Communication is something we all do every day – it is something that doesn’t seem to be complex or complicated enough to require its own academic discipline to be studied. Nevertheless, there is one, and it can show your communication from many angles you haven’t considered before – which is why writing a communications essay is always such a novel and challenging experience for students irrespectively of their academic level.
A good communications essay combines data from the fields of sociology, anthropology, ethics, performance studies and a number of other fields. To make matters more complicated, communications isn’t a homogenous field by itself – it can be further subdivided into rhetoric, business, interpersonal, media, organizational and other types of communications, each complete with its own set of principles, authorities and research methods.
Normally you should concentrate on a single field in your work, but keep in mind that none of them exists in complete isolation from the others.
Selecting Your Topic
The choice of topic for you to write about mostly depends on whether you are allowed some degree of freedom or your topic is assigned to you by your instructor. For the purpose of this guide, we presume that you are free to write about whatever you want – however, be aware that even when your choice of topics is limited, usually you can alter your assignment enough to make it more palatable. If you come to your instructor with intelligent questions and suggestions, he will usually agree to meet you halfway and make some alterations to the original topic.
As for the choice of topic as it is, here are some suggestions that can make this process easier:
- Choose a topic that is interesting and thought-provoking both for you and your intended audience. This way you will be able to write about it without internal resistance, and it will be easier to grasp the attention of the readers;
- Choose a topic you have a personal opinion about. This doesn’t mean that you can be subjective in your writing – quite the contrary, you have to present all points of view as equally viable. Nevertheless, this will make the process of writing easier and its results more engaging than if you write about something you don’t care about. It will be easier to introduce your individual findings into the body of the text, and it is less likely to end up as a compilation of other people’s ideas;
- Read as much as possible on the subject before you commit to any particular topic. This way you won’t suddenly find yourself lacking a sufficient number of information sources you can use or supporting an obviously wrong point of view;
- Communications is a multi-faceted discipline full of contradictions, mostly emerging from the dynamics between traditional face-to-face interactions and new methods of communications, involving smartphones, social media and the like. Using these subjects to compare and contrast between themselves is an abundant source of first-rate and not yet over-researched topics.
Here are some good suggestions to give you perspective:
- Intercultural Communication as a Driving Force behind Societal and Cultural Evolution;
- Evolution of Media, Propaganda and Censorship;
- Pragmatic Aspects of TV Discourse;
- Characteristic Features of Triggering Topics;
- Social Media as the Main Method of Communication in Modern Society.
How to Gather Sources for Your Essay: Tricks of Our Writers
Sources are everything in academic writing. Even if you have a strong argument, perfectly researched topic, and sufficient statistics and data to back up your findings but cannot find existing academic papers, books and other sources to support your point, your essay is going to be rejected as not having enough evidence. Academic writing cannot exist in isolation – every academic paper is not a thing in itself but a continuation of a discourse, with everybody who researched this topic in the past being its other participants.
However, it is not enough to simply find a source and quote it. You have to pay attention to what you quote. Here are some suggestions you may find useful when looking for data sources for your communications essay:
- Online academic databases (JSTOR, Google Books, Science.gov) are a good place to start. There you can find both links to individual works and how many each of them was quoted in other academic sources, giving you an immediate indication of how valuable this or that source is;
- Your instructor, librarians, and digital media specialists are the first people you have to ask for suggestions. Don’t worry, it is their job, and they have plenty of experience in working with both the sources and the subject matter. If your college is big enough, there may be even individual librarians specializing in particular areas of knowledge – find out if there are such experts in your college, they can be of immense help;
- Study academic journals. They are the best source of the latest research on your topic and are in general considered to be top-quality sources. Each quotation from a high-profile academic journal adds credibility and professional feel to your essay, so make sure the majority of your sources come from them;
- Look through books on your subject. They are almost as good a source of information as academic journals, but a bit more likely to contain biased information.
Writing the Introduction
Any communications essay should start with a proof of why you consider your topic to be worthy of research in general and why you believe your own findings concerning the subject matter important enough to write about them. The first few sentences constitute the hook – especially interesting facts or correlations of them to attract the reader’s attention.
Writing Your Thesis Statement
Thesis statement is, simply said, the gist of your essay, its main idea boiled down to a single sentence (two at most). In it, you state the most important thought behind your entire text – what you want to prove, what you consider to be the most crucial part of your research. It is somewhat similar to the topic of your communications essay, but there is an important difference. The topic points out what your essay is about, e.g., ‘Communication between Representatives of Different Cultures as a Driving Force behind Cultural Development’. The thesis statement is a statement you make about this topic, e.g., ‘Communication between representatives of different cultures invariably leads to cultural diffusion and changes in both cultures taking part in the communication process’.
The most important characteristics of the thesis statement is that it should be short, to the point and focused on a single idea. If there is more than one idea to be gleaned out of it, you are likely doing things wrong and weren’t able to make it focused enough.
Writing Body Paragraphs: Style Peculiarities
Communication essays have to be written in the formal style. Even if the contents of your essay are all right and deserve an excellent grade, you can seriously harm your prospects if you fail to meet the stylistic requirements. You may find full information in your style guide, but here are some of the most important things to consider:
- Use proper punctuation. Don’t use exclamation marks (to avoid giving your writing an emotional overtone) and ampersand (it is not used in formal writing, except in names of organizations);
- Avoid colloquialisms. These include all the words marked as so in the dictionary and many expressions used in everyday speech but unacceptable in academic writing, like ‘You know’ or ‘You may be thinking’, as well as the adverb “pretty” in the meaning “quite, relatively”. Always check words you are about to use when in doubt;
- Avoid first and second person pronouns as they can make your writing too personal or emotional. Don’t use expressions like ‘We should’ or ‘I think’ – they don’t mean anything in the academic discourse. Instead, provide viable reasons for certain behavior and persuading arguments in favor of your point of view;
- Avoid clichés. Some students, in their attempt to be more formal, turn to clichés, which is a wrong approach. Clichés make your writing bland and unoriginal and have to be avoided in any writing style;
- Don’t use stage directions. Don’t start your essay (or any part of it) with sentences like ‘In my essay, I am going to discuss’ or ‘This essay deals with such ideas as…’. Such introductions immediately put your writing on the middle-school level if not lower;
- Eliminate words with vague meanings. Words like “good”, “bad” (good for what? Why?), “a few” (exactly how many?), “enough” (for what?) don’t contain any meaning of their own and can mean almost anything in a proper context. When you say something, make sure what you say is direct, definite and devoid of ambiguity;
- Use proper grammar. While always a good rule to follow, when writing in the academic style you should avoid some things that are normal in more colloquial writing. Some examples are split infinitives (“to quickly say”), terminal prepositions (“Whom did you mention it to?”) and sentences starting with conjunctions like “and” or “but”.
The conclusion gives the reader a summary of everything the essay presented up to this point. Here you more or less repeat everything you said in the introduction and see if it all turned out the way you supposed it to do. Did your ideas turn out to be true? Did the findings in the course of research change your original point of view? Do you consider your topic to be a good prospect for further and additional research by other scientists? What avenues of research would you recommend? Why do you consider the results of your work important, what do they change in the field?
Revising for Typical Mistakes
Here are some of the mistakes students are especially prone to as well as the communications essay tips on how to avoid them.
- Compiling information from other sources without contributing anything of your own – relying on other authors can be very helpful, especially if you don’t have much to say, but it won’t take you all the way to your destination. You have to possess a healthy balance between your own findings and information borrowed from sources. If your instructor notices that your essay doesn’t contain much in terms of original thought, you won’t receive a good grade;
- Grammar and spelling mistakes – this goes without saying. Your mastery of English contributes a lot towards your grade, so make sure you proofread your essay carefully. Consider using services of a professional proofreader;
- Use of colloquial language. Remember, you are writing an academic work, not an email to your friend. There is much more to this rule than just avoiding to use slang and jargon – for example, contractions (‘don’t’, ‘won’t’) and phrasal verbs (“keep up”, “put down”) are considered to be attributes of colloquial speech and are to be avoided in formal writing;
- ‘Dangling’ theories – i.e., any statements that aren’t backed up with facts or statistical data from reliable sources. Always check your essay for these as a part of the revision process;
- Subjectivity – both in general, if you make it obvious that you support a particular point of view and, for example, omit obvious evidence that would be to its detriment, and in specifics, if you use superlatives and emotionally charged words (“good”, “bad”, “obvious solution”);
- Skipping the conclusion – you may think that your point is already obvious from everything you’ve said, and as conclusion merely sums up the contents of the rest of the paper it can safely be omitted. However, it is a traditional part of a communications essay, and your assignment won’t be complete without it. After you finish writing, don’t forget to reread your entire paper and see how different parts work together. Rewrite whole paragraphs if necessary;
- Letting yourself wander off the subject – when you reread your essay during revision, make sure that everything you say is related to your thesis statement and supports your argument. If you find yourself steering away from the main points of discussion, cut these parts mercilessly, no matter how interesting they are.
Communications isn’t an easy topic to write about; we hope that this communications essay guide will improve your chances of successfully completing your assignment.