module specification

MC6001 - Communication Theory and Concepts (2017/18)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2017/18
Module title Communication Theory and Concepts
Module level Honours (06)
Credit rating for module 30
School Guildhall School of Business and Law
Total study hours 300
210 hours Guided independent study
90 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Coursework 30%   Individual Report (3.000 words)
Group Presentation 30%   Group Presentation (15 mins , plus 10 mins Q & A)
Seen Examination 40%   Seen Exam (2 hours)
Running in 2017/18
Period Campus Day Time Module Leader
Year City Friday Morning

Module summary

The module will consider what is meant by “communication” and why a study of the subject is especially important for Public Relations (PR) professionals.  A range of methods for evaluating communication will be discussed together with the theories of the main authorities in the field.
Case studies will feature in the module to illustrate the application of various theories and concepts.
Delivery consists of 3-hour CCT using a combination of lectures (including guest speakers) and seminars.  Assessments comprise an individual report on a content analysis of designated print media;   a group presentation of a public communication campaign for a Local Government organisation; and a seen examination.

Module aims

The module will discuss the key theories, concepts, and approaches within the field of communication.
Students will first consider and engage with the language and discourse related to the subject area.  They will then be introduced to the problems inherent in defining communication, and the different approaches to the topic.  Students will also consider key theoretical concepts related to communication and communication effectiveness.  Case studies will be used extensively to illustrate theory and concepts, particularly in the realm of public communication aspects of public relations management.  Students will also develop further the practical communication skills addressed in earlier modules.


* What is Communication?
* Origins of Communication Theory
* Shannon &Weaver’s model (1949)
* Other models
     - Gerbner (1956)
    -  Lasswell (1948)
    -  Newcomb (1953)
    -  Wheatley & MacLean (1957)
    -  Jakobson (1960)
* Models & Modelling
* Codes: basic concepts
     - presentational codes
     - non-verbal communication
     - broadcast  narrowcast codes
* Empirical Methods
      - empiricism
      - content analysis
* Public Communication Campaign Concepts
* Two-way Asymmetric & Symmetric Communication
*Social Psychology & Persuasion Theory
* Campaign Objectives
       - cognitive change
       - affective change
       - behavioural change
* SMCL Model
* Message & Medium: McLuhan (1964) and “mass age” v “mess age” and “massage”
* Mass Communication & Influence Processes: McQuail (1987) & Windahl (1992)
* Agenda-Setting Theory
* Public Communication v Social Marketing (& the 5 ‘Ps’)
*Critical Success Factors in Public Communication Campaigns
* Hard to Reach Audiences
* Role of Advertising & Public Relations
* Internal Communication & Change Management
* Organisational Leadership & Communication Role of the CEO 
* Communication Planning Framework

Learning and teaching

The module will be delivered using a combination of one-hour lectures (including presentations from guest speakers) and workshops.  In particular, guest speakers will be invited from those sectors of the communication industry which are big employers of communication professionals eg the Government Communication Network, the International Association of Business Communicators; the Institute of Internal Communication, and Central Offices of Information (eg in the UK, Canada and the Netherlands).

Videos and online case studies will frequently be used to stimulate discussion in seminars.  In the main, seminars will be student-led, and a problem-based approach will be adopted.  The routine of daily media monitoring will be encouraged for the study of examples of mass communication, and to facilitate the skill of content analysis.

Weblearn will be used for the dissemination of learning materials, for assessment briefs, and for regular updates by the tutor.  The timely provision of generic feedback following formative assessments will also be facilitated by Weblearn.

Weekly drop-in surgeries will be provided on campus by the tutor, together with an “on-line” surgery hour before and after classes, and regular Q&A sessions.


Combination of 3-hour lecture and workshop sessions. Weekly drop-in sessions with module tutor, together with Q & A on-line support provision 98 hours

Combination of 3-hour lecture and workshop sessions. Weekly drop-in sessions with module tutor, together with Q & A on-line support provision 98 hours


Learning outcomes

Upon completion of this module, students will be able to:

1.Demonstrate an understanding of key communication theories and models
2. Develop the ability to engage with critical opinions on communication and its effectiveness
3. Analyse a range of professional and personal communication scenarios
4. Evaluate aspects of Public Relations as an example of professional communication
5. Demonstrate the ability to apply theory to the professional practice of organisational communication

Assessment strategy

Assignments are aligned to learning outcomes and skills development as follows:

Assessment                              LOs       Skills Development / LMBS Skills Framework

Individual Report (30%):         1-3       Researching & analysing data (1&2; application of knowledge (4);
Formative                                                communicating in writing (7); critical thinking & writing (8); time                
                                                                  & emotion management (11&12)

Group Presentation (30%):      4-5       As above plus: collaborating with others  & cross cultural
Formative                                                 awareness (13); IT skills (14); taking initiative, being creative,                      
                                                                   Leadership & project management (16)

Seen Exam  (40%):                     1-5       Application of knowledge (4); Academic writing (5);
Summative                                               Communicating in writing (7); Critical thinking (8) memorising (10)
                                                                   Time management (11); completing tasks (16)

Strategy here is driven by the need for diverse, transparent and valid assessment modes and criteria.  Assessment design is also driven by the need to fulfil the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) stipulations - as cited in its criteria for course approval. 

The first – formative – assessment (an individual report) requires individual students to use content analysis to compare a “quality” newspaper with a “popular” daily paper.  Given the importance of the Media Relations function for PROs, students need to develop an appreciation of different editorial perspectives.  This assessment is designed with that in mind.

The second – formative – assessment is a group presentation.  Students will be required to undertake the role of PROs working for a local government authority and to present a plan for a public communication campaign.  Such campaigns feature regularly in public sector communication (viz central and local government and the Health sector), and the assessment will develop student skills in this important aspect of PR practice.

The third and final assessment is summative and comprises an examination.  PR activities are usually heavily time-constrained.  So, being able to produce work of a sound professional standard to a tight deadline is an important skill for potential PROs to develop.  The examination fulfils those requirements here.


* Bovee C & Thill J (2011) Business Communication Today  11th edt  Pearson
* Blundel  & Ippolito  (2008) Effective Organisational Communication  3rd edt Pearson
* Buchanan D & Huczynski A (2010) Organizational Behaviour  7th edt Pearson
* Dufrene D & Lehman C (2011) Communication Strategies for Virtual Teams Business Expert Press
* Fiske J (2011) Introduction to Communication Studies 3rd edt Routledge
* Ganguly A (2009) The Art of Business Communication Goodwill Publishing
* Ginsberg G (2008) Melcrum’s Top 50 Internal Communication Case Studies  Melcrum Publishing
* Kearney & Waldeck (2010) Business & Professional Communication in a Digital Age  Cengage
* Krogerus T (2011) Business Communication Challenges VDM Verlag
* O’Rourke J (2007) Business Communication Casebook  2nd edt  Thomson Learning
* Quintanilla & Wahl (2011) Business & Professional Communication: keys for workplace excellence Sage
* Smythe J (2007)CEO: Chief Engagement Officer: Turning Hierarchy Upside Down to Drive Performance Gower
* Stuart, Sarow & Stuart (2007) Integrated Business Communication in a Global Marketplace  Wiley
* Tench R & Yeomans L (2009) Exploring Public Relations  FT Prentice Hall
* Watson Wyatt (2008) Communication ROI Study: how companies with effective employee communication
                                                                   differentiate themselves