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Political Communication



WP, HI, Psyc

Admission Requirements

Similarly tagged 200-level and 300-level courses. Students that do not meet this prerequisite should contact the instructor regarding the required competencies before course allocation.


This course introduces some of the central issues in the field of political communication from a comparative perspective. We concentrate on the United States and the People’s Republic of China as primary cases, but students are welcome to bring up examples from other countries. The course does not require any previous knowledge about China or the US.

Course Objectives

The course has two basic goals. The first is to introduce students to the major themes, debates, and puzzles in the study of political communication. The second is to allow students to grow familiar with some of the methodological challenges of studying political communication (through evaluation and critique of the text) and then to develop a research proposal of their own that sets out a research question and a research plan for answering that question. The course is designed around engaged and lively debate on the issues; therefore, student participation is absolutely necessary. Each student will have an opportunity to lead the discussion during the semester.

Mode of Instruction

The course will be taught primarily in seminar format. Each student will serve as the discussion leader for one class session. Generally speaking we will begin the class with a mini-lecture from the instructor, then move to comments from the discussion leader, and then finally to an open discussion. Students are also asked to prepare one question about the readings, posted previously on the discussion board on Blackboard. Multiple questions are welcome, but not compulsory.


Written Assignments:
Written assignments include one literature reviews (2000 words) on the readings in class. Students will have some degree of choice as to which weeks they want to write on, however, the essay must be submitted between February 8 and February 26 (Sessions 2 to 7). It is helpful if at least one of the weeks in which a student writes an essay he/she also serves as the discussion leader. (30%)

Each student will also turn in a research proposal (3000 words max.) that should include a research question, some discussion and critical analysis of the existing literature, and finally a research design that will enable the student to answer the question or test various competing hypotheses. The research project will be submitted in form of several smaller assignments throughout the course, which as a whole will count for 40% of the course grade.

Discussion and participation:
The entire discussion and participation grade will be a composite of class participation, discussion questions, and serving as a discussion leader for one class session. The discussion leader’s remarks should not exceed 5 minutes. During the open discussion, students are asked to react to the comments and criticisms of the discussion leader. (30%)


A reader is available in the reading room; readings in the syllabus in the reader are marked as (CP). The remaining articles are available electronically on blackboard.
Please purchase the following book:

  • Hamilton, James (2004). All the News That’s Fit to Sell: How the Market Transforms Information into News. Princeton, N.J., Princeton University Press.

Recommended for purchase (but not compulsory):

  • Lieberthal, Kenneth (2004). Governing China : From Revolution through Reform.
    New York, W.W. Norton.

  • Brians, Craig Leonard, Lars Willnat, Jarol B. Manheim, and Richard C. Rich (2011). Empirical Political Analysis: Quantitative and Qualitative Approaches. New York: Pearson.

  • Stockmann, Daniela (2013) Media Commercialization and Authoritarian Rule in China. New York: Cambridge University Press. (the ebook is significantly cheaper than the hardcover).

Contact Information
Information about the instructor is available at

Weekly Overview

Tuesday, February 5 – Introduction: Comparative Political Communication
Friday, February 8 – The Role of the Media in Democracies and Non-Democracies
Tuesday, February 12 – The Media as Political Institutions in China
Friday, February 15 – The Media as Political Institutions in the US
Tuesday, February 19 – The Comparative Method and Research Design
Friday, February 22 – Journalism in China (Research Design Paper due)
Tuesday, February 26 – Journalism in the US
Friday, March 1 – Poster Presentations
Tuesday, March 5 – Media Selection and Polarization
Friday, March 8 – Opinion Formation
Tuesday, March 12 – Media Effects and Political Campaigns
Friday, March 15 – One-on-one meetings (first full draft of paper due)
Tuesday, March 19 – Workshop
Friday, March 22 – Final Discussion

Preparation for first session

It’s helpful to read the following articles:

Diamond, Larry Jay (2002). “Elections without Democracy: Thinking About Hybrid Regimes.” Journal of Democracy 13(2): 21-35.

Geddes, Barbara (1999). “What Do We Know About Democratization after Twenty Years?” Annual Review of Political Science 2: 115-144.