Spring 2021 - CMNS 110 D100

Introduction to Communication Studies (3)

Class Number: 7564

Delivery Method: Remote


  • Course Times + Location:

    Tu 10:30 AM – 12:20 PM

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Apr 17, 2021
    10:30 AM – 10:30 AM
    TAKE HOME-EXAM, Burnaby



An introduction to selected theories about human communication. This course is required for a major, honours or minor in communication. Breadth-Social Sciences.


The aim of this course is to provide a general introduction to a range of theories that seek to explain why we communicate as we do. The first part of the course establishes a general overview of communication theory, from both theoretical and historical points of view. We will examine the relationship between communication and social consciousness, identity development, and communication as a symbolic and performative act. The second part of the course will focus on specific fields within the area of communication, including: the study of popular culture, media analysis, advertising, journalism, and the political economy of communication.

Throughout the course we will also examine the rise of technology studies in communication and consider the ways in which electronic media (including social media) have refashioned both human consciousness and culture. In this context, we will discuss issues of privacy and democracy in the emerging digital culture.


Broad Course Themes:

 (Detailed weekly topics will be distributed on Canvas in the first week of classes.)

  • Socialization, media and identity formation: “Performative aspect of communication”
  • Mass/consumer culture and mass communication: “The rise of popular culture”
  • Media, technology and society: “We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us”
  • Mediation and issues with representations of race, gender, and sexuality: “The danger of a single story”


Our main goal is to critically assess the images and messages of contemporary media.  How do they create meaning?  Do they enlarge our understanding of the world, or influence us to think about it in increasingly narrow ways?

By the end of this course students should be able to:

  • Critically assess media environments and communication strategies, in order to better understand how they might influence us to think about issues.
  • Identify and summarize major theories in communication.
  • Demonstrate critical thinking in their media analysis and writing assignments in order to challenge their own assumptions, and question social norms and what appears as “common sense” in media and society.
  • Demonstrate understanding of what types of questions are asked in communication studies when undertaking research in the discipline.
  • Create materials, such as papers, assignments, presentations, or other artifacts, that incorporate communication theory and history.


  • Online class participation and discussions 15%
  • Communication self-audit and digital detox assignment 15%
  • Midterm take-home exam 15%
  • Topic outline 5%
  • Annotated bibliography of 5 peer-reviewed academic sources 10%
  • Final paper 20%
  • Final take-home exam 20%


Note: This course does not have a final exam during the exam period in April.



Pavlik, John V. & McIntosh, Shawn (2018). Converging media: A new introduction to mass communication (6th edition). New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN:   9780190646653

***Supplementary readings will be made available on the course Canvas page***

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html


Teaching at SFU in spring 2021 will be conducted primarily through remote methods. There will be in-person course components in a few exceptional cases where this is fundamental to the educational goals of the course. Such course components will be clearly identified at registration, as will course components that will be “live” (synchronous) vs. at your own pace (asynchronous). Enrollment acknowledges that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes. To ensure you can access all course materials, we recommend you have access to a computer with a microphone and camera, and the internet. In some cases your instructor may use Zoom or other means requiring a camera and microphone to invigilate exams. If proctoring software will be used, this will be confirmed in the first week of class.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who believe they may need class or exam accommodations, including in the current context of remote learning, are encouraged to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112).