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Strategic communication capstone

U.S. President Joe Biden delivering his inaugural address, Jan 20 2021.

In this capstone seminar, you will complete an intensive research and writing project focused on a topic related to the field of strategic communication and the pressing challenges that society currently faces in a post-pandemic world. Your chosen topic can relate to any of the following themes and be focused in the U.S. or abroad:

  • Communication, media, and the pandemic
  • Political communication, media, misinformation, and elections
  • Conspiracy beliefs, communication, and radicalization
  • Communication, media, and racial/social justice
  • Communication, media, mental health, and social support
  • Communication, media, and climate change/hazards/disasters
  • Big Tech, privacy, regulation, and social impacts
  • Communication, media, education, child/student wellbeing
  • Communication, media, the economy, jobs, inequality

            Building on previous course work, you will gain a deeper scholarly and professional understanding of strategic communication, forge professional and academic contacts, and demonstrate a mastery of relevant theoretical concepts, professional principles, research methods, and writing approaches. You will be encouraged to share and translate your findings for relevant academic and professional communities.

            With guidance from me, you will conduct a review of the relevant scholarly and professional literature, carry out research on the topic using selected methodological approaches, and write a substantial research paper that articulates and supports a thesis. It is a unique chance for you to become an expert in an aspect of strategic communication, deepening your understanding of an area that you are passionate about and that aligns with their career goals. The majority of the work for this class will be conducted independently by each student and in regular consultation with me. The course is also designed as a research seminar that enables you to develop your ideas through active engagement others.

*Make sure to subscribe to my newsletter Wealth of Ideas where I will be writing about topics related to class and interviewing relevant experts as part of a regular podcast.


The course is structured as a mix of collaborative class sessions and individual meetings with the instructor.

Collaborative Classes

Class sessions are organized as a research workshop. In these classes, the following activities will take place:

  • The instructor will cover the fundamentals of research design and project conceptualization and execution, discussing key challenges, strategies, and milestones and providing individual and general feedback to students
  • Students present — three times during the semester — portions of their work to the entire class for feedback
  • The classes are also a time and place for students to receive detailed peer critiques of work from classmates who are pursuing similar avenues of research.

Individual Meetings

The instructor will also meet individually with students at scheduled times. These meetings will focus on and be tailored to a specific research or writing stage relative to the student’s capstone.

Compiling an Annotated Bibliography

            An annotated bibliography is a list of citations to scholarly books, book chapters, journal articles, and reports.  Each citation formatted in APA style – usually around 300 words — is followed by a brief descriptive and evaluative paragraph called “the annotation.”  For your annotated bibliography, you should be able to find and describe in your own words relevant journal articles, book chapters, and books on your topic.  The journals, edited volumes, authors, and fields referenced in this course are good places to start to search for relevant sources.

For your annotated bibliography you will want to include at least 15 sources.


Students who successfully complete this course will be able to:

  • choose an independent research topic;
  • evaluate published research in the area of their chosen topic;
  • design a research project;
  • apply concepts, theories, ideas and frameworks to the design of their research projects;
  • apply appropriately one or more quantitative or qualitative approaches, or mixed methods approaches, in conducting their research;
  • undertake original data collection using a selected research method or methods;
  • produce a substantial, independent academic research paper;
  • criticize constructively peer work.


  • Class Participation and Research Presentations (30%)
  • Annotated Bibliography (30%) (Due printed in class Feb 8)
  • Capstone (40%) (Draft due via e-mail April 13 ; Final due on scheduled exam day).


*Subject to updates

Jan 19 to Feb 5— Students learn about defining an original research question, and conducting a search of the literature. In consultation with the instructor, they define a preliminary research topic, set of related questions and expectations, a strategy to guide their literature search, and present to the class their project focus.

  • Due Date Feb 9: Final 2 pager describing topic and listing 5 identified sources.

Feb 9 to Feb 26—Students in consultation with the instructor identify 15 or more peer-reviewed and scholarly sources specific to their topic and compile/write an annotated bibliography.

  • Due Date March 2: Annotated bibliography containing 15 sources.

March 2 to March 26— Based on their annotated bibliography, students write a detailed outline for their literature review, gain instructor and peer feedback. They then develop a preliminary research design, and present to the class.

March 2 – March 26: Each student completes 20 minute class presentation.

March 30 to April 20 — Students conduct research and analysis, presenting on their findings to the class, and complete full draft of their capstone.

  • Due Date April 13: Full draft capstone.
  • Scheduled Exam Day Final capstone project completed and turned in.