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Accordion List

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 advances its mission through four central goals:

  • Producing and disseminating cutting-edge scholarly research designed to advance our theoretical and empirical understanding of the role of communication in public and private life.
  • Producing and disseminating high-quality applied research designed to advance the public’s understanding and effective use of communication, and policy-makers’ ability to create a media environment that fosters the personal and collective development of its citizens.
  • Educating Ph.D. graduate students in the theories, substance, and methods of communication research and placing them in leading academic and professional positions in the field.
  • Providing a first-class liberal arts education to undergraduates, designed to help them become better consumers and producers of public information, strengthen their understanding of the role of communication in their personal, professional and civic lives, and prepare them for private and public-sector leadership positions in communication-related and other fields.


The purpose of the graduate PhD program is to prepare students to make professional contributions to communications scholarship, research, and policy. 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. Students focus in one or more of the following research areas: Activism, Communication, and Social Justice; Communication Neuroscience, Critical Journalism Studies: Culture and Communication; Digital Media and Social Networks; Global and Comparative Communication; Health Communication; Media and Communication Effects; Media Institutions and Systems, Political Communication; and Visual Communication. 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:


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: 

In addition to faculty and students, staff from these projects form a growing constituency of Library users.

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

Journal Collection

The Library's in-house journal collection is relatively stagnant because our subscriptions are mostly electronic-only. Exceptions are a few popular journals that have avid readers who prefer paper, artistic journals that whose original format enhances its reception, and industry journals rich in advertising copy that is not preserved in their digital counterparts. E-journal titles under the umbrella of "Communication" number well over 600. and the collection is strong in all of the established areas of emphasis (see above). The Library is also committed to retrospective growth where there are historical gaps. Holdings for titles all the way back to their inception provide researchers access to the field in its formative years. 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 Cinema Studies 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.

DVD Collection

This is an eclectic collection of DVDs--over 800 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

1. Chronological

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. The Annenberg Library collects all historis of the field of communication research and theory which support their growing ASCLA primary source materials on this subject.

2. Formats

The Library collects a variety of formats but overwhelmingly and increasingly choses digital. Over 1000 communication-related journals are available electronically. Most of these are exclusively electronic. Books (paperback where available) are still considered a preferred format. The Library is still purchasing DVDs where it makes sense to, though digital streaming platforms mean we are buying fewer individual physical copies. The Libraries continue to expand their newspaper resources. In addition to the platforms for current titles, such as Lexis/Nexis, Newsbank, and Factiva, historical digital newspapers archives are replacing microfilm formats as the go-to practice. But not in all cases. Microforms are still a key format for historical newspaper research. 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.

3. Geographical

While emphasis is strongest for United States materials, the Library collects resources for the study of communication worldwide. International/Global communication is an established but also exploding sector of the field. Indeed, ASC's CARGC (Center for Advanced Research in Global Communication) is a leader in a wide range of research and scholarship in this area. The Annenberg Library subscribes to any new journals in global communication and the Penn Libraries collect English language monographs on communication in other countries. The ASC Library no longer collects foreign film materials as these are in the purview of Cinema Studies (thus located at Van Pelt).

4. Language

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.

5. 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.

  • Most of the major academic publishers fall under the University's approval plan (Yankee Bookseller) including these major suppliers of Communication titles: , Sage, Taylor & Francis, Elsevier, Blackwell, Routledge, Walter de Gruyter, Edwin Mellen, Pluto Press, M.E. Sharpe, Springer-Verlag, 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.
  • 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.