Chapter 1: Defining Communication and Communication Study

1.4 Summary, Discussion, References


In this chapter, you learned an academic approach to understanding communication and communication study. Smith, Laswell, and Casey offer a simple definition of communication study: “who says what, through what channels (media) of communication, to whom, [and] what will be the results” (1946). Now you can provide an answer to those who ask you what Communication study is about. Our definition of communicationthe process of using symbols to exchange meaning, allows you to understand how we use this term throughout the book. The linear and transactional models of communication act as visual representations of both communication study and communication. Our history tells us that men and women from all cultures have been interested in observing and theorizing about the role of communication in multiple contexts. The Old School of communication study consisted of four major periods of intellectual development, including the Classical Period that gave birth to seminal figures who set the foundation for communication study.  Finally, you are now aware of the importance of studying communication: that it impacts your personal, social, and professional life.

Discussion Questions

  1. According to our definition, what is communication? What do we not consider to be communication?
  2. Using our definition of communication study, explain how Communication is different from other majors such as Sociology, Anthropology, Psychology, etc?
  3. Why is knowing our history valuable for understanding the discipline?
  4. Name three people who you feel used communication effectively in their jobs? In what ways do they communicate effectively using verbal and nonverbal communication?

Key Terms

  • attribution
  • Aristotle
  • Augustine
  • Bacon, Francis
  • Blair, Hugh
  • Campbell, George
  • Cereta, Laura
  • channel
  • Cicero
  • communication
  • De Pisan, Christine
  • dialectic
  • face work
  • feedback
  • Five Canons of Rhetoric
  • identity management
  • interpretation
  • Isocrates
  • Linear Model
  • message
  • noise
  • perception
  • perceptual organization
  • Plato
  • Ramus, Petrus
  • receiver
  • reflective appraisal
  • rhetoric
  • selective attention
  • self-concept
  • self-esteem
  • self-fulfilling prophecy
  • sender
  • Socrates
  • sophist
  • stereotypes
  • stimuli
  • Transactional Model


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Barnlund, D. (1970). A transactional model of communication.  Foundations of Communication Theory. NY: Harper & Row.

Cereta, L.  (1997). Collected letters of a renaissance feminist (D. Robin ed.). University of Chicago Press.

Covino, W. A. (1994). Magic, rhetoric, and literacy: An eccentric history of the composing imagination. NY: SUNY Press.

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Golden, J. L. & Corbett, E. J. (1968). The rhetoric of Blair, Campbell, and Whately. Southern Illinois University Press.

Hovland, C. I. (1948). Social communication. Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 92(5), 371–375. Retrieved from

Kennedy, G. A. (1999). Classical rhetoric & its Christian & secular tradition from ancient to modern times.

Koenig K., & Suter, E. (2012).  Accounting for lesbian-headed families: lesbian mothers’ responses to discursive challengesCommunication Monographs, 79(4), 475–498.

Lee, D. Developing effective communications. The University of Missouri Extension.

Miller-Day, M., and Lee, J.  (2001). Communicating disappointment: The viewpoint of sons and daughtersJournal of Family Communication, 1(2), 111–131.

Nilsen, T. R. (1957). On defining communicationThe Speech Teacher, 6(1), 10–17.

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Rabil, A. (1981). Laura Cereta, Quattrocento Humanist. New York: Cornell University Press.

Redfern, J. R. (1995).  Christine de Pisan and the Treasure of the City of Ladies: A Medieval Rhetorician and Her Rhetoric. Reclaiming Rhetorica: Women in the Rhetorical Tradition.  Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press.

Sapir, E. (1933). Communication. Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. Macmillan Company. New York, NY

Shannon, C., and Weaver, W. (1949).  A mathematical model of communication. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press. Now available through Literary Licensing, LLC.

Smith, B. L., Lasswell, H. D. & Casey, R. D. (1946). Propaganda, communication, and public opinion: A comprehensive reference guide.

Soukup, P.A. (2014). Looking at, with, and through YouTube. Communication Research Trends, 33(3), 3–34.

Stevens, S. (1950).  Introduction: A Definition of CommunicationThe Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 22(6), 689–690.

Tyme, J. (2012). Organizational Leadership: 73 Tips from Aristotle. Amazon.

Wise, M. & Rodriguez, D. (2013). Detecting deceptive communication through computer-mediated technology: Applying interpersonal deception theory to texting behavior. Communication Research Reports,30(4), 342–346.


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