SP310: Theories of Communication: Interpersonal Theories paper


Purpose: to demonstrate that you have determined what is significant/useful about the selected theory.To show that you can use the theoretical approaches to understand particular situations and to generalize from what you observe.To evaluate the selected theory.


Select a particular application situation where you can sit for a time and observe the interactions.

·Do not attempt to analyze a situation you have been in before from memory; you must observe the situation with this analysis is mind.

·Also, it should not be an interaction you are part of; your role should be one of impartial observer.

You may select any type of situation, but it is preferable that your situation contain many different elements.For example, a restaurant, a family gathering, a day at the library, a classroom, a doctor’s waiting room, a church service, etc.You should focus on a particular interaction—for example, you don’t observe every patron in the restaurant or several groups of patrons, but a particular group of five or a couple (two people) having dinner.

Write your paper analyzing that situation.

1.In the introduction, include a brief description of your location site (location, time of day, persons present, any specific factors that may affect communication—loud music, crowded conditions, etc.).

2. Use one (and only one) theory of interpersonal communication to analyze an application situation.Make sure to apply your theory in explaining and analyzing what was happening in that situation.Address both what you are observing and how you determine what is taking place.That is, what cues are you reading that tell you what is happening?

Be specific in your analysis in two ways:

1) provide specific examples and instance from your observation (e.g. what words were used, whatnonverbals, how were those specifically responded to); and

2) apply particular aspects of the theory to each instance of observation.

After this, I would expect you to have some overall comments about the communication situation you observed—perhaps generalized communication rules for this type of situation given the theory that you are applying.

3. The final portion of the paper should be an evaluation of the theory using the appropriate criteria as outlined byGriffin in chapter 3.That evaluation should be based on your application of the theory.So whether you like the theory or not isn’t as important, as whether it was useful to understanding the communication situation you observed, for instance.This portion of the paper is more significant than a couple of sentences in the conclusion of your paper.I also expect your comments here to be thoughtful and well-developed (“it worked really well and helped me explain what happened” is not a thoughtful and well-developed remark).

While this assignment requires you to be descriptive in terms of what you saw and heard, the goal of the paper is not a descriptive one.Your goal should be to analyze what happened.I will be looking for demonstrations of your understanding of the theory and your ability to apply it to interpersonal communication.

[You may go into the observation thinking you’re going to apply a particular theory.After observing the situation, you may find that that theory isn’t relevant to what you observed.Keep in mind that not all theories apply to all communication interactions.]


1. About 4-5 pages, double-spaced, 1-inch margins, 12-inch font.

2. When talking about aspects of theory, you’ll need to cite where explanations, definitions, etc. of the theory come from—the text. See “Plagiarism and Documentation”. You should cite the text rather than the PowerPoint slides, except when the slides provided additional material beyond what is contained in the text.

3. Make sure to have a thesis—an overall claim about what you saw and the theory you used.Remember a thesis is not descriptive.It’s an argument.If you’re unclear what this means, make sure to read that section of the “Writing Expectations” handout.”

A NOTE ABOUT RESEARCH ETHICS:As an academic researcher you have certain ethical responsibilities regarding observing and reporting human behavior.In general, whatever can be seen or heard in public can be used for research purposes.DO NOT report on anything you have to strain to hear.DO NOT use hidden recorders or video cameras.Make sure that what you observe comes your way in the regular course of events (hanging out at a mall, restaurant, etc.).