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Communication studies is the academic discipline that studies communication; subdisciplines include argumentation, speech communication, rhetoric, communication theory, group communication, information theory, intercultural communication, interpersonal communication, intrapersonal communication, marketing, organizational communication, persuasion, propaganda, public affairs, public relations and telecommunication.

At many institutions, separate schools of Mass communication share an interest in communication theory, information theory and media effects research, but focus on the practice as well as effects of public relations, propaganda, journalism, publishing, broadcasting and advertising and international communication, leaving interpersonal, group and organizational communication, speech, rhetoric, semiotics, and critical/cultural perspectives to the communication studies departments.

The European tradition of communication studies partly builds on the work of the Frankfurt School. The American tradition is better known for, but not limited to, Communication Sciences. In the United Kingdom the subject is often called media studies or media and communication studies.


Various aspects of communicating have long been the subject of human study. In ancient Greece, the study of rhetoric, the art of effective speaking and persuasion, was a vital subject for students. In the early 20th century, many specialists began to study communication as a specific part of their academic disciplines. Communication studies began to emerge as a distinct academic field in the early 20th century. In 1914 the National Association of Academic Teachers of Public Speaking, now called the National Communication Association, was founded. Herbert Wichelns was an early pioneer. Propaganda and media effects theorists, including Harold Lasswell, Kurt Lewin, and Paul Lazarsfeld also had an important impact on the field early on. Harold Innis and Marshall McLuhan developed influential analyses of communication and technology in the 1950s and 1960s. A critique of commodified communications emerged with the writings of Theodor W. Adorno and Guy Debord.

The main national professional organization for communication studies in the U.S. is the National Communication Association (NCA). The main European associations for communication studies are the European Consortium for Communications Research (ECCR) and the European Communication Association (ECA). The main international association for the communication studies discipline is the International Communication Association.


Unlike other social sciences, communication is not linked to a specific profession. Psychology forms psychologists, sociology forms sociologists but there is no corresponding title for graduates of communication. Critics argue that the reason for that is that communication doesn't qualify students for any particular job. This state of affairs has been linked to the recency of the field and to the fact that communication is a pervasive phenomenom and that communication students can work in very diverse fields. Most students of communication however are able to find various jobs in a wide range of fields including university professors, marketing researchers, media editors and designers, organizational communication consultants and journalists.

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