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CMST 1A03 Introduction To Communication

Academic Year: Fall 2016

Term: Fall

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Christine Quail

Email: quailc@mcmaster.ca

Office: Togo Salmon Hall 326

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 24072

Office Hours: Tuesday, 10:00-12:00

Course Objectives:

Course Description: This course examines communication and media industries, content, and audiences in historical, social, political, economic, technological, and cultural contexts. Students will be introduced to basic theoretical perspectives, policy concerns, professional practices, and social issues foundational to communication studies. Three hours (lectures and tutorials); one term



Goals: After taking this course, students should be able to

                  • Understand models of communication

                  • Think critically about the role of different media in society

                  • Reflect on major social and political implications of media in society

                  • Debate major issues about media production, content, audiences, policy, and technology

                  • Discuss underlying tensions and debates in the field

                  • Consider how communication and media can be part of a toolkit for community engagement

                  • Sharpen critical thinking, writing and presentation skills

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

• Required Text: Gasher, M. Skinner, D., & Lorimer, R. (2016) Mass Communication in Canada, 8th ed. Don Mills, ON: Oxford University Press -- PLEASE NOTE: This is a new edition; please only use this edition.

• Additional readings may be distributed in lecture/tutorial, or assigned to read online

• Avenue To Learn will be used. Be sure that you have reliable access: http://avenue.mcmaster.ca/

Method of Assessment:

Course Assignments: The following assignments will be evaluated for students’ final grades.





Tutorial Activities




Midterm Test (Ch 1-6)


Nov 1 (in lecture)

Assignment 1: Op-Ed


September 26 (in tutorial)

Assignment 2: Media & Society Analysis


Nov 21 (in tutorial)

Final Exam (Cumulative)


TBA by Registrar


Grading System: See Undergraduate Calendar-- http://academiccalendars.romcmaster.ca/content.php?catoid=7&navoid=559#Grading_System


A Note on Lecture Participation:

Being a student in this course comes with several responsibilities.


  • Please come to class with the readings completed, and ready to discuss readings and engage in class activities.
  • Please be punctual, and stay for the entire session, as you are responsible for any announcements made at the beginning and/or end of class.
  • If you miss class, it is your responsibility to get notes from a classmate, and to be prepared for the next class meeting, with all assignments/readings ready. Lecture notes will not be posted online or emailed.
  • Please also be present—existentially speaking—in class. If you are on your devices, social media, etc., you are not present and you are also disturbing the people around you.


Tutorials: The first Tutorial Day will be Monday, September 12. Each student must register for and attend weekly tutorials.


Tutorials have two purposes: 1. to help you work through course material and apply the concepts to new situations; 2. to deliver skills-building activities relevant to your university studies.


Tutorial is mandatory; attendance will be taken. Participation is required, with the same guidelines outlined for lecture. TAs will assign additional assignments and activities. Evaluation will consist of participation and completion of assignments.


Midterm Test: The midterm test will be a mixed-format (e.g., multiple choice, true/false, matching, etc.), and will test knowledge from lecture, tutorial, readings, and discussions.


Assignment 1: Op-Ed: This assignment will ask students to write an op-ed piece (@800 words) on a topical issue of their choice. Students can submit the op-ed to a publication. Any published op-eds will earn extra credit. Further description and rubric will be provided.  



Assignment 2: Media & Society Analysis: This assignment will ask students to write an analysis (~8 pages) on a core debate regarding media and society. A list of possible topics will be provided. Other topics must be cleared with the TA. This assignment may be completed as a written assignment or a video piece. Further description of each option and rubric will be provided. 


Final Exam: Scheduled by the University. The final exam will be cumulative; it will cover all material from the course—readings, lecture, discussion, in-class activities. The format will be mixed. 

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

Late Assignments/Missed Test: Assignments are due at the beginning of class on the day due. Papers are late if they are submitted the same day after class. Late assignments must be submitted to A2L, in order to document completion date; the professor must be sent an email alerting that the paper is on Avenue. The teaching team will not accept papers via email. Do not submit late papers to TAs. All late assignments incur a late penalty of 10% per day late (starting immediately upon collection of papers in class); weekend days are treated separately, due to the fact that you can submit on A2L. Assignments more than ten days late will not be accepted. If you know you will not be in class on an assignment due date, it is your responsibility to submit work early.


Make-up tests/exams: will be allowed in case of emergency only, with proper documentation; make-ups will be different than the original and will be scheduled by the Professor, at her discretion. The student has one week to contact the professor to schedule a make-up, after which time a make-up will not be allowed. 

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at www.mcmaster.ca/academicintegrity

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at mcmaster.ca/msaf/. If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail sas@mcmaster.ca. For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:

Course Schedule:





Week 1

Sept 6, 8

Introduction to the Course

Ch 1 (Sept 8)


Week 2

Sept 13, 15

Media & Society

Ch 1

Tutorials Begin

Week 3

Sept 20, 22

Communication: Social and Cultural Forms

Ch 2


Week 4

Sept 27, 29

Media History and Canadian Context

Ch 3

Assignment 1: Op Ed (Due in tutorial)

Week 5

Oct 4, 6

Media Content and Meaning

Ch 4






Week 6

Oct 18, 20

Media Audiences

Ch 5


Week 7

Oct 25, 27

Technology & Communication

Ch 6



Week 8

Nov 1, 3



Formation of Communication Policy

(Ch 1-6)



Ch 7

Midterm Test (in Lecture Nov 1)

Week 9

Nov 8, 10

Media Sectors

Ch 8


Week 10

Nov 15, 17

Political Economy of the Media

Ch 9


Week 11

Nov 22, 24

Journalism, News & Democracy

Ch 10

Assignment 2: Media & Society Analysis (in tutorial)

Week 12

Nov 29, Dec 1

Globalization and International Communication

Ch 11


Week 13

Dec 6

Communication in a Digital Age

Ch 12


Final Exam Period


All course content

All materials

Final Exam (Cumulative)




Other Course Information:

Announcements: The instructor reserves the right to make adjustments in the schedule.

Regardless of attendance, students are responsible for all announcements made in class, including adjustments to readings and assignments. Students are responsible for regularly checking A2L for any information that may be distributed online.


Class Environment: It is important that this course be an inclusive classroom. The course will involve a high level of interaction, especially in tutorial, and some disagreement about issues is expected. It is important that each individual is free to contribute, so I ask that we respect each voice in the class, and build an inclusive classroom. Any online interaction must also follow these guidelines.


Avenue To Learn: In this class, we will be using A2L. Students should be aware that when they access the electronic components of this course, private information such as first and last names, user names for the McMaster email accounts, and program affiliation may become apparent to all other students in the same course. The available information is dependent on the technology used. Continuation in this course will be deemed consent to this disclosure. If you have any questions or concerns about such disclosure, please discuss this with the instructor.


Assignment Submission/Turn It In: All papers/assignments must be typed, dated and titled in 12-point font, stapled, and include page numbers. Heading must include TA’s name and tutorial section. Please use APA citation style for in-text citation and bibliography. Double-sided printing is fine. Please be prepared to turn in papers using the Turn It In system. All assignments are due AT THE BEGINNING OF TUTORIAL.