COM 330-01 (11302) Theories of Mass Communication
Steven Alan Carr, Ph.D.
Course Syllabus
Fall 2005

Course Content and Goals

Building upon the COM 250/251 sequence, which focuses on media industries and the texts they produce, this course 1) surveys social science and critical/cultural approaches that attempt to analyze and explain the power and influence of both American mass media and its texts; and 2) considers the extent to which American media and media texts influence an audience. Rather than argue that media influence is either all-encompassing or infinitesimal, this course argues that no one theory can explain fully the complex interrelationships between culture, history, social power, and human behavior that intersect what is commonly referred to as “the media.”  Our goal is to think critically about different approaches to media influence and the explanations that scholars and critics have offered, and maybe even develop some new explanations of our own.

Prerequisites and Intended Audience

Although there are no prerequisites for this course, it is assumed that students have taken or are currently enrolled in COM 250 Mass Communication and Society and COM 251 Introduction to Electronic Mass Media. The intended audience consists of junior and senior Communication majors in the Media and Public degree track.


If you continue with this course, you agree to be responsible for downloading all required assigned readings.  There is no assigned textbook for this class.  The readings consist of essays and chapters in Adobe Acrobat PDF format available through WebCT.  If you do not have access to a computer connected to the Internet, you cannot get WebCT to work properly from off-campus, or you are unable to make arrangements to use a computer on campus, you will still be held responsible for all assigned readings.  The instructor does not download, email, or print off readings for students.  Be resourceful and make other arrangements with fellow classmates.

Course Requirements

The normal schedule for reading assignments will be between 30-60 pages per week. Consequently, one of your primary responsibilities will be to prepare for each week’s reading by completing assigned readings before Tuesday’s class meeting. To that end, there will be fifteen (15) online quizzes worth 100 points each, due before class on the assigned date before 12 PM noon. In addition, your IPFW email address will be subscribed to a class listserv; you are responsible for checking that address, or arranging for forwarding email to another email address. You should check both your email and WebCT on a daily basis for important course announcements.  Working in teams of 5-7, you will propose, design, test, and evaluate ten (10) learning modules worth 100 points each due on the assigned date before 3 PM. You will take a midterm and a final. You will be required to write a final, argument driven synthesis paper showing how you have taken one or more approaches to media influence seriously. Finally, your participation will be assessed, primarily on the basis of what you do during the scheduled class meeting time, but in general on the basis of what you do as a stakeholder to help make this class a success.


No incompletes will be given for this course, except in extreme circumstances. If an extreme circumstance does arise, however, you are urged to notify the instructor and propose a workable solution as soon as possible. A workable solution in this case, of course, would include the possibility of an incomplete.  However, a request for an incomplete will only be granted only for assignments that have already been started.  Under no circumstances can a student do additional work after final grades have been submitted to raise his or her final grade.


It is expected that all work submitted is the original work prepared specifically for this course by the student whose name appears on it.


Fifteen (15) online quizzes worth 100 points each for a total of 1500 points will be available for a 24 hour window before the date of an assigned reading, and due before 12 PM noon on that date. You may use your textbook and notes, but you will have a maximum of 30 minutes to take each quiz.  Quizzes will consist of ten (10) multiple-choice questions.  You will take these quizzes online.  Once you open the quiz and see the questions, you must answer at least 6 questions correctly on that quiz in order to be eligible to retake it.  You may print off the quiz.  However, if you print a hard copy of the quiz to study with it and you do not complete the quiz within 30 minutes, you will receive a grade of zero and you will forfeit the opportunity for a retake.  If you score 60% or more on a quiz, but less than 100%, you will be able to access the questions, but you will not be able to distinguish between which questions were answered correctly and which were not.  Once you answer all questions correctly, the quiz will be removed and you no longer will be able to access it.  Any distribution of the questions and/or their answers, whether electronically or in hard copy, by one student to another will be treated as an instance of academic dishonesty and will result in an automatic grade of F for the course for all involved.


Ten (10) times throughout the semester, in-class teams will author, test, and evaluate a learning module (LM) and post the results on WebCT.  Learning modules must extend a significant concept relevant to the assigned reading for the week.  Each learning module should use resources already available on campus during regularly scheduled meeting times and be completed in less than 30 minutes.  Each team will have approximately 30 minutes of class time to develop any module.  However, teams are encouraged to develop their own workflow by generating and developing ideas in advance of this meeting.  The instructor will make WebCT resources available, including an online discussion forum for each team.  Each submission is worth 100 points for a total of 1000 points and is due before 3 PM on the assigned date. You will not receive written feedback from the instructor on these modules, unless specifically requested. Each module will be assessed on the basis of its substantiality, its relevance to the reading, and its feasibility.  Based on these criteria, modules will be assessed as excellent, satisfactory, or poor.  Only team members who earn 60 points or better on a module may revise and resubmit that module once it has been submitted.  Each module must include the names of all team members who participated.  It is each team’s responsibility to maintain the Honors System in accurately reporting the names of those who contributed to the project.


You will take a midterm and a non-comprehensive final. Both the midterm and final will build upon readings, questions that appear on the quizzes, on online discussion questions, and on issues raised in class discussion. Both the midterm and the final each will count 500 possible points toward your final grade.


You must write a final, argument-driven synthesis paper worth 500 points.  This paper will be submitted in parts - including a proposal (100 points), a sample paragraph (100 points), an annotated outline of theories discussed (100 points), and a final draft (200 points) - at various intervals throughout the semester.


Your participation is worth 1000 points or 20% toward your final grade. This participation will be assessed primarily, though not exclusively, on the basis of what you do during our scheduled class meetings. You will not receive feedback on your participation unless specifically requested. The burden of proof is on you to maintain detailed, accurate, and clearly presented records of your contributions to the success of the class. Although you are not required to do so, you are strongly encouraged to maintain evidence of these contributions throughout the semester. This data can include evidence of preparation (such as detailed, original notes), letters of support from other students, written self-evaluations of your performance, etc. Should a difference of opinion arise with regard to the level of your performance, you will be asked to produce these records upon request.  Failure to participate in class, regardless of attendance, will directly impact this portion of your grade.


Your final grade will be determined based on the following criteria:

Fifteen (15) Quizzes @ 100 pts ea

1500 points (30%)

Tue before noon (unless otherwise noted)

Ten (10) Learning Modules @ 100 pts ea

1000 points (20%)

Thu before 3 PM (unless otherwise noted)

Midterm Exam

500 points (10%)

Thu 6 Oct

Argument-Driven Synthesis Paper

500 points (10%)

T 4 Oct; R 13 Oct; T 22 Nov; R 8 Dec

Final Exam

500 points (10%)

Thu 15 Dec 1-3 PM


1000 points (20%)



5000 points (100%)




(Above Average)


(Below Average, But Passable)






0 - 2999


Tentative Course Schedule





T 23 Aug

Course Introduction


The Paradigm of Mass Communication

R 25 Aug

From Transportation to Communication

Czitrom Ch1

Quiz 1

F 26 Aug

Last Day to Complete Online Student Agreement

T 30 Aug

Communication: Two Views


Quiz 2

R 1 Sep

Communication: Two Views

LM 1

Early Social Scientific Approaches to Mass Communication

T 6 Sep

Democracy and Public Opinion


Quiz 3

R 8 Sep

Democracy and Public Opinion

LM 2

T 13 Sep



Quiz 4

R 15 Sep


LM 3

U 18 Sep

Last Day to Withdraw with partial refund

T 20 Sep

Empirical and Public Opinion Research

Czitrom Ch5

Quiz 5

R 22 Sep

Empirical and Public Opinion Research

LM 4

T 27 Sep

Behavioralism and the Minimal Effects Model

Blumer and Cantril

Quiz 6

R 29 Sep

Behavioralism and the Minimal Effects Model

LM 5

T 4 Oct

Rosh Hashanah – Reading Day

Synthesis Paper Proposal and Abstract (due 3 PM)

R 6 Oct


T 11 Oct


R 13 Oct

Yom Kippur – Reading Day

Synthesis Paper Sample Paragraph (due 3 PM)

Early Critical/Cultural Approaches to Mass Media

T 18 Oct


Marx and Engels

Quiz 7

R 20 Oct


LM 6

T 25 Oct



Quiz 8

R 27 Oct


LM 7

F 28 Oct

Last Day to Withdraw (no refund)

T 1 Nov

Marxist Approaches to Art


Quiz 9

R 3 Nov

Marxist Approaches to Art

LM 8

T 8 Nov

The Frankfurt School and the Critique of Popular Culture

Kracauer; Horkheimer and Adorno

Quiz 10

R 10 Nov

The Frankfurt School and the Critique of Popular Culture

LM 9

T 15 Nov

Marxist Explanations of Mass Communication


Quizes 11

R 17 Nov

Marxist Explanations of Mass Communication

LM 10

T 22 Nov

Political Economy Approaches

Herman and Chomsky

Quiz 12

Analysis Paper Scene Segmentation

R 24 Nov


Approaches to Texts and Audiences

T 29 Nov

Semiotics and Soviet Formalism

Sturken and Cartwright; Eisenstein

Quiz 13

R 1 Dec

Semiotics and Soviet Formalism


T 6 Dec

British Cultural Studies

Hall and Morley

Quizzes 14-15

R 8 Dec


Analysis Paper Final Draft

All Retakes and Resubmits

R 15 Dec

Scheduled Final Exam 4-6 PM