Dr. Philip N. Howard, Assistant Professor
Room 141, Communications Building
Telephone: (206) 221-6532, E-mail:
Office Hours TTH 1:30-2:20 and by appointment


Inquiry is the process of asking and answering questions. This course is designed to look closely at the diverse methods of inquiry into the nature, processes, and impact of communication. The breadth of coverage in this course reflects a commitment to pluralism in methodologies within the discipline. In this course, students explore the inquiry process in general as well as the utility of different methods for investigating different research topics, defining and measuring concepts, reading texts, and investigating theories.

This course has four objectives:

  • to teach students about the assumptions, applications, strengths, and limitations of a wide range of methods of inquiry;
  • to give students a sophisticated methodological literacy, enabling them to read broadly and critically, to engage with colleagues who have different approaches, and to better interpret their own findings;
  • to have students publish a formal book review, critiquing one of the books used in the class, in an academic journal;
  • to have students develop their scholarly identity by enunciating their own research agenda in a well-drafted proposal for an area of inquiry of their choosing.

By the end of this class, students should be able to assess the impact of methodological choices on research findings. Students will be able to do a basic rhetorical reading, take ethnographic field notes, plan a cross-case comparison, design and field a survey, and calculate simple table descriptives from data samples.

As much as this is a class in methods, it is also an opportunity for students to choose the questions and themes they find most interesting in the study of communication. This class will be a workshop in which the instructor, students, and guest lecturers can present ideas on how and when to use different methods of inquiry. Although students are required to try different methods, they have wide freedom to select your line of inquiry, and much of the content of this class will depend on the topics that student interests. Students will finish the course with a good reference packet of notes, reviews, and other handouts.

This course meets Tuesdays and Thursdays 11:30-1:20 in 126 Communications.