Introduction to Communication Research
After reading this chapter, you should be able to: 1. Identify instances in which you could use or conduct communication research as a student, use or conduct communication research as a professional, and use the results of communication research in your personal life. 2. Explain the goals of research. 3. Explain the relationship of research and theory. 4. Explain communication research as a social science. 5. Describe how communication research from a social science perspective is different from other forms of communication research and other forms of social science research. 6. Differentiate among the characteristics of science. 7. Distinguish between research question and hypothesis. 8. Describe the differences among questions of fact, variable relations, value, and policy. 9. Identify questions about communication that you believe are worth pursuing.
CHAPTER 1 / INTRODUCTION TO COMMUNICATION RESEARCH
As a student in a research methods course, you have two roles. In one role, you are a consumer of communication research. You read summaries of research in your textbooks. In some courses, your instructors may require you to read and analyze research articles published in the discipline’s journals. In the other role, you are a researcher collecting and interpreting data to answer research questions and hypotheses. These activities may be part of the course for which you are reading this book, an independent study, an upperdivision course, or your senior project. The information in this book can help you succeed in both roles. But before you identify yourself with either or both roles, turn your attention to answering the question “What is research?”
WHAT IS RESEARCH?
In its most basic form, research is the process of asking questions and finding answers. You have likely conducted research of your own, even if it wasn’t in the formal sense. For example, as you chose which college or university to attend, you asked questions of students, faculty, and staff at the various institutions you were considering. You might also have looked on web pages for the different colleges and universities for answers to your questions or used the survey results from U.S. News & World Report, which ranks America’s colleges and universities. As you made choices about your major, you read the college bulletin, talked to students and an advisor, and perhaps even talked to professionals in the field you believed you wanted to pursue. In these activities, you sought answers to your questions. Which school is best for me? Which school has the type of student experience I am looking for? Which schools are affordable? What is the annual income of alumni with my major? What kinds of career opportunities can I expect? By asking these questions, you were taking on the role of detective as you tracked down the information needed to make a decision. Not only were you asking questions and seeking answers, but more than likely you were
relying on the results of research performed by others, on the detective work of others. It would be impossible for you to answer your set of questions without such input. For example, for the question “What is the annual income of alumni with my major?” it would not be realistic for you to survey graduates in your major field to discover their annual income. More likely you relied on a survey conducted by a professional association, an alumni association, or a fraternity or sorority. You used the reported results of their work to answer your question. Although someone else was doing the research, you still needed to evaluate the efficacy of their research to gauge its usefulness in answering the question. You are also familiar with other types of research. News reports profile the results of research each day. You have heard the results of medical research reported in the news. During political campaigns, the results of preference...
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