The State and Evolution of Communication Research

A Topic Modeling Analysis of 20,000 Journal Article Abstracts from 1918-2015



Communication Research, Topic Modeling, Abstracts, Communication Science


Tremendous growth in the communication discipline during the past century has raised fundamental questions about what it means to study human communication. This project reports an attempt at answering such questions by exploring the themes that animate communication scholarship over time and across journals sponsored by different scholarly organizations. We used topic modeling to examine the abstracts of more than 20,000 articles across 22 journals from their beginnings through 2015. The results offer insights about the state and evolution of communication scholarship. Research has evolved from being predominately focused on pedagogy to examining a wide variety of phenomena that mark an increasingly diverse field. The role of scholarly organizations in contributing to disciplinary fragmentation is considered, as well as the field’s relatively limited focus on underlying and contextually-transcendent processes in favor of specific communication contexts.




How to Cite

Rains, S. A., Keating, D. M., Banas, J. A., Richards, A., & Palomares, N. A. (2020). The State and Evolution of Communication Research: A Topic Modeling Analysis of 20,000 Journal Article Abstracts from 1918-2015. Computational Communication Research, 2(2), 203–234. Retrieved from