Communication research is defined as the scholarly study of communication dynamics and phenomena in an effort to better understand and improve communication between individuals, groups, and communities. Scholars of communication work at universities, research centers, think tanks, government agencies, non-profits, and corporations, investigating questions relating to problems or challenges in different fields of communication. Research in communication is a broad and diverse field, and includes areas of study in interpersonal, intercultural, health, political, organizational communication, and more. Scholars in communication can also study the different forms and elements of communication, from verbal communication to gestural and non-verbal communication. Their findings are relevant to almost every aspect of our personal and professional lives, as they provide insights that can optimize relationships, promote information flow within organizations, and improve multicultural and international relations.

There are different types of graduate programs in the field of communication—those that focus on communication studies and social science research, and those that focus more on applied industry skills. There are also programs that straddle the line between applied and theoretical, giving students the option to focus more on theory and research, or professional skills development. In addition, communication research and the theories that underpin it play an important role in applied communication, as well as in research settings. As a result, many applied communication programs have a core curriculum that covers central communication theories and methods that are relevant to communication strategies in various fields. There are also programs that combine coursework in theory and applied communication.

To help students better understand the different types of theories that provide the foundation of different fields of communication, MastersinCommunications.com created a section dedicated to communication research. This section contains information about specific areas of study that students can explore in graduate school. Content in this section includes guides to specific subfields within communication research, such as intercultural, interpersonal, and organizational communication. It also includes in-depth guides on different theories that are central to these subfields, so students can get a better understanding of what it means to conduct research in these fields while they are exploring graduate programs across the site.

For an overview of communication research methods, check out our Guide to Communication Research Methodologies: Quantitative, Qualitative and Rhetorical Research.


Critical / Cultural Studies

Introductory Guide to Critical / Cultural Studies

This article discusses the history and social significance of critical/cultural studies in the field of communication scholarship, including its role in popular culture, racial and ethnic identity, and representation, political movements, and social justice.

Critical / Cultural Studies in Media and Popular Culture

Learn about the rich history of critical / cultural studies and how it has informed scholars’ examination of media and popular culture over the years. Also discover the ways in which media and pop culture consumption provides opportunities for resistance to existing stereotypes and power structures.

Health Communication

Introductory Guide to Research in Health Communication

This guide details the central theories governing health communication research, including social cognitive theory and the theory of planned behavior, while examining the different types of health communication such as patient-provider discussions and health campaigns.

Interpersonal Communication

Introductory Guide to Research in Interpersonal Communication

This guide provides an introduction to the field of interpersonal communication, and outlines important theories in the field, including identity management theory, uncertainty reduction theory, and relational dialectics theory.

Uncertainty Reduction Theory

This article examines an interpersonal communication theory that attempts to explain how humans utilize different strategies to reduce uncertainty in social interactions.

Intercultural Communication

Introductory Guide to Research in Intercultural Communication

This guide describes the relevance of intercultural communication to almost every aspect of group dynamics, and explains the important theories and paradigms in this field, including critical race theory and co-cultural theory.

LGBTQIA Communication Studies

Introductory Guide to LGBTQIA Communication Studies

This guide to LGBTQIA communication research explains some of the discipline’s central theories and questions, and describes the impact this field has in politics, social dynamics and (in)equality, and identity formation at the individual and community levels.

Mass Communication

Introductory Guide to the Study of Mass Communication

This guide explains the history and social significance of mass communication as a field of study, outlines the theories underpinning this discipline, and describes the impact of mass communication on individuals, governments, and industries.

Media and Technology Studies

Introductory Guide to Media and Technology Studies

This article provides a thorough introduction to the field of Media Technology Studies (MTS), which is dedicated to studying the impact of communication technologies on different societal spheres, from cultural development to ethnic identity, political advocacy and ideologies, and socioeconomic (in)equality.

Critical / Cultural Studies in Media and Popular Culture

Learn about the rich history of critical / cultural studies and how it has informed scholars’ examination of media and popular culture over the years. Also discover the ways in which media and pop culture consumption provides opportunities for resistance to existing stereotypes and power structures.

Social Scientific Approaches to Media and Technology Studies

This detailed article discusses the various social scientific methodologies that are applicable to scholarship in media and technology studies (MTS), and explores how MTS examines the ways in which communication technologies influence sociopolitical and cultural dynamics.

Organizational Communication

Introductory Guide to Research in Organizational Communication

This guide explores research in the field of organizational communication, and explains common theories in the field including leader member exchange theory, network theory, and organizational control theory.

Persuasion

Introductory Guide to Persuasion in Communication Studies

This guide discusses the study of persuasion in communication studies and how scholars study the role of persuasion in contemporary society, while also providing an overview of the central theories underpinning research in the field of persuasion studies.

Political Communication

Introductory Guide to Research in Political Communication

Our Guide to Political Communication Research examines how political messaging and conversations between political candidates, parties, government agencies, advocacy groups, and the public shape policy and society.

Presidential Communication Research

This article delves into the history of presidential communication, the impact that this form of political discourse continues to have on society, and current scholarship in the field.

Social Movement Communication Research

This guide explains the history and significance of Social Movement Communication, providing useful examples of the ways in which communication has been instrumental in movements that have led to political and social progress.

Rhetorical Studies

Introductory Guide to Rhetorical Studies

This guide provides an in-depth discussion of rhetorical studies, describing the history and significance of the discipline while also providing readers with theories that are useful to understanding different forms of rhetoric and their functions in human communication.

Critical Rhetoric

This article discusses the field of critical rhetoric and its importance in the examination and exposure of power dynamics in society. It also provides information on key scholars in the field who study how rhetoric connects to equality, politics, and cultural values.

Gender Criticism

This detailed article discusses the history and forms of gender criticism in rhetorical studies, and also explains the political, social, and cultural significance of this field of study.

Genre Criticism

This article provides an overview of genre criticism in rhetorical studies, and how it has evolved over the centuries. It also explains the influential work of scholars in this field of study.

Metaphoric Criticism

This article explains how metaphors are widely used in human communication and understanding, and provides a background on the history and prominent scholarship of this field.

Narrative Criticism

This article covers narrative criticism and the role it plays in culture, politics, and relationships, while also providing examples of prominent scholarship in this field.

Rhetoric of Social Movements

This article examines the history and impact of social movement rhetorical research, and provides readers with a detailed overview of some of the latest research in the field that is being completed by eminent scholars of social justice and civil rights rhetoric.