COMM 339 -- Persuasion

Dr. Lee McGaan  

  Office:  WH 308  (ph. 309-457-2155);  email
  Home:  418 North Sunny Lane (ph. 309-734-5431, cell 309-333-5447)

Fall 2016 Office Hours:   MWF:  9:30 - 10am, 11am - Noon & 1 -2pm TTh:  2-3pm & by apt.  |  copyright (c) by Lee McGaan, 2006-2016

Course Description Syllabus Course Notes and Handouts Course Assignments +

last updated 8/4/2016
Course Description:  An introduction to the study and practice of persuasive discourse using both the rhetorical and behavioral science traditions.  Issues examined include:  strategic planning and organization, audience analysis, motives and values, effective use of language, the role of context and purpose, propaganda and the abuse of persuasion, campaign planning, effective presentation techniques, and the application of theory and research on persuasion to practical situations.  Opportunities are provided for students to present and analyze persuasive materials orally and in writing as a way of developing communication and critical abilities.  The course also functions to aid students in communication "consumer protection."
 Required Text:   
A. Pratkanis & E. Aronson.  AGE OF PROPAGANDA. Henry Holt, 2001 (revised ed.)
0805074031    [ AP ]

 Course Goals and Policies:  The goals of this course include the following: 

  • to introduce students to traditional approaches and social science theory and research on persuasion.

  • to increase student abilities in message strategy and audience analysis.

  • to assist students in becoming informed, critical receivers of persuasive messages in their professional and everyday lives.

  • to develop substantial student abilities in the planning, design and delivery of oral and written persuasive efforts

   Students are responsible for all assigned reading material whether or not it is discussed in class and all lecture material whether or not duplicated by readings.  Thus, class attendance and participation in class activities is expected.  Excessive class absences (after warning) may result in a student being placed on "no cuts" by the instructor or may result in a lowered course grade.  In order to meet objectives students must always prepare for class by doing reading in advance as it is assigned and participate at every class meeting preparing answers to discussion questions and homeworkElectronic devices (cell phones, etc.) are not to be used or be visible during class without permission of the instructor (Violations of this rule may result in removal of the device, dismissal from class for the day and will result in an unexcused absence).

   Except for medical or other emergency reasons, assignments will not necessarily be accepted late unless advance arrangements are made. Failure to complete any assignments will result in a substantial grade penalty beyond the weighting shown below - or failure in the course.  Enrollment in this course constitutes an agreement by the student to permit the instructor to keep, maintain on file, and share any and all submitted work for the course. The use of electronic devices during class meetings without permission is not acceptable.


   ACADEMIC DISHONESTY CAN RESULT IN FAILING THIS COURSE and will be reported to the Academic Dean.


Graded Assignments  (and approximate weight of each):

Persuasion Ethics Paper 10 %

Persuasion Theory - Exam 1

20 %

Campaign Overview & Audience

10 %

Message Strategy Presentation 20 %

Campaign Plan Description

20 %

Final Exam

15 % 


5 %



Course Workload: All assignments will be given a letter grade and averaged according to the percentages above (e.g. A- = 3.7 x Y%, etc.) in order to compute the final grade for the course. The instructor reserves the right to significantly lower course grades for failure to complete all assignments or for students who cause difficulty in their work groups.

This course is a four credit course which normally meets 3 days per week. The course design provides learning opportunities and activities totaling approximately 11.5 hours per week over the 15 weeks of the course (including finals week). The assigned activities may take each student a different amount of time to finish, however the average for the class will be about 11.5 hours.

  Further estimates include:

Course activity Hours/Week

In class activity

(((3 days x 50 minutes x 14 weeks) / 60) + 3 hour final) / 15 weeks)

2.5 hours

Reading and homework assignments


6.0 hours

Writing/Speaking assignments - Persuasion Ethics paper [4 hrs.], Campaign Overview paper [7 hrs.], Message Strategy Presentation [10 hrs.], Campaign Plan [15 hrs.] = 45 hrs / 15)

3.0 hours
Additional preparation for exams (15.0 hours / 15 weeks ) 1.0 hours
Average hours per week 11.5 hrs