Informative Critique on Referential theory

Informative Critique on Referential theory

One Informative Critic of One Theory in 1500-1600 Words (About 5-6 double-spaced, typed pages in length) (17%) (Due: Noon, Wednesday, March 1, 2017. One hard paper

copy at your professor’s office, COM-143 & Digital copy to “” via class Blackboard weblink)

You are required to write an informative critique of any one theory of communication. This essay should involve one and only one primary communication theory of your

choice from lecture materials (e.g., PowerPoint files and online lectures). Don’t use Jae’s theories of wealth and open communication/leadership.

This critique is designed to showcase your understanding of the chosen theory. An excellent critique often sounds like a serious, mystery-solving kind conversation and

includes a brief introduction of the theorist(s), theoretical assumptions, major variables and tenets, some research findings, and your admiration (e.g., it really

works/explains/predicts correctly/help control communication behaviors … ) and/or disappointment with the theory (limitations/faults) based on the criteria of

evaluating theory. I expect you to spend at least two pages explaining the chosen theory in detail and spend the rest evaluating the theory. You are also expected to

cite 3-5 specific comments, notes, quotes, or writing from the required textbook.

To earn the best grade, please closely consult with evaluation criteria that graders will use when evaluating your essay.

Late papers will be penalized one letter grade per day (A to A- to B+ to B to B- …). The paper will NOT be accepted via email or after 5 working days from the due date

(i.e., March 8, 2017). Deliver a hard copy to your professor (COM-143) by NOON or 12 PM by the due date (You can hand it in early; you can also ask your peer or other

to deliver it to me; you can also drop it in mail if you live out there). Slide it under the office door if you don’t see the instructor in. You are also required to

submit the digital copy of your paper to “” via a link established in Blackboard Learn. This is to combat any form of PLAGIARISM.

Shockingly Important Note: Without your digital copy in “,” you will receive “0” point for the essay.

Shockingly Important Note: An informative critique paper with less than 1500 words in the text will not be evaluated, resulting in a failing grade of F or “0” point.

At the same time, the essay is NOT expected to go over 1600 words. Any paper with 1601-1650 words will lose 2 points, 1651-1700 words 4 points, 1701-1750 words 6

points, and so on. The cover page and references are not counted as part of 1500 – 1600 words.

Your informative critique paper must have a cover page that includes, at minimum, title, your name, theory you critiqued, number of words, and date of submission.

You need to cite references. You can use lecture materials or text (Heath & Bryant, 2000, p. xxx; Littlejohn & Foss, 2011, p. xxx). You do not need to do additional

research beyond the textbooks and the lecture for the essay paper. For the critique paper, when citing sources or references, please follow APA (American Psychological

Association) style – 6th edition. One useful website to learn about APA style is:

Example of APA Style References (Your Text Books, PowerPoint files, Lectures)

Griffin, E. (2012). A first look at communication theory (8th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.

Heath, R. L., & Bryant, J. (2000). Human communication theory and research: Concepts, contexts, and challenges (2nd ed.). New York: Routlege.

Lee, J. (2012, Jan.). COMM 1302 class 01 chapter 1 pt. 1. [Web lectures]. Retrieved from

Lee, J. (2014). Ch 1-Theory and research -Part1-Lee [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved from

Littlejohn, S. W., & Foss, K. A. (2011). Theories of human communication (10th ed.). Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press.

You can retrieve your paper from your professor (COM-143) when it’s graded. It will take about 3+ weeks to complete grading all the papers. Be patient! Each grader

will evaluate 60+ essays.

You will have one week to do so after the essay grade is posted. Please make an appointment with your professor for any concerns regarding your paper before the

submission or after the grading.

Your paper will be discarded promptly after the retrieval period of two weeks due to the physical challenge in the office.

(Evaluation Criteria) When evaluating your critique, GRADERS will focus on:

(Comments, if any)

1. Writing skills and proofreading

-Accurate spelling, punctuation, grammar

-Easy to follow, flowing, coherent


Poor- Fair- Ok- Good- Very good

2. Introduction

-Attention getter, preview -Purpose, theme


3. Body

-Presentation of theory -Theoretical assumptions

-Major variables -Major tenets

-Critique/evaluation criteria

-Use of supporting materials (examples, illustrations)

-Cites 3-5 specific theoretical/related materials from the textbook (Show that you read the relevant materials/chapter in the textbook thoughtfully!)


4. Conclusion


-Remarks/reflections (admirations, limitations)


5. Overall impression

Finding Names for Music

Informative Critique Essay

Theory: The Referential Theory

My Name Here
Prof. Jae Lee
COMM 1302
Date: Here

Number of Words: 1702

What is music? Every enthusiast, critic, and casual listener would have a different answer. I have played guitar for over ten years and I engage most readily

with acoustic guitar music and hard rock. I cannot read music and have little technical knowledge of music theory. My definition of music would be very different from

my friend, who is a piano performance major. Yet, we enjoy each other’s performances and have regular conversations about favorite bands or composers, uses of

instruments, and musical techniques. Given our differences, how can we relate with each other and even converse about music?
With such a complex of ideas surrounding a single word, I will use referential theory to direct my understanding of music and, on a larger scale, the nature of naming.

An essay by Walker Percy, “Naming and Being,” provides helpful explanations of what happens when we make symbols and can inform our understanding of referential

theory. In this essay, I will explain the minds and ideas behind referential theory and the associated assumptions, variables, and findings. Overall, this theory helps

me consider the process of naming and helps me reconcile differences with others whenever there are conflicts in communication. Instead of reducing words to a single

definition, I can now consider music, and anything else, in terms of a relationship between symbol, referent, and reference.
According to the theory’s leading advocates, Ogden and Richards (1923), “Meaning cannot be understood without recognizing the relationship between words, thoughts, and

things” (Heath & Bryant, 2000, p. 99). Meaning is constructed by the interaction between these elements. The theory has “epistemological implications” because it seeks

to explain the importance of words in reducing uncertainty (p. 98). Humans have a basic motive to learn about their physical and social environments and to communicate

with each other about them. Heath and Bryant go on to say that “the theory can explain why groups of people use the same word and have similar thoughts when they read

or hear those words. This theory explains why people have different meanings for terms” (p. 100). Referential theory recognizes the impact of language differences

among various cultures. People in groups can relate to each other about a certain topic better than with people in other groups. The theory also leaves room for

variation. There is no concrete definition for a word. Instead, it is contingent on the people who use it and what experiences they have had.
Referential theory assumes that we learn names for things and phenomena as children and these names “elicit or stimulate us to think about the

thing/phenomenon” (Lee, 2013). Percy illustrates this with a two-year-old boy who plays with a ball. Before the boy is old enough to learn words, the round thing he

plays with is only a referent, or an experience. When his father says, “ball,” the boy at first only responds as a dog would respond—not understanding the meaning, but

only responding to the stimulus. Eventually, as the boy develops, he realizes that “the word ‘ball’ means this round thing” (p. not available). Playing with the round

thing is the boy’s reference, or thought. Once the boy learns a symbol, he can associate the two, and full meaning is formed.
According to Lee (2013), the theory assumes that “words have meaning in large part because they represent or refer to things, feelings, or situations people have

experienced.” Words, on their own, are insignificant. They only have meaning when they call forth experiences. Thus, human communication means expressing meaning to

each other through a relationship that Ogden and Richards’ (1923) diagram with their triangle of meaning:

Lee (2013) explains that there are two causal relationships: symbol-reference (or word-thought) and referent-reference (or experience-thought). The symbol and referent

are indirectly related.
The independent variables include the symbol, reference, and reference, and the dependent variable is meaning. The more these independent variables are “all aligned

properly, synchronized, or shared by experiences…the more similar meaning is created and shared, and communication becomes possible” (Lee, 2013). To illustrate, I

once confused the word amnesia for insomnia and, when commenting on how boring a book was, said, “That’s a cure for amnesia.” I knew that one of these words represents

staying awake when you do not want to and the other represents loss of memory, but I used the wrong one. The symbol I chose called forth the wrong reference and

conflicted with the references of my listeners. I had to realign my triangle in order to better communicate with listeners later on.
A major conclusion from this theory is that “shared experiences lead to shared meaning once words are assigned to the experiences…Words can be used to elicit

thoughts because other people have similar experiences” (Lee, 2013). Words bridge the gap between our individual experiences and allow us to relate with other people.

However, even if we have a similar experience, we must also agree on a name in order to converse about it. Percy illustrates, “Unless you and I say it is a pencil,

unless it ‘is’ a pencil for both of us, we may not say anything about it at all.” Lee describes a concept known as isomorphism: “A word is correct if it produces the

same reference in the receiver as in the sender” He concludes that “people can communicate only to the extent that they share experience.”
This definition of isomorphism may look rigid at first because it seems to leave no room for slight differences between the receiver’s and sender’s references.

However, Heath and Bryant (2000) clarify the term: “At least within each group of people who use the same language or idiom, the accuracy of the statement is a measure

of the degree to which it corresponds to reality” (p. 100). This allows us some breathing room when discussing definitions: instead of trying to achieve exact

uniformity, the goal is to seek accuracy. Conversation is where our Triangles of Meaning connect and overlap. The connection does not have to be exact, but the closer

the similarity, the more easily we can communicate with each other.
Based on the eight criteria for evaluating a theory, referential theory appears sound. These criteria determine whether the theory explains, predicts, and

assists efforts to control, whether it is useful, parsimonious, internally consistent, and capable of being falsified, and whether it addresses ethical challenges.

Referential theory explains how meaning is developed through the relationship of thoughts, experiences, and symbols and predicts that we associate names with thoughts

and experiences. The theory assists our efforts to control the process of communication because it helps us understand the effectiveness or limitation of vocabulary

for describing a given subject to someone else. The theory is useful for researchers, as Osgood has demonstrated by using it to hypothesize “that meaning is the

behavioral response a term creates in the receiver” (Heath & Bryant, 2000, p. 101).
Although the relationship between thought, experience, and symbol may be difficult to grasp at first, I think the theory is parsimonious because of the conciseness of

Ogden and Richards’ explanation. The triangle of meaning shows how complex theoretical ideas can be clearly illustrated with a diagram. The theory is internally

consistent because it does not try to do too much. It takes a basic premise and examines a human learning pattern that demonstrates the hypothesis.
Yet, the theory is still capable of being falsified. Critics have already noted the inadequacy of the theory for explaining words that have no reference, like articles

and prepositions, as Lee (2013) explains. Percy even states that symbols can become “hardened” enough to conceal meaning because we reduce an experience to its symbol.

He says, “New names must be found for being…or the old ones given new meaning,” or else communication will degrade over time. We must continually re-experience the

world in order to communicate properly about it.
The theory addresses ethical challenges because it gives us tools for examining the significance of words and how we can communicate ethically. Racist or sexist

language is offensive because certain words call forth certain negative experiences. For us to move forward in social issues, we must find new words to describe the

problems at hand and move away from language imbedded with negative experiences.
While I agree with the premises and conclusions of this theory and appreciate its ability to explain communication in a way that is relevant to me, I struggle with the

complexity of thought-experience-symbol relations. The triangle of meaning works well when there is only one symbol, one experience, and one thought, but when is this

the case? For me, music is the joy of living. It is the energy of exercise, the power of emotion in sonic form, the physical, vibratory interaction between body and

medium. It is everything I have ever listened to in every mood I have ever been in. My overall reference is vast and nebulous because I have so many experiences. How

then can I relate with others about music, or anything else?
Heath and Bryant (2000) calm my frustrations with a quote from Richards: “Language, well used, is a completion and does what the intuitions of sensation by themselves

cannot do. Words are the meeting points at which regions of experience which can never combine in sensation or intuition, come together” (p. 100-101). No reference has

to be perfect, as we discussed earlier with isomorphism. My conversations with my piano friend do not have to be limited to specific definitions of words. We do not

have to have a perfect understanding of each others’ experiences to understand each other.
I find referential theory helpful in observing the world around me. With the triangle of meaning, I can better understand why I associate words with certain thoughts

or feelings and I have a tool for relating better with other people when our symbols and references do not align properly. Referential theory provides a new way of

examining life. As Percy (2000) would put it, I get to celebrate in the process of naming. Because of referential theory and Percy’s explanation of naming, I will

always be able to rediscover music, find new words to describe it, and then share it with anyone around me.

Works Cited:
Heath, R. L., & Bryant, J. (2000). Human communication theory and research: Concepts, contexts, and challenges (2nd ed.). New York: Routlege.
Lee, J. (2013). CH 3-Languag-Part1-Lee [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved from
Ogden, C. K., & Richards, I. A. (1923). The meaning of meaning: A study of the influence of language upon thought and of the science of symbolism. London: Routledge &

Kegan Paul.
Percy, W. (2000). Naming and being. Signposts in a strange land. New York: Picador.

find the cost of your paper