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Daniel O’Keefe, communication studies

Daniel O’KeefeDaniel O’Keefe, Owen L. Coon Professor of Argumentation and Debate, was the recipient of the 2010 Galbut Outstanding Faculty Award. His Ph.D. in speech communication is from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

For O’Keefe, the challenge of piecing together a puzzle from many sources of knowledge has been a continuous source of motivation in both his teaching and research. O’Keefe has a particular interest in persuasion synthesis through meta-analysis, specifically in health-related contexts. When he notices that a number of studies on a particular topic have accumulated, the task of collecting all applicable research, analyzing it, and reporting collectively what they all show is both engaging and appealing.

It is persuasion’s imbuement of everyday life and its lack of a strict formula and recipe that most interests O’Keefe. "[Persuasion] is a ubiquitous function," O’Keefe said. "People pursue it one on one each day...each day there’s new research, which opens up a new idea, provides a new example, or elaborates a point that previously seemed simple."

O’Keefe’s motivation to stay atop of current findings comes only partly from his research interests—much of his inspiration comes as well from his teaching, and the energy he gets each day from his students. Whether in his lecture or seminar discussions, the level of insight he sees from his students through their questions or comments is the most engaging aspect of teaching, and what excites him most about his work as a professor.

"When students get the idea, a world opens to them…[and once] you become immersed in a family of concepts, it naturally informs how you see and how you think," he said. "I have the best job in the world."

Researched and written by Theresa Shih, communication studies, Class of 2011
Daniel O’Keefe is the Owen L. Coon Professor of Argumentation and Debate in the Department of Communication Studies at the School of Communication at Northwestern University.