Communication Studies Department Theses and Dissertations

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About the Program...

The IUPUI Master's of Arts in Applied Communication focuses on the application of communication theories in various settings.

Classes are small and interactive with emphasis on application of theory. Opportunities for multidisciplinary and independent study are available. The program readies the advanced student for professional career paths and future academic pursuits. Its logistical flexibility allows students to meet their academic and career goals.

The graduate faculty has a wide range of academic expertise and applied experiences with regional and national institutions and organizations and is engaged in a variety of applied research projects in which students have the opportunity to participate.

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Recent Submissions

Now showing 1 - 10 of 82
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    Dreamchasers: Examining the Organizational Structure of Social Institutions Across Communities & the Inevitable Cultural Influences which Comprise One’s American Dream
    (2023-09) Hibbert, Karl Roy; Parrish-Sprowl, John; Karnick, Kristine; White-Mills, Kim
    In a nation indoctrinated with the notion that civil liberties are an expected set of rights, along with policies, presumably made to ensure the equality of all citizens; the idea of egalitarianism, (the belief that all people are equal and deserve equal rights and opportunities) it is critical to pose the question: how equally accessible is the American Dream for all Americans? Our predisposed congenital qualities such as gender and ethnicity, along with socioeconomic status, all contribute to the ‘societal blueprint’ which dictates one’s social reputation, educational rank, and financial reach in this American nation. More specifically, we find that the journey to achieve the American Dream varies by community and major obstacles that impede on the access to key developmental resources. Often minorities and those who do not fit into the static image of ‘The American Dream’ exhaust most of their time trying to bridge the gap, rather than focusing solely on community advancement. In other words, those who live in communities lacking proper infrastructure essential to modern growth and development are forced to play the hand their dealt, while still being expected to attain the heights of their privileged counterparts. The organizational structure of a community’s social institutions will inevitably influence the resources, motivations, and competence of its members. With this, viewing all American’s as having the same access to the ‘American Dream’ is unreasonable. Through comparing the background and livelihoods of characters from four different movies, I examine the depiction and actuality which media uses to highlight the American Dream; and how the challenges inhibit in the journey looks different across cultures.
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    Navigating the Mental Healthcare Network through a Communication Complex Perspective: An Autoethnography
    (2023-08) Seifert, Jorge; Parrish-Sprowl, John; Goering, Elizabeth; White-Mills, Kim
    Mental illness is one of the largest health problems in the world and it has grown worse due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Every nation, across all demographic categories, has experienced growth in mental health issues. In many countries there is a serious shortage of mental health professionals to serve the population. While we are relatively better off in the US, the next level question that arises regards service quality. The availability of treatment does not serve well if it does not serve to heal. The problem under investigation examines the interrelationship of mental illness and communication. More specifically, the focus will be on mental illness treatment from an emic perspective. The analysis is framed from a communication complex perspective which treats communication as a dynamic process that is both bioactive and systemic. The method of study is autoethnography and with detailed stories that the author has gone through in their own mental health journey. Autoethnography is a method that seeks to provide evocative and rich description of an individual within an ethnographic setting. The autoethnography will look at four stories that have occurred in the past about mental healthcare networks and problems inherent within them. A discussion on key takeaways from the events described illuminates the limitations and challenges of the current mental healthcare network as well as how a communication complex perspective can enable system improvement.
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    Testing the Effect of Culturally Targeted, Normative Messaging on Black Women's Intentions to Participate in a Breast Cancer Clinical Trial
    (2023-07) Ridley-Merriweather, Katherine Ellen; Head, Katharine J.; Ashburn-Nardo, Leslie; Brann, Maria; Côté, Michele L.; Longtin, Krista
    Despite increasing disease incidence and remarkably high mortality rates, Black women are underrepresented in breast cancer (BC) clinical trials (CTs), likely limiting the generalizability of BC research findings to Black patients. Evidence demonstrates that the BC research community could exert more effort to ensure the recruitment of Black women into CTs. Although Black and white women have similar BC incidence rates, Black women are 40% more likely than all other races and ethnicities to die of the disease. Clear disparities exist even after controlling for socioeconomic inequalities. Black participation in CTs has been declining, which is particularly unfortunate given the increasing health problem of a lack of Black representation in medical research. Successfully swelling the percentages of Black women who participate in BC research is important and likely reliant on increasing group members’ motivations to surmount existing historical, cultural, and social barriers. Guided by normative and cultural theoretical frameworks, this study examined the effects of culturally informed messaging on Black women’s intention to participate in a CT focused on BC prevention. Six hundred thirty-five Black women aged 18 and over were recruited through Qualtrics to participate in an online, posttest only, control-group design message testing study using random assignment to condition (the control or one of four injunctive-, descriptive-, and/or legacy norm-focused messages). They answered survey questions designed to measure the messages’ effects on the women’s intention to participate in the CT. The study employed univariate and multivariate logistic regression and yielded statistically nonsignificant results; none of the four hypotheses were supported. However, the findings trended overall toward having higher probability of intending to perform the behavior (overall intention M = 3.35). All conditions had means higher than three (out of a five-point scale). A practical implication is that message content is affected by the medium through which it is delivered. Theoretical implications include the importance of overlaying cultural factors onto normative theories. Given that previous successful recruitment methods to this CT for this population were grounded in research practices involving face-to-face, interpersonal interactions, future research should consider employing a multi-level approach in testing these messages.
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    At a Loss for Words: Using Performance to Explain How Friends Communicate About Infertility
    (2023-06) Binion, Kelsey Elizabeth; Brann, Maria; Beckman, Emily; Bute, Jennifer J.; Longtin, Krista J.
    In the United States, approximately one in five women are unable to get pregnant after one year of trying. Due to the pervasiveness of pronatalism in Western society, having a child is widely assumed to be a natural and expected part of womanhood. Society’s master narratives reinforce these ideals and stigmatize the experiences of women who have infertility. This multi-phase research study examined how women discuss their infertility journey with their friends. The study’s aims were to understand friendships within the context of infertility, how the relationship affects a woman’s identity, and the communicative behaviors used in conversations. Fifteen interviews were conducted with women who experienced or are experiencing infertility and had discussed their past or current challenges with a friend. Results of a phronetic iterative analysis suggested that women who have personal experience with infertility (a) disclose to close/best friends, (b) communicate their identity as “broken,” (c) desire emotional support, and (d) strategically navigate conversations as they encounter positive and negative messages. These results were transformed into a performance, which included six monologues and a talkback. The purpose of the arts-based methodology was to disseminate results and assess the performance’s impact. Seventy-three individuals attended one of the two performances in April 2023, and 50 attendees completed the post-performance evaluation. The quantitative results suggest that attendees felt informed about the complexities of infertility, gained a new perspective, received advice about how to have future conversations, and did not feel offended by the content. Through a thematic analysis, four themes emerged from the two talkback sessions and evaluation comments: being informed about infertility as a health condition, appreciating the theatrical format to learn, connecting to the performance to understand the illness experience, and feeling comfortable navigating conversations about infertility. Despite the variance in infertility experiences, friends are essential social support figures as women navigate infertility, and there are best practices when having a conversation, as demonstrated in the performance. This study’s implications include providing communication strategies to support women with infertility and recognizing that an arts-based methodology can highlight counterstories, inform about a stigmatized health issue, and engage the community.
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    "I'm Spoon-feeding him my Trauma": An Analysis of Sexual Assault Survivors' Privacy Management in Romantic Relationships
    (2023-05) Unruh, Margret; Bute, Jennifer J.; Brann, Maria; Longtin, Krista
    Survivors of sexual assault make difficult privacy management decisions regarding their experiences, particularly in romantic relationships where physical intimacy makes these sensitive disclosures even more complex. As fever is an indicator of illness and a part of healing from the illness, disclosure can be an indicator of underlying disturbance and a part of the restorative process. Additionally, communication privacy management (CPM) theory considers ownership, control, and turbulence to illustrate how private information is regulated. Through qualitative, semi-structured interviews (n=19) and a phronetic iterative approach to data analysis, I examined the ways survivors of sexual assault managed their private information regarding their experiences in a romantic relationship and if disclosure relieved any psychological distress of the survivor. Results of this study offer insight into the ways participants controlled their personal information through the privacy management process; the establishment of boundaries surrounding ongoing disclosures; and the emotional effect of various privacy management strategies on participants, their partners, and the relationship. Reaching across theoretical concepts, this research offers a comprehensive understanding of the factors salient when managing private information regarding sexual assault. This research also provides practical applications for considering the influence of various privacy management approaches and their influence on the physical and psychological health of the survivor and the health of the relationship.
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    Managing Uncertainty: Women's Perceptions of the COVID-19 Vaccine and Fertility
    (2023-05) Broeker, Chloe Elaine; Brann, Maria; Bute, Jennifer; Head, Katharine
    During the last two years, women of reproductive age (WRA) have experienced uncertainty about the COVID-19 vaccine, particularly as it relates to reproductive health (e.g., fertility) due to the COVID-19 infodemic. Because WRA are a pivotal population in pandemic control, it is important to understand how WRA manage vaccine-related uncertainty. Uncertainty management theory (UMT) considers the complexities of uncertainty, acknowledging that individual appraisals of, and responses to, uncertainty may vary from person to person and evolve over time. This study examined factors contributing to WRA’s hesitancy to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, including uncertainty about potential side effects, concern about safety and efficacy, and conflicting information. WRA most frequently felt neutral towards their uncertainty; however, negative emotional responses to uncertainty played an influential role in many WRA’s responses to uncertainty (e.g., avoiding information, seeking information, receiving the COVID-19 vaccine). The findings of this study provided insight on how WRA have experienced uncertainty about the COVID-19 vaccine, including their emotional responses to and subsequent appraisals of their uncertainty which ultimately influenced their responses.
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    Privacy Issues in Young Onset Colorectal Cancer Patients and Survivors
    (2022-12) Hecklinski, Tiffany Marie; Longtin, Krista; Brann, Maria; Bute, Jennifer J.; Palmer, Megan M.
    The occurrence of colorectal cancer among those over the age of 50 is decreasing; conversely, the rate of diagnosis for those under 50 years old is increasing. While medical researchers scramble to identify the cause for this increase, young onset colorectal cancer (YOCC) patients and survivors are left to navigate a new normal. This new normal often includes awkward and troublesome concerns such as scarring, colostomy bags, and bowel problems. Contrary to those diagnosed with colorectal cancer later in life, those that are diagnosed at a younger age are forced to deal with these issues for many years. The purpose of this exploratory study was to identify privacy issues surrounding YOCC. Because of the significant increase in diagnoses, YOCC is now being researched independently from colorectal cancer in general. The topic of privacy has been researched in academic disciplines, including medicine. Privacy issues surrounding cancer have been researched, as well. Yet, the topic of privacy concerns facing YOCC patients/survivors has been overlooked. It is important to identify privacy concerns specific to YOCC patients/survivors as the information could help health care providers, communication scholars, and caregivers. Patient narratives were analyzed employing thematic analysis to identify privacy concerns of YOCC patients/survivors through the lens of Communication Privacy Management theory (CPM theory). Results indicated that participants discussed disclosure of their YOCC journey as a process. Within this disclosure process, YOCC patients/survivors identified specific privacy issues that influenced the way they disclosed or concealed information specific to their illness. There is a growing need for more research into the YOCC community due to the increase in diagnosis rates and their unique privacy concerns. Potential topics for future research include the impact of COVID-19, patient desire to help others, social media influence on disclosure, how patient disclosure could impact provider training, dating with YOCC, and specific demographic research.
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    A Rhetorical Analysis of Michelle Obama's Rhetoric in the Let's Move! Program
    (2022-08) Dosterglick, Morgan; Dobris, Catherine A.; Hoffmann-Longtin, Krista; Parrish-Sprowl, John
    As the childhood obesity epidemic continues in the United States, there is a persistent need to discover what communication strategies work for income diverse communities in the United States, in order to prevent adverse immediate and long term effects on children. Understanding how people in power discuss obesity and conform to hegemonic expectations is also relevant to our assessments of increasingly diverse leaders in the U.S. This study focuses on the rhetoric of former First Lady Michelle Obama throughout the Let’s Move! public health program, the aim of which was to end the pediatric obesity epidemic in one generation. Three of her addresses given throughout the program’s existence are analyzed through the framework of feminist and metaphoric rhetorical criticism. Specifically, metaphors are analyzed to gain a more nuanced perception of her rhetorical strategies and the framing of Let’s Move! as a positive and attainable goal, requiring all members of a community to be engaged to enact healthy changes. Feminist analysis is utilized to discern the extent to which, if any, she upheld the patriarchal norms of a woman speaking in front of an audience, This analysis uses the historical expectations of First Lady discourse and the theory of Republican Motherhood to frame her experiences and validate her place behind the podium. The research questions for this analysis are: How does Michelle Obama use metaphor in the Let’s Move! program? and looking through a feminist lens, do Obama’s messages regarding childhood obesity and increasing physical activity uphold hegemonic norms regarding Republican Motherhood and FLOTUS rhetoric?
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    Critical Analysis of Case Conference Committee Meetings: A Narrative Analysis of Parent/Guardians’ and Specific Learning Disability Students’ Experiences
    (2022-07) Le, Megan Elizabeth; White-Mills, Kim; Dobris, Catherine A.; Parrish-Sprowl, John
    In recent years, there has been an increase in special education complaints filed against school corporations for noncompliance with the terms of the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) established in a Case Conference Committee meeting. Case Conference Committees include parents/guardians, Specific Learning Disabilities (SLD) students, and educators. Parents/guardians are equal partners to the school corporation when developing the IEP. Disagreements within Case Conference Committee (CCC) meetings can lead to strained relationships. During Case Conference Committee Meetings, parents/guardians may disagree with educators related to managing the student’s IEP (Indiana Department of Education, 2021). Consequently, a parent/guardian of a SLD student may file a complaint or due process hearing resulting from poor communication between parties during or after a Case Conference Meeting (McQuerrey, 2019). The Critical Organizational Communication Theory was applied in exploring if parents/guardians experienced the Indiana IEP Resource Center’s common issues in CCC meetings including: the lack of (1) Communication, (2) Preparation, (3) Clarity, (4) Respect, and (5) Transparency. A narrative approach was used to tell the stories of parents/guardians and SLD students’ experience in CCC meetings.
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    Understanding the Individual Narratives of Women Who Use Formula in Relation to the Master Narrative of "Breast is Best"
    (2022-05) Scott, Susanna Foxworthy; Bute, Jennifer J.; Brann, Maria; Head, Katharine; Turman, Jack E., Jr.
    Despite clinical recommendations, only 25.8% of infants in the United States are exclusively breastfed at 6 months of age. Breastfeeding policies and communication campaigns exist to support exclusive breastfeeding, and women who use formula report facing stigma and feeling like a failure. Narratives can be used to discern how individuals make sense of experiences related to health, and narrative theorizing in health communication provides a framework of problematics used to explain how individuals construct stories that reveal the tensions between continuity and disruption and creativity and constraint. Individual experiences are often influenced by master narratives such as “Breast is best,” which are phrases that shape our understanding of the world. Because of the negative impact of using formula on maternal well-being, the purpose of this research was to use a narrative framework to analyze the stories of women who used formula in relation to the master narrative of breast is best. Building off of pilot interviews with 22 mothers, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 20 women who had used formula within the first 6 months after giving birth and had an infant no older than 12 months at the time of the interview. Qualitative analysis revealed that women perceived formula as shameful and costly. Conversely, they viewed breastfeeding as biologically superior, better for bonding, and a way to enact good motherhood. Current messaging about breastfeeding, particularly for women who intend to breastfeed, may have unintended negative effects when women face a disruption to their breastfeeding journey. In addition, women viewed breastfeeding and formula feeding as in relation to and in opposition to one another, reducing the perceived acceptability of behaviors such as combination feeding. Despite constraints in the master narrative regarding acceptable infant feeding practices, women demonstrated creativity in their individual stories and found formula feeding enabled more equitable parenting and preserved mental health. Practical implications include that organizations promoting exclusive breastfeeding in the United States should move away from framing breastfeeding as an all-or-nothing choice and develop tailored and value-neutral messaging recognizing breastfeeding as a complex psychosocial and biological process.