communication 300

Meta-theoretical Assumptions:  Laws, Rules and Systems Approaches to Theory


Note:  Please make sure you listen to the Meta-theoretical Assumptions lecture (Parts 1 and 2) in the Course Content area of our classroom before answering this conference

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Directions:  In our lecture this week, we talked about how a theorist’s meta-theoretical assumptions guide the type of theory he or she creates.  We also discussed three theoretical paradigms that are used in the field of communication.  Please read the case study below and then answer the two questions that follow.  Once you have created your own theory, please comment on the theories of others.


Case Study

On your way to class Monday morning, you hear buzzing from other students gathered at the Student Union.  Something of great interest has been posted on a board in front of the Union and outside every dorm and library on campus.  You investigate the source of the commotion and you see a list several feet long.  The printout is entitled “Potential Rapists”.  Under the title, you see hundreds of names.  You learn later that the names were printed out by a woman’s studies class that took every male name from the student phone directory to create the list.  The professor in charge of the class explains that the class wanted to draw attention to the problem of rape on campus, not to offend the male students.

Many male students express surprise, anger, and sadness.  Officials at the University also express dismay.  The students in the women’s studies class and the professor become defensive as they come under fire from the media, students, government officials, and the University.  School officials draft new regulations for “appropriate classroom conduct” in order to ensure a “safe and welcoming classroom environment” for all students.


1.  Explain (provide a theory about) the described events using one of the theoretical paradigms described in class (i.e., a covering laws theory, a rules theory, or a systems theory). 

2.  Which meta-theoretical assumptions guided your theory about how/why the events above occurred the way they did? 

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