Dr. David L. Altheide

Regents' Professor

 Justice and Social Inquiry

Arizona State University

Welcome to my cyberspace! This homepage provides information about my research and publications, courses, expertise and current projects. Check it out and feel free to send me an e-mail note for more information.

An Overview...



My work over 3 decades has focused on the areas of

1.     Mass Communication,

2.     Qualitative Research Methods,

3.     Deviant Behavior,

4.     Propaganda and Official Information,

5.     Social Control

Twelve books and approximately 160 papers have been published or presented at professional conferences. For a complete record, please see my Curriculum Vitae. My modest contributions were recognized when I received the George Herbert Mead Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction (2005) and The Mentor Excellence Award (2007) from the same academic society. The most recent books are:

Terror Post 9/11 and the Media. New York: Lang. 2009.

Terrorism and the Politics of Fear. Lanham, MD: AltaMira Press. 2006. A summary of this book. (This book received the 2007 Charles Horton Cooley Award from the Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction.) I am honored to have won this award three times.

Creating Fear: News and the Construction of Crisis. Hawthorne, NY: Aldine de Gruyter (Transaction Books). 2002. (This book received the 2004 Charles Horton Cooley Award from the Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction).   A character in Michael Crichton’s novel, State of Fear, appears to be based on Professor Altheide’s methodology and work.

Qualitative Media Analysis. Newbury Park, CA: Sage. 1996.

An Ecology of Communication: Cultural Formats of Control. Hawthorne, NY: Aldine de Gruyter. 1995.

Media Worlds in the Postjournalism Era. With Robert P. Snow. Hawthorne, NY: Aldine de Gruyter. 1991.


In addition to serving as Interim Director (or Chair), I have taught dozens of different courses over a four-decade career. Currently, courses are oriented to a social science approach to the "study of social justice." These courses include undergraduate offerings at the Introductory level to graduate seminars on the mass media and qualitative research methods. 



 .My major expertise is the mass media. This is central to all social sciences and especially justice studies because the nature and process of defining situations for people influences what they do and what the consequences will be. The mass media and information technology are major influences of this process. The major concepts that are discussed in many of our publications include Media Logic, Media Culture, Communication Formats, and Ecology of Communication. Our work has identified the critical elements of successful media messages, as well as how to prepare people to work with the news media. Related areas are Popular Culture; Media and News Bias; New Journalism; Crime and Media; Violence and Media; Sports and Media; War, Peace and Media; Cyberspace and Control; Cyberspace Research. My recent work has focused on how news reports about "fear" (Fear and Media) have changed over several decades. "Tracking Discourse" is a multi-faceted research approach that joins qualitative methods to on-line information bases such as NEXIS and the Internet.  My students and I are now investigating how the language of certain institutions (e.g., law enforcement and military) has infused popular culture.  Some of this work and the approach that we use is noted below.


. The most important theoretical foundation for qualitative research is Symbolic Interaction SSSI. With colleagues, I have examined all aspects of qualitative research, including interviewing, ethnography, and most recently, Ethnographic Content Analysis, Qualitative Content Analysis; Document and Media Analysis. (Also Social Construction of Reality). Ethnographic Content Analysis was introduced in 1987 (“Ethnographic Content Analysis,” Qualitative Sociology, 1987,10: 65-77), and is now regarded as a specific method of qualitative analysis.  We have been fortunate to formulate this work in papers and seminars with other social science approaches to develop integrated and "triangulated research designs" and use these in basic as well as applied social research.


. With Dr. Dee Ann Spencer, I evaluated the New Schools Pilot Project for the State of Missouri. This five year study focused on site-based management, innovative teaching approaches, e.g., "constructivist" and "cooperative learning," technology and computer infusion, and student assessment. Other work includes numerous evaluations of individual schools and school districts' efforts to systematically assess the effectiveness of various interventions. Two related projects include:


.A comprehensive curriculum has been tested and established in "real schools" to provide teachers with applied "hands on" research awareness and skills so that they can assess their own teaching strategies and make adjustments to provide improved education to their students.


. Several "community partnership" projects focus on "process evaluation" or how changes and interventions occur, and the best way to develop, measure and assess their effectiveness.