "Getting to know you class forum" in Blackboard: Tell us 1) something about yourself (hobby, sports you like, family etc.) that gives us some insight into who you are and 2) offer a metaphor for a current or recent relationship you are in.
  3. Complete qualtrics survey regarding watching movie for Rethinking Relationships (next week) and potential F2F meetings

31 Rethinking Relationships Chapters 1 & 2

  1. Read two chapters
  2. Post your application/analysis of characters from Why Did I Get Married" in the group discussion forum
  3. Complete the qualtrics survey about movie to use for Mating Game and which chapters from Computer-Mediated Communication in Personal Relationships and Making Connections you would like to read.


7 (Monday - Labor Day) Rethinking Relationships Chapters 3 & 4

  1. Read two chapters
  2. Post your application/analysis of characters from Why Did I Get Married" in the group discussion forum
  3. September 9: Idea for paper with possible RQ/H and keywords for lit search posted in your blog by Wednesday at 5:00 pm. Comments/suggestions from group members due Monday, Sept 14th.

14 Rethinking Relationships Chapters 5 & 6

  1. Read two chapters
  2. Post your application/analysis of characters from Why Did I Get Married" in the group discussion forum

21 Rethinking Relationships Chapters 7 & 8

  1. Read two chapters
  2. Post your application/analysis of characters from Why Did I Get Married" in the group discussion forum
  3. By Wednesday, 23rd at noon post your group analysis in the class forum: synthesize what you have learned about each couple (this should be a substantial analysis) and determine which concepts you found to be the most useful and why.

28 Mating Game Chapter 1 Mate Preferences, 2 Attraction and Courtship, Chapter 3 Relationship Development, 4 Marriage and Mate Selection

  1. Read chapters
  2. Post your addition/changes/analysis of characters from He's Just Not that into You in the Wiki by Friday
  3. By Wednesday, 30th email mini-project plans to me


5 Mating Game Chapter 5 Conflict and Dissolution, Chapter 7 General Theories of Love, 8 Passionate and Companionate Love, 9 Love Gone Bad and Chapter 14 Maleness and Femaleness; Proposals for final projects (if you are doing this instead of Final Reflection Paper) due.

  1. Read chapters
  2. Post your addition/changes/analysis of characters from He's Just Not that into You in the Wiki
  3. By Monday, October 5th: Send me your ideas for final projects if, and only if, you are wanting to do a final project rather than the synthesis paper.

    Bem's Sex Role Inventory - computer scored (probably fine but not necessarily a credible site)

12 (Monday and Tuesday- Fall Break) MatingGame.htmlChapter 10 Sexual Attitudes, 11 Sex in Beginning Relationships, Chapter 12 Sex in Established Relationships and 13 Sex Gone Bad

  1. Read chapters
  2. Post your addition/changes/analysis of characters from He's Just Not that into You in the Wiki

19 Feedback week: Analysis and lit reviews

  1. Synthesize wiki - post to class forum by 21st
  2. October 19: Literature Review should be posted in your blog with H/RQ and references; feedback from group members due by Friday, 23rd

26 Feedback week: Mini-Projects

  1. Mini-Project Results Posted in Forums by 26th - expectations this week are that you are reading and posting comments to mini-projects (questions, synthesis/comparison with other mini-projects, "lessons learned")


2 General information about relational communication. Making Connections: 8 Elements of nonverbal communication; Computer Mediated Communication in Relationships: 1 Functional approach to social networking, 2 Unpacking the paradoxes of privacy, 3 New twist on love's labor

9 Relationship Development and Maintenance. Making Connections:15 Relationship stages, 17 Expressing affections; Computer Mediated Communication in Relationships: 6 Relational maintenance and CMC, 9 Online self-disclosure

16 Dark Side of Relationships. Making Connections: 20 The what, when, who, and why of nagging in interpersonal relationships, 21 Communicating forgiveness, 23 Difficult conversations, 24 I can't talk about it now, 28 Lying, 31 Why marriages fail; Computer Mediated Communication in Relationships: 17 Digital deception in personal relationships

November 16: Literature Review with H/RQ and methods posted to your blog and attached to your blog by Monday - feedback from partner posted by Friday

23 Take a break :) (Thursday and Friday - Thanksgiving Break)

30 Non-romantic Relationships: Computer Mediated Communication in Relationships: 8 Personal relationships and computer-mediated support groups, 12 CMC and the conceptualization of "friendship", 19 Problematic youth interactions online


11, Friday: Research papers due; bullet points posted to website/blog

16 Wednesday: Final Reflection Papers Due


Possible research topics

Attraction - similiarity, complementary, communication, loneliness

Relationship development - courtship, dating, turning points, linear vs. nonlinear development of relationships, intimacy, self-disclosure, computer mediated relationships, commitment, sexual relations, self-esteem, attachment

Relationship maintenance - maintenance behaviors, dialectics, conflict managment, negotiation, compliance gaining, long-distance relationships, social support networks, cognitive schemata of relationships, rituals

Relationship deteioration - reasons for relationships to fail, relationship dissolution and the role of communication, violence in relationships

Managing differences in relationships - gender differences in communication, intercultural, interracial, sexual orientation, age differences

Relationships contexts - family, romantic, workplace, friends, parent-child communication, single parent families, divorced families, blended families, marital communication, intergenerational relationships