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Introduction to Research Methods and Report Writing: A Practical Guide for Students and Researchers in Social Sciences and the Humanities
By elia shabani mligo.
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Elia Shabani Mligo
Elia Shabani Mligo (PhD, University of Oslo, Norway) is Senior Lecturer in Research, Philosophy, and Religious Studies at Tumaini University Makumira, Mbeya Center in Tanzania. He is the author of many books and articles on contextual theology and research. Some of his books include Jesus and the Stigmatized (2011), Writing Academic Papers (2012), Doing Effective Fieldwork (2013), Elements of African Traditional Religion (2013), Symbolic Interactionism in the Gospel According to John (2014), and He Descended into Hell (2015).
Read more from Elia Shabani Mligo
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Cohabitation among Students in Higher-Learning Institutions in Tanzania: Its Effects to Academic Performance
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Rediscovering Jesus in Our Places: Contextual Theology and Its Relevance to Contemporary Africa
Community Secondary Schools in Tanzania: Challenges and Prospects
The Pastor in a Changing Society: Effects of Social Change on the Role of the Pastor in Africa
Jesus and the Stigmatized: Reading the Gospel of John in a Context of HIV/AIDS–Related Stigmatization in Tanzania
Symbolic Interactionism in the Gospel according to John: A Contextual Study on the Symbolism of Water
He Descended into Hell: A Christological Study of the Apostles’ Creed and Its Implication to Christian Teaching and Preaching in Africa
Kathleen Thomas Allan
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Introduction to research methods and report writing - elia shabani mligo.
INTRODUCTION TO RESEARCH METHODS AND REPORT WRITING
A Practical Guide for Students and Researchers in Social Sciences and the Humanities
Copyright © 2016 Elia Shabani Mligo. All rights reserved. Except for brief quotations in critical publications or reviews, no part of this book may be reproduced in any manner without prior written permission from the publisher. Write: Permissions, Wipf and Stock Publishers, 199 W. 8th Ave., Suite 3, Eugene, OR 97401.
An Imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers
199 W. 8th Ave., Suite 3
Eugene, OR 97401
paperback isbn 13: 978-1-4982-7850-8
hardcover isbn 13: 978-1-4982-7852-2
ebook isbn 13: 978-1-4982-7851-5
Manufactured in the U.S.A.
To my students of the course on Introduction to Research Methods I taught over the years for their thoughtful ideas and patient spirit to learn
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: MEANING AND IMPORTANCE OF RESEARCH
Chapter 2: TOPIC, PROBLEM, AND THESIS
Chapter 3: SELECTING SUITABLE RESEARCH DESIGN
Chapter 4: DEVELOPING SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH PROPOSAL
Chapter 5: INSTRUMENTS FOR DATA COLLECTION
Chapter 6: WRITING RESEARCH REPORT
Chapter 7: RULES OF THE ACADEMIC GAME
Appendix A: Commonly used Abbreviations in Research Report Writing
Appendix B: Latin Expressions in Research Report Writing
Appendix C: List of some key Verbs Used for Stating Research Objectives
Why, in the first place, write an introductory book on research methods and report writing for students and researchers while there are large volumes of books on research in almost every field of study? Why write a book on research methods and report writing for students and researchers while there are plenty of research related materials already available in the internet? Students and researchers can access such materials from the internet and read them for free. They can download and use them at the time and place of their convenience. Why on earth endeavor towards a book on which many materials are resurgent, probably more interesting than the ones presented in this book, and can be accessed by students and researchers just for free?
There can be diverse answers to the questions stated above. While materials in most research books and internet sources may be results of authors’ own creativity and thinking, this book comes directly from the classroom. It originates from students’ own initiatives and thinking. After teaching the course on Introduction to Research Methods to undergraduate and non–degree students for some years, and witnessing the problems facing such students to understand, conduct, and report their research outcomes, I saw the necessity to address these needs. Pergiorgio Corbetta states this concern thus: One of the problems facing a teacher of social research methodology is the shortage of manuals of a general, introductory nature. ¹ As Corbetta saw, I also saw it necessary to provide teachers and students with a more simplified introductory book as a starting point in their teaching and research ventures before they could read the large volumes produced by research theorists. Therefore, this book is necessary to introduce teachers, students, and research beginners towards venturing into research projects in both non–degree and undergraduate courses. Moreover, the book can also be helpful to advanced researchers, those pursuing Masters degrees, Doctoral degrees, and professional researchers to guide them in their research and report writing works.
In order to accomplish this introductory role, the book provides the following helpful features: a definition of every main concept of the chapter before engaging the reader into the more details of it, a simple language to explain complex ideas used in research, and important pedagogical features (e.g., further reading list in every end of the chapter, appropriate examples where necessary, and a comprehensive reference list and appendices of important research aspects at the end of the book) in order to enable students and researchers explore further about issues discussed in subsequent chapters. Frankly speaking, this Introduction to Research Methods and Report Writing is an exciting, enriching, and rigorous book! Sincerely, it will be of help to both novices and experienced researchers in providing them a foundation for their own research ventures.
I appreciate the contribution of many people towards the production of this introductory book—students who attended my Introduction to Research Methods course over the years of my teaching at the University of Iringa–Amani Centre and at Tumaini University Makumira–Mbeya Centre—because they taught me greatly how to value the needs of the lowly. I also appreciate the contributions of my fellow lecturers and researchers at the University of Iringa and Tumaini University Makumira for their comments and suggestions, the librarians at the University of Oslo in Norway where I spent the first two weeks of February 2015 searching for ideas from other authors in order to ground mine, and Dr. Halvor Moxnes, Professor emeritus at the Faculty of Theology of the University of Oslo, for hosting me at his apartment during my search for literatures at the university library. The contributions of the above–mentioned people created to me conducive atmosphere to think and re–think about the importance of research to me as scholar and to students all over the world. I dedicate this book to my delighted students for teaching me research throughout the years I taught the course.
Elia Shabani Mligo (PhD)
Tumani University Makumira, Mbeya Teaching Center
1. Corbetta, Social Research ,
MEANING AND IMPORTANCE OF RESEARCH
In virtually every subject area, our knowledge is incomplete and problems are waiting to be solved. we can address our incomplete knowledge and unsolved problems by asking relevant questions and then seeking answers through systematic research. we have many tools at our disposal to help us do these things—not only physical tools but also mental and social tools., —leedy & ormrod, practical research, 1), introduction.
WE LIVE IN A WORLD WHERE THERE are more questions than answers. We ask questions to almost everything around us. Some of the questions we ask are the following:
a) Why do people die due to Malaria?
b) Why are African people and nations poor?
c) Why do we go to school?
d) How can we improve the living conditions of people in villages?
e) Which is the best way to use in order to be good academicians?
f) What is technology?
g) What problems are brought by the use of telephones in schools?
h) What do people in villages know about computers?
Every question above inquires about a particular situation in the community which needs some sort of improvement. This means that people are not always without a need. People are always in need of better life, in need of knowledge, in need of good relationship, in need of good shelter, in need of advancement in technology, in need of knowledge of what goes on in other places, and in need of communication. Therefore, need is prerequisite and inherent to human life and well being.
In order to satisfy people’s needs, research is required. People’s needs raise in them curiosity, puzzle, wonder, and surprise about the existence of problems around them that ultimately push them towards an urge to know. ¹ In order to know why people die of malaria, why African people and states are poor, why there is a need to go to school, how we can improve the living conditions of people in villages, the best way to use in order to become good academicians, the meaning of technology, the problems caused by students’ use of telephones in schools, and what people in villages know about computers, research must be done. Hence, this chapter introduces the meaning, basic types, assumptions, characteristics, importance of research, and the research process. The aim of this chapter is to provide students and researchers with the basic ideas of research in order for them to understand the discussion in the following chapters.
What is Research?
The most convenient and simple way to understand the concept of research is to deduce it from its etymology. Etymologically, the word research literally comes from two syllabi: the prefix " Re– " which means again , once more, or anew , and the verb " –search " which means examine carefully, or test carefully. We can say briefly that research is " examining an issue again and carefully " through asking relevant questions about it in search for answers. ² We say that research is examining an issue again because the first examination was done when you encountered it for the first time; an encounter that caused you to have curiosity, puzzle, and wonder about it. In that sense, all human beings with a sound mind are researchers because they all wonder, are puzzled or surprised by their existing situations, and ask questions about those situations seeking answers for them.
Research can be formal or informal. There is a difference between informal (lay) research and formal (specialized) research. Formal research follows scientific procedures to discover answers about a problem, while informal research follows no scientific procedures. ³ However, our concern in this book is formal research; and whenever we mention the term ‘research,’ it will refer to formal research.
There are several other advanced definitions of research, especially formal research. Some of these definitions are the following: first, research is the systematic search for knowledge about existing phenomena which are unknown to us. When we do not know about what causes malaria, we do research in order to learn about it. When we do not know why African people and states are poor, we do research in order to discern the reasons for the African poverty. When we do not know why people in villages have bad living conditions, we do research in order to know the reasons for their bad living conditions. Therefore, research is the systematic search for knowledge about things we do not know in order for us to know them.
Second, research is the search for answers about questions of our everyday life. Most of the questions above concern our everyday life. For an academician, there is no simplistic answer to any single question. Every question needs concrete answers that convince a person to whom it is provided. In order to have convincing answers for the question, one has to do research. This is why we say that research is the search for convincing (not satisfactory) answers to questions of our everyday life. Therefore, in doing research for answering the question we do three things: first, we pose the question itself (we determine the problem); second, we collect data in order to answer that question (we conduct research); third, we present the answer we have obtained from the collected data (we write a formal report to disseminate the findings). ⁴ These three things are important for any research done within the social sciences and the humanities; and they summarize what it really means by social research.
Third, Nancy J. Vyhmeister, quoting Isaac Felipe Azofeifa provides another very comprehensive definition of research which you should strive to know. She defines research as follows: Research is a (1) systematic search for (2) adequate information to reach (3) objective knowledge of a (4) specific topic. ⁵ Let us examine further some of the individual aspects of this definition.
Why is research systematic? According to the definition above, it is systematic because it needs efforts from you as researcher in order for it to be accomplished. It is rigorous in its nature. It also needs clear and logical methods or procedures in order to accomplish it. In this case, research is not easy; it is something that needs time and energy in order to accomplish it. ⁶
What is adequate information? According to the definition above, it is the information that emanates from questions or problems existing in the community, not from knowledge emanating from what one just thinks in the mind. This assertion means that one does not need to just seat on a table, think about particular interesting questions, formulate those questions, formulate answers to those questions, and present them. That mere table work, though a good craft, it is not research and the information provided is not adequate in this sense.
What is objective knowledge? According to the definition above, it is the knowledge that you add to the prior existing knowledge, i.e., the knowledge that you add to what you already know. Always research looks for facts; it looks for unknown facts, not just possibilities or mere personal biases. Objective knowledge, therefore, must be that knowledge you contribute to what others have already done, not just repeating what others have just produced in their researches or reproducing your own emotional experiences. You must first know what others have done, and what you will strive to contribute to that existing knowledge without any personal bias. ⁷ In order to know what the existing knowledge is, or what others have done and the gap needed to be filled, you have to do what we call Literature Review. ⁸
What is a specific topic? According to the definition of research above, a specific topic is a theme with a clearly focused problem in it that you need to solve in your research. When we speak of a specific topic we mean that the topic needs to deal with only one problem; it should avoid having many problems. This means that the huge topic with many sub–problems is not specific. As we have just stated, a specific topic must have only one huge problem to solve.
Fourth, other scholars of research define research as a systematic intervention to search for knowledge in order to build a new theory or test an existing one. ⁹ Let us also examine closer some of the aspects of this way of understanding research.
What is a theory?
Following the above definition of research, a theory is an explanation about an existing phenomenon, idea, or situation. It is a well–substantiated explanation about a phenomenon, idea or situation that researchers believe to be true. This means that a theory comprises tested hypotheses which are accepted as the bases of the explanation of that particular phenomenon, idea, or situation. It contains an idea that condenses and organizes knowledge about the social world. ¹⁰ In turn the hypotheses are built up of interrelated concepts. Therefore, concepts are building blocks of a particular theory.
What is Theory building?
According to the above definition of research, theory building is the construction of explanations about an existing phenomenon, idea, or situation using the collected data. This is also called theory after meaning that data are collected first and a theory systematically developed after that by the use of the collected data. Most qualitative researches are designed for building up of theories from data. Why is a theory built? This is an important question. A theory is build if there is no satisfying or convincing explanation about a particular topic. This means that if there is a satisfactory or convincing theory about a phenomenon, situation or issues existing, there is no need for developing a new theory. ¹¹
What is Theory Testing?
According to the above definition of research, theory testing is the measurement of the validity of a particular theory using the collected data. This phenomenon is also called theory first. The collected data are used here to test the variables that constitute the hypotheses of the existing theory as to whether they are still valid or other explanations should be provided. And variables are operationalized concepts; or stated more precisely, the variable is the operationalized property of a particular object. This means that a theory can be tested in order to see whether
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Introduction to research methods and report writing : a practical guide for students and researchers in social sciences and the humanities
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- Meaning and importance of research
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Introduction to Research Methods and Proposal Writing- 1
Preface In social research it is not only important to understand the problem being researched into, but also to understand the research processes, techniques and limitations of the research design. Students and beginner researchers who fail to comply may encounter many problems; including incorrect research problem definition, poorly specified target population (N) and sample size (n), or use of inappropriate statistical techniques. Any of these problems increases the likelihood of reaching incorrect conclusions. While it is impractical for academicians (students and beginner researchers) to be versed in all the intricacies of each methodological variation, statistical package and associated techniques, it is equally important to understand the logic behind all of these coordinated processes. ‘Introduction to Research Methods and Proposal Writing-Volume 1’ is compiled to ginger students’ and beginner researchers’ interest in understanding basic principles and techniques in research methods and designing a research proposal outline which will, eventually, lead to writing good long essays, thesis, dissertations and research reports. However, it should be noted that his book is not an end in itself but a means to improve on ones’ research methods and proposal writing skills. It should be used together with other referenced materials or literature as may be directed by your supervisor or instructor.
Elvis Kobina Donkoh
Population dynamics of Brachydeuterus auritus harvested from Ghana's coastal waters was assessed following previous indications that this important species is collapsing. In view of this, a total of 849 samples of B. auritus were collected from February 2016 to January 2017, measured for total lengths and examined using FiSAT II. The mean length was 13.7 cm with a growth pattern of 2.8. The asymptotic length (L∞) and growth rate (K) were 21.53 cm and 0.67 yr-1 respectively portraying that this species is a fast-growing species. The lengths at first maturity and capture were calculated as 14.4 cm and 6.02 cm respectively which indicated the presence of growth overfishing. The critical length at capture (Lc=0.28) was lower than 0.5, supporting the earlier assertion that the investigated fish species is plagued with growth overfishing. Natural mortality rate (M=1.44/yr) was higher than fishing mortality rate (F=1.22/yr) an indication that small sized fished fishes were largely harvested. The recruitment layout was unremitting throughout the year with two major peaks showing the presence of strong recruitment into the stock-a strategy to avert extinction of its species. However, the exploitation rate (E=0.46) was slightly lower than the E max (0.52) showing that the biomass of the investigated stock could surpass the maximum sustainable yield (E max) if necessary fishery management options are not put in place. Furthermore, using the Quadrant rule, the investigated stock was categorized as developing, hence any unsustainable increase in fishing efforts could facilitate growth overfishing leading to its collapse. Therefore, to ensure sustainable exploitation and contribution to protein requirement for coastal community households, relevant fisheries measures are advocated.
Moses J . Y . Gemeh
The study discusses the use of specific Indefinite Noun Phrase as a specificity marker in editorial discourse selected from the Daily Graphic and The Mirror published in 2016. The focus of the study is to consider the occurrence of definite and indefinite noun phrases in the selected editorials, the types of specificity that occur in the editorials and the communicative functions they play in editorial discourse. von Heusinger’s (2010) notions of specificity is employed as a theoretical framework. The study identifies that there are sixty-seven (67) instances of the occurrence of indefinite noun phrases in the selected editorials. Out of this number, thirty-two (32) are found to be specific indefinite noun phrases constituting the data for the analysis. These specific indefinite noun phrases are analyzed by identifying their referents in the discourse using referential anchoring. They are coded and categorized based on the type of specificity they indicate and entered into SPSS (16).The study discovers that definite noun phrases are dominant (83.9%) in all the selected editorials unlike the indefinite noun phrases (16.1). Again, the study detects that referential specificity dominates the selected editorials with a total occurrence of 93.8% whereas epistemic specificity is used minimally in the editorials with a total occurrence of 6.2%. The dominant use of referential specificity implies that the specific indefinite noun phrases establish entailment relationships with referents that already exist in the discourse. The minimal use of the epistemic specificity also implies that editorialists make mention of a referent and go ahead to talk about it. The use of referential and epistemic specificity ensures the introduction of referents into the discourse and the attainment of text cohesion. The study concludes that whenever a speaker or writer uses a specific indefinite noun phrase, the person has a specific referent in mind.
Elsa de Morais Sarmento
Migrant literature has continued to gain increasing prominence in literary production due to what has been described as postcolonial impulse in the contemporary Third World literature. This is, in part, reflective of the experiences of the Third World countries in the face of increasing globalisation; and also, in part, reflective of the increasing residency of literary artists and critics of the third world countries in the West. Meanwhile, Afropolitanism falls into the general category of migrant literature. However, what sets it apart from other migrant literary discourse is its radical shift in thematic focus with regards to home, identity and in the construal of nationality. Afropolitanism has its provenance in the now seminal essay of multinational writer, Taiye Selasi (2005) titled, ByeBye Barbar or What is an Afropolitan? of whose major thematic thrust is the refusal to pander to the thematic expectations of a typical African in the diaspora. This study therefore engages with the ideas that underpin the thematic preoccupations of the Afropolitans. It adopts the qualitative approach for its methodology as two texts of veritable Afropolitan tilts, Taiye Selasi’s Ghana Must Go and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah have been selected as primary analytical texts in order to explore the Afropolitanist constructs. The study also makes use of postcolonial theory as its theoretical framework. This study, thereafter, is able to foreground, through the exploration of such diasporic markers as race, identity, home, exilic feelings and cultural intermingling, that Afropolitan writings not only seek to problematize the conventional standards of engagement within the migrant literature but also to push forward into the front burner unheralded but legitimate ideas surrounding migrant experiences.
Christian Kingombe , Elsa de Morais Sarmento
Background knowledge of teachers in using techniques and strategies assessing Social Studies concepts in Ghana has become necessary to build Ghanaian society better and faster growth in development. Non-probability sampling method (purpose and convenience sampling technique) was used to select the district, Senior High Schools and respondents for the study. Population for this study consist of all ten (10) Social Studies teachers in three public Senior High Schools in Sefwi Wiawso District in the Western Region of Ghana. Data collection was done through the administration of interview and analyses were done by the use of descriptive and interpretive techniques based on the themes arrived at in the data collection. The study revealed that the trained Social Studies teachers used techniques and strategies for effective assessment in the subject's concepts while as majority of the untrained Social Studies teachers were not familiar with the some of the Social Studies techniques and strategies. It is recommended that frequent seminars and periodic or regular in-service training should be organised by the Ghana Education Service to help Social Studies teachers to acquaint themselves with the modern teaching techniques and strategies that promote the teaching and learning of Social Studies concepts.
Emotion detection (ED) is a branch of sentiment analysis that deals with the extraction and analysis of emotions. The evolution of Web 2.0 has put text mining and analysis at the frontiers of organizational success. It helps service providers provide tailor-made services to their customers. Numerous studies are being carried out in the area of text mining and analysis due to the ease in sourcing for data and the vast benefits its deliverable offers. This article surveys the concept of ED from texts and highlights the main approaches adopted by researchers in the design of text-based ED systems. The article further discusses some recent state-of-the-art proposals in the field. The proposals are discussed in relation to their major contributions, approaches employed, datasets used, results obtained, strengths, and their weaknesses. Also, emotion-labelled data sources are presented to provide neophytes with eligible text datasets for ED. Finally, the article presents some open issues and future research direction for text-based ED.
KENNEDY N Y E S E H OFORI
Educational objectives can be achieved successfully through gradual assessment of students and the feedback used to instruct the students more effectively. This research was set forth to investigate how observational techniques can be used as assessment instruments to improve pupils' performance in learning at Nkawkaw in the Kwahu West Municipality of Ghana. It further assessed the extent of Junior High School teachers' knowledge of observational techniques and identifies some of the benefits and uses of the data gathered through the application of these techniques. The basic research designs used were descriptive statistics and participant observation among 250 respondents, who were selected through simple random sampling. The findings from the study showed that, teachers in the study area preferred employing unstructured observational technique, followed by structured observational technique to collect data on students with limited emphasis on the clinical and global impression techniques. Again, only a few preferred the application of other instruments and approaches such as the use of anecdotal records, norm-referenced tests, rating scales and checklists to gather data. Based on the findings, the work concluded that unstructured observational technique was very useful to apply and does not involve the use of sophisticated equipment to record data. The study therefore recommends the use of these observational techniques and instruments to learn more about the strengths and weaknesses of the students. It was also recommended that, government should support training and appointing of personnels to undertake observational studies on regular basis to ensure effective teaching and learning.
The Akans in West Africa have their own approach towards the structures of the narrative, and they make a very meaningful contribution towards the beauty of the universal concept of narratology. Using a qualitative approach, ethnographic instruments, to be precise, and using literary stylistics as a means of analysing the text, the author found out that the Akans use anansesεm, a story telling technique, as means of indirection in social communication; also that apart from the fact that it brings the past and the present together in performance, thus creating a homology between the living and the dead and serving as a means of production for local knowledge, anansesεm is a powerful tool for serving as Akan collective consciousness and for constructing the Akan identity. The author recommends that based upon the powerful influence of anansesεm on the behaviour of the Akans, it should be considered a serious component of pedagogy in Ghanaian schools.
Ali Raza , Muhammad Ahmad
Dr. Anthony Bordoh (PhD., M.Phil., B.Ed., Tr. Cert 'A')
Journal for the Study of the Religions of Africa and its Diaspora
Ullrich R . Kleinhempel
Edited by Silvia Forni and Doran H. Ross, Published by the Royal Ontario Museum
Journal of Public Affairs Education
Hamza Kasim , Stephen Kwadwo Antwi
Francis Nimo Nunoo
Dr. Anthony Bordoh (PhD., M.Phil., B.Ed., Tr. Cert 'A') , Samuel Bekoe
Linda Van de Kamp
Ransford E V Gyampo
INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF RESEARCH IN COMMERCE, IT & MANAGEMENT
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Chapter 1: introduction.
Whether you are studying communication, sociology, literature, history, psychology, music, biology, or any other major, that academic field relies on standardized practices to produce scholarly knowledge. Scholarship can be in the form of highly controlled laboratory research, observation of human activities in daily life, surveys, interviews, critical analyses of public documents or visual images, and creative work like music, videography, performance, or playwriting. Each field of scholarship is based on thousands, if not millions, of research studies or creative projects conducted by students and faculty. Sociologists know what they know about societies because of research. Biologists know what they know about the biological function of organisms because of research. Artists know what they know about drawing human forms because of previous artists' work. Communication Studies scholars know what they know about how people construct meaning through interactions because of research and creative projects. The overall purpose of this book is to help you understand how knowledge is constructed in Communication Studies. We hope to provide an appreciation of, and critical lens for examining, research and enable you to begin constructing your own contributions to the body of scholarly knowledge.
In this chapter, we first describe how developing a command of research methods can assist you in your careers and personal lives. Second, we provide a brief definition of our topic of study in this book – communication research. Third we identify the predominant research and creative methods used in the field of Communication Studies. Fourth, we explain the academic roots of the diverse methods used in communication studies: the humanities and social sciences. Fifth, we explain the implicit and explicit relationships between theory and research methods. Sixth, we describe how the choice of research methods influences the results of a study. Sixth, we provide a preview of the remainder of the book, and finally, seventh, we describe our approach to writing this book.
How Will Research Methods Help in My Life?
If you want to learn practical skills relevant to your professional, personal and community life, learn research methods. Given that daily life is full of decision-making opportunities and challenges, knowing how to effectively do research is essential. Ideally, any decision you make is based on research, and rigorous methods enable you to conduct better research and make better decisions. People who know how to ethically use research methods quickly become leaders in their workplaces and communities. Research also can inform creative expression. If you understand why things work the way they do, you can make more thoughtful, creative choices.
Consider how you make choices in everyday life such as the following:
- Which route to take to get to class on time
- What to eat for lunch
- How to make a major purchasing decision
Or, how you address more complex questions such as whether dishonesty is ever warranted, or if there is a God?
Brainstorm all the ways in which you think you know something for one or more of the examples listed above.
If you are like previous students in this course, you may have responded: "read," "observe," "intuit," "faith," "advice," "physical senses," "test it out," "compare," "Google it" and more.
What does this activity reveal about how you come to know something?
We hope the activity above reveals you already are a researcher, and use some informal research methods every day of your life. You likely use more than one way to know something. Multiple methods construct knowledge. And being educated includes questioning the results of each method. For example, if you use Google or Wikipedia to find information, how do you know the source is reliable? What clues should you look for?
Research methods will help you be a better ....
- Critical Consumer — You will find you look at the world of information through a more refined lens. You may ask questions about information you never thought to ask before, such as: "What evidence is this conclusion based on?" "Why did the researcher interview rather than survey a larger number of people?" and "Would the results have been different if the participants were more ethnically and racially diverse?
- Competent Contributor — When an organization you belong to wants to attain a group's input on a program, product or service, you will know how to construct, administer and statistically analyze survey results. Or if the project warrants small focus group discussions for information gathering, you will know how to facilitate them as well as how to identify themes from the discussions.
- Problem-Solver — Research methods skills are nearly synonymous with problem- solving skills. You will learn how to synthesize information, assess a current state of knowledge, think creatively, and make a plan of action for original research gathering and application.
- Strategic Planner – Knowing research methods can teach you how to gather the necessary information to forecast and plan tactically rather than only react to situations, whether it is in your work place or personal life.
- Decision-Maker — As you cross through life transitions and major decisions stare you in the face, such as how to keep a job, give the best care for aging parents, or select the least invasive medical treatment, you will have coping skills to help you break down the decision into manageable parts and approach the decision making process from more than one perspective.
- Informed Citizen — As a person educated in how knowledge is constructed, you will have the skills needed to be vigilant for your community and to identify and address potential problems, be they environmental, political, social, educational, and/or about quality of community life.
For more specific ideas about how a command of research methods can broaden your life options, see the examples of practical research at Communication Currents: Knowledge for Communicating Well . It is a reader-friendly magazine where communication scholars discuss research about current social problems ( The National Communication Association - Communication Currents ). Also check out the National Communication Association website http://www.natcom.org/ for careers in communication.
The Topic of Study: Communication Research
You may have noticed we, the authors, use the singular form of the term communication to refer to the academic field of study on a wide variety of message types, rather than the plural form: communications. The distinction is a quick way to tell who understands communication is one specific field of study and who does not, so you will want to use the proper, singular form when referring to the field of study. Communications – plural is used only when referring to multiple media sources, as in "the communications news media" (Korn, Morreale, & Boileau, 2000).
The forms communication can take are nearly endless. They include, but are not limited to: language, nonverbal communication, one-on-one interpersonal communication, organizational communication, film, oral interpretations of prose or poetry, theatre, public speeches, public events, political campaigns, public relations campaigns, news media, Internet, social media, photography, television, social movements, performance in everyday life, journalistic writing, and more. Yet, the theme that runs through almost all Communication Studies research is that communication is more than a means to transmit information. Although it is used to transmit information and get things done, more importantly, communication is the means through which people make meaning and come to understand each other and the world.
Because of this, communication scholars tend to operate with the assumption that reality is a social construction, constructed through human beings' use of communication, both verbal and visual (Gergen, 1994). Thus, when communication scholars conduct research, they ask questions not only about how to make communication more precise and/or effective, but they also ask questions about how communication is being used in a particular context to shape individuals' and groups' world views.
Research, as a form of communication, contributes to the social construction of knowledge. Knowledge does not come out of a vacuum that is free of cultural values. Instead, research results, or what society calls knowledge, is influenced by the values, beliefs, methods choices, and interpretations of those in a given culture doing the research. Knowledge and one's reality are constructed through an interactive, interpretive process. Although scholars from a more traditional natural science view might argue there are absolute truths and set realities, in the study of human interaction, there are few universal truths about communication and what is seen as knowledge changes across cultures and over time. Unique cultural contexts, social roles, and inequities create a wide spectrum of behaviors ( Kim , http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/weber/ ). That is what makes miscommunication common and why research in our field is so much in demand. It is highly practical and relevant work.
Research refers to the systematic study of a topic and can include social science and creative work. Research, quite simply, refers to people's intellectual work of gathering, organizing, and analyzing data, which enables them to create meaning they can then present to others. Research is conducted to answer questions or solve problems in a systematic way. Being systematic means that the steps of the study are guided by principles and theory, rather than just chaotic wandering; the data used is representative and not just anecdotal or random. Being systematic in a way that can be replicated is usually emphasized more in natural and social science research, such as organizational and interpersonal communication research, than the humanities and fine arts, such as rhetorical studies and performance studies, but, rhetoric scholars and artists also rely on methods and theoretical training to guide their work.
Communication Studies research has several unique characteristics:
- Communication research is the study of how people make meaning. If one thinks of communication as the process of making meaning, then the study of communication is the study of this meaning making process.
- Communication research is the study of patterns (Keyton, 2011). Communication and meaning are made possible through the creation of patterns. For example, languages are rule-based and construct recognizable patterns (such as sentences). Conversations have social norms of politeness to enable participants to build on each party's turns at talk; social media have unique patterns of interaction (such as the abbreviations used in text messaging on cell phones or the emoticons used in e-mail and social networks); and persuasive messages are built on patterns of communication strategies (such as advertisements showing sequences of visual appeals for destitute children to solicit donations).
- Communication research is practical knowledge construction. The field of communication is highly applied. Scholars and practitioners try to do work that matters. Work that improves the quality of people's lives, that solves problems, and that is needed. Research in the field is pragmatic. Film makers tell a story that they believe needs to be told, performance studies students create interactive scenarios to draw the audience into needed cultural discussion, and public relations practitioners conduct market analyses as a basis for planning a client's communication strategies.
- A ll research builds an argument. Whether it is a creative, rhetorical, qualitative or quantitative project, the author necessarily has a point to make. The introductory rationale for a project, the choices the researcher makes in methods selection, the interpretations offered, and the significance she or he claims for the results are all a part of building an argument. If all knowledge is socially constructed, then all research or scholarship is a persuasive process.
Whether one is doing Creative, qualitative, rhetorical or quantitative work, the methods share the above characteristics, as they are inherent in the very communication process being studied.
The term method refers to the processes that govern scholarly and creative work. Methods provide a framework for collecting, organizing, analyzing and presenting data. Scholars use a range of methods in Communication Studies: quantitative, qualitative, critical/rhetorical, and creative. This text focuses on the first three, but the authors note connections to creative work when relevant.
Quantitative Studies reduce data into measurable numerical units (quantities). An example would be a survey administered to determine the number of times first-year college students use social networking sites and for what purposes. Such a survey could provide general statistics on frequency and purpose of use. But, such a study also could be set up to determine if first and fourth year college students use social networks differently, or if students with smart phones spend more time on Facebook than students who rely on computers to check Facebook.
Qualitative Studies use more natural observations and interviews as data. An example would be a study about a workplace organization's leadership and communication patterns. A researcher could interview all the members of the business, and then also observe the members in action in their place of work. The researcher would then analyze the data to see if themes emerge, and if the interview and observational data results are similar. The researcher might then propose changes to the organization to enhance communication and performance for the organization.
Critical/Rhetorical Studies focus on texts as sources for data. The term texts is used loosely here to refer to any communication artifact --films, speeches, historical monuments, news stories, letters, tattoos, photos, etc. Here, the data collected is the text, and it is used by the researcher to support an argument about how the text participates in the construction of people's understanding of the world. An example would be an analysis of a presidential inaugural address to understand how the speech writers and speaker are attempting to reunite the nation after a hotly contested election and invest the new president with the powers of the office.
Creative Scholarship in the field of Communication Studies refers most often to work done in performance studies, film making, and computer digital imagery, such as Dreamweaver and Photoshop (e.g. Camp Multimedia Begins Two-Week Run ). Performance Studies is a wide umbrella term used to refer to several methods and products of scholarship. It is distinct from theater in that it is the study of performances in everyday life. It involves students in script writing, acting, and directing productions based upon oral history and ethnographic qualitative research, as well as personal experience and creative performance techniques used to tell a story more evocatively. Film Making can also include interviews, oral histories, and ethnographies, as well as learning aesthetic methods to effectively present verbal and visual images. Our colleague Karen Mitchell has used qualitative methods of interviewing and ethnography to script performances on topics from the lives of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. to romance novel readers (1996).
Communication Studies Bridges the Humanities and Social Sciences
How is it that Communication Studies as an academic field came to embrace so many different methods, given most other disciplines tend to use only one, or maybe two? The answer lies in the history of the field.
Communication Studies is different from other academic fields because it is rooted in one of the oldest areas of scholarship (rhetoric is one of the original four liberal arts) and in several of the newest areas of scholarship (such as electronic media and intercultural communication). The study of rhetoric dates back to 350 B.C.E, the time of Aristotle and the formation of democratic governance in Greece. The study of intercultural communication dates back to the 1940s and emerged out of the commerce and political needs in the U.S. after World War II (Leeds-Hurwitz, 1990). The study of the Internet took shape in the 1990s as it became a popular medium for communication (Campbell, Martin & Fabos, 2010). Because the discipline of Communication Studies includes research on all forms of communication, the method of study needs to fit as the form of communication. However, just because new forms emerge (like social media), old forms (like public speaking) do not disappear. Thus, as students, future practitioners and scholars, we need to employ a wide range of scholarly approaches. (for more about the history of the field see: Communication Scholarship and the Humanities ) .
The diverse origins of Communication Studies mean its scholars use a range of methods from the humanities (e.g., rhetorical criticism and performance) and the social sciences (e.g., quantitative and qualitative research). Both focus on the study of society, but the humanities embrace a more holistic approach to knowledge and creativity. The humanities are those fields of study that focus on analytic and interpretive studies of human stories, ideas and words (rather than numbers), and include philosophy, English, religion, modern and classical languages, and Communication Studies. When Communication Studies scholars analyze how communicative acts (like speeches or photographs or letters) create social meaning, they do so from a perspective that emphasizes interpretation.
The social sciences use research methods borrowed from previously established and recognized fields of natural science study, such as biology and chemistry. Scientific methods of knowledge construction are accomplished through controlled observation and measurement or laboratory experiments, and generally use statistics to form conclusions (Kim, 2007). The social sciences apply scientific methods to study human behavior, for example scholars use surveys to find out about people's communication patterns or create laboratory experiments to observe interruption patterns in conversation. In addition to Communication Studies, examples of other social science fields include economics, geography, psychology, sociology, and political science.
Studying human communication from the perspective of the social sciences differs in important ways from studying human communication from the perspective of the humanities. Social scientists typically are interested in studying shared everyday life experiences, such as turn-taking norms in conversation, how people build relationships through self-disclosure, and what behaviors contribute to a successful group, family or organizational culture. Social science researchers attempt to find generalizations about human behaviors based on extensive research that may be used to make predictions about that behavior. Take, for instance, research on communication in heterosexual married couples. Based on over twenty years of research, psychologist John Gottman found in 1994 he could predict with 94% accuracy which marriages will fail based on patterns of only five negative conflict behaviors among couples who ended in divorce(for updates on his work visit his website ( Research FAQs ). (Of course exceptions exist to generalizations, but for a social scientist, the exception to the rule may be ignored as an insignificant outliers, a random error.
Instead of seeking out generalizations about communication, scholars in the humanities tend to focus on the outliers, or what are considered distinctive human creations, such as Abraham Lincoln's "Gettysburg Address," Elizabeth Cady Stanton's "Solitude of Self," Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet , Lorraine Hansberry's Raisin in the Sun , Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, or Ani diFranco's "Dilate." Humanities scholars tend to focus on understanding how something happened or how someone attempted to evoke meanings and aesthetic reactions in the receivers of a message, rather than describing what occurred and predicting what will occur.
As an example of how diverse methods have been used to research a topic, consider how researchers who want to try to reduce intimate partner violence have approached the problem drawing on methods from across fields of study.
Quantitative researchers administered the National Survey on Violence Against Women and found 1.5 million women are physically or sexually assaulted by their domestic partners annually in the U.S. (Tjaden & Thoennes, 2000). The survey identified the difficult reality about the enormous extent of the problem. Qualitative researcher, Loren Olson (2010), wrote an autoethnography of her personal experience as a battered woman. By doing so she put a face on the problem and demonstrated a way in which she was able to reconstruct her identity after the abuse.
Performance studies scholar M. Heather Carver and ethnographic folklorist Elaine Lawless (2009) conducted a qualitative study with women who are surviving intimate violence and generated a creative performance script from their observations. The theatrical performance developed with creative methods literally help to give voice to the experiences of the women in the qualitative study, raises awareness about the problem, and may motivate audience members to address the problem in their personal or community lives.
Researchers also have critically analyzed the way domestic violence is communicated in various media. For example, Cathy Ferrand Bullock (2008) studied media framing in domestic violence news stories in Utah newspapers and rhetoric scholar Nathan Stormer (2003) studied the play, A Jury of Her Peers , to explore how collective memory is formed about acts of domestic violence. These samples of research into the complex social problem of domestic violence demonstrate how both humanities and social science approaches to scholarship are needed and valued. Because the social sciences and humanities provide different contributions to the construction of knowledge, together they create a fuller picture of a social problem or issue of study.
Given its multi-methodological research, Communication Studies is uniquely positioned to contribute to both of the two most prominent approaches to knowledge construction: humanistic and social scientific approaches. This is why, as the authors of this book, we believe Communication Studies provides a well-rounded education to prepare students to respond to the challenges and opportunities of the culturally, technologically, and economically complex 21st century.
The Interdependence of Theory and Research Methods
Whether you approach a topic of study from a humanistic or social science perspective, you will necessarily work with two-components: theory (explanations that guide or evolve from a study) and methods (application of tools to analyze texts or data). Even though the two serve distinct research functions, there is great interdependence between theory and method. Theory informs methods, and methods enable theory construction and revision.
At its essence, a theory is simply a person's attempt to explain or understand something. Individuals use theories to help make sense of their world and everyday lives. An academic theory is different from everyday theories only in the degree of rigor and research used to develop it and the depth of explanation it provides. Academic theories are more formal, with detailed explanations of the parts that make up the theory, and are usually tested (West & Turner, 2010). But as with theories for everyday life, they are subject to change and refinement. DeFrancisco and Palczewski (2007) emphasize, "A theory is not an absolute truth, but an argument to see, order, and explain the world in a particular way" (p. 27). For any topic of study, multiple theories could explain it, and research can be used to determine which theory offers the best explanation. Communication theories tend to focus on helping explain how and why people interact as they do in interpersonal relationships, small groups, organizations, cultures, nations, publics, and mediated contexts. Theories can help people understand their own and others' communication.
When you make decisions in daily life, you probably use an informal theory. You might collect some data (or try and recall what information you have), you might discard data that comes from non-credible sources, and then you might assess your options. You will likely make your assessment based on hunches or underlying assumptions you have about what makes sense. Those hunches or assumptions are a lay person's theory. They help you make sense of things and inform your decisions.
Activity Consider the following questions to determine if you use theories in your daily life:
- What is your advice for how to live on a college student's budget?
- Do you think advertising influences your purchasing decisions? If so, how?
- What is your approach to making a good first impression on a person to whom you are attracted?
- How do you know someone is attracted to you?
- Why do you think people tend to avoid relationships with others they perceive as different from them?
If you have ideas on the above topics, you are a theorist.
Now ask yourself: what do your answers to the specific questions consist of?
- Are they attempts to explain a phenomenon?
- How did you form the explanations?
- Are they based on prior experience, advice from others, and/or informal research?
Likely your answers are a little of each.
A further question to ask yourself is:
- Are other explanations possible besides the ones you developed?
Students have developed more than one way to survive on a college student's budget. For one thing, not all college students are living on a tight budget, many will survive through student loans and jobs, others may get allowances from their parents, have spouses or partners who are supporting them, etc. Some will delay gratification of purchases such as cars, I-Pads, smartphones, spring break trips, and more. Others may argue, "You only live once," and use credit cards to charge for their pleasures or life necessities. The point is people develop multiple theories for any topic of interest, and many are useful.
People develop theories through testing, academic debates, and scholarly/creative work. Natural science and social science researchers, in particular, believe that the best research is directed or driven by academic theory. This means the research methods chosen are not random but are firmly based in a credible theoretical approach that has been tested over time.
Theories often guide research. When studying presidential campaigns for example, scholars often use Thomas Burke's theories on how speakers create identification to explore the ways in which candidates create connections with their audience (Burke, 2002).
Sometimes the research will extend or challenge the legitimacy of the theory. For example, intercultural communication scholar, William Gudykunst extended Berger and Calabrese's (1975) assumed universal Uncertainty Reduction Theory (URT) regarding what people do to reduce uncertainty anxiety when communicating with strangers. During 30 years of research, Gudykunst tested URT in cross cultural interactions and developed a new intercultural theory, Anxiety/Uncertainty Management (AUM) with 47 axioms or specific distinctions that help explain the universal and cultural variances he found (2005). Contrary to the original URT, Gudykunst now proclaims cultures vary in terms of comfort with uncertainty and the methods they use to manage it. These cultural differences contribute to unique cultural identities and help explain communication problems with other groups.
In the field of gender studies in communication there are countless examples of research that has disproven the commonly held theoretical assumption that universal gender differences exist between all women and men (e.g. Tannen, 1990; or in the popular press: Men are from Mars and Women are from Venice (Gray, 1992). In fact, communication scholars Kathryn Dindia and Dan Canary (2006) published a series of quantitative meta-analyses (a statistical way to control for differences across studies to directly compare the results) on just about every presumed communication difference previous researchers have studied. What did they find? While some differences were present, the variances among women's behaviors and among men's behaviors were greater than those between the sexes, and furthermore, women and men communicate in many more ways that are similar rather than different. Finally, they found that the assumption of two distinct sets of behavior is far too simplistic. It ignores the fact that people have the ability to adjust their behaviors according to situational needs and that gender identity does not affect one's behavior alone. It is also influenced by one's race, ethnic, age, nationality, sexual orientation and more.
A useful way to think of the relationship between theory and scholarly/creative work is that it is synergistic – each influences the other, almost simultaneously. As the illustration below shows, the theories selected direct the types of research questions posed to guide a study, the questions dictate the appropriate research methods needed, which then affect the results produced, which in turn contributes to theory building, thus the cycle repeats.
The General Research Process: Circular and Interdependent
The diagram is circular rather than hierarchal because the starting point for different types of research will vary. For example, qualitative work begins with research questions with an end goal of producing theory, whereas quantitative work often begins with theory with an end goal of producing results. Rhetorical research and creative scholarship do not typically use research questions but the research process is still synergistic, and decisions made at each part of the cycle influences the others. The parts are interdependent. The circular model also reminds one that the process of theory construction, conducting research, and producing knowledge are never ending.
Knowledge generally refers to a command of facts, theory and practical information. There is not one agreed upon approach for constructing knowledge as is illustrated in the above discussion of diverse research methods. Indeed, there is an entire field of philosophy, epistemology , which focuses on debates about how knowledge is attained. Epistemologists ask "how does one know something?" Is knowledge found or created? These are questions we encourage you to ask as you learn about the various research methods. The methods researchers use to construct knowledge are generally called methodology . The term simply means an approach being used to form knowledge is assumed to have both a theory and a method. Here again the interdependence between theory and method are evident.
Finally, throughout the research process the ability to think critically is essential. To be critical means to examine material in more depth, to peel back layers of meaning, to look beyond chunks of information to the context in which the information is presented, to look for multiple interpretations, to attempt to identify why a piece of information or perspective is important and/or not important. It requires doing a close reading or investigation of the topic of study in a more nuanced, systematic way. It does not mean to always be negative, but rather to question even common assumptions.
Research Methods Influence Results
The research methods one chooses for a study are critical. The methods will largely determine the results or what is called knowledge. The influence of methods choices is more visible when comparing social science and humanities approaches to the construction of knowledge, as will be discussed in chapter 2. The two are designed to answer different types of research questions. Together, they will offer you a wealth of methods choices.
For example, consider the relatively simple task of measuring the floor area of a room. We assigned small groups of students to measure the square footage in a room. Each group was provided different measurement tools. One group used a tape measure 12 feet long, another used a tape measure 40 feet long, another group used their own feet, and another used a metric tape measure. As you can imagine, the groups' results differed every time. Some used feet rather than inches to calculate square feet, some did not measure the same exact places in the room, metric measurements produced different results than the U.S. measuring system, and human feet produced varying results. The point here is not that one method was superior to another or that the groups made errors. The point is that even a slight change in methods can produce significant changes in results (Turman, personal communication, January 27, 2010). (If you would like to see more on metrics versus U.S. units conversion, see for example, Metric to U.S. units conversion .
If diverse results can be produced when measuring the floor area of a room, imagine how different research methods may influence the study of processes as complex as human communication. Leslie Baxter has studied interpersonal relationship development and maintenance for nearly 20 years. Most of her early research was based on quantitative surveys of romantic partners in an attempt to identify the specific tensions or stresses in their relationship. By using standardized surveys she was able to identify three dominant tensions most couples struggled with: connection/independence, openness/closedness, and predictability/spontaneity. From this she developed what is now a well known theory in the field, Dialectic Tensions Theory. However, more recently she revised her theory based on qualitative studies of relational partners' conversations. Baxter now argues that by examining tensions in actual discourse rather than surveys, she is not only able to identify common tensions, but move beyond identification to see why some relationships successfully negotiate the tensions and why others do not (2011). We offer this example not to argue qualitative methods are superior to quantitative ones, but simply to make the point that the two serve different functions.
As you will learn in the coming chapters, each method used to collect data carries with it a different implied theory about how knowledge should be, or is formed. When researchers use surveys they value the ability to solicit a larger number of people and make generalizations from the responses. When researchers analyze conversations or use interviews, they value the ability to probe individual perspectives in more depth and are less concerned with generalizations. As teachers, scholars and practitioners, the authors of this book believe a command of research methods is central to developing one's unique expertise.
Preview of Chapters
In this book, three general research approaches are included: quantitative social science research methods, qualitative social science research methods, and critical rhetorical research methods. This does not mean these three are the only approaches to knowledge construction used in the field of Communication Studies or that they are necessarily independent or opposite of each other. Communication Studies is a wonderfully diverse field of study. In addition to rhetorical methods, other humanities scholarship include performance studies and film making. Because of the extreme interdisciplinary nature of film-making and performance studies, no one research method or chapter is dedicated to them. Instead we integrate examples throughout the collection, and readers should keep in mind how such work pushes the boundaries of traditional academic fields. Below are summaries/previews of the remaining chapters in this book.
Chapter One Summary : In the present chapter, we overviewed the interdisciplinary nature of the field of Communication Studies and demonstrated how this provides a broader choice of research methods for students and faculty members in the field. We introduced basic concepts necessary to have a foundation for the study of research methods. Even though scholars use diverse research methods in the field, they are built on common premises. One is that knowledge is constructed. The way it is constructed is influenced by the theoretical approaches used and the related research methods chosen. Understanding these fundamental relationships will help students be more informed critical consumers and contributors to the field of Communication Studies, their chosen professions, and society.
Chapter Two: General Comparisons . In chapter two, we offer basic points of comparison for the research methods taught in this book. This comparison should help provide a structure to understand how the diverse methods are distinct from each other before you are introduced to the specifics of conducting research in each method in subsequent chapters. The comparison is based on the two general orientations to knowledge construction introduced in chapter one: humanistic and social scientific.
Chapter Three: Ethical Research, Writing, and Creative Work . In this chapter, we discuss the importance of researcher ethics. This chapter is placed at the front of the book to stress this importance. Regardless of the method chosen, researchers have ethical choices to make in writing honestly, citing other sources, and treating human subjects fairly. Good research is, at its core, based on ethical principles.
Chapter Four: Quantitative Methods . The first research approach presented is quantitative research methods from the social sciences. The rules involved in doing quantitative methods are very clear, with a linear research process. Reading this chapter will teach you how to plan and conduct a quantitative study, and make sense of your findings once you have collected your data.
Chapter Five: Qualitative Methods . Qualitative research methods can be placed in the middle of a continuum of research methods from the scientific to the humanistic. Qualitative methods are usually considered to be a social science approach, but in more recent years researchers have been pushing these boundaries to embrace multiple ways of knowing.
Chapter Six: Critical/Rhetorical Methods . The core assumption of rhetorical criticism is that symbolic action (the use of words, images, stories, and argument) are more than a means to transmit information, but actually construct social reality, or people's understanding of the world. Learning methods of rhetorical criticism enable you to critique the use of symbolic action and understand how it constructs a particular understanding of the world by framing a concept in one way rather than another. The more adept you become at analyzing others' messages, the more skilled you become at constructing your own.
Chapter Seven: Presenting Your Results . This chapter teaches you how to present the results of your study, regardless of the choice made among the three methods. Writing in academics has a basic form and style that you will want to learn not only to report your own research, but also to enhance your skills at reading original research published in academic journals. Beyond the basic academic style of report writing, there are specific, often unwritten assumptions about how quantitative, qualitative, and rhetorical studies should be organized and the information they should contain. In this chapter students will learn about the functions of each part of a report (e.g. introduction, methods and data description, and critical conclusion) and find useful criteria to help guide the writing of each part in a research report.
Approach to Writing this Resource Book
When the faculty in the UNI Department of Communication Studies decided to make research methods a required course for all students majoring in the department (starting Fall, 2010), we searched for a textbook that equitably covered methods used in the humanities and social sciences. We could not find one, so we decided to write our own. This resource book is the product of a collaborative effort by faculty in the department. Although five of us wrote and organized the chapters, everyone in the department was invited to contribute ideas and examples.
The result is not a traditional textbook. For one thing, rather than one voice, the authors hope you will hear their distinct voices in each chapter influenced, in part, by the methods chosen and the values these methods reflect. The differing styles should help prepare you for the differing writing styles you will find when you read original research in journals that feature quantitative, qualitative, or critical/rhetorical studies. Consequently, the citation systems we use to document sources differ across chapters. In chapters on social science research (quantitative and qualitative research methods) we use the American Psychological Association (APA) (2010) style, because it is the format of choice for most journals publishing social science research. In the chapters on ethics and rhetorical methods we use the format prescribed by the Modern Language Association (MLA) (2009) because rhetoric is rooted in the Humanities, and rhetorical research often is published in journals that also include scholarship from performance studies, English literature and the fine arts. As one reads the coming chapters, it can be insightful to attempt to identify how the methods and values are reflected in the writing styles.
Another distinction is that because the text is digital, rather than paper, we are able to make the book more interactive, including additional websites and other resources to hopefully help make the methods come alive. Perhaps most importantly for you as a student, using a digital delivery system means far less expense. The digital delivery system also means we have the ability to update material continuously.
Through this book, we hope you will become excited by the possibilities of participating in the construction of knowledge in Communication Studies. We also hope to help demystify the research process and reveal underlying assumptions of each process. Contrary to what some public figures, educators and media sources would have the public believe, most knowledge is not absolute. We invite your critical voice to this learning process.
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Introduction to Research Methodology and Report Writing (Book)
Introduction to Research Methodology and Report Writing is an attempt to synthesize the basic elements that have, over time, been taught in Colleges and Universities to prepare final-year students and professionals to produce good project/thesis reports upon graduation.
The work also prepares academics, administrators, journalists and other stakeholders along the entire gamut of the educational and information service delivery system to write good reports and communicate effectively and, when needed, earn good money for their intellectual productivity.
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The book made an incisive foray into uncommon areas in report writing.
The definition, types and significance of research were discussed, and an incursion was made into problems and modern challenges researchers face in these perilous and uncertain times in report writing.
The preliminary and background studies in research work, literature review, research design, data presentation and concluding works on project writing were well treated for the understanding of students at every level.
For budding Administrators, a section on writing committee Reports, detailed preparation for official meetings and writing minutes of meetings were included in the book.
If you desire to be an excellent Report Writer and Researcher, you ought to read this book.
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