Communication Research for Social Change is a new curriculum within our Master of Arts program. We are now accepting applications for the first cohort in this MA stream to begin studies in September 2023. The application deadline is February 15, 2023.

What is Communication Research for Social Change?

From the climate crisis to the rise of far-right ideologies and the unprecedented deepening of social inequality, our world faces a number of urgent problems. Communication Research for Social Change (CRSC) is research that seeks to understand and confront these issues and a range of others, often through collaboration with communities and progressive organizations.

Scholars in the School of Communication have a long tradition of working for social change through their research, teaching, and advocacy, and the School’s legacy of critical research and teaching is a unique feature of this curriculum. We define social change broadly and inclusively to encompass a wide variety of research projects seeking to transform the world. As activists, advocates, critics, practitioners, and professionals, students in the CRSC stream will learn to apply critical theoretical and methodological approaches in research projects which identify, address, and develop alternatives to a range of real-world problems.

Social change research projects mobilize knowledge, promote engagement, and raise awareness in pursuit of social inclusion, solidarity, and economic equality. Communication research for social change engages with perspectives developed by and with movements for social justice in pursuit of research outcomes that are aligned with the progressive goals shared by the School’s students, faculty, and community partners.

The Curriculum

Students in the CRSC stream will study theories of social justice as a basis for advocacy and activism in local and global struggles for equality and will learn cutting edge research methodologies to produce knowledge in support of these struggles. These are the focus of the two core courses that comprise the CRSC curriculum: CMNS 848: Communication and Global Social Justice and CMNS 849:Communication Research for Social Change.

Beyond these core courses, students will choose two elective courses from among the School of Communications graduate course offerings, which include a variety of courses on contemporary communication research, theory, methodology, and practice, including:

  • CMNS 800 - Contemporary Approaches in Communication Studies
  • CMNS 801 - Design and Methodology in Communication Research
  • CMNS 802 - History of Communication Theory
  • CMNS 804 - Seminar in Advanced Communication Theory
  • CMNS 815 - Social Construction of Communication Technologies
  • CMNS 820 - Media, Democratic Communication and the Concept of the Public
  • CMNS 824 - Colonialism, Culture and Identity
  • CMNS 830 - Media & Cultural Studies
  • CMNS 835 - Communication and Cultural Policies, Power and Governance
  • CMNS 840 - Political Economy of Communications
  • CMNS 859 - Acoustic Dimensions of Communications

Students may also choose from among courses offered by other graduate programs throughout SFU’s Faculty of Communication, Art, and Technology, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, and elsewhere.

Each CRSC student teams with a faculty supervisor who will guide students through the development and execution of their research project, including through a one-on-one Directed Readings course in which students will finalize their project proposal and begin working on their project and its accompanying essay.

The Project

The capstone of the CRSC MA is a research project: a form of research creation and knowledge mobilization that is shorter in length and qualitatively different than a thesis. Projects are accompanied by an essay of up to forty pages which describes the project’s rationale, significance, and intended impact.

MA projects may include (but are not limited to):

  • Apps
  • Archives
  • Artwork
  • Concerts
  • Databases
  • Exhibits
  • Films
  • Installations
  • Interviews
  • Magazines
  • Oral Histories
  • Pamphlets
  • Performances
  • Plays
  • Podcasts
  • Posters
  • Public engagement projects
  • Publications
  • Social media campaigns
  • Sound recordings
  • Soundwalks
  • Videos
  • Vlogs
  • Web sites

The CRSC curriculum provides the scholarly and intellectual support for developing projects as substantial research initiatives that are engaged with contemporary communication research and practice aimed at social change. 

After completing four courses during the first two terms of the program (September–April), students will bring their projects to fruition over the next two terms (May–December), culminating in a symposium in which students present and discuss their projects with their peers, faculty, and members of the community. Documentation of the project and its accompanying essay are ultimately archived with SFU’s Library. The curriculum does not include media production training; applicants are expected to apply to the program with the skills required to complete their proposed project.

Program Structure  

Term 1 (Fall)

Term 2 (Spring)

Term 3 (Summer)

Term 4 (Fall)

CMNS 848:

Communication and Global Social Justice

CMNS 849:

Communication and Global Social Change

CMNS 850:

Directed Readings and Research

CMNS 893:

MA Project

Elective course

Elective course

CMNS 893:

MA Project

Project Presentation Symposium

If you have any questions about Communication Research for Social Change, please contact Jason Congdon, Graduate Program Coordinator, at

Apply now until February 15, 2023 for a Fall 2023 entry.