Instructor: Dr. Marcia D. Dixson

Office hours: TR 2:00 - 4:00

and happily by appt.

Office: NF 230B

Phone: 481-6558 Email:

COM 597 The Dark Side of

Relational Communication

Fall, 2013



















Back to Syllabus
  Link to pdf of syllabus

Instructor: Dr. Marcia D. Dixson

Office hours: MT 3:00-5:00

and happily by appt.

Office: NF 230B

Phone: 481-6558 Email:

COM 597 The Dark Side of

Relational Communication

Summer, 2008







text imageTextbook: Spitzberg, B. H. & Cupach, W. R. (2007). The Dark Side of Interpersonal Communication. Lawrence Erlbaum.


Course Objectives

1. To understand the "dark side" of relational communication including

2. To answer the question: "Is the dark side good? bad? necessary? functional? unavoidable? something else entirely?

Major Assignments

Reaction papers: (20%)

Each person is required to write two reaction papers. Papers should be three to five pages long and react to the assigned readings. You may react by talking about how the reading relates (similar, contradicts etc.) to your own experiences, beliefs etc.; how the ideas are played out in the media, how you feel they are useful/not useful, valid/not valid or by doing an indepth evaluation of the logic/assumptions involved in the concepts.

Reaction papers need to go beyond labeling experiences using terms from the text to talking about meanings, consequences and/or new insights. In short, these papers should be characterized by depth not breadth (do some analysis, synthesis, and evaluation). We will briefly discuss these papers at the beginning of the class for that topic, so you must plan ahead a bit. The bullet point summary should be posted to your webpage before class. If you wish to use a topic covered online, you should post that information on your webpage by Wednesday noon and let your group know so it becomes part of the online discussion.

Group mini-projects: (20%)

You will be required to do two mini-projects which ask you to evaluate what you are learning in light of the world around you, i.e., how acceptable are some of the "dark" behaviors we talk about, what messages does the media send about such practices, do people enact/experience these behaviors? For each of these you will make a short presentation (10 minutes) and add what you have learned to your group webpage. These may include interviews, surveys, web or popular media based empirical research, they are not academic journal research projects. Grading criteria.

Discussions (20%)

There will be two types of dicussions in this class: In class discussions held on Monday and Tuesday from 5:30-7:50 and online discussions held from Wednesday through Sunday at 10:00 pm. You are expected to prepare for both kinds of discussions by doing the reading and preparing to answer the questions associated with each chapter. In online discussions, you will be required to reach consensus as a group and post a "final answer" to the question(s) by Sunday at 10:00 pm. You are expected to be an active, informed participant in both mediums.

Media Analysis Paper (15%)

I will show a movie on or about June 16th. You will analyze the dark side of communication within the relationships in the movie and write a 2-4 page paper ( double spaced, 12 point font, 1 inch margins) about that analysis which is due on June 17th. Specifically, choose one of the couples in the movie, choose one or two topics (hurt, forgiveness, infidelity, teasing/bullying etc.) we have covered. Analyze the relationship from that perspective. You may talk about whatever gives you a stronger understanding of the communication/interaction within that relationship including examples of the behavior, possible causes, potential/real consequences etc. Use specific concepts from your text (page numbers are not a bad idea) to support the assertions you make about this relationship. Add your evaluation of the "health" of the relationship, how this behavior functions within the relationship, and/or the satisfaction of the participants. I' m looking for a coherent, indepth argument with strong, specific support from the movie, the text and your own critical analysis. Have fun!!! Add summary to your webpage by Wednesday, June 18th.

Final Test (20%)

Now, it's time to see what you have learned. Ok, you probably cannot share all that you have learned in this course. So, illustrate the depth (not the breadth) of your knowledge by answering the primary question of the course (also listed above): "Is the dark side good? bad? necessary? functional? unavoidable? something else entirely?" Please do so in 2 - 4 pages; double spaced, 12 point font, 1 inch margins. In doing so, choose one or two areas we have covered. Include information from two chapters and two students' webpages. Again, an indepth argument with a specific thesis and strong supporting evidence. Due by 5:00 pm June 26th (you may email it or bring in a hard copy).

Webpage (5%)

Given that the internet is a primary form of communication today, you should have a working knowledge of how to create and post a webpage. I'll help with that. You are expected to post a webpage by May 27th. Introduce yourself to the class (no need to do an extensive autobiography, a paragraph or so will suffice). As we progress through the class, please add bullet point summaries of your reaction papers, your media analysis paper (after it's turned in) and your mini-projects (each group can use one person's webpage or create a group page).

Need help creating a webpage?

General Class Structure

Class Policies

Assignments: Papers are expected to be typed, double-spaced, 12 point font, 1 inch margins. Please always use a cover page - your name should ONLY appear on the cover page. If you are using the latest version of Word, please save your paper as a .doc file NOT a .docx file. Turn them in on time. Late assignments (papers, presentations etc.) (up to one class period) are subject to up to a 20% reduction of points (two letter grades). If you have a bona fide excuse (hospitalization, car accident etc.), talk to me.

Missed classes: If you cannot or do not attend class, get the notes from someone. Group presentation points can only obtained by being here and active. If you know you must miss class, talk to me and your group ahead of time. In case of emergency, call ASAP. Treat this like you would a job! Good work habits are an asset in many situations.

Grade complaint/question policy: Except in the case of error (I added wrong), all grades are final. I will be happy to discuss your grade, i.e., why you received it, how you can improve it the next time, etc. I won’t change it.

Teaching Philosophy

My job here is to facilitate your learning; to provide you with a variety of opportunities to learn the content of this course. To that end, I am generally willing to work with any student who is willing to work as well. But, I expect you to work. If you do your part; i.e., come to class prepared having read and considered the material, complete assignments thoroughly and on time, I absolutely enjoy doing my part. If you have questions or concerns about the class, assignments or content, you should consult with me about those either in person or via email. My services as a facilitator and guide come with the tuition you paid for the course, do not be shy about using them!


Helpful places on campus

Services for Students with a Disability: If you have a disability or acquire one and want to find out about what special services and accommodations are available, you may contact Services for Students with Disabilities in WALB 113.

Writing Center: Can help you with general writing problems or specific assignments (including APA research papers) in KT G19.

CASA (Center for Academic Support and Advancement): Offers many kinds of services to students including tutoring in KT G23.

Helmke Library offers research librarians who can help you find what you need.


Tentative Agenda

Note: Links to the Agenda will be added with questions to guide your reading and other information.


19 Orientation

20 Chapter 1

21 - 25 Online Discussion of Chapter 2

26 Holiday

27 Chapter 3: Webpage should be up - send URLs to me.

28 - June 1 Online Discussion of Chapter 4


2 Chapter 5

3 Chapter 6

4 - 8 Online discussion of Chapter 7

9 Chapter 8

10 Chapter 9

11 - 15 Online discussion of Chapter 10

16 Media Analysis Movie

17 Media Analysis Papers Due: Debrief

18 - 22 Online Discussion Chapter 11

23 Chapter 12

24 Chapter 13

26 Final Due by 5:00 pm