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CMST 2TM6 Fndns in Comm. Theory& Method (C01)

Academic Year: Fall 2018

Term: Fall

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Christine Quail


Office: Togo Salmon Hall 326

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 24072

Office Hours: Monday 12-2

Course Objectives:

Course Description (from Undergraduate Calendar): A comprehensive introduction to communication research in an integrated format, where students learn about the research process, theoretical frameworks, epistemological questions, research questions, ethics, links between theory and method, and a survey of quantitative and qualitative methods and modes of analysis. Lectures and tutorial (six hours); one term. Note: Remember that this is a foundational introduction that will cover a lot of ground—it is 6 units, which is 2 courses. It is a foundation for the Communication Studies program. Be prepared to work hard—it will pay off!



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

• Be familiar with research as a process

• Consider epistemological frameworks and how they relate to research

• Understand the importance of research ethics, and how to make ethical choices in research

• Understand what a “theory” is and how they are used in research

• Analyze the assumptions, tenets, and implications of specific communication theories

• Differentiate between communication theories

• Understand how methodological choices and questions frame problems and solutions

• Be familiar with some of the major methods used in communication research

• Begin to apply theories and methods to phenomenon to gain insights into the world

• Engage critically about social and political implications of particular theories and methods

• Discuss underlying tensions and debates in the field

• Extrapolate theory and methods from research and arguments

• Consider how communication theory and methods can be part of a toolkit for doing research

• Be prepared to further your study of research in CMST 2RA3, and Level 3 & 4 courses

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

• Merrigan, Gerianne, Carole L. Huston, and Russell Johnston. (2012). Communication Research Methods: Canadian Edition. Don Mills: Oxford University Press.

• Laughey, Dan. (2007). Key Themes in Media Theory. New York: Open University Press.

• Additional readings will be posted on Avenue or distributed in lecture or tutorial.

• Guest lectures by academics, activists, professionals doing work in media/communication.

• Avenue To Learn will be used. Be sure that you have reliable access. You are responsible for all materials, notices, news, and content.

Method of Assessment:

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





Midterm Test


October 18 (lecture)

Tutorial Activities


Weekly (tutorial)

Assignment 1


September 27 (lecture)

Assignment 2


October 25 (lecture)

Assignment 3


November 15 (lecture)

Assignment 4


November 29 (lecture)

Final Exam


TBA by Registrar


Attendance and Participation:

  • Please come to class with the readings completed, and ready to discuss readings and engage in class activities, in lecture as well as tutorial.
  • 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 10th. Each student must register for and attend weekly tutorials. Tutorials have three purposes:

1. to deliver skills-building activities relevant to your research toolkit;

2. to help you work through course material and apply the concepts to new situations;

3. to workshop some of your assignment components


Tutorial is mandatory; attendance will be taken. Participation is required, with the same guidelines outlined above. TAs will assign additional assignments and activities, which will be coordinated with the professor. Evaluation will consist of participation and completion of assignments, including mini presentations. Please remember that your TAs are part of the teaching team—they are to be treated professionally.


Professionalism:This is your first core, required course in your program. Embrace your studies in the program, and comport yourself with ethical standards, respect for others, and build skills for success in school and in your life beyond university. This course is called “foundations”, so think of this as literally, a foundation for your program, your interactions with your cohort, your professors, and the university. Get your work done, follow standards and guidelines, and contribute positively. We will discuss more about “professionalism” in class.


Midterm Test:The midterm test will be a mixed-format (e.g., multiple choice, true/false, matching, short answer, essay), and will test knowledge from lecture, tutorial, readings, discussions. Midterm will take place during lecture, in our regular lecture hall. Please schedule SAS exams early.


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, and debates. The format will be mixed—e.g., multiple choice, true/false, matching, short answer, and essay.


Assignments 1-4: These are assignments that ask you to try applying research strategies learned in class, and to improve on your skills based on self-evaluation and reflection, and teaching team feedback. More information on each will be provided. Note: We will cover other methods and do exercises around them in tutorial.

Assignment 1: Literature Review

Assignment 2: Applied theory—Critical Essay

Assignment 3: Content Analysis

Assignment 4: Ethnographic Analysis

All assignments are submitted online, as well as in-person during tutorial.

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

Late Assignments/Missed Test:Assignments are due at the beginning of class on the day due; midterm starts at the beginning of class. Papers are late if they are submitted the same day after class starts. Late assignments must be submitted to A2L, in order to document completion date; the professor and TA must be sent an email alerting that the paper is on Avenue. The teaching team will not accept papers via email. 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. 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. Students who miss the midterm using proper MSAF or Dean’s Letter policy will, in consultation with the instructor, either take a make-up test, or having the final exam reweighed.

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

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 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 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


Remember, this is a 6-unit course, which is the amount of work as two 3-unit courses. Each week is like 2 weeks of your other courses.

CRM = Communication Research Methods

KT = Key Themes in Media Theory

A2L = Additional research or news article posted in Content folders on Avenue to Learn









W 9/5




Th 9/6


Intro to the course, Epistemology and Ways of Knowing



Research Process

& Secondary Literature


CRM: Preface, Ch 1

KT: Ch 1





A2L: Posted article



Note: No tutorials this week!









W 9/12



Th 9/13



Ethics Through the Research Process


Behaviourism & Media Effects




CRM: 2



KT: 2 + Article on A2L



Tutorials Start



W 9/19




Th 9/20




Modernity & Toronto School, Frankfurt School







KT: 3 + Article on A2L



KT: 4 + Article on A2L











W 9/26



Th 9/27








Gender and Feminist Theories




KT: 5; A2L Article



KT: 6 + Article (A2L)








Assignment 1 Due Thursday




W 10/3





Th 10/4







Critical Race + Postcolonial Theories; Political Economy


Consumerism + Postmodernism








KT: 7 + Article on A2L




KT: 8, 9














W 10/17



Th 10/18





From Theory to Method


Midterm Test





CRM: 3, 4









Midterm Test




W 10/24





Th 10/25



Data Sources, Collection, Sampling



Types of Warrants for Research Arguments







CRM: 5 + Review article




CRM: 6








Assignment 2 Due



W 10/31



Th 11/1





Content Analysis



Discourse Analysis +

Critical Studies





CRM: 8



CRM: 10, 12







W 11/7




Th 11/8



Survey, Polls




Ethnographic Methods






CRM: 7 + Article on A2L



CRM: 11 + Article on A2L







W 11/14




Th 11/15




Historical Analysis, Policy Studies



Guest Lecturer




CRM: 9 + Article on A2L

KT: (selected sections for review for connections)










Assignment 3 Due




W 11/21


Th 11/22



Statistical Analysis


Stats, cont.




CRM: 13, 14


Article on A2L






W 11/28






Th 11/29




Research Results and Dissemination, Infographics



Revisiting the Research Process, Theory, and Methods




Selected previously assigned articles to review









Assignment 4 Due


W 12/5




Wrapping Up, Looking forward


KT: Ch 10



FINAL EXAM PERIOD(TBA Scheduled by Registrar)




Final Exam (cumulative, mixed format)

Other Course Information:




Class Environment:This course will foster inclusivity. Each person should feel empowered, valued, and respected. As such, we will operate as a respectful, collaborative, and diverse space. This course will involve a high level of interaction, especially in tutorial, and some disagreement about issues is expected, and encouraged; remembering the values of an inclusive space will be important. Any online interaction must also follow these guidelines. If you have any concerns about lecture or tutorial, please bring them to my attention. Please refer to McMaster’s statement, “Building an Inclusive Community with a Shared Purpose” (

Assignment Submission: All papers/assignments must be typed, dated and titled in 12-point font, stapled (or environmentally fastened), 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. Papers are to be submitted in person/on paper, as well as in the A2L Dropbox. All assignments are due at the beginning of class.

Authenticity / Plagiarism Detection

In this course we will be using a web-based service ( to reveal authenticity and ownership of student submitted work. Students will be expected to submit their work electronically either directly to or via Avenue to Learn (A2L) plagiarism detection (a service supported by so it can be checked for academic dishonesty.

Students who do not wish to submit their work through A2L and/or must still submit an electronic and hardcopy to the instructor. No penalty will be assigned to a student who does not submit work to or A2L. All submitted work is subject to normal verification that standards of academic integrity have been upheld (e.g., on-line search, other software, etc.). To see the Policy, please go to

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.

Email: It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication between students and instructors (including TAs) must originate from their official McMaster University email accounts. This policy protects the confidentiality and sensitivity of information and confirms the identities of both the student and instructor. CSMM department instructors will delete messages that do not originate from McMaster email accounts.

Announcements: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.