Writing in Communication Studies

by Aimi Arai, Sacramento State Communication Studies major


Most of the writing assignments in Communication Studies which I had were research papers, but actually there are various kinds of assignment styles because Communication Studies is a really broad major. Generally, the writing assignments in this major are analyzing materials for communication phenomenon through the texts such as media, famous speeches, movies, and academic articles. These materials can be combined from several areas such as humanities, fine arts, and social sciences. Students will be required to apply the content in the topic to some theories or concepts from a class while forming their own arguments. However, the content or purpose for the assignments will depend on what kind of area in communication studies the class belongs to.


Common Genres of the Writing Assignments in Communication Studies


Abstracts- brief summary of articles or research reports with background information, method, results, and discussion of what the authors found from the research.

Literature Reviews- descriptions for the research findings from a certain subject with future goals for research directions and proposal.

Research Prospectuses- intellectual explanations for the proposed study, research questions, or hypotheses about the relationship between theoretical ideas, processes for the answers about the questions, testing hypotheses, and the way people analyze the data.

Critical Essays- analysis and critique of communication phenomenon supported by evidence.

Outlines- Construction for some speeches and written reports to let us check if an ideas are logical and organized.


The Writing Assignments in Organizational Communication


Basically, the writing assignments in Organizational Communication are research papers. The students will be asked to choose a topic for content and apply concepts from the class to the phenomenon in the topic. At the same time, students will be required to use several academic sources as references. Students may also be assigned analytical reports requiring interviews or case studies. This report assignment will also require the use of concepts from the class lectures. Other writing assignment genres could be writing business letters or memos, reflection papers, and making proposals for research projects.

Persona- It is the same as general academic writings. Students need to write in a formal voice and make clear statements. Moreover, we are always expected to have no errors in terms of grammar, spelling, punctuation, and typographical errors. Of course, the papers must be typed, and academic sources are required for credibility for a discussion in the paper.

Audience- Instructors. But some assignments require studnets to write as if the paper will be read by employers and the public.

Purpose- It is for understanding the concepts from the textbook, especially in organizational settings. Also, it is for practice in word usage, formatting, and style as well as analyze the context in workplaces. Studnets will focus on communication phenomenon to analyze in the assignments.

Context- a topic will be about a situation and event which happens in organizational settings and workplaces.


Sample Assignments in Communication Studies


-In Scientific Methods in Communication Research, the assignments were analyzing data statistically and evaluating why the results for the data occured and what the causes and connections between independent and dependent variables are. Another assignment required making a proposal with detailed hypothesis, independent and dependent variables, and research and data collection methods for social phenomenon research.

-In Survey of Communication Studies, I had a term paper with three choices of topics. One was analysis for important concepts or theories from the textbook through everyday communication. Another was research about career options. The other was a research and analysis of communication problems in our life.

-In Organizational Communication, I had case study reports, which are analysis and discuss for the case studyies from the textbook, with applying concepts from the class.
Also, I had an interview report through an employee's voice. The last assignemnts was an annotated bibliography. This  assigment was annotations of academic writing in a certain area of organization with the current research of the content.

For these examples of organizational communication assignments at other schools, go to





Sources- some of these information is paraphrased from






Citation Styles in Communication Studies

Formal scholarly articles typically follow the American Psychological Association (APA) style. But, the Modern Language Association (MLA) style was more popular in the past. For popular magazines or in-house publications, many use the Chicago Style, but generally we will not use this style for the writing in Communication Studies. In my communication classes, all my professors said either the MLA or APA is acceptable, so I could choose one of those styles every time. You always have to put a Reference (APAP or Work Cited (MLA) page at the end of your papers, so be careful not to forget about it.

You will be required to cite current articles from academic journals. The requirements about acceptable texts depend on the professor and class; however, we are usually asked to find articles published within the past three to five years. Sometimes we need to use the newest texts, such as within a year. For texts published more than five years ago, the credibility of these texts might be suspicious because things are always updated. Therefore, in my case, my professors in past classes told us she could allow us to use the texts in the past five years as credible references.


MLA (Modern Language Association)                     

MLA is a most common style of writing in the field of the liberal arts and humanities. This style lets the writers refer to their references through paraphrasing and quoting as well as a Work Cited pages. This helps writers prove that their argument is more credible with these sources. Students have to say where their information comes from during the writing, so it is also helpful in avoiding plagiarism.

Here is the basic formatting for MLA:

--All papers must be double-spaced, including the writer’s name, professor’s name, the class, and the date. Basically any font type is fine as long as it’s readable such as Times New Roman. The font size is always 12 pt.
--Put one space after periods or other punctuation, and 1" inch margin for all sides.
--Indent the first sentence of a paragraph.
--Put a header for numbering all the pages with the writer’s last name on the top in the right side.
--Endnotes should be placed before the Work Cited page.
--On the first page, you do not need a title page unless the instructor mentions it. Put your name, the professor’s name, the class name, and the date on the top left side. If The title should be located on the center position of the paper.


APA (American Psychological Association)

This style is commonly used in the field of the social sciences. APA also should be double-spaced from the beginning to the end as well as 1" inch margins for all sides. APA also prefers 12 pt font size with Times New Roman. For the header, put the title of out paper and number of the page for each page on the top. There are four separate sections: the title page, abstract, main body, and references. Include the title of the paper and your name under the title. Then the name of the school. will follow.

Include an abstract page, with the word, “Abstract” in the center. The abstract is a brief summary of the paper. Include the thesis as well as research topic, research questions, methods, results, and analysis. Do not indent the abstract. It should be one paragraph of approximately 150 to 250 words.

Both MLA and APA styles must refer to the resources used in the paper, which is called the Work Cited in MLA and the References in APA. The sites below will help you with MLA and APA references::





Areas of Communication Studies                         

The Communication Studies department at Sac State offers various areas of classes: interpersonal, group, and organizational communication, rhetorical theory and criticism, public relations, mass communication, research methodologies, and digital media such as multimedia.

There are mainly five different concentrations in this discipline at Sac State:

-Criticism and Public Communication: This concentration focuses on persuasive and argumentative communication in social and professional interactions and media through rhetorical analysis.

-Interpersonal and Small Group Communication: This concentration focuses on communication in inter-small group and interpersonal settings.

-Intercultural and International Communication: This concentration focuses on communication in international settings through media and social interactions.

Organizational Communication: This concentration focuses on communication in organizational settings through observation and analysis for improvement in communication practices.

Public Relations: This concentration focuses on public relations.

Mass Communication: This concentration focuses on domestic and global media systems.

Digital (New) Media: This concentration focuses on digital video or new media.


For more information about the Communication Studies major visit the following websites: