On the intellectual structure of the human communication discipline


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Responding to challenges by Wartella (1994) and Zarefsky (1993) to describe the underlying nature of the discipline we teach, this essay develops a detailed model of the intellectual structure of the human communication discipline. The model proposes that the discipline's content is arranged into four tiers of research and pedagogical interest. Tier-1 work defines the distinctive nature of the discipline, exploring all aspects of the abstract concept of message. The second tier concentrates on the relationship of message analyses to communicators as individuals, as elements in social/interactional relationships, and as members of various cultural communities. Research in the third tier gathers our tier-1 and tier-2 interests into various clusters or levels, including public, small group and interpersonal communication. Work in the fourth tier explores human message behavior as it occurs in significant recurring situations such as health care, schools, business, and other areas.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)191-222
Number of pages32
JournalCommunication Education
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 1995

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Communication
  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics


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