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AL AKHAWAYN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF HUMANITIES AND SOCIAL SCIENCES COMMUNICATIONS STUDIES 1. Communication Theory and Scholarship Lecture by Prof. Dr. Mohammed Ibahrine based on Littlejohn ’s Theories of Human Communication Structure of the Lecture 1. What is Communication Theory

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AL AKHAWAYN UNIVERSITY

SCHOOL OF HUMANITIES AND SOCIAL SCIENCES

COMMUNICATIONS STUDIES

1. Communication Theory and Scholarship

Lecture by Prof. Dr. Mohammed Ibahrine

based on

Littlejohn’s Theories of Human Communication


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Structure of the Lecture

  • 1. What is Communication Theory

  • 2. Why Study Communication Theory

  • 3. The Academic Study of Communication

  • 4. Defining Communication

  • 5. The Process of Inquiry in Communication

    • 5.1 A Basic Model of Inquiry

    • 5.2 Types of Scholarship


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Structure of the Lecture

  • 6. Communication Theory as a Field

    • 6.1 The Rhetorical Tradition

    • 6.2 The Semiotic Tradition

    • 6.3 The Phenomenological Tradition

    • 6.4 The Cybernetic Tradition

    • 6.5 The Socio-psychological Tradition

    • 6.6 The Socio-cultural Tradition

    • 6.7 The Critical Tradition


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Structure of the Lecture

  • 7. Levels of Communication

  • 8. Developing Core Communication Theories

  • 9. The Intellectual Structure of the Communication Field


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1. What is Communication Theory

  • Any attempt to explain or represent an experience is a theory

  • Everybody uses theories

  • We cannot live without them

  • Theories guide our understandings and actions


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1. What is Communication Theory

  • The term communication theory can be used to designate the collective wisdom found in the entire body of theories related to communication


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2. Why Study Communication Theory?

  • Communication is one of the most persuasive and complex aspects of human life

  • Because communication is so vital to our lives, surely it deserves our careful attention

  • Everybody tries to make sense of their own experience

  • By developing an understanding of a variety of theories of communication

  • We interpret events in more flexible and useful ways


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2. Why Study Communication Theory?

  • The study of communication theory will help students see things they never saw before

  • This widening of perception, or unhitching of blinders, helps us transcend habits and become increasingly adaptable and flexible

  • Theories, then, provide a set of useful tools for seeing new and useful things


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3. The Academic Study of Communication

  • Although communication has been studied since antiquity, it became an especially important topic in the twentieth first century

  • This revolutionary development is largely caused by the rise of communication technologies such as

    • Radio

    • Television

    • Satellite

    • The Internet

    • The Mobile

  • Communication has assumed immense importance in our time


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    3. The Academic Study of Communication

    • Several developments led to this interest in communication

      • The political influence of public messages spurred considerable research on propaganda and public opinion

      • Much of the research in sociology in the 1930s investigated the ways in which communication affects individuals and communities

      • Popular research topics in social psychology included the effects of movies on children, propaganda, persuasion and group dynamics


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    3. The Academic Study of Communication

    • Some areas of special interest were the use of radio in education

    • The teaching of basic communication skills like

      • Public speaking

      • Group discussion

    • Much of the early research was driven by the desire of people in business to know more about communication for marketing purposes

    • Advertisement


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    3. The Academic Study of Communication

    • Several developments led to this interest in communication

      • After World War II, persuasion and decision making in groups were central concerns, not only among researchers but in society in general

      • After World War II, then, communication studies became quite important


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    3. The Academic Study of Communication

    • The approaches to the study of communication took different turns in Europe and the United States

      • In United States, researchers tended to study communication quantitatively to try to achieve objectivity

      • European scholars were strongly influenced more by historical, cultural and critical interests


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    3. The Academic Study of Communication

    • The diversity of work in communication theory reflects the complexity of communication itself

    • Each theory looks at the process from a different angle

    • Regardless of their original academic homes, scholars have formed the new field called communication

    • The young communication field is now producing fresh theories


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    4. Defining Communication

    • Communication is difficult to define

    • Scholars have made many attempts to define communication but establishing a single definition has proved impossible and may not be very fruitful

    • Frank Dance found three points of “critical conceptual differentiation” that form the basic dimension of communication


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    4. Defining Communication

    • 1. The first dimension is level of observation, or abstraction

    • Some definitions are broad and inclusive; others are restrictive and exclusive


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    4. Defining Communication

    • 2. The second distinction is intentionality

    • Some definitions include only purposeful message sending and receiving

    • Others do not impose this limitation


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    4. Defining Communication

    • 3. The third dimension is normative judgment

    • Some definition include a statement of success or accuracy

    • Other definitions do not contain such implicit judgments


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    5. The Process of Inquiry in Communication

    • Inquiry is the systematic study of experience that leads to understanding and knowledge

    • People engage in inquiry when they attempt to find out about something in an orderly way


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    5.1 A Basic Model of Inquiry

    • All inquiry involves three stages:

    • The first stage of inquiry is asking questions


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    5.1 A Basic Model of Inquiry

    • Questions of definition call for concepts as answers, seeking to clarify what is observed:

      • What is it?


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    5.1 A Basic Model of Inquiry

    • Questions of fact ask about properties and relations in what is observed:

      • what does it consist of ?


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    5.1 A Basic Model of Inquiry

    • Questions of value probe aesthetic, pragmatic, and ethical qualities of the observed:

      • Is it beautiful?

      • It is effective?

      • Is it good?


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    5.1 A Basic Model of Inquiry

    • All inquiry involves three stages:

    • The second stage of inquiry is observation


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    5.1 A Basic Model of Inquiry

    • All inquiry involves three stages:

    • Methods of observation vary significantly from one tradition to another

      • Some scholars observe by examining records and artifacts

      • Others by personal involvement

      • Others by using instruments and controlled experiment

      • Others by interviewing people


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    5.1 A Basic Model of Inquiry

    • All inquiry involves three stages:

    • The third stage of inquiry is constructing answers

    • The scholar attempts

      • To define

      • To describe

      • To explain

      • To make judgment

    • This stage is usually referred to as theory


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    5.1 A Basic Model of Inquiry

    • People often think of the stages of inquiry as linear, occurring one step at a time: first questions, then observations, and finally answers

    • Inquiry does not proceed in this fashion

    • Observations often stimulate new questions

    • Theories are challenged by both observations and questions

    • Inquiry is more like running around a circle than walking in a straight line


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    5.2 Types of Scholarship

    • Different types of inquiry ask different questions, use different methods of observation and lead to different kinds of theory

    • Methods of inquiry can be grouped into three broad forms of scholarship:

      • Scientific

      • Humanistic

      • Social Scientific


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    5.2 Types of Scholarship

    • Science often is associated with objectivity

    • If by objectivity, we mean suspension of values, science definitely is not objective

    • If by objectivity we mean standardization, science is indeed objective

    • Standardization is important in science because scientists assume that the world has observable form


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    5.2 A Types of Scholarship

    • They view their task as seeing the world as it is

    • The world sits in wait of discovery

    • The goal of science is to observe and explain the world as accurately as possible


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    5.2 Types of Scholarship

    • Whereas science is associated with objectivity, the humanities are associated with subjected

    • Science aims to standardize observation

    • The humanities seek creative individuality

    • Most humanist are more interested in individual cases than generalized theory


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    5.2 Types of Scholarship

    • Whereas science is an “out there” activity

    • The humanities stress the “in here”

    • Science focus on the discovering world

    • The humanities focus on the discovering person

    • Science seeks consensus

    • The humanities seek alternative interpretations


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    5.2 A Types of Scholarship

    • The Special Case of the Social Sciences

    • A third form of scholarship is the social sciences

    • Many social scientist see it as an extension of natural science

    • Social science is a world apart

    • It includes elements of both science and the humanities but is different from both


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    5.2 Types of Scholarship

    • To understand human behavior, scholar must observe it

    • Interpreting may be complicated by the fact that the object of observation, the human subject, is itself an active, knowing being

    • The central philosophical question in social sciences is

    • Can “scientific” explanation of human behavior take place without consideration of “humanistic” knowledge of the observed person


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    5.2 Types of Scholarship

    • Communication as a Social Science

    • Traditionally, humanistic theories of communication have been referred to as rhetorical theory and scientific theories as communication theories



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    6. Communication Theory as a Field

    • We have two requirements for communication theory as field

    • 1. A common understanding of similarities and difference among theories

    • We need a metamodel, which means a model of models

    • 2. We need a new definition of the term theory

    • Theory should be regarded as a statement or argument in favor of a particular approach

    • Theories are a form of a discourse


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    6. Communication Theory as a Field

    • Theories are a discourse about discourse or metadiscourse

    • Theories are special forms of communication

    • Theories constitute an experience of communication

    • Different theories are different ways of “talking about” communication, each form has its powers and limits

    • For unity in the field, we need too acknowledge the constitutive power of theories and find a consensual way in which to understand what various theories are designed for


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    6. Communication Theory as a Field

    • Craig describes seven standpoints, traditions or theories within the field:

      • 1. Rhetorical

      • 2. Semiotic

      • 3. Phenomenological

      • 4. Cybernetic

      • 5. Socio-psychological

      • 6. Socio-cultural

      • 7. Critical


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    6. Communication Theory as a Field

    • Rhetorical tradition

    • Theories in this tradition see communication as a practical art

    • Communicators such as

      • Speakers

      • Media producers

      • Writers

  • perceive a problem or challenge that needs to be dealt with through carefully designed messages


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    6. Communication Theory as a Field

    • Rhetorical tradition

    • Logical and emotional appeals are typically featured in rhetorical theories

    • It relies on a sense that words are powerful


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    6. Communication Theory as a Field

    • The Semiotic Tradition

    • This tradition focuses on signs and symbols

    • It argues in a language that includes terms such as sign, symbols, meaning, referent, code and understanding

    • Semiotic theories often lie in opposition to theories suggesting that words have correct meanings, that signs stand for objects, or that language is neutral


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    6. Communication Theory as a Field

    • The phenomenological tradition

    • This tradition concentrates on personal experience, including how individuals experiences one another

    • Communication is seen as a sharing of personal experience through dialogue

    • In this tradition, you will hear a discourse that includes terms such as experience, self, dialogue, genuine and openness

    • It is appealing as a theoretical approach when it points out the need for human contact, respect, acknowledgment of differences and common ground


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    6. Communication Theory as a Field

    • Cybernetic

    • Communication is viewed in this tradition primarily as information process

    • It honors a vocabulary of senders and receivers, information, feedback and systems


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    6. Communication Theory as a Field

    • Socio-psychological

    • This tradition concentrates on the aspects of communication that include expression, interaction and influence

    • It addresses problems and challenges in which outcomes need to be manipulated

    • This discourse accents behavior, variables, effects, personalities traits and perception

    • This tradition stands most in opposition to claims that people are rational, that individuals know what they think, and that perception is a clear route to seeing what is real


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    6. Communication Theory as a Field

    • Socio-cultural

    • This genre holds social order as its centerpiece and sees communication as the glue of society

    • The problems and challenges it addresses include conflict, alienation and the failure to coordinate

    • Socio-cultural scholars eschew arguments in favor of individual power, unitary self and separation of the human interaction from social structure


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    6. Communication Theory as a Field

    • Critical tradition

    • The critical tradition tends to see communication as a social arrangement of power and oppression

    • It responds to problems of ideology, power and domination

    • Critical discourse includes such terms as ideology, dialectic, consciousness raising, resistance and emancipation

    • It is an appealing approach to theory in situations that include the self-perpetuation of power, the values of freedom and equality


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    7. Levels of Communication

    • Handbooks, textbooks and college curricula are often divided into sections corresponding to these levels:

      • Interpersonal communication

      • Group communication

      • Organizational communication

      • Mass Communication


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    7. Levels of Communication

    • Interpersonal communication

  • Interpersonal communication deals with communication between people, usually face-to-face, private setting


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    7. Levels of Communication

    • Group communication

  • Group communication relates to the interaction of people in small groups usually in decision-making settings


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    7. Levels of Communication

    • Organizational communication

  • Organizational communication occurs in large corporative networks and includes virtually all aspects of both interpersonal and group communication


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    7. Levels of Communication

    • Mass Communication

  • Mass Communication deals with public communication, usually mediated


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    8. Developing Core Communication Theories

    • Some theories explain particular levels of communication, whereas others focus on general concepts and processes common to all communication

    • The following list illustrates the types of elements included in core communication theories:

      • 1. Development of message

      • 2. interpretation and the generation of meaning

      • 3. message structure

      • 4. Inter-actional dynamics

      • 5. institutional and social dynamics


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    8. Developing Core Communication Theories

    • No single theory can address all these elements


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    9. The Intellectual Structure of the Communication Field

    • To capture the unity and diversity of the communication field , John Powers developed a model that accommodates all of the categories

    • The model of the intellectual structure of the filed:

    • 1. The content and form of the message

    • 2. Communicators as

      • Individuals

      • Participants in social relationship

      • Members of cultural communities


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    9. The Intellectual Structure of the Communication Field

    • 3. Levels of communicators, including

      • Public

      • Small group

      • Interpersonal

  • 4. Contexts and situations in which communication occurs


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    Structure of the Lecture

    • 7. How to evaluate a Communication Theory

      • 7.1 Theoretical Scope

      • 7.2 Appropriateness

      • 7.3 Heuristic Value

      • 7.4 Validity

      • 7.5 Parsimony

      • 7.6 Openness


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    Thesis of today’s lecture:

    • Why is this topic considered so important

    • Almost all university communication programs include at least one course in communication theory

    • They are indispensable in academic life

    • They allow us to transform information into knowledge

    • Theories are the foundation of every discipline

    • They help us to codify what we know


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    Thesis of today’s lecture:

    • Theories also focus our attention on important variables and relationships

    • Theories are like maps


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    1. The Nature of Theory

    • What is theory ?

    • The book’s definition of theory is broad

      • “An organized set of concepts and explanations about a phenomenon”

  • All theories are abstractions


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    1. The Nature of Theory

    • They always reduce experience to a set of categories

    • A theory focuses on certain things and ignores others

    • No single theory will ever reveal the whole of truth

    • Theories are constructions

    • A theory is a way of seeing and thinking about the world


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    2. Basic Elements of Theory

    • The most basic element of a theory is its CONCEPTS or CATEGORIES

    • A goal of theory is to present a set of labeled concepts

    • Theorists identify concepts by symbols and set of terms becomes an integral part of the theory

    • Terms, concepts and definitions tell us what the theorist is looking at and what is considered


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    2. Basic Elements of Theory

    • What does taxonomies mean?

    • Taxonomies are theories that stop at the concept level, providing only a list of categories without explaining how they relate to one another

    • Because taxonomies do not explain, many scholars believe that they are not really theories


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    2. Basic Elements of Theory

    • The best theories go beyond concepts to provide explanations

    • Statements about how the variables relate to one another –showing how concepts are connected


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    2. Basic Elements of Theory

    • There are many types of explanations, but two of the most common are CAUSAL and PRACTICAL

    • CAUSALexplanation connects events as causal relationships in which one variable is seen as an outcome or result of the other

    • PRACTICALexplanation explains actions as goal related in which action is designed to achieve a future state

    • CAUSAL explanation explains outcomes as responses

    • PRACTICAL explanation sees action as controllable and strategic


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    2. Basic Elements of Theory

    • In CAUSALexplanation, the consequent event is determined by some antecedent event

    • In PRACTICALexplanation outcome are made to happen by actions that are chosen


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    3. The Traditional Ideal of Theory

    • Social science approach to theory is based on four processes:

      • 1. Developing question

      • 2. Forming hypotheses

      • 3. Testing Hypotheses

      • 4. Formulating theory

  • This approach is known as the hypothetico-deductive method


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    3. The Traditional Ideal of Theory

    • 1. Definition of Hypothesis:

    • An hypothesis is a well-formed guess about a relationship between variables

    • It is based on intuition, experiences or most desirably on research

    • An hypothesis must be testable in such way that potential rejection is possible

    • Hypothesis may be falsifiable


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    3. The Traditional Ideal of Theory

    • 2. Definition of Operationism/Operational Definition

    • Is the most precise possible definition because it tells you how the concept is to be observed

    • Operationlism relies on measurement, or the use of precise indicators (poverty)

    • Measurement is evaluated in terms of two criteria: Validity and reliability


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    3. The Traditional Ideal of Theory

    • Validity is the degree to which an observation measures what it is supposed to measure

    • Reliability is the degree to which the construct is measured accurately, and it is most often estimated by consistency


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    3. The Traditional Ideal of Theory

    • 3 Control and manipulation

    • If one set of variables is held constant (control) and another set is systematically varied (manipulation)

    • The researcher can detect the effect of the manipulated variables without worrying about whether other variables had hidden effects


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    3. The Traditional Ideal of Theory

    • 4 The Covering law

    • The covering law is a theoretical statement of cause and effect relevant to a particular set of variables across situation

    • Covering laws also enable the researcher to make predictions about future events


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    3. The Traditional Ideal of Theory

    • Very few social scientists seek covering law anymore

    • They realize that absolutely universal statements are unrealistic

    • They are seeking statistical relations among variables and their “law” are probabilistic


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    3. The Traditional Ideal of Theory

    • 5 Prediction

    • Prediction is an important outcome of inquiry because it gives people power over their environment


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    4. An Alternative Paradigm

    • Robyn Penman has outlined five tenets of the alternative paradigm

      • 1. Action is voluntary, you can not predict action/behavior based on outside variables

      • 2. Knowledge is created socially

      • 3. Theories are historical, as times change, so too will theories

      • 4. Theories affect the reality that are covering

      • 5. Theories are value laden, They are never neutral, see Cox:


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    5. Theory Development and Change

    • A good theory development is a constant process of testing and formulating

    • For the traditionalists, this testing is a process of improving hypothesis about the real word

    • For the alternative-paradigm theorist, it is a process of fine-tuning interpretative frameworks for understanding the flow of events


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    5. Theory Development and Change

    • Theory development therefore always requires research

    • Research enables the specific investigation of facts considered significant

    • Theories can be expanded piece by piece by adding new concepts to the old

    • Thomas Kuhn states that “normal science” is a process of developing theory with the relative consensus among scientists on the basic nature of the things being explained


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    5. Theory Development and Change

    • In a scientific revolution, two paradigms are pitted against each other

    • These two paradigms are based on different basic assumptions

    • Metatheory is a field that attempts to describe and explain the similarities and differences among theories

    • A metatheory is theory about theories


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    5. Theory Development and Change

    • Since the late 1960s, the word paradigm has referred to a pattern in any scientific discipline

    • In linguistics, Ferdinand de Saussure used paradigm to refer to a class of elements with similarities

    • Thomas Kuhn gave this word its contemporary meaning when he adopted it to refer to the set of practices that define a scientific discipline during a particular period of time


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    5. Theory Development and Change

    • In his book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Kuhn defines a scientific paradigm as:

    • What is to be observed and scrutinized

    • The kind of questions that are supposed to be asked and probed for answers in relation to this subject

    • How these questions are to be structured

    • How the results of scientific investigations should be interpreted.


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    6. Metatheory

    • Issues of Epistemology

    • Epistemology is the branch of philosophy that studies knowledge, or how people know what they claim to know

    • There are four positions on the issue:

      • 1. Mentalism or realism suggest that knowledge arise out of the sheer power of the human mind to know the truth

      • 2. Empiricism highlights the role of experience

      • 3. Constructivism holds that people create knowledge in order to function pragmatically in the world and that they project themselves into what they experience

      • 4. Social Constructivism teaches knowledge is a product of symbolic interaction within social groups


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    6. Metatheory

    • Issues of Epistemology

      • 1. Mentalism or realism suggest that knowledge arise out of the sheer power of the human mind to know the truth


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    6. Metatheory

    • Issues of Epistemology

      • 2. Empiricism states that knowledge arises in perception


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    6. Metatheory

    • Issues of Epistemology

      • 3. Constructivism holds that people create knowledge in order to function pragmatically in the world and that they project themselves into what they experience


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    6. Metatheory

    • Issues of Epistemology

      • 4. Social Constructivism teaches knowledge is a product of symbolic interaction within social groups


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    6. Metatheory

    • Issues of Epistemology

    • Is knowledge best conceived in parts or whole?

      • Gestaltist teach that true knowledge consists of general, indivisible understandings

      • Analysts believe that knowledge consists of understanding how parts operate separately


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    6. Metatheory

    • Issues of Ontology

    • Ontology is the branch of philosophy that deals with the nature of being , or more narrowly, the nature of the things we seek to know


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    6. Metatheory

    • Issues of Axiology

    • Axiology is the branch of philosophy studying values


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    7. How to Evaluate A Communication Theory

    • As you encounter theory of communication, you will need a basis for judging one against another

    • The following list of criteria that can be applied to the evaluation of many theories

    • Remember that no theory is perfect


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    7. How to Evaluate A Communication Theory

    • All have limitations

      • Theoretical Scope

      • Appropriateness

      • Heuristic Value

      • Validity Parsimony

      • Openness


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    7. How to Evaluate A Communication Theory

    • Theoretical Scope

      • A theory’s scope is its comprehensiveness or inclusiveness

      • It relies on the principle of generality

      • The scope of a theory is critical

      • A theory need not cover a large number of phenomena to be judged as good

      • Many fine theories are narrow in coverage


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    7. How to Evaluate A Communication Theory

    • Appropriateness

      • In a way, appropriateness is a kind of logical consistency between theories and assumptions


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    7. How to Evaluate A Communication Theory

    • Heuristic Value

    • Validity is the truth value of a theory

    • Validity as a criterion of theory has three meanings:

      • Value, or worth

      • Correspondence, or fit

      • Generalizability, the tenets of the theory apply across situation


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    7. How to Evaluate A Communication Theory

    • Parsimony

    • The test of parsimony involves logical simplicity

    • If two theories are equally valid, the one with the simplest logical explanation is said to be the best


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    7. How to Evaluate A Communication Theory

    • Openness

    • Theories can be judged according to their openness

    • This criterion is especially important in the alternative paradigm

    • It means that a theory is open to other possibilities


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