The World of Academic Communication

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A key skill that you will need to continue to develop throughout your life is communication. One way to hone this skill is through your academic studies, which prepare you for your working life. This is the time to develop, broaden, and polish up your communication skills, not only through your written work but also through verbal assessments.

When communicating, you need to consider three things: What do you want to achieve from the communication? What does the other person want to achieve? And how might you go about doing this? Through this module, we will be looking at these three key questions in relation to the varying people with whom, and situations in which, you might wish to communicate.

Whichever method of communication you are using, it is worth applying the seven Cs of effective communication, as explained in the book, Effective Public Relations, written by Scott M. Cutlip and Allen H. Center and published in 1952. These are:

Clear - Keep your sentences simple and to the point.

  • Why are you communicating with this person/these people?
  • What are you trying to impart or ask?
  • What do you require the other person/people to do in response to your communication?

Concise - Get to the point with the minimum of fuss; planning can help with this.

  • Are you clear what you want to say/write prior to the communication?
  • Can you remove any ‘fillers’ or superfluous words?
  • Have you repeated yourself unnecessarily?

Concrete - Know as much as you can before you impart information so you can give a well-rounded picture.

  • What do your recipients need to know, including background information, so they can be clear on the information you are giving them?
  • Would additional communication aids help, such as images, videos, or demonstrations?
  • What information does your audience already have? You can use this shared understanding to ‘hang’ your new information on. In this way, you do not need to give trivial details the audience already knows, and you use a ready-made pathway to develop knowledge.

Correct - Consider your audience and pitch your information appropriately to avoid mistakes and confusion.

  • Who is your audience and what might you reasonably expect them to know prior to your communication?
  • Match your vocabulary to your audience; does your audience understand your abbreviations and subject-specific jargon?
  • Check your written communication for both spelling and grammatical errors. Are these the right words in the right order in the right format?

Coherent - Create a logical progression of ideas; using a plan can help you achieve this.

  • Have you pitched your information in the right tone?
  • Do all your ideas connect with the main topic and flow in a logical order?
  • Have you left any loose ends you need to tie up?

Complete - Your audience should be given all the information they need to respond appropriately or to act upon the information you have provided.

  • Does your communication clearly relay what you expect your audience to do next?
  • Have you laid out what your next steps will be?
  • Have you set up a time and place for the next communication to occur, clearly stating each person’s responsibilities in this next step?

Courteous - Your communication should be honest, friendly, and polite.

  • Who are you communicating with? Only be as informal as the other person allows you to be, and follow their lead. It is much easier to become informal at a later date than to become more formal.
  • What is your face and body communicating? A smile goes a long way to creating a friendly connection with your audience.
  • Have you said ‘please’ and ‘thank you’? These polite additions can help set the tone and lead the way to a respectful dialogue on both parts.

Now we have the basics of successful communication underway, we shall take a look throughout this skill section at the various people and ways in which you might communicate.

Suggested Readings
Cutlip, S. M., &Center, A. H. (1952). Effective public relations. Pearson Education.
Gamble, T. K., & Gamble, M. W. (2018). The communication playbook. Sage.
Edwards, A., Edwards, C., Wahl, S. T., & Myers, S. A. (2019). The communication age (
3rd ed
). Sage.
Emden, J. V., & Becker, L. (2003). Effective communication for arts and humanities students. Palgrave.
Fisher, R., Ury, W. L., & Patton, B. (2011). Getting to yes - negotiating agreement without giving in. Penguin.