First Advisor

Theodore Grove

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Speech Communication


Speech Communication




Oral communication, Small groups



Physical Description

1 online resource (63 p.)


The purpose of this study is to investigate certain types of verbal communications people use in small task-oriented groups. The verbal communications analyzed are certain phrases a speaker may use prior to the central idea of the statement uttered. These verbal communications are referred to as "language tactics".

Language tactics are defined here as specific phrases a speaker may use to excuse, justify, rationalize, or interpret for the listener(s) what the speaker is about to say before saying it. The purpose of this study is to look at language tactics as they are used by members of small task-oriented groups to answer two basic research questions:

  1. Does the amount of previous interaction affect the use of language tactics by members of small task oriented groups?
  2. Does the type of task a small group is performing affect the use of language tactics by group members?

Twenty groups of students with membership ranging from four to six members per group participated in this experiment. Ten groups consisted of Ss who had worked together as classroom project groups prior to participating in the study (Old Groups). The remaining half of the Ss consisted of new students in Speech Communication classes who had never worked together as groups prior to this study (New Groups).

Two different tasks with differing levels of ambiguity were utilized. Ss were directed to achieve consensus on a particular task. One-half of the old groups and one-half of the new groups were assigned a relatively ambiguous task situation (TA). The remaining old and new groups were assigned a relatively unambiguous task situation (TU).

Data was collected by audio-tape recordings of group discussions. Transcripts of the discussions were prepared and content-analyzed by three judges for incidence of the occurrence of language tactics. The unit of analysis used in the content-analysis of the data was the phrase. Criteria was established by the experimenter for the scoring of phrases.

The proposal stated that there are two sets of conditions that influence the probable use of language tactics by members of small task-oriented groups. Two research hypotheses were generated and tested. Both null hypotheses failed to be disconfirmed; thereby the research hypotheses were not supported by the data.

The study concludes with a review and critique of the study itself. Topics reviewed include the purpose of the study, the research questions the study proposed to answer, and the methods employed. Implications for future research are also discussed.


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