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Introduction to Media and Communication Studies

Course Code: CMNS 1221
Faculty: Language, Literature & Performing Arts
Department: Communications
Credits: 3.0
Semester: 15
Learning Format: Lecture, Tutorial, Online, Hybrid
Typically Offered: Fall, Winter
course overview

CMNS 1221 introduces students to Media and Communication Studies by exploring major theories that explain how and why we communicate the way we do. Students explore theories that explain how communication influences our perspective of others, the world and ourselves. By examining media messages from journalism, entertainment and advertising, students explore how the media create meaning and how technology shapes the ways we communicate. Students will use the theories discussed to analyze excerpts from TV shows, films, news media and digital media.

Course Content

Instructors will give students a representative sample of current theories within the discipline of Communication while focusing on media communication.  Instructors will draw on at least four of the seven major traditions within communication theory.  The seven traditions and some of their associated topics are listed in the table below:


Examples of Associated Topics


  • Five Canons of Rhetoric
  • Identification
  • Dramatism
  • Narration and Paradigm
  • Genre Studies


  • Message Production
    (communication anxiety, accommodation and adaptation, cognitive theories, message selection, message design)
  • Message Reception and Processing
    (message interpretation, information organization and integration, Expectancy-Value Theory, Expectancy Violations Theory, cognitive dissonance)


  • Cybernetics
    (feedback, second-order cybernetics)
  • Fundamental System Principles
    (hierarchy, self-regulation and control, interchange, balance, change, equifinality)
  • Information Theory (language and information, information transmission)
  • Dynamic Social Impact Theory


  • Signs, symbols and language
  • Semantics, syntactics and pragmatics
  • Generative grammar
  • Semantics of Non-Verbal Behaviour
  • Theories of Discourse
  • Speech Act Theory
  • Conversation Analysis


  • Symbolic Interactionism
  • Structuration
  • Convergence
  • Social Construction of the Self
  • Coordinated Management of Meaning
  • Language and Culture
  • Linguistic Relativity
  • Social Exchange Theory

Phenomenology and Hermeneutics

  • Phenomenology
  • Text Hermeneutics
  • Cultural Hermeneutics
  • Ethnography of Communication
  • Interpretive Media Studies
  • Organizational Communication

Critical Theory

  • Structural Approaches
  • Hegemony
  • Post-Structuralist Approaches
  • Cultural Studies
  • Feminist Critiques
  • Post-Colonial Critiques

Any single course offering must apply the theories covered to the following three objects of analysis:

  1. media and culture
  2. policy and political economy
  3. society and technology.

Methods of Instruction

Instruction will primarily be lecture and discussion format.  Instruction will also include viewing and analyzing excerpts from TV shows, films, news media and digital media. Some instructors may also include viewing and analyzing recorded meetings, presentations, conversations or interviews.

Means of Assessment

Evaluation will be based on course objectives and will be carried out in accordance with Douglas College policy.   At least 50% of students’ evaluation will come from written work on which students receive feedback and instruction on their writing.

Students will be evaluated on the following work:

  • one short explication paper on a major Communication theory (5-15%)
  • one short case study of a specific media message (5-15%)
  • one mid-term exam (15-25%)
  • one essay comparing at least two Communication theories (20-30%)
  • one research paper analyzing a contemporary medium, trend, event, technology or development in Communication  (15-25%)
  • professionalism (attendance, participation, group work, preparedness, homework) (5-10%).

Instructors may also include a final exam, provided the final exam is not worth more than 30% of the final grade.  If a final exam is included, instructors will alter the weighting of other assignments to achieve a total course mark of 100%.

Exact means of assessment and their percentages for course grade will be specified in the instructor’s course outline.

Learning Outcomes

At the end of the course, the successful student will be able to satisfy the following learning objectives:

  1. Identify the major schools of thought in Communication.
  2. Summarize major theories about how we produce messages and assign meaning in oral, written and media communication.
  3. Analyze major issues in contemporary media communication.
  4. Evaluate how mass media and new (digital) media influence political, economic and social discussion.
  5. Judge how mass media and new (digital) media influence cultural production and social development and interaction.
  6. Explain and illustrate how technology influences communication.
  7. Read and write competently within a variety of academic genres.

Assess communication theories for testability, usefulness, completeness, simplicity and presence of value-assumptions.

curriculum guidelines

Course Guidelines for previous years are viewable by selecting the version desired. If you took this course and do not see a listing for the starting semester/year of the course, consider the previous version as the applicable version.

course schedule and availability
course transferability

Below shows how this course and its credits transfer within the BC transfer system. 

A course is considered university-transferable (UT) if it transfers to at least one of the five research universities in British Columbia: University of British Columbia; University of British Columbia-Okanagan; Simon Fraser University; University of Victoria; and the University of Northern British Columbia.

For more information on transfer visit the BC Transfer Guide and BCCAT websites.


If your course prerequisites indicate that you need an assessment, please see our Assessment page for more information.