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Program Description


Founded in 1959 through the generosity and vision of diplomat and philanthropist Walter Annenberg, The Annenberg School for Communication stands at the forefront of education, research, and policy studies on the processes, nature, and consequences of existing and emerging media. The School offers students a firm grounding in a wide range of approaches to the study of communication and its methods, drawn from both the humanities and social sciences. The purpose of the graduate degree program is to prepare students to make professional contributions to communications scholarship, research, and policy. The School currently has 18 standing faculty members and about a dozen adjuncts and visiting scholars. About 80 students are enrolled in the program in a given year (between 15 and 20 enter the program with 10 to 12 doctoral degrees conferred each year). The curriculum is structured to help students become experts in a chosen research area. In addition all students participate in faculty supervised teaching and research as part of their training. Courses available represent a mix of the program's three core research areas:

Communication Influence

Communication behavior in individuals, groups, and political and social collectives; belief and attitude formation and change, public opinion, and collective behavior; the consequences of exposure to messages, mass communication and socialization.

Communication and Culture

Theories and models of information and communication; cognition, coding and processing of messages in different "languages" and media; analysis of meaning, content, symbols and message systems; the social and cultural contexts of communication and the social construction of realities.

Communication Institutions

History and theories of social and mass communication; public policy related to communication and popular culture; structure, organization, technologies, regulation, management, social and political functions of institutions and media, cybernetics and systems theory and social construction of realities.


Over thirty undergraduate courses are offered at the Annenberg School and most are open to students throughout the University. However, obtaining the Bachelor of Arts Degree with a major in Communication requires formal application and acceptance. The degree is granted by the College of Arts and Sciences or the College of General Studies although the major curriculum is designed, administered, and instructed by the Annenberg School for Communication. The Communication major consists of 14 courses, eleven in communication and three in other departments, selected by students to support their primary interests. The curriculum has three central goals:

  • Expose students to major strains of communication scholarship - on media systems and their functions, the relationships of these systems to cultural, political, and economic life, and myriad influences of communication on the ways people think and behave
  • Ensure that students acquire basic familiarity with the methods of research used in communication scholarship and practice
  • Permit flexible opportunities for advanced study in particular topics of a student's own choosing
Areas of concentration within the School's curriculum include critical, cultural and historical media studies; research on children, family and media; health communication; and political communication. The curriculum also offers opportunities for independent study, internship experience, study abroad, and service (through the Communication and Public Service program).

Projects and Centers

The School is also comprised of a variety of Centers and Projects that rely on the research resources of the School and University. They include: the Annenberg Public Policy Center, the Center for Global Communication Studies, the Annenberg Scholars Program in Culture and Communication, and the Center for Excellence in Cancer Communication Research. In addition to faculty and students, staff from these projects form a growing constituency of Library users.

Collection Description

Areas of Emphasis
Communication resources at the Annenberg School and Penn Libraries support the research and teaching of the field as defined at the School in the following general, often overlapping categories: political communication; critical, cultural, and historical media studies; health communication, media institutions, international communication, new media, children/family and media, visual communication, journalism, new media, and non-verbal communication. All forms of media are in play but emphasis falls heaviest on print, broadcast, and new media over film which is more fully supported by Cinema Studies.

Areas Not Emphasized at Annenberg
There are a few areas in the field that are not directly pursued at the Annenberg School. However, most of these areas touch on other fields and departments at the University so they are not without research support. They include: organizational communication, public relations, public speaking, communication disorders, and training for journalists. Resources in these areas can be found in the business, education, psychology, biomedical and general social science collections.

Physical location of materials
As communication is arguably the most interdisciplinary field of all, likewise its resources reside throughout Penn Libraries--in all corners of the virtual Library system and in many departmental libraries on campus. The Annenberg School Library serves as both a destination and a gateway into the broader research network on campus and beyond. In addition to the Van Pelt Dietrich Center which houses the Humanities and Social Science collections, communications students must often turn to the Biomedical Library, Biddle Law, Fisher Fine Arts, Lippincott (business) and the University Museum Library (anthropology, ethnography). The Annenberg Library's document delivery service to faculty and graduate students regularly sends staff to these locales.

Collections in the Annenberg Library

The ASC Library maintains a journal collection of over 300 titles and two monograph collections -- over 5,000 reference titles and about 1,500 reserve titles. The Library also maintains of video/dvd collection of over 600 titles and several special collections.

Journal Collection
The Library houses a journal collection of over 300 titles and many of these are available online as well. E-journal titles under the umbrella of "Communication" number well over 600. The collection is strong in all of the established areas of emphasis (see above) and Annenberg is committed to subscribing to most new academic titles, recently: Games and Culture, Journal of Strategic Communication, Electronic News, Journal of Children and Media, Communication Methods & Measures, and Journal of Communication and Religion, to name a few. The ASC Library is also committed to retrospective growth. For example, the Library recently purchased Volumes 1 through 41 (1950-1990) of the Central States Speech Journal (now Communication Studies) to complete holdings which previously only went back to 1991 (volume 42). Holdings for titles all the way back to their inception provide researchers access to the field in its formative years. Similarly, the University's holdings of the Quarterly Journal of Speech go back to 1928 and historians of broadcasting can consult ASC's collection of Broadcasting dating back to 1931. TV Guide begins with its first edition in 1953. These retrospective acquisitions compliment the Annenberg Library's commitment to "hot" new journals, despite exponential growth in journal pricing. Access to journal literature that is both broad and deep, historical and cutting edge, is vital to the program at the School. In the last few years the Library journal collection has especially expanded its holdings in the areas of international communication and cultural studies (English language titles).

Reference Collection
Materials that comprise the reference collection include: methodologies on qualitative and quantitative social science research practices, historical public opinion compendiums, consumer profiles that include related media practice, and indexes and bibliographies on all media, though for film only key general sources are collected as well as those dealing with media stereotypes, audience phenomena, communication theory and the like. Deeper film reference, including foreign, can be found in Van Pelt Reference under the watchful eye of the Humanities bibliographer in conjunction with the Cinema Studies department.

Reserve collection
The Reserve collection is a permanent collection of monographs used in ASC graduate courses past and present. Communication "classics" can be found here as well as ASC faculty publications. The collection grows as items are requested by faculty or when it is determined a title is core to the field and/or ASC endeavors. Many of these titles are also available elsewhere on campus. They reside at Annenberg for the convenience of the local community but may be borrowed on a limited basis by the University community as well.

Video/DVD Collection
This is an eclectic video and DVD collection of over 600 films, television shows, documentaries, political speeches, advertisements--some used in ASC courses, some collected by the librarian. The items in this collection may saliently pertain to media topics or the connection may be more subtle.

Special Collections
The George Gerbner Archive, slated to open in the Fall of 2008, includes publications, unpublished papers, and correspondence of the renowned scholar and communications visionary who served as Professor and Dean of the Annenberg School from 1964 to 1989.

Media Events Archive
The Media Events Archive is a video (soon to be digitized) collection of important historic events covered by the media on television and film in the 20th and 21st centuries. Many of the videos show news coverage of media events; others are documentaries about those events. The categories that guided the selections (contests, conquests and coronations) were assigned by Elihu Katz and Daniel Dayan in their seminal work Media Events: The Live Broadcasting of History.

Annenberg/Pew Archive of Presidential Campaign Discourse
(CD-ROM available in ASC Library, also by request) Transcripts of speeches, television ads and debates of twelve United States general election Presidential campaigns, 1952 through 1996. Including the work of the two major party nominees-with the exception of Barry Goldwater, the collection begins September 1 of each election year and ends on election eve or day. Nomination acceptance speeches are also included. The Archive is available on CD-ROM and is fully searchable by subject and keyword.

The Pat Polillo Archive
Archive of video, scripts, speeches, interviews, notes and memos of local television news innovator Pat Polillo who worked in the Philadelphia market for part of his career.

KYW-TV (Philadelphia) I-Team Reports, 1978-1984
This collection consists of video copies (on DVD) and transcripts of every investigative report broadcast by the I-Team during its six-year existence.

Collection Development Perspectives

While there has always been an emphasis on collecting materials on current media technologies and surrounding social phenomena, resources supporting pre-industrial communicative practices are part of the Van Pelt Dietrich collection via History, Sociology, Anthropology, Political Science and Urban Studies. Histories of communication, and of individual forms of media such as film, broadcasting, book and newspaper publishing reside either at Van Pelt or Annenberg Reference/Reserve. In addition, there seems to be a heightened interest in the field to reflect upon itself with such titles as On the Highway of Communications Studies by Veikko Pietild, Mass Communication and American Social Thought: Key Texts 1919-1968, edited by John Peters and Peter Simonson, and Canonic Texts in Media Research, edited by Elihu Katz. Such titles may be found at Annenberg if not also at Van Pelt.

The Library collects a variety of formats with digital increasingly taking the lion's share. Over 600 communication-related journals are available electronically. Many of these are exclusively electronic. Annenberg continues to carry both print and online versions of many titles but is moving away from this luxury as issues of cost, space, and usage patterns point to e-only subscription solutions. Books (paperback where available) and DVDs (over VHS) are also are preferred formats. The Library very rarely purchases CD-ROM databases at this point as these tend to easily become obsolete as platforms change. While more and more newspapers are expanding their digital backfiles in Lexis/Nexis, Newsbank, Factiva and the like, microforms are still a key format for historical newspaper research (these can mostly be found at Van Pelt though Annenberg collects Variety on microfilm as well as Newsweek and Time Magazine). Select daily newspapers (The New York Times, Washington Post, Philadelphia Inquirer, and Philadelphia Daily News) are available in paper (only kept three months, however) for the pleasure of the ASC community. Of course they may also be read online.

While emphasis is strongest for United States materials, the Library collects resources for the study of communication worldwide. International Communication is an established but also exploding area of the field as the developing world "grows" communication programs and policy related research. Indeed, ASC's Center for Global Communication Studies is a leader in a wide range of research and scholarship in this area. The ASC Library subscribes to any new journals in global communication and the Penn Libraries collect English language monographs of communication issues in other countries. ASC Library Reference carries such titles as TV International Sourcebook, China Media Yearbook & Directory, World Radio TV Handbook and the annual from the European Audiovisual Observatory relating to audience measurements of European, to name a few. The ASC Library no longer collects foreign film materials as these are in the purview of Cinema Studies (thus located at Van Pelt).

Though the Library has collected French, Spanish and German language materials in the past, fewer foreign language titles are purchased in communications than ever before. The collection consists of mostly English titles though notable exceptions include the French journal Reseaux, Chasqui (from Ecuador) and the annual German communication bibliography Jahresbibliographie Massenkommunikation.

Publication Dates
Collection building is focused almost exclusively on keeping up with currently produced materials but there is some retrospective collection of journal back issues.

Principle Sources of Supply and Major Selection Tools

  • Most of the major academic publishers fall under the University's approval plan (Yankee Bookseller) including these major suppliers of Communication titles: Lawrence Erlbaum, Sage, Elsevier, Blackwell, Routledge, Walter de Gruyter, Greenwood, Edwin Mellen, Pluto Press, M.E. Sharpe, Springer-Verlag, Taylor & Francis, as well as the domestic University presses. Certain titles from publishers not on the approval plan such as Peter Lang and Nordicom are selected by the Annenberg Librarian for the regular circulating collection at Van Pelt.
  • Communications Booknotes Quarterly, a review service for books, reports, documents, and electronic publications on all aspects of mass communication, telecommunication and the information industry.
  • Acquisitions lists such as New Books in Communication, a list generated quarterly by the University of California, San Diego; New Books in the Communications Library, published by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Communications Library; the Ohio State University Library New Book List; and Journalism Library New Book List, published twice a year as an un-annotated list of new titles at the University of Missouri-Columbia Journalism Library.
  • Book reviews in academic communications journals; also The New York Times, New York Review of Books, Chronicle of Higher Education, Times Literary Supplement, The Atlantic, Harper's, The New Yorker, Boston Review, and others.
  • Faculty, student, and staff recommendations/requests.
  • Publishers catalogs, announcements, and convention literature.