Seven Basic Elements of the Communication Process


Seven Basic Elements of the Communication Process

Communication is the exchange of ideas between two entities – sender and receiver. The sender could also be the receiver (Interpersonal communication) though the more common scenario is where the sender is deferent from the receiver (interpersonal communication). However, communication does not just occur. It follows a process which sees that the message is developed, sent, received, understood and responded to. That process is what is referred to as the communication process. The components of that process which facilitate those activities that make communication possible are called the elements of the communication process.

Whenever you send a text message to a friend, speak with people, respond to any call, browse the internet, or even talk to yourself, communication has taken place through a process. Communication process consists of the conceptualizing, initiating, transmitting, receiving, understanding and reacting to a message.

The communication process comprises of the following basic elements: the source or sender, the process of encoding, the message, a medium or channel, the process of decoding, the receiver, and feedback. Here we also add the frame of reference and noise factor which are influences on the efficacy of the process.

The Sender or Source: This is the individual or group of individuals that begins process of communication by conceptualizing, initiating and articulating an idea into a meaningful message that could be sent to the receiver.

The Encoding Process: This refers to the activities which the source engages in so as to articulate, package or step down thoughts, ideas, information or messages for audience consumption and understanding. When a journalist gathers information for a story, he or she engages in the encoding process while writing the story. When you type a text message of social media post, the process of writing the story is the encoding process.  If the source or sender reads or gives the message direct to the receiver, it is a one-step encoding process. If the source passes the message through communication media like radio, television or the internet, it is a two-step encoding process.

The Message: This is the information the sender wants to pass across to the receiver. When a journalist writes a story for the audience, the story itself is the message.

The Channel: This is the “vehicle” that conveys the message to the receiver. It is the medium through which information is passed across to the audience. It could be radio, television, bill board, the internet, among many others.


The person to whom a message is directed is called the receiver. The receiver is the destination of every message. To comprehend the information from the sender, the receiver must first be able to receive the sender’s information and then decode or interpret it.

The Process of Decoding: All activities the receiver engages in with a view to understanding, interpreting or making meaning out of the message, constitute the decoding process. The journalist (source) investigates and writes a story (process of encoding), he publishes the story (message) in a newspaper (channel), the readers read it so as to make meaning out of it (process of decoding). The decoding process, like the encoding process, could be a one-step or two –step activity. If the receiver gets the message direct from the sender, it is a one-step decoding process. If a technological channel such as radio, television, computer technology or G.S.M phone is used to send the message to the receiver, this is a two-step decoding process because the technological device also decodes the message to facilitate reception and understanding through that channel. Both the radio and the individual receiver are decoders.

Feedback: This refers to the reaction of the receiver based on the outcome or effect of a message. The feedback element reverses the communication process. This means that the receiver now becomes the source or sender while the sender becomes the receiver waiting for the new message which is the feedback. Noise factor: Noise is anything that hinders or interferes with the reception, assimilation or understanding of a message by the receiver. Three types of noise exist – semantic, mechanical, and environmental noise (Dominick, 2009, p.7).

Semantic noise exists when the words, phrases or slang used to express the message in spoken or written form, mean something different to the receiver. This could also be the use of a language totally strange to the receiver. This could also be referred to as message content noise. Mechanical noise exists when the gadget, machine or technological medium being used to transmit the message has a problem which hinders message reception.

Mechanical noise could also be referred to as channel noise or medium–related noise. A radio set that transmits unclear message due to poor reception is an example of mechanical or channel noise. A television set with blurred pictures is another example of channel noise.

A third kind of noise is environmental noise. This is the type of noise that exists outside the communication process but interferes with message reception. A person could be watching television in his living room but is being disturbed by children playing in the same living room. This is an example of environmental noise.

Frame of Reference: This simply refers to an atmosphere of understanding between the sender and the receiver. This is the field of experience between the sender and receiver which facilitates message understanding. It is important to note that the existence of a common frame of reference between the source and receiver enhances message understanding and achievement of communication objectives. When a source sends a message in a language strange to the receiver or an educated source is talking with an illiterate receiver who hardly understands what the source is saying, there is no frame of reference.

Closely related to frame of reference is what is called context. This refers to the setting and situation in within which communication takes place. Context could impact on the successful exchange of information. It may have a physical, social, or cultural aspect to it. In a private conversation with a trusted friend, you would share more personal information or details about your weekend or vacation, for example, than in a conversation with a work colleague or in a meeting.

The communication process shows the interplay between components or elements of the process. As the message moves from the source to the receiver and vice versa, the various components manifest changes which are vital to the entire process.

The Author

Chinenye Nwabueze

Nwabueze is a communication researcher with several years of lecturing experience in Nigerian universities.

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