Home Introduction to mass communication ELEMENTS OF THE COMMUNICATION PROCESS


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This unit takes a vivid look at the process of communication as well as the elements involved in the communication process. It equally takes a look at the analysis of the communication process.


At the end of this unit, you should be able to:

  1. identify and explain what it takes for good communication to take place 
  2. Identify and explain elements of the communication process 
  3. determine various factors that influence the elements of the communication process. 


3.1 Process of Communication

Communication as a process is dynamic, recursive, on-going, continuous and cyclical. There is no recognisable beginning and end, neither is there a rigid sequence of interaction. But we may try to identify how the process begins.
StimulationThis is the point at which the source sees the need to communicate. He receives stimulus that triggers him to communicate.
•EncodingThe source processes the message he want to communicate into a form that will be understandable to the receivers. This may be a feeling, opinion, experiment etc.
•TransmissionThe message is passed across to the receiver through a chosen medium or channel.
•ReceptionThe receiver gets the message that is sent from the source
•DecodingThe message is processed, understood and interpreted by the receiver
.•ResponseThis is the reaction of the receiver to the message received, in form of feedback

The process of communication can be well understood by the models that have been designed to explain the process. This is explained later under models of communication.

James, Ode and Soola (1990:4 cited in Sambe 2005:3) state that the communication process involves an action, reaction and interaction. By Action, it refers to the initiative taken by a sender or source to share information, observation or opinion with others. This could be done through writing, speaking, drawing or gesturing.

By Reaction, it means a response to the action taken by the sender. The kind of response determines whether or not the receiver is willing to be a party to the communication encounter, and sets the tone or atmosphere for it. Reaction in a communication process may come by way of reply, rejoinder, answer, acknowledgement, retort or defence.

By Interaction, it means that communication is the spontaneous reciprocity of messages between a sender and a receiver. It is the stage of exchange of messages between two or more persons sharing common experiences, codes or symbols. Interaction as a process of communication creates an overlap of field of experience between a source and a recipient. With this, they are tuned to each other physically,mentally or psychologically, and provide a basis to carry on the encounter (interaction) meaningfully and successfully.


Communication is not a singular deed, but a set of co-ordinated, interlinked deeds. Explain.

3.2 Elements of the Communication Process

We can identify about seven elements that are involved in the communication process. They are:

  1. Stimulus:This is the impulse that triggers off the communication exchange. It takes place at the ideation stage of communication. We can also call it the reason one has for communicating, which may be to inform, educate, entertain etc.
  2. Source:This is the person who begins the communication process. He is the one triggered by the stimulus and from him begins the communication activity. He could be referred to as the initiator, encoder or sender. He is the initiator because he begins the communication process. As the encoder, he packages the message in a way that it can be communicated and as the sender when he passes across the message by himself.
  3. Message:This could be the idea, feelings, information, thought, opinion, knowledge or experience etc. that the source/sender wants to share.
  4. Medium/Channel:Medium and channel are generally used interchangeably. But here, a distinction is made between the two. Medium could be regarded as the form adopted by the sender of the message to get it to the receiver. It could be oral or written form. The channel then is the pathway, route or conduit through which the message travels between the source and the receiver e.g. the channel of radio, television, newspaper, telephone etc. Channel provides a link that enables the source and the receiver to communicate. It may also be seen in terms of the five physical senses- sight, sound, touch, taste and smell-through which messages can be sent, received, understood, interpreted and acted upon.
  5. Receiver:This is the person to whom the message is sent. He is the target audience or the recipient of the message. All the source/sender’s effort to communicate is to inform or affect the attitude of the receiver. That is why communication must be receiver-centred.
  6. Feedback:This is the response or reaction of the receiver to the message sent. Communication is incomplete without feedback. It confirms that the message is well received and understood. Feedback guides the source in communication process and helps him to know when to alter or modify his message if not properly received. A feedback is positive when it shows that the message has been well received and understood and it could be negative when it shows that the intended effect has not been achieved
  7. Noise:Noise is interference that keeps a message from being understood or accurately interpreted. It is a potent barrier to effective communication. 

Noise may be in different forms:

I. Physical Noise: This comes from the environment and keeps the message from being heard or understood. It may be from loud conversations, side-talks at meetings, vehicular sounds, sounds from workmen’s tools etc. 

II. Psychological Noise: This comes from within as a result of poor mental attitude, depression, emotional stress or disability.
III. Physiological Noise: Results form interference from the body in form of body discomforts, feeling of hunger, tiredness etc
IV. Linguistic Noise: This is from the source’s inability to use the language of communication accurately and appropriately. It may be a grammatical noise manifested in form of defects in the use of rules of grammar of a language, and faulty sentence structure. It may be semantic as in the wrong use of words or use of unfamiliar words, misspelling, etc. And it could also be phonological manifested in incorrect pronunciation.


When is a communication message said to be completed? Why is feedback in Mass Communication said to be delayed?

3.3 Analysis of the Communication Process

When we attempt to find the meaning of the basic constituents of a communication situation, it becomes clear that process is the key to how humans communicate. For example, you are in a large assembly hall awaiting the arrival of a featured speaker. You turn to the person next to you and begin to converse. In this situation you have immediately established a dyadic (“two-way”) communication relationship, with the source and receiver interdependent. One defines the other. You may be the immediate source whereas the other person serves as receiver or vice versa. An interpersonal communication situation is set up between the two of you.

Suppose you want to establish communication contact with your neighbour. You feel the need; the message is transmitted by your central nervous system to your speech mechanism. At that point the part of the brain responsible for speech produces a message that expresses your purpose. You say, “Hello, my name is Sam.” Once this message has been transmitted through time and space (the only way, so far, that we can adequately communicate with each other), the receiver’s decoder goes to work. In a sense, this may be viewed as the reverse operation by the speech mechanism in the brain. Thus, if there is no interference at the hearing level and none at the decoding level, the response should be indicative that the expression “Hello, my name is Sam” had a social-contact meaning for the receiver. A typical response might be “And I’m Susan.” The miracle of communication has occurred again. Analytically, we notice in this example that the constituents were all present in the process–the source, the message, the channel, and the receiver. Although the source and receiver alternated and the messages from the two communicators were different, the channel–sound waves through the air–remained the same. Conceivably, one or both of the communicators could have written the message in a note rather than have spoken it.

Communication worked in this instance, but it does not work in all instances. For example, if you do not know what you want to say, your encoding mechanism cannot be instructed to transmit a message. A further difficulty may arise from the way you perceive another individual in relation to yourself. Suppose you thought that you held a higher social or economic status. Your encoder might transmit something like “Good day, I am Dr. Manners.” Suppose you wanted to  lay the groundwork for future contact. Your encoder might transmit “Hi, I’m Sam,” a less intimidating statement than the preceding one.

Another problem inherent in the communication process is the possibility that the encoder, deficient in some way, might substitute the wrong sounds in the process of transmission. Your message could come out, “Hello, my game is Ham.” This could lead to embarrassment. But if the receiver’s decoding system were faulty, she might hear, “Hello, my what a dame!” Or the communication channel might be overloaded with hundreds of other people speaking simultaneously throughout the assembly hall, and Susan would not hear you. One other possibility is that the cultural norms of Susan’s society might not permit her to respond to a stranger. Your communication would be ineffective.

Although we have discussed a fairly uncomplicated situation, the process analysis approach to communication provides a frame of reference for looking at the most complex communication situations, whether interpersonal or mass.


Highlight and briefly discuss the major challenges that are militating against the communication process


The source is oftentimes referred to as the chief communicator because without it nothing is done in the communication process. The source is influenced by its communication skill, knowledge level, socio-cultural context and attitude. Equally, the medium is important. Marshall McLuhan argues that the medium is the message. A message of the same content and quality that passes through CNN and NTA will definitely have different meaning and impact on the audience. However, the choice of medium is determined by availability of the medium to the communicator, cost of using the medium, choice, and audience of the medium, credibility of the medium in terms of respect and integrity and adaptability to message being disseminated.


This unit has explored the nitty gritty of the communication process, vis-a-vis, the process and the elements. The unit equally attempted a thorough analysis of the communication process, with particular emphasis on the factors that influence the communication process.


What is the impact of the medium on messages communicated? Will a message communicated through CNN be much more impactful than that communicated through NTA? Give convincing reasons for your answer.


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