Home / English / INTRODUCTION TO COMMUNICATION RESEARCH

INTRODUCTION TO COMMUNICATION RESEARCH

Prof. Devesh Kishore

Makhanlal Chaturvedi University of journalism, Bhopal, Research Department, Emeritus

“If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?” – Albert Einstein

LEARNING OBJECTIVES

After having studied this chapter you should be able to :

  1. Define research and explain its meaning;
  2. Describe the process of research;
  3. Explain qualitative and quantitative research and its steps;
  4. Discuss its scope in effective media communication;
  5. Know the process, effect and impact research.

In our everyday activities we loosely use the term ‘Research’. Knowingly or unknowingly you are involved in research when you are deciding what to ‘have’ or not to ‘have’. And if someone has broad idea of this concept he feels that research is collecting information, developing theories and new phenomena.

It is important that you as a student or a practitioner undertaking a program of academic or practical research have a clear idea of what ‘research’ really means, and removes any misconceptions which might exist owing to its common use in other fields.

CONCEPT AND DEFINITION OF RESEARCH

The term ‘research’ is not correctly used in some of the following ways:

  1. Collection of information and facts – This usually means quickly reading through a few books or magazines to become better informed about something. Such activity may be more accurately called ‘collection of information’, and can be carried out in a systematic and thorough procedure. It certainly can be seen as an important part of research.
  2. Reassembling of Information – It is easy to collect information and reassemble it in a report or paper, duly annotated and referenced and thinks of it as research. However, even if the work is meticulously carried out, and bring enlightenment about the subject to the author and the reader, one vital ingredient of the research process is missing – the interpretation of the information. This is also like the collection of information, an important component of research, but not its entirety.

 

  1. Work based on mysterious theory – Many projects deal with abstracts and theoretical subjects, it is often forgotten that the activity of research has greatly influenced all aspects of our daily lives and created our understanding of the world. It is an activity which is prompted by our need to satisfy our natural curiosity and our wish to make sense of the world around us.
  2. An effective way to get attention and credibility – Very often the term ‘research’ is used in an emotive fashion in order to impress and build confidence. If you ask for evidence of the research process and methodology, you are likely to be faced with incomprehension, muddled thinking, and possibly even worse: the product may be the outcome of mere guesswork!

Briefly, research can be a key tool in decision making. It can be central to determining what we should do, what we can do, how we will do it, and how well we have done it. Research may not be the answer to our problems, but it can supply some of the data necessary for us to begin to tackle the problem that challenge us all. Research can help us to:

  • Understand more about particular issues and problems – including all the complexities, details and implications thereof
  • Find workable solutions – vision futures, explore possibilities
  • Work towards that solution – implement real change
  • Evaluate success – find out if problems – solving / change strategies have been successful.

DEFINING RESEARCH

Literally research means ‘to search for, to find’ and comes from the Latin re (again) and from cercier (to search). In French the term chercher mean ‘seek.’ Generally, research means looking for information about something.

‘Research’ has been defined in various dictionaries as:

  1. The systematic investigation into the study of materials, sources etc. in order to establish facts and reach new conclusions.                      or

An endeavour to discover new or collate old facts etc. by the scientific study of a subject or by a course of critical investigation – The Oxford Encyclopedia English Dictionary

  1. Careful critical inquiry or examination in seeking facts or principles; diligent investigation in order to ascertain something  – The Webter’s International Dictionary
  2. Investigation or inquiry specially through search for new facts in any branch of knowledge – Advanced Learner’s Dictionary of Current English
  3. The manipulation of generalizing to extend, correct or verify knowledge – The Encyclopedia of Social Sciences

Scholars have defined research as:

  1. Research comprises defining and redefining problems, formulating hypothesis or suggested solutions, organising and evaluating data, making deductions and reaching conclusions, and at last carefully testing the conclusions to determine whether they fit the formulating         hypothesis – Clifford Woddy
  2. Systematic efforts to gain new knowledge – Redman and Mory
  3. Systematic, controlled empirical and critical investigation of hypothetical propositions about the presumed relation s among natural phenomena – Kerlinger
  4. Any organized inquiry designed and carried out to provide information for solving a problem – Emory
  5. Research may be defined as the systematic and objective analysis and recording of controlled observation that may lead to the development of generalisations, principles, or theories , resulting in prediction and possible ultimate control of events – John W. Best
  6. The manipulation of things, concepts or symbols for the purpose of generalizing to extend , correct or verify knowledge, whether that knowledge aids in construction of theory or in the practice of an art – D. Slesinger and M. Stephenson
  7. The process of systematically obtaining accurate answers to significant and pertinent questions by the use of the scientific method of gathering and interpreting information – Clover and Balsley

On the basis of above definitions we can define research as “Research is systematic, scientific and logical procedure which aims to discover new or verify information or analyse their cause and effect relationship. It facilitate in discovering new knowledge, concept and theories.”

CRITERIA FOR GOOD RESEARCH

Scientific research should be able to satisfy the criteria as given below:

  1. Research purposes should be intelligibly explained.
  2. The terms, concepts and technical details should be meaningfully presented.
  3. The research method used should be definite, specific and clearly ascertainable. Definiteness can be achieved by proper definition and classification of the subject matter.
  4. The conclusion drawn through a research method should be verifiable, as it is essential for the justification of the truth of the statement.
  5. The research should be reliable and valid for longer time.
  6. The research ought to be predictable. This involves the fact that what is true for the present must also be true for the future under similar circumstances. Predictability is also a proof of cause and effect relationship.
  7. Research must have objectivity. The main criterion for objectivity is that all persons should arrive at the same conclusion about the phenomenon.
  8. Research procedure used should be explained well, so that, it can be extended further by another researcher for advancement of the study.
  9. Systematic approach should be followed while conducting a research. This minimises the risk of using guesses and intuition while concluding the research.
  10. The research should be logical. It helps make research more meaningful in context of decision making.
  11. A good research can be replicated which leads to build a sound basis for decision.
  12. Research should deal with actual data which gives strong establishment research result.

PROCESS OF RESEARCH

Process of research includes a systematic procedure of observation of existing situation, problems, environment etc. Identification of problem oriented topic which requires solution and understanding; in other words cause and effect relationship. This could be done by several ways such as Observation, Case studies, Content analysis etc.

Thus, research process requires a systematic, logical identification of a problem, modes and methods of developing tools, using them for finding the solution and concluding the result enabling the solution of the problem.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fig.1.1 – Process of Research

 

BASIC STEPS IN RESEARCH PROCESS

In research process various steps are undertaken which are interdependent on each other in a sequence. Research begins from the conception of problem, collection of facts and information which will proceed with the scientific methods and tools to draw conclusion. Steps involved in research process are:

  1. Study the situation: The researcher tries to study the environment and the situation that are prevailing. He then analyse the unnoticed factors which need to be researched. This is the initial stage of research process called as study of situation.
  2. Identification of the problem: The problem is identified and is formulated with the purpose of the study. If it is within the interest area of the researcher it would be easier for the research worker to conduct the study. Although, it is wise to choose a topic which is requiring immediate solution or is in controversy then choosing an ordinary topic.
  3. Development of objectives: The objectives of the research are made following the identification of the problem. The researcher must pen down the objectives very carefully as it further steps in research process are prompted from the objectives only.
  4. Formation of hypothesis: To give a base to our study a researcher must form a hypothesis which can be based on an assumption. It also helps in collection of relevant data and analysis. Hypothesis has to be subsequently tested by facts or collected data.
  5. Reviewing of relevant literature: For a good research it is important to review the research papers, articles or any piece of written work that is relevant in understanding the research topic. It gives an idea of kind of methodology, approach and analyses that can be appropriate in composing the research design.
  6. Deciding the research design: The research project is firstly structured to a definite shape to provide a clear frame of the research procedure. Here, the project is further broken into number of small and distinct work of manageable size.
  7. Collection of Data: According to the objectives, hypothesis and the research design data should be collected by the tools whose validity and reliability has been tested.
  8. Data analysis: As the data collection task gets over, the process of preparing it for analysis begins. If it is quantitative data it is sorted and coded and qualitative data is indexed or categorised. Various statistical techniques are applied depending upon the type of data such as frequencies, X2, ‘F’ test, ‘t’ test, dispersion, correlation etc.
  9. Finding the result: On the basis of the analysis of the research data and by using suitable statistical techniques certain conclusions are drawn. These results are presented objective wise and keeping in focus the research problem.
  10. Policy implication and the conclusions: Change agents, extension workers and policy makers do take into consideration the research results while designing their future policies or modifying the present policy which ultimately helps in achieving the goals of the organization.

Example: By studying the situation on the eating habits of children. It is observed that children are preferring fast food like wafers, noodles, pasta etc. instead of complete meal.

The researcher identified the problem that it is because of the heavy commercial advertisements exposure to the children. This leads to a research on the “Impact of advertisements on children.”

 

The research objectives can be to study the nature of advertisement influencing the children, to find the frequency of TV commercials, to find the change in the eating habits of the children etc.

Formation of hypothesis is based on the research objectives. The hypothesis in this subject can be: “The attractive presentation of advertisements influences the children” and another can be “the effect of advertisements brings change in their eating habits.”

 

Now, before deciding a research design the researcher ought to review relevant literature related to the subject. It will help in better understanding of the subject and may suggest new ideas to enrich the research study.

 

The research design appropriate for such research study can be experimental. In the experimental design; Before – after approach can be followed. (Experimental design has been discussed further in chapters.)

The data collection can be done using a relevant research method like impact study and research tools like interview, schedule.

Data analysis using various statistical techniques frequency or test and scales can be done.

Following the analysis results can be drawn. Like X numbers of children are easily influenced by advertisement in preferring fast food rather than having complete meal.

Hence, the hypothesis is proved and the conclusion drawn is the effect of advertisement is brings change in the eating habits of the children.

 

 

APPROACHES TO RESEARCH

 

Research problem can be approached by using qualitative and quantitative approaches. Qualitative approach is basically based on qualitative facts and quantitative approach is based on quantification.

 

UNDERSTANDING THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN QUANTITATIVE & QUALITATIVE APPROACH TO RESEARCH

 

It has been observed that use of terms ‘qualitative’ and ‘quantitative’ approach in research is confusing for the beginners. Many assume that qualitative approach to research does not deal with numbers and quantitative approach to research is based on mathematical calculations only.

To understand the quantitative and qualitative difference it is necessary to clear this misconception and learn that qualitative research is also concerned with qualitative phenomenon. Like a research design to find out how people feel about a particular phenomenon is a qualitative approach. In qualitative approach to research we analyse various factors which leads people to behave in a particular manner. Here, analysis of data takes place through specialised scale, for example Social distance scales: Likert & Bogardus scale, Socio economic status scale: Trivedi & Pareek scale,  Attitude and Social Status Scale etc.  Opinion research or Motivation research are some of the important type of qualitative research. On the other hand, research based on the measurement of quantity is quantitative approach to research. Statistical techniques like mean, median, mode, percentage, frequency etc are used for analysis.

 

Quantitative approach                 Qualitative approach

 

 

 

I

 

 

 

II

 

 

III

 

 

IV

 

Fig. 1.2 – Steps of Quantitative and Qualitative approaches to research

 

 

 

 

 

THE QUANTITATIVE APPROACH

 

The word quantity comes from the Latin word quantitias which means ‘how much’ or ‘how many.’ It is believed in the quantitative approach, that study of society is same as the scientific study of any other material. It is widely said, the power of numbers has the potential to represent the world accurately. Thinking of quantitative research in media means calculating numbers, magnitudes and measurement. But, quantitative research can count only certain things and it may be that some factors which cannot be quantified may be significant too. Quantitative approach is also known as quantitative tradition.

 

SCIENTIFIC / HYPOTHETIC – DEDUCTIVE METHODS

 

Research is conducted in the following ways by using scientific methods:

 

  1. Generation of a theory or adoption of existing theory.
  2. Developing of hypothesis from the chosen theory.
  3. Collecting quantitative data. For e.g.: Using experimental design for scientific research or drawing large – scale survey for communication research.
  4. Use of statistical techniques for analysis of data.
  5. Find results and draw conclusion which may or may not support your hypothesis.

Following such scientific control mechanism lead us to produce new facts. Using such standardised methods defend the researcher from allegations like carelessness, faulty logics, personal biases, political agendas etc. Likewise in communication research, quantitative approach shall be based on validity, reliability and objectivity. It undertakes large population and gives validity of results using statistics and probabibility.

 

EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN

 

In physical researches the experiments are conducted in laboratories under controlled conditions. But, communication research deals with media people and their complexities. The experimental design in communication research takes place in less controlled settings with many challenges to research. Still, having so many challenges, experimentation in communication research have lot of potential. Suppose, if we want to understand the factors affecting the readership of a newspaper in an area. There can be a hypothesis placed that lack of accessibility due to various reasons is affecting newspaper readership. An experimental study can be designed that introduces free circulation of newspaper in the area. This will be independent variable and to see if readership increases will be (the dependent variable).

Take another example of exploring the reason for decreasing attendance of students in a class. A hypothesis can be set that enhancement in study pattern can help increase their attendance. By introducing new teaching methods in classroom (an independent variable), we can observe the attendance rate of the students, (the dependent variable).

 

To conduct experiment in communication research following points must be considered:

  1. Identification of dependent and independent variables – To initiate the experiment one must identify the main element that is to be analysed is the dependent variable and the various factors which are needed to change to see the cause and effect relationship will be the independent variables.
  2. Evaluation of change – To observe changes in dependent variable occurring after modifying the independent variables, we must follow pre and post testing. This can be done by collecting data before beginning the experiment. It will act as basis of the study then compare the findings after experimentation.
  3. Study locale – It is difficult to conduct communication research in a laboratory which are confines controlled condition. Thus, experiment has to be tackled in natural setting with keen observation.
  4. Sample size – This is a significant aspect of research and will be explained in following chapters of this book. But, to understand, sample size includes number of participants or group to be involved for to make the experiment, draw conclusion and give statistically significant data.
  5. Sampling – It again encompasses a vast area in research. It is said the research depends on good sampling process. Thus, one has to carefully choose the samples for conducting the study from the universe.
  6. Limitations – Research study has many limitations. One such limitation is to follow the ethics. Study should always be in the criteria of research ethics. To have a further understanding on research ethics read chapter XI of this book.
  7. Environment controlling – It is needed to ensure that your finding can be applied in true cause and effect relationship between dependent and independent variables. To have a convincing study you should have more controls in the experiment.

 

EXPLORING A POPULATION

 

In communication research it is important to understand the demography of a particular population in sense of knowledge, attitude and practices (KAP) on a selected topic. It is found that researchers explore small population and conduct an in depth study. This is done to avoid greater difference in the population on basis of KAP. But, it is advisable to perform large scale studies to understand broad population. Thus, here we need quantification approach to manage large population for better finding and objective conclusion.

Two methods can lead us to understand population in quantitative approach –

  • Take advantage of existing data
  • Generating first hand information

Take advantage of existing data – Indeed, the existing data will not be directly fulfilling your requirements. But, sometimes following the existing data may lead us to new development in the research study. You can obtain data from individual, students, research teams, government and non – government agencies.

 

Generating first hand information – It is mostly found that to attain accuracy we do not take risk of depending on existing data. As it might be irrelevant due to many limitations like – the data records are very old, biased, not covering the true population etc. First hand information is known as Primary data. We may do this by conducting a survey (Read chapter IV).

 

THE QUALITATIVE APPROACH

 

The qualitative approach to research means to study various perspectives and realities to human life, personal feeling, opinion or taste, the need for alternative ways to behavioural knowledge. It also means to study on social complexities: analyse the interactions, processes, experiences, and belief system related to individual, institutions, tradition and day to day life.

 

Qualitative research is conducted in natural settings rather than laboratories. It is concerned with the wholes subject rather than analysis or separation into parts; relates with study of individual to find out unique facts.  Rich qualitative data is collected. Generally, the ultimate aim of qualitative approach is to find a close realisation of people, places, cultures and situation related to individuals/ group/ masses or society as a whole. Qualitative approach is also called as qualitative tradition.

 

RELIABILITY IN QUALITATIVE STUDIES

 

Qualitative research approach has always faced the problem of reliability, validity and errors. Most of the arguments on qualitative research arise when the studies are inappropriately assessed through perceptions of human knowledge and precise thought.  It is always doubted for the expected, reliability and validity. Thus, to gain appropriate standards of reliability following steps are suggested –

  • Try to ensure that the sources like people, institution and cultural group speak confidently and give more relevant information.
  • Develop and follow a single phenomenon as the world is multifaceted and the way of analysing things changes from person to person.
  • Collection of data must be stopped when it is found that additional data is not adding new facts to understanding or theories.
  • Use more than one source of data to ensure authenticity.
  • Sufficient time should be given to build trust and rapport for deeper understanding of the culture, situation, people, place etc.
  • Methodology should be checked again and again and in detail so that the study is auditable and reproducible.

 

A FEW OF THE QUALITATIVE APPROACH TO STUDIES ARE:

  1. Ethnography
  2. Phenomenology
  3. Mixed Methodology

 

  1. ETHNOGRAPHY

 

It is a branch of anthropology which deals with the scientific description of specific human cultures. In late 1970s and early 1980s Ms. Ruth Cavendish conducted an ethnographic study of female factory workers. Exploring their lives within the factory walls, how they manage their work with the household responsibility and their views of life from the factory floor. The researcher Ms. Ruth Cavendish act as a participant observer, engaged with the women she studied, but actually lived with them. Through this experience, she offered an insightful, vivid, empathetic and intimate description of the realities of the lives of women in an industrial world. Such analysis could not have been accessed using traditional social science techniques such as experimentation, surveys, or interviews. For this and many other reasons Cavendish’s study is considered a classic ethnographic study.

 

Above example gives us a very clear idea how Ethnographic study is conducted. Ethnography is a way of analysing the point of view of the respondents by participating in their day to day activities. The ethnographer’s tries to experience the way the respondents think instead the way they feel according to their pre – existing assumptions. They try to indulge themselves into the culture they are studying by themselves participating and then reflecting their lived observation. The objective of ethnography is not to find what is it? But to analyse why it is?

 

Data collection methods mostly used in Ethnography:

  1. Observation

 

  1. Manuscripts of specific culture

 

  1. In-depth interviews

 

  1. Surveys

 

 

 

 

CHALLENGES FACED BEFORE ETHNOGRAPHIC STUDIES ARE UNDERTAKEN:

 

  • Due to diversity in cultures the ethnographer need to have slight recognition with the culture of the group to gain acceptance.
  • The superstitious believes must be well known.
  • It is always doubted about the interpretation drawn by ethnographer as he is an outsider of different culture.
  • Large group study is difficult to take place.
  • Questions are faced on such study for its credibility and validity.

 

 

  1. PHENOMENOLOGY

A method of inquiry based on human consciousness. The feeling of winning or losing can be understood when one is involved in the process. But, the phenomenological study focuses on knowing the internal processes of human consciousness. Here, we cannot relate to truth, values, reality or causes as phenomenon depends on individual perception. The experience is studied. The goal of such study is to describe the experience of the individual in a way that other could share the feeling of a particular phenomenon if experienced.

 

BASIC ELEMENTS OF PHENOMENOLOGICAL STUDY –

 

  • Individualistic study – Phenomenological studies are truly based on individuals. They are studied through interviews or are analysed by their work. Like how they write, paint or speak.
  • Study is based on occurring of events like victory, power, defeat etc. This reflects the inner feeling of an individual when the events take place.
  • Direct awareness or experience is studied – In phenomenological study it is not important to know what, why and how things have happened to an individual. It is concerned with experience of an individual. It tries to understand the experience of the relationship between individual and object.

 

PHENOMENOLOGICAL STUDY

 

Conducting phenomenological study is different in methodology followed traditionally in communication research. It includes –

  • Phenomenological description
  • Assembling description
  • Explaining description
  • Compiling the description in a report form

 

Phenomenological study is very different and interesting way of studying our social world. Through it we get a different angle to explore demographics, opinions, attitudes, beliefs and behaviour of people. We can study the ideas, ideologies of people with different constructs. But, yet it is not considered as a research strategy available to research students. Somewhere it is so, because we cannot scale and standardize it out.

 

  1. MIXED METHODOLOGY

Researchers generally employ either qualitative or quantitative approaches to conduct a study. Sometimes (s)he has to use both as mixed methodology. But, using mixed methodology is considered an emergent method that is increasingly achieving acceptance and used across disciplines.

 

WHY MIXED METHODOLOGY?

 

Many scholars argue on the assumption that qualitative and quantitative approaches do not follow for a mixed approach. They say that their models are separate and cannot be merged. But, various discipline scientists proclaim that the method used should be based on the research questions. If the mixed approach is useful in finding the answers of the questions so it should be applied regardless the philosophical statements.

 

The main requirements of a research design using mixed methodology are –

  • Does the approach works in right direction for getting the answers of the research objectives.
  • Is it following the research ethics?
  • Is the research methodology practically possible?

If all this requirements are satisfied then one can use the mixed approach too.

 

MIXED APPROACH – THE HAWTHORNE EFFECT

This experiment was conducted in between 1924 to 1932 at the Hawthorne Plant of the Western Electric Company by Mayo in 1933, and Roethlisberger and Dickson in 1939. On factors such as lighting, breaks, hours of work that might impact on productivity. To a surprise of the researchers, outputs generally increased any time a variable was manipulated even when the manipulation was simply to change the variable back to how it was originally.

Such amazing findings led to the development of mixed methodological approach. The researcher interviewed about 21,000 employees at the Hawthorne Plant on issues such as workers attitudes, morale, home life, upbringing, diet, and other habits. They also engaged in observation, closely monitoring the daily activities of one particular work group.

 

 

 

PERSPECTIVES AND STRATEGIES OF MIXED APPROACH

 

Mixed approach can be applied to a research study in three ways –

 

  1. Quantitative perspective

In this way the dominance of quantitative approach is observed more but with acceptance to qualitative data. It is marked by the following steps –

  • Open and close ended questions are designed in form of a survey
  • To develop the survey informant interviews are undertaken
  • Again after survey, key informant interviews are conducted to add depth to survey finding

 

  1. Qualitative perspective

Indepth analysis in qualitative framework is the basic concept in this method. Quantification is included in form of survey and quantifying existing data is done in following way –

  • A small group is surveyed using ethnographic research design
  • Interviews are conducted in series to get in depth information
  • The data collected is coded for statistical analysis
  • Case study is complemented where existing data is also examined using quantification methods

 

  1. Question driven perspective

In this method it is simply focused what strategies are most likely to get the credible data needed to answer the research question. It follows the pattern –

  • As per requirement of the research question qualitative or quantitative perspective is used
  • In depth understanding and broad representation is the objective
  • To know what does it feel like and how common it has involved both qualitative approach i.e. phenomenological and quantitative approach i.e. survey research

 

CHALLENGES IN MIXED APPROACH

Using mixed approach is a way of taking advantage of both the qualitative and quantitative approach to make the research study more broad and represent it well. Nevertheless, some challenges are to be faced by a researcher like:

 

  • Understanding of the qualitative and quantitative models
  • Looking for appropriate criteria for credibility
  • Stating difference between validity and authenticity; reliability and dependability and generalisability and transferability
  • Development of skills necessary for collecting and analysing both  qualitative and quantitative data
  • Fear of statistical limits for analysing qualitative data.
  • This is like handling two projects instead of one. Both have different research design and we have to work on both ways simultaneously
  • Time, resources are constraints in mixed approach

 

Indeed, a mixed approach can offer great advantages, but developing, designing and handling it with the goal of excellence is big challenge in communication research.

 

 

 

SCOPE AND OBJECTIVES OF RESEARCH IN JOURNALISM & COMMUNICATION

 

Following are the scope of research :

 

  • The development of new theoretical and practical models in communication.
  • The development of innovative methods for observing and measuring communication behavior.
  • The communication research has a broad social-science focus.
  •  It acts as an important reference to scholars in psychology, sociology, linguistics, and anthropology.
  • Major areas of research in communication include language and social interaction, nonverbal communication, interpersonal communication, intrapersonal communication, organizational communication, mass communication, health communication, intercultural communication, developmental and new technological issues in communication

 

OBJECTIVES     

 

The objective of communication research is to find the undiscovered area, aspects, and facts in the universe by using scientific methods. It may imply new empirical generalisation and lead the old ones. Thus, new theories and practices are developed.

 

Research in Journalism and Mass Communication is interdisciplinary involving social science, psychology, anthropology etc. Communication research has some different characteristics. Discovering new interrelation, knowledge, facts are the main aims of communication research. It also deals with verifying the old facts and knowledge. Having such wide scope covers many objectives of which a few are the prominent one –

 

  • To gain the insights into existing problem.
  • To understand cause and effect relationship.
  • Achieve measures to control over social behaviour.
  • Bring out the operational solution using theories, concepts derived by research studies.
  • Designing guidelines for studying human conduct and behaviour.

 

As suggested by Dr. (Mrs.) P. V. Young, in the book Scientific Social Surveys and Research.

The four motivating factors of communication research are:

 

  1. Curiosity about unknown – “Curiosity is an intrinsic trait of human mind and a compelling drive in the exploration of man’s surroundings.”

 

  1. Desire to understand the cause and effect is a wide spread problem – “The search for cause and effect relationship has been more relentless than almost any other scientific effort upon which human energies have been spent.”

 

  1. Appearance of novel and unanticipated situation – “An ordinary person reacts emotionally to social problems, but a social scientist sets down dispassionately to find out their real cause and thus evolves a lasting solution to such intricate problems. In quite large number of cases such problems have inspired the social scientists to go into their details and study the basic factors causing these problems.”

 

  1. Desire to discover new and test old scientific procedure as an efficient way to gain useful and fundamental knowledge – “Such a research is not in fact a research in social phenomena, but a research in techniques or methods used in communication research. A number of such researches have been made to evolve better and more refined techniques for dealing with social problems. Of late there has been a growing emphasis upon the use of quantitative or statistical methods in the communication research in order to make it more definite and mathematically precise.”

 

AREA OF COMMUNICATION RESEARCH

 

Media practitioners, policy designers, strategist’s communicator and journalist have been looking for the valuable research findings which can make them more effective in their endeavors. Media scholars are trying to work out their priorities of research keeping in view the various research areas. Since communication like any other subject of social sciences has vast area to be covered for research. Communicator himself is a great subject for research. What qualities an excellent communicator should have? The answer of this question is yet to find out. He is the person who initiates the process of communication and put up the whole process of communication. While communicating he treats the message to make it intelligible for audience, suitable for communication channel, uses proper language to put forth and develops methodology to receive feed-back to know whether message has reached in its proper perspective.

The whole communication process opens up all the areas of research. It means major areas of research subject are communicator, receiver, message, channels, feed-back and related areas of interest. Let us take up each element of communication process as an areas of research study. These are –

  1. Communicator / Source analysis

 

  1. Message analysis

 

  1. Channel analysis

 

  1. Audience analysis

 

  1. Process, effect and impact of  research

 

 

 

  1. COMMUNICATOR / SOURCE ANALYSIS

 

The source analysis is conducted on two aspects –

 

  1. Individual as a source
  2. Channel as a source

 

  1. INDIVIDUAL AS A SOURCE

 

The following features of an individual as a source are analysed –

  • Communication skills – To handle audience, channel and message the source ought to have good communication skills. Even if one is well versed with the subject, it might not be fruitful if delivery is bad.

 

  • Attitude – The attitude as told earlier is the predisposition of a person to an act. The source is expected to be patient, with positive approach and must deliver messages clearly with positive attitude.

 

  • Knowledge – Until the source have clear concepts on the subject, it is difficult for him to communicate effectively. For this, knowledge is an essential criterion. He must have detailed information about the message to be communicated.

 

  • Social System – To have an effective communication it is always better if the communicator is a part of the same social system. It enhances credibility and reliability in the message.

 

  • Culture – If the source delivers his message accepting of the culture of the audience, the communication is readily accepted in a better way by the receiver and feedback is also positive.

 

 

  1. CHANNEL AS A SOURCE

 

There are various channels available for communication to individual, groups and masses. The main channels available are:

  • Radio – It is an audio medium. Having excellent reach and accessibility in developing countries. In India it is the oldest medium available since 1920’s. It has 99% reach here. It was observed that radio was losing its popularity. Then with the advent of FM radio it regained its popularity.

 

  • Television – It is an audio visual medium. Most sought after from commencement of its services in India. Private TV stations and their services have made it most important medium of communication.

 

  • Newspaper – Presently the literacy rate in India is 66%. According to the Audit Bureau of Circulation every year there is a steady growth in newspaper readership in India.

 

  • Internet – It is the new medium of information which frequently provides latest information. But, it has lot of limitations in India like – reach and accessibility, expensive, usage, technical know how, illiteracy, electricity etc. Its credibility is also questioned sometimes.

 

  • Friends – It is most effective form of interpersonal communication. Sharing with friends is still enjoys highest credibility in the society.

 

 

RESEARCH METHODS AND TOOLS

 

The research methods used to collect data for individual and channel as source are –

  • Content Analysis
  • Experimental Studies
  • Surveys
  • Communication and listening quotient

 

Research tools used to collect data for analysis of channels are –

  • Questionnaire
  • Schedule
  • Case studies
  • Recall
  • Scales

 

 

  1. MESSAGE ANALYSIS

 

People assume message and information as one and the same thing. The content of the message is equivalent to information but, it has limited audience. E.g. If your friend calls you and says it’s raining in Delhi. It is a message. And when the news of rain in Delhi is broadcasted on radio or TV or published in newspaper then it is called as information.

 

The analysis of message is performed in the following ways –

  • Contents – The subject matter or points given in the message is its content. e.g.: Newspaper contents are news, editorials, articles etc.

 

  • Ways of expression – There are many ways which are used to express the content. The more number of ways you use in communicating the message i.e. Words, pictures, cartoons, gestures, silence etc. The more effective you are.

 

  • Structure – Every message has to be designed separately for presentation due to variety of media. Structure of news in newspaper is inverted pyramid and in radio and television it is horizontally flat. Hence, message has to be treated accordingly.

 

  • Treatment – The act of designing the message for better understanding and acceptability. It is according to the requirement of the receiver, audience and channel.

 

  • Coding & Decoding – It is a mechanical process in which the communicator codes a message and receiver decodes the message. Code send may be composed of words, pictures etc and the receiver decodes it in his language and try to understand. If the receiver is not able to decode the message properly it is failure in communication. Thus, it is required i.e. designing the message as per their interest and need, the communicator to be expert in both.

 

RESEARCH METHODS AND TOOLS

 

The research methods used to collect data for analysis of message are –

  • Content Analysis
  • Experimental Studies
  • Surveys

 

Research tools used to collect data for analysis of message are –

  • Questionnaire
  • Schedule
  • Case studies
  • Recall

 

  1. CHANNEL ANALYSIS

 

Channel is a medium or instrument, through which communicators sends the message to the audience to get the feedback.

 

Audio – The channel based on sound only are:

  • Radio
  • Audio recording
  • Web radio
  • World space radio
  • HAM radio

 

Video – The channel based on visuals only.

  • Video and silent films
  • Photographs and pictures
  • Graphs

 

Audio Video – The channel based on sounds and visuals.

  • TV
  • Film
  • Audio video program
  • Drama
  • Exhibition
  • Talk shows
  • Puppet shows
  • Radio vision

 

 

Interactive Channels

  • Audio conferencing
  • Video conferencing
  • Telephone conferencing
  • Internet conferencing

 

Research methods and tools

 

The research methods to collect data for analysis of channel are –

  • Experimental Studies
  • Surveys

 

Research tools used to collect data for analysis of channel are –

  • Questionnaire
  • Schedule
  • Case studies
  • Recall

 

 

  1. AUDIENCE ANALYSIS

 

Collection of analytical and critical information regarding the reach, accessibility, exposure, composition and environmental context of media in relation to potential / target audience is known as Audience Research. Audience is the receiver of the message and all efforts are designed to reach him so that he interprets properly, understand and act upon the message.

 

To analyse the potential of audience of different area, community and culture is a difficult task but it can be simplified by understanding the audience profile.

 

Generally, audience Profile is composed of :

 

  1. Composition
  2. Reach and accessibility
  3. Needs
  4. Lifestyle
  5. Credibility

 

  1. COMPOSITION

 

Composition of audience covers a wide aspect. Composition can be classified as –

  • Demographic – It is important to know the demography of the audience. Demographics include gender, race, age, disabilities, mobility, home ownership, employment status, and even location.

 

  • Social status – The social status in India is judged by the caste, knowledge and education of a person. Not, by the wealth a person has.

 

  • Culture – The Culture is a shared pattern of belief, feeling and adaptation, which people carry in their minds – Leighton & Hughes, 1961. So, to understand your target audience it is necessary to keep in mind the culture they are from.

 

  • Economic status – The assets and income of a person let you judge its economic status. Higher the economic status more is the accessing capacity of a person to various media available.

 

  • Linguistic – It is the systematic study of human language. Linguists not only describe the diverse characteristics of individual languages but also may give us an insight into the value system. Language is central to our human nature. Thus, knowing the linguistics of the audience is important in analysing their nature and practice.
  • Literacy level – It is often said that people in India are becoming highly literate but least educated. There is difference between being educated and being literate. Literacy level is the academic qualification of a group or an individual. Education is more related to culture and social value system.
  • Marital status – It is an indication of whether the person is married or is single. This is significant to know as needs changes of a person once (s)he is married.

 

  • Ethnic status – The identification of group of people through a common heritage, often consisting of a common language, a common culture, shared religion and an ideology that stresses common ancestry among them.

 

  • Mortality – The death rate is defined as mortality.

 

  • Fertility behaviour – It help us to know the population growth rate of a region.

 

  • Migration – It let us know the phenomenon of moving of people from native place to foreign place. This helps us understanding the need and aspiration of our audience.

 

  • Attitude – It is the predisposition to an act. An individual behaves in a particular towards an act or event.

 

 

REACH AND ACCESSIBILITY

 

It consists of two terms reach and accessibility. Reach relates to the coverage by media. The reach of radio is 99% in India. It means signals are available in 99% of geographical area of India. Accessibility refers to the number of persons using it or able to reach the channel and get information. It can be said that presently accessibility of television is higher than radio, although the reach of radio is higher than TV.

 

 

NEEDS

 

Acceptance of information depends on its need by audience. With increasing technology audience are at privilege to have many options for accessing the information. We should analyse the needs of our audience if communication of message is to be successful.

 

LIFESTYLE

 

The lifestyle is the daily routine of the audience which can be differentiated in the following way:

  • Leisure hours – It relates to the free time of a person. Here, no routine work is done. Generally, people love to enjoy their time or get entertainment from various media. It is important to know the leisure hours which help us in promoting suitable activities accordingly.

 

  • Business hours – The hours spend by the audience at work place. This is not favourable time for delivering product as audience is busy and they won’t pay attention to it.

 

  • Entertainment time – Time in which audience receives the infotainment programs well. Complete attention can be gained during this period.

 

  • Educational – It is central human nature to learn everyday. With rising awareness of significance of education people devote time to study and practice new knowledge.

 

  • Communication skills – Let us understand intelligence level and knowledge of the audience.

 

CREDIBILITY

 

Credibility of source scores a significant role in accepting or rejecting the information by the audience. It rely on two aspects –

 

  • Source of information – The source of information which is acceptable to audience has high credibility.

 

  • Control of media perception – It is important to know how the audience perceives the control of media. An organisation / group which have high reliability amongst the audiences is accepted. If this group controls the media it is perceived that information is reliable.

 

RESEARCH METHODS AND TOOLS

 

The research methods to collect data for analysis of audience are –

  • Experimental Studies
  • Surveys

 

 

The research tools used to collect data for analysis of audience are –

  • Questionnaire: It is a list of well structured questions to be filled by the respondents.

 

  • Schedule: Information to be collected are enlisted in form of points, which the researcher collects while interviewing the respondent.

 

  • Socio – Economic Status scale: A special scale is designed to measure the socio – economic status of an individual by following scale development procedure. G. Trivedi developed such scale which has been used by researcher.

 

 

 

  1. Process , Effect and Impact Research
Treatment of message

 

Change in knowledge, skills and attitude in short term
Long term effect on audience in terms of change in knowledge, skill & attitude.
Simplification of message content
Content of message as per the channel used

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fig. 1.3 – Steps of Process, effect and Impact Research

Individual communicate messages by using various channels. They treat the message in a way that can be easily understood by those for whom the message is intended to be communicated. In the process the treatment is undertaken by the communicator of various elements involved in communication process. He tries to simplify or use familiar words or language to structure the content of the message. He also treats the message according to the types of channels to be used for communication. The researcher undertakes the study of the above mentioned activities involved in communicating the information is called Process Research.

 

Following the process research, we may find that the message delivered to the target audience has started showing certain changes in them. There is change in knowledge, skills and attitude of the audience. This is ultimately coming out as change in behaviour. This change in behaviour is called Effect Research.

 

The impact study is done on a certain subject to understand the cause and effect relationship. Impact studies find data from many different sources and often look at many different aspects of the issue. Generally, environmental studies are undertaken in impact study method. But, it gives valid results in other areas of research too.

In terms of communication research study the effect is a short term change but, if it continues it will eventually turn as a habit of the audience and would stay as long term effect that is impact. Thus, it is called as Impact research.

 

A research study is conducted on the Impact of TV advertisement on children. A consumer product like wafer’s advertisement is shown to children.  The advertisement designed in a very impressive way which persuades the children to relish the taste of wafers and purchase it. The research done during this period is called Process research. After showing the advertisement the children demand wafers to eat. This is the effect of the advertisement it is called Effect research. Effect Research, is for short term. But, if the advertisement is repeatedly shown to children, they may become habitual of eating wafers. The changes which are permanent in nature due to advertisement for a long time in children food’s habit will be called Impact research.

 

SUMMARY

Research can be defined as scientific, systematic, and logical procedure which aims to discover new or verified information or analyse their cause and effect relationship.  It facilitate in discovering new knowledge, concept, theories and theses. The criteria of the research are –

  1. Purposes should be intelligibly explained
  2. The terms, concepts and technical details are meaningfully presented.
  3. Research methods are definite, specific and clearly ascertainable.
  4. The conclusion drawn should be valid, reliable and verifiable.
  5. The research should be logical and meaningful for decision making

The process of research includes study of situation, identification of the problem and development of objectives, formulation of hypothesis, reviewing of relevant literature, deciding the research design, data analysis, finding the result and drawing conclusions.

Approaches to research are basically discipline based like sociological approach, anthropological approach, political approach, historical approach etc. but in all these approaches two modes of research i.e. quantitative and qualitative are used. In quantitative research experimental design, quantitative methods and statistical techniques are used. In qualitative approach ethnographic, phenomenology and mixed methodology are used.

The communication process opens up all the areas of research i.e. communicator, receiver, message, channels, feed-back and related areas of interest for each of the element for communication process there are various research tools to use. In the same way for effect and impact studies research tools to be selected cautiously (fig-5).

KEY WORDS

Effect Research :  Research on short term change of behavior due to communication.

Ethnography :  Scientific description of specific human culture.

Hypothesis :  A statement or a tentative proposition of potential relationship between two or more variables.

Impact Research :  Research on habits/ total long term effect in change of the area.

Phenomenology :  A method of the enquiry based on human consciousness.

Process Research :  Research on activities/processes involved in communicating the information.

Research :  Is systematic, scientific and logical procedure which is directed to find new or verify old knowledge or analyze their cause and effect relationship.

Sample :  A subset of elements chosen from the universe or population of study. Representative of universe.

QUESTIONS

Q-1         Define research in your own words and discuss criteria of good research?

Q-2         Describe process of research and steps involved in it.

Q-3.       What are the approaches of research? Give suitable examples.

Q-4.       Discuss qualitative and quantitative modes of studies.

Q-5.       To study each and every element of communication process towards research methods and tools to be used.

Q-6.       What do you mean by effect and impact research?

 

FURTHER READINGS

Arthur Asa Berger, (2000). Media and Communication Research Methods: An Introduction to Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches. New Delhi: Sage.

Barrie Gunter, (2000). Media Research Methods. New Delhi: Sage.

Bridget Somekh & Cathy Lewin, (2011). Research Methods in the Social Sciences, eight printing, South Asia edition. New Delhi: Vistaar Publications, Sage.

David Silverman, (2010). Doing Qualitative Research, third edition. New Delhi: Sage.

Fred N. Kerlinger, (2007). Foundations of Behavioural Research, tenth reprint. Delhi: Surjeet Publication.

Kultar Singh, (2010). Quantitative Social Research Methods, fourth printing. New Delhi: Sage.

Makhanlal Chaturvedi National University of Journalism and Communication, (2010). Media Mimansa: Communication Research, Vol. 4, No.1, July – September. Head Publisher Makhanlal Chaturvedi National University of Journalism and Communication: Bhopal.

Nicholas Walliman, (2010). Your Research Project, second edition, seventh printing. New Delhi: Vistaar Publications, Sage.

  1. Saravanavel, (2006). Research Methodology, Seventeenth Edition. New Delhi: Kitab Mahal

Pauline V. Young, (2001). Scientific Social Surveys and Research: An introduction to the background, content, methods, principles and analysis of social sciences, fourth edition, fourteenth printing. New Delhi: Prentice – Hall of India.

Prof. S.R. Bajpai, (1960). Methods of Social Survey and Research. Kanpur: Kitab Ghar.

Sumati Mulay & V.E. Sabarathanam, (1980). Research Methods in Extension Education. New Delhi: Acharan Prakashan.

Uwe Flick, (2009). An introduction to Qualitative Research, fourth edition, South Asia. New Delhi: Sage.

Vandana Desai & Robert B. Potter, (2010). Doing Development Research, third edition. New Delhi: Vistaar Publications, Sage.

Wimmer R. D & Dominick J.R, (2005). Mass Media Research: An Introduction, second reprint. Singapore: Wadsworth.

Check Also

netflix

Rethinking international TV flows research in the age of Netflix

Ramon Lobato (RMIT University)   ramon.lobato@rmit.edu.au   Forthcoming in Television and New Media   April ...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *