Review of Communication Research

ORGANIZATIONAL COMMUNICATION                                                                                                

Title & Authors

A long look back: An analysis of 50 years of organizational communication research (1964-2013)  

Johny T. Garner et al. (Texas Christian University, USA)


• The authors reviewed 1,399 journal articles that addressed organizational communication.

• The most common topics in organizational communication have been supervisor-subordinate communication, diversity, and technology, corporate communication, socialization, and organizational change.

• The most common theory used in organizational communication research over the last 50 years has been media richness theory.

• About half of the empirical studies in organizational communication since 1964 have used quantitative research.

• Quantitative and qualitative research have been used with increasingly equal frequencies in recent organizational research.

• While field work is the most common means of collecting data, the percentage of studies using field work is declining.


As a means of understanding the identity and heritage of organizational communication scholarship, we conducted a content analysis of 1,399 articles published in communication journals since 1964. Our findings demonstrate key turning points in organizational communication scholarship, trends in the development of knowledge, and areas in which this discipline can continue to grow in future endeavors.  While research has problematized power and has emphasized the constitutive nature of communication, more research is needed to explore alternative forms of organizing and to expand diversity scholarship beyond gender and nationality.  While research has grown more theoretically complex, work can still be done developing meso-level theories that highlight the role of communication in various organizing processes.  While qualitative methods have erased the dominance of quantitative methods, greater parity and an appreciation for how methods may inform each other would advance scholarly contributions.  While the number of studies conducted in organizations has grown, the percentage of studies using field work methods has declined, increasing the risk that research may miss important contextual cues.  We discuss the implications of these findings as a road map for new scholars wanting to understand what organizational communication has been and all scholars wanting to know what organizational communication can be.



Research Questions


Unitizing the Data

Coding the Data


Topical Domains

Figure 1. Percentage of Studies from Five Domains


Data Collection and Analysis Methods


Figure 2. Percentage of Data Collection Methods over Time


Topical Domains

Figure 3. Percentage of Sampling Methods over Time


Data Collection and Analysis




Table 1. Comparison of Articles Included in the Sample by Year and by Journal

Table 2. Comparison of the Top Topical Domains Used by Year

Table 3. Comparison of the Top Theories Used by Year

Table 4. Comparison of Data Collection Methods by Year

Table 5. Comparison of Analysis Methods by Year

Table 6. Comparison of Sampling Methods by Year



open access verde 

A long look back: An analysis of 50 years of organizational communication research (1964-2013)

Johny T. Garner et al.


Keywords: Organizational Communication; Communication History.


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How to cite

Garner, J. T., Ragland, J. P., Leite, M., Young, J., Bergquist, G., Summers, S., . . . Ivy, T. (2016). A long look back: An analysis of 50 years of organizational communication research (1964-2013). Review of Communication Research, 4. 29-64. doi: 10.12840/issn.2255-4165.2016.04.01.009


Organizational Communication; Communication History.


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About the Authors

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*Corresponding Author

Johny Garner

Associate Professor

Communication Studies Department

Bob Schieffer College of Communication

Texas Christian University, TX, USA

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