Communication studies is a rich academic field that spans an array of disciplines in order to study how processes of human communication are used to produce meaning across a wide variety of contexts, cultures, and forms of media. As well as learning to understand communication in its various forms, from face-to-face conversation to television and internet broadcasting, you must also learn how to become a better communicator yourself.
Communication Studies is an interdisciplinary field that draws upon a diverse range of disciplinary backgrounds such as literary theory, linguistics, rhetoric, semiotics, media studies, sociology, anthropology, political science, psychology and hermeneutics. The interdisciplinary of the subject permits students and researchers to draw upon a wide variety of approaches, methods and theories to understand communication in complex, diverse and rapidly changing social, cultural, political and economic environments.
Most if not all essays you will be asked to write in communications studies will be thesis-based essays. This means that, rather than simply summarising what others have written, you will be expected to articulate and defend a clear and coherent line of argument of your own. Writing a communications studies essay requires wide reading, good writing skills, extensive research, sound reasoning, and advanced critical thinking.
Get the Introduction Right
In academic writing as in life more generally, first impressions count. An introduction is often the most difficult part of an essay to compose, but it is always worth devoting the time needed to get it right. A strong introduction should be succinct; it should grab the reader’s attention, clarify how you will tackle the question, provide a clear outline of what is to follow, and set the tone for the remainder of the essay.
Use Evidence Critically
During your time at university your examiners will be less interested in the content of your arguments than in how well you are able to support them. Always substantiate your claims with judicious use of relevant evidence. Sources should be examined critically rather than simply taken at face value. Vague, unsubstantiated and sweeping statements should always be avoided. As far as possible you should formulate an argument that does justice to all the information available, while also taking alternative points of view into consideration.
Employ the Signpost Principle
Always make use of the signpost principle: every step in the argument should be clearly marked out, and the reader should never be left wondering where an argument is going or why a particular point is being made. Use of rhetorical questions can be effective for this purpose: “How, then, are we to assess the impact of these new technologies upon secondary education in the UK?”. Generally speaking, the clearer your transitions the more readable your paper.
Equally important is that you address counter-arguments and counter-examples. Try to put yourself in the position of a sceptical reader and ask yourself what objections they might forward against your argument and use of evidence. If these objections can be refuted, construct an argument to that effect; if not, your position should be appropriately qualified.
Too many student papers end abruptly without providing proper conclusions. A conclusion should not be a word-for-word restatement of the thesis but rather a succinct summary of the main points you have made in the body of the paper. You might then briefly gesture towards the wider implications of your argument. However, a conclusion is not the place to introduce new claims, evidence or arguments, which will only betray poor essay planning.
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