In other posts, I introduce some of my communication research topics that are linked to my work as a foreign language teacher. In this post, I want to introduce some of my other interests to give you an idea of how varied and creative communication research can be.

Barriers to communication: Diversity in the community

“There is more than a verbal tie between the words common, community, and communication….” This is a quote by Dewey (1916), a renowned psychologist and educational reformer. His concept of communication was that there must be a reason that these three words look similar. My interpretation is this is that communication happens best in communities that are built around having something in common. Communication is a tool that binds the community together around what they have in common. I became interested in this quote when I was researching how people with visual impairments overcome communication barriers. I was told a story by a Japanese blind man whose physical and mental health declined because he found it hard to get outside to exercise. Also, it was hard for him to make friends because people seemed to be awkward being around him; they didn’t know how to talk to him because of his visual impairment. One day, a friend introduced him to a football team where visually impaired people played alongside people with no impairment who wore masks. Playing on the same pitch together gave them something in common and made their differences less important. This community – the team – grew from their love of football, and then chances to communicate increased. 

Research questions you might want to consider for this your are:

What types of communication barriers exist in your community? How can communities reduce, or eliminate these barriers? 

Identity and communication: Fashion and individuality

My undergraduate major was modern non-western world history. I focused on the Chinese Cultural Revolution and became interested in the government used clothing and hairstyles to try to create an egalitarian society. By making people look the same by putting them in the same uniform, it was thought by some that the people would share the same thoughts and goals no matter their gender, age, or social class. What intrigued me was that despite the strict dress code of Mao’s government, there is evidence – photographs, historical accounts and memoirs, that some women decorated their uniforms with small accessories, for example, by putting a ribbon on their uniform jacket. Considering the risk of being caught by the government for breaking the rules, why would some women risk doing this? What message did these women want to send? Who were they sending the message to?

Research questions you might want to consider for your topic are:

In what ways do social groups communicate with their fashion choices? What messages do they send? Why do they choose their appearance to communicate their message?

Design and communication: Attracting the consumer

I am fascinated by the process of designing even the simplest thing such as the packaging of an onigiri. Another product I have a passion for are wrist watches. Since they became an everyday item at the beginning of the 20th century, except for digital watches, the overall design has not really changed. Yet, if everyone in a room presented their watches, I bet that it would be hard to find two identical models. So, what influences people when they choose a watch? Is it the colour, the shape or the brand? What do people communicate with their choice? And importantly for the watchmaker, how do designers understand what motivates consumers’ decisions?

Research questions you might want to consider for your topic are:

How do companies, be it product manufacturers, software designers or those in the hospitality industry, create designs that best communicate with their customers? What factors that influence communication matter to how these companies interact with their customers – short and long-term?  

Communication research can be related to a multitude of areas. As you start to choose or refine your topic, aim as wide as you can at first – think outside of the box. Communication research does not necessarily mean that you have to do something related to language. Remember to keep in mind your interests; be it a passion of yours or something connected to your career plans, and then think of creative ways that you can explore your area of interest from a communication research perspective.


Dewey, J. (1916). Education and democracy.