Spring 2024 - CMNS 849 G200

Communication Research for Social Change (5)

Class Number: 7971

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Jan 8 – Apr 12, 2024: Wed, 3:30–7:20 p.m.



Introduction to communication research methodologies utilizing an intersectional framework of analysis, with a focus on the knowledges developed with, by, and for movements for social justice.


How critical or resistant can critical social theories be within the context of academia if we continue to think of theorizing as a purely academic endeavour? (Patricia Hill Collins)

Communication Research for Social Change surveys contemporary theoretical and methodological approaches to communication research that are oriented toward progressive social transformation. The seminar is organized around an intersectional framework of analysis, and highlights the knowledges developed with, by, and for movements for social justice. This seminar investigates contemporary theories and methodologies as they relate to the contested politics of communication research on topics including gender and sexuality; race and racism; environmental crisis; migration, borders and diaspora; data justice; colonialism and empire; labour and class; culture and cultural production; and media literacy, advocacy and governance. 

The seminar is organized around knowledge production practices in the field of communication studies which address these and other axes of exploitation and oppression. Intersectional critical theory sees these systems as related and mutually reinforcing, and critical research methodologies aim to produce knowledge that is connected to action—what is often referred to as praxis— which confronts these social problems. 

Questions addressed include: 

  • How does research—and the knowledge that supports it—contribute to or act against intersecting axes of oppression such as patriarchy, racism, and colonialism?
  • What are the epistemological, ethical, and political foundations and implications of research projects in the field of communication studies?
  • What kinds of relationships should bind us to the communities we engage with in our research?
  • What are praxis-driven communication research methods?
  • How can scholarship support the production of counter-discourses and praxis?

Over the course of the semester students will be exposed to and engage the diverse, cutting edge, and creative approaches to communication methodology and research adopted by faculty in the School of Communication, including projects of Indigenizing theory and method, community-engaged research, co-research and worker inquiry, critical textual analysis, critical data studies, and others. This seminar will provide students with an opportunity to draw from these theories and methodologies as they design their capstone projects for the MA project option. Students will have an opportunity to take an ethics application workshop in January should their research project require it. Students taking Communication Research for Social Change will draw on a range of methodological approaches and debates to draft a capstone research project proposal which will serve as the foundation for their Directed Study course undertaken during the Summer Semester. 


  • Seminar Participation 50%
  • MA Capstone Project Proposal 40%
  • Proposal Presentation 10%


The school expects that the grades awarded in this course will bear some reasonable relation to established university-wide practices with respect to both levels and distribution of grades. In addition, the School will follow Policy S10.01 with respect to Academic Integrity, and Policies S10.02, S10.03 and S10.04 as regards Student Discipline (note: as of May 1, 2009 the previous T10 series of policies covering Intellectual Honesty (T10.02) and Academic Discipline (T10.03) have been replaced with the new S10 series of policies). For further information see: www.sfu.ca/policies/Students/index.html.



Readings per the course syllabus distributed in class.


Your personalized Course Material list, including digital and physical textbooks, are available through the SFU Bookstore website by simply entering your Computing ID at: shop.sfu.ca/course-materials/my-personalized-course-materials.

Graduate Studies Notes:

Important dates and deadlines for graduate students are found here: http://www.sfu.ca/dean-gradstudies/current/important_dates/guidelines.html. The deadline to drop a course with a 100% refund is the end of week 2. The deadline to drop with no notation on your transcript is the end of week 3.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity website 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


Students with a faith background who may need accommodations during the term are encouraged to assess their needs as soon as possible and review the Multifaith religious accommodations website. The page outlines ways they begin working toward an accommodation and ensure solutions can be reached in a timely fashion.