The rhetoric of titles of scholarly works in Communication and Media Studies


Books, by Raoul Luoar on Flickr with Creative Commons license 

Titles of academic works strongly influence how a discipline sees itself and how people position themselves within a discipline.

A title is very short, and must be comprehensible to its target audience, not just descriptive of a work’s intellectual content. Titles implicitly answer the question “Why is this worth reading?” by naming topics and categories that are considered to be of value.

Titles communicate the values not just of the writers, but of the audience they target or invoke. The rhetoric of academic titles in a discipline announces the values of that discipline and how it structures and categorizes its subject matter.

The rhetorical pattern

I have observed that contemporary scholars in Communications and New Media studies, when defining areas of study, often use “medium” as a high-level filter, along with an issue and/or a specific people group of communicators or recipients of communication. This may seem obvious and insignificant to many people, but its implications are worthy of examination.

For example, when asked “What are you studying?” a scholar of communication or new media would likely answer with this recipe:

“I’m studying [communication about issue X] and/or [communication by/for people in Y category] within [medium (or media) Z].

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Supporting group research projects with free online communication technologies

Fall 2011 Student Hackathon CodingIn this blog post and an informal, face-to-face lunchtime “brownbag” seminar for faculty members held today on campus, I will present some principles and examples of free online applications that have worked well in my team-intensive professional communication and social research methods courses.

The main purpose of the workshop is to share instructors’ insights and specific experiences with communication technologies for student team research projects, starting with my own. Each technology has had its strengths and weaknesses, and some of these can work together or even be set up to function within or “through” the Blackboard course management interface we use at our university.

The relevance to rhetoric is that teams require appropriate forums for their collaborative everyday communication, and the forums can structure, enable and limit the kinds of informative and persuasive acts that learners and researchers need to engage in during a short-term university course.

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WordPress blogs as organization or association newsletters

Hey guys, I captured the mouse!A functional option today for an organization’s newsletter is to set up a free public blog on or to host a WordPress blog on your own website (if you have one).

Blogs are quite professional nowadays (no longer merely online diaries). They are respectable forums for academic associations. The Rhetoric Society of America has a blog (The Blogora) at

Blogs are even used by many nonprofit organizations as the basis for free websites. See this example of a website — the Trent Centre for Community-based Education — you wouldn’t even know it’s based on WordPress software unless you scroll down to the very bottom and see the notice “proudly powered by WordPress.”

The rest of the post explains how it can work for your association, why WordPress is a good choice, and how it can be used to automatically distribute content to members who may prefer to browse its content or stay up to date via Facebook or other social media platforms rather than (or in addition to) an email subscription to your blog. Continue reading

Using Zoho Projects as an educator

Penrith mature 1I’m a professor and for the past 10 months, I’ve used Zoho Projects for team projects in my classrooms and for collaborations amongst academics at a distance.

I’d just like to share my thoughts on how I use this tool, the things I absolutely love about this online collaboration application, and things I wish could be worked on.  I’m also sharing this with the Zoho support team on their support forum.

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The Ebb and Flow of Rhetorical Output

Young adults in conversation

Conversational rhetoric (From "img_5070" by bpsusf on Flickr with Creative Commons license)

If you’re a person who writes and speaks full time, like myself, have you ever wondered why there seem to be dry periods when you’re not very productive at the kinds of writing or speech that “count” the most to yourself or the people who evaluate you?

Well it bothers me.  I know I am not the only professor who notices that during Fall and Winter terms while I focus on producing the rhetoric required by my teaching roles, I don’t seem to be as productive in aiming my rhetoric at broader public audiences: conference presentations, blog-writing (!), and publication in journals.  The month of May comes around sooner than it should, and I feel like I haven’t accomplished “anything”– other than teaching, of course.

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NSSE questions in Canada and the U.S.


Adobe Acrobat 9 Pro PDF comparison

In my research today I compared the Canadian and American versions of the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) instrument for 2010.

This is the survey that over 1 million university students across North America are invited to take in their 1st and 4th year.

The NSSE survey page calls the Canadian version the “Canadian English” version.  But the version is not just different in terms of its “Canadian English” vocabulary (such as “school/college” in the US versus “university” in Canada). 

The Canadian version is different in terms of its cultural content and rhetorical approaches.

This post provides comparative screenshots of survey content to help us ponder why these differences exist.

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Arts Peer Mentoring program @ U of C

Higher education innovation

Peer Mentoring featured on the front page of OnCampus, 2007

Peer Mentoring featured on the front page of OnCampus, 2007

As I complete a book on peer mentoring in undergraduate courses, this theme is quite fresh in my mind and well worth a blog post.

At the University of Calgary in 2005 I founded our Faculty of Arts Peer Mentoring program.  I still coordinate it, although others now teach our peer mentors.  I have just completed my 2nd year as the Director of our university’s SU-funded Curricular Peer Mentoring Network located at our Teaching and Learning Center.

What are peer mentors?

In a nutshell, undergraduate students become peer mentors who collaborate with instructors and teaching assistants to enrich peer-based learning within their courses.  They may also design and lead learning activities outside of class time and online.  Normally they return to a course they have already taken and work with a professor they are familiar with. They apply for this honor, and are supported and educated by taking a 4th year course in peer mentoring and collaborative learning.

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