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A listening theory story: an analysis of key themes, traditions, and actors in a community of practice of international listening theory scholars, 1987-2021




Shanks, Brandon, author
Parks, Elizabeth S., advisor
Williams, Elizabeth, committee member
Humphrey, Michael, committee member

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In any field of research, specific theory drives discovery, inquiry, and production of knowledge. Looking at the field of listening research, listening theory can be seen to impact how scholars view results of their studies. Additionally, listening theory is summarized to be an unorganized and undefined field of listening research. To begin to remedy this disorganization, I aim to create both a broad outline of listening theory as well as a spark to ignite dialogue and discourse surrounding listening theory. To accomplish the goal of creating broad understanding of listening theory, I use a tried and true method of conveying information that has been used for centuries, I tell a story. Predominantly, I tell a story of listening theory located in the International Journal of Listening (IJL). This story is made up of genres (metatheoretical traditions), tropes (themes and topics), and main characters (authors). To understand these three aspects, I utilize a mixed method approach of both a qualitative thematic analysis and a descriptive quantitative semantic analysis to analyze a corpus of 42 IJL articles published from 1987-2021 related to listening theory. Finally, I use the story that is woven from the results as a jumping off point for future research and scholars to join the production and discussion of listening theory. In my thesis I conceptualize IJL as a community of practice, or a group of people that all pursue a similar goal. This goal is to create knowledge, discussion, and practical application of listening research. Each aspect of the story will indicate how the community of practice advances research. It will also reveal potentially where specific traditions might be more prominent than others. These traditions that I analyze come from the widely cited work of Craig (1999) who provides a metamodel for both understanding how different approaches to theory support and contradict each other. The primary goal of his metamodel is to create discourse surrounding the practices and methods of research surrounding communication theory. I adopt this metamodel to serve both those functions in my analysis of listening theory in the community of practice of IJL. I use the metamodel to describe which traditions are present within listening theory work, but also to serve as an encouragement for future research and continuation of discourse. To uncover themes in the story of listening theory, I utilize a semantic analysis as utilized by Arasaratnam and Doerfel (2005). Using the textual analysis software Wordstat conducts a frequency, cooccurrence, and topical analysis of all text in the 42 articles. This reveals themes surrounding the development of listening theory and research within the community of practice. Lastly, in combination of the two methods I draw out key moments and actors to indicate where scholars have perpetuated listening theory and the discourse surrounding its development. Understanding all these story elements (traditions, themes, actors) I construct a review of how listening theory has been established in IJL. Then, to fulfill the goals of creating a story of listening theory and continuation of the conversation, I tell a story of listening theory from 1987-2021 in the community of practice of IJL: in my own words.


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listening theory
thematic analysis
community of practice
textual analysis


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