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COMM 3320: Persuasion in Society; Section 581

Instructor Contact:

Dr. Christy-Dale L. Sims


About the Course:

Persuasion is a symbolic act designed to influence others’ opinions, perspectives, and/or actions. Advertising Age estimates that the average American is exposed to more than 5,000 persuasive messages a day. Allowing ourselves to be persuaded is just one way we can compare alternatives before making choices—choices about whom to vote for, what to purchase, what ideas and policies to support, which organizations and/or people to donate money to, and so on. At the same time, we need to recognize that some of these attempts may appear to be purely informative. Through this course I invite you to answer questions such as:

  • Why do you buy one brand over another?
  • What influences you to vote for the candidate(s) you do? Or even to vote at all?
  • How does fear motivate people to act?

Persuasion in Society is a semester-based online course that asks you to be an active and engaged participant by keeping up with course content and textbook readings, taking quizzes, and regularly participating in exercises and topical discussions. A final project will allow you to creatively apply the concepts you have learned in this course.


  • Explore the degree to which persuasion dominates our lives and its role in every day decision making.
  • Define and apply discipline-specific terminology to explain multiple theories and models of persuasion from qualitative and quantitative research traditions.
  • Understand ethical issues faced by persuaders and demonstrate how audiences can critically evaluate the ethical dimensions of persuasive messages.
  • Investigate persuasive strategies used by multiple parties about contemporary social issues and evaluate multiple persuasive strategies for effectiveness.
  • Assess your ability to apply course concepts through analyzing persuasive strategies and arguments in support of and opposition to your personal opinion.
  • Assess your ability to apply course concepts through creating a persuasive campaign about a contemporary social issue.
  • Examine the relationship between persuasion and critical thought and how a deeper understanding of persuasive strategies can help you examine and understand complex issues.

Required Texts:

Larson, C.U. (2013). Persuasion: Reception and responsibility, 13th Edition. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth. Earlier edition is acceptable. You will need this text right away


The course grade is based on several “meet & greet” activities, content-based exercises of different formats, 3 content review discussions which accompany 3 content overview quizzes, and one group project developing a persuasive campaign.

Semester activities:

  • In the first unit, “Getting Started”, we will build our “classroom atmosphere,” meet one another, and become familiar with the expectations of class by completing a range of activities, including a meet & greet discussion board and syllabus quiz.
  • Units 2, 3, and 4 focus on acquiring and demonstrating knowledge about theories of persuasion, including finding and analyzing real life examples. Each unit features a range of exercises, including objective-style questions and discussion boards.
  • Each unit ends with a Content Review Discussion board (20 points each) and a unit quiz (50 points each). Quizzes will cover the assigned Larson chapters, Word lectures, exercises, video clips, and supplemental material. Each quiz may have multiple choice, true/false, matching, fill-in-the-blank, or short answer/application questions.

Final Project (120 points):

  • The purpose of the project is to design a hypothetical persuasive campaign targeted to a specific audience of your choice, including developing deliverables including campaign name, logo, slogan, color scheme, mission statement, and a complete brochure incorporating these elements.
  • Crucially, this is a group project. It requires working virtually with a team, as now happens in many workplaces. Together, you’ll develop a group contract to lay a solid foundation for your interactions, after which you’ll produce a campaign proposal, voice-over presentation, leave-behind deliverable, and a short essay explaining how you applied persuasive strategies learned over the semester.
  • A grade is also assigned for your engagement within the group, recognizing your efforts working together.