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Julia Ransom

Senior Seminar in Communication

Professor Berkos
Chapter 2: Theory Development

In the second chapter of our text we touch further on theories, as well as research, and

how this shapes our understanding of communication. There are two opposing theories that argue

which should come first; research or theory. According to the inductive theory, research comes

before theory. However, according to the deductive theory, it is quite the opposite. It is more

geared toward the scientific method. This exemplifies the subjective nature of our discipline, and

how communication can take on different forms depending on how we perceive it.

The core of this chapter is understanding what research is, and which methods of research

we use in our communication studies. In this instance, the term research is limited to only data

collection or data analysis. There are two kinds of research; primary and secondary research.

Primary research is research that is reported by the person who conducted it, according to our

text. Secondary research is just the opposite of that, it is any research reported by a person who

was not the one conducting it. Understandably so, primary research is what is primarily used for

published academic journals. This leaves less room for manipulation of the data, which in return,

ensures more accuracy.

After taking a research methods course last semester, the next segment of this chapter

was more of a review. Moving on in the reading, we learn about the different methods of

conducting research. Experiments are the methods that help us to understand how one variable

affects another. In fact, this is the only research method that helps us gather information that is

that specific. In this method of research, there are two variables, one of which is controlled.

These two variables are the independent and dependent. The control factor of the experiment is
also referred to as a manipulation. These experiments can either be conducted in the field or in a

laboratory of some sort, but both yield the same accurate results. However, experiments done in

a laboratory setting have been proven to be easier to control or manipulate.

Survey research is the best way to understand thought process, feelings, or motives.

There are generally two types, which includes focus groups and questionnaires. These can be

administered in many different ways, but some more effective than others. There are both open-

ended and close-ended questions which allow you to decide what kind of response youre

looking for. If you would like something specific, close-ended questions are more specific. If

youd like the person filling out the survey to have more control over their response, open-ended

questions are better suited. Aside from the focus groups and questionnaires, there is also a

concept called sampling. In this method, a population is sampled, either randomly or non-

randomly, depending on the size of the population and the desired outcome.

Textual analysis, which is frequently used by scholars, is the uncovering of content,

intention, or make up of messages. Essentially, this method is used to examine the deeper

meaning behind messages. This is referred to as rhetorical criticism. Going further, content

analysis is the effort to understand different kinds of messages. To get some of this information,

we use the text and data mining, which allows us to gather information in large quantities.

Finally, in my favorite area of communication, we use interaction analysis to understand

interpersonal or group interaction communication. This type of textual analysis focuses on the

structure of interaction.

Ethnography is a different approach to research. This form of research actually immerses

the researcher into their chosen culture or context to understand how it operates. This person

would be considered a complete participant, which means theyre fully involved in the setting.
There is also the participant-observer role, as well as the complete observer role. These two are a

level down from fully immersing yourself. You may choose to do prior research to get other

insights on the culture or context, or perhaps you would just observe and form your research

around your findings.

In the final sections of this chapter, it discusses how communication can be both a

science and an art, or a social science and humanities. However, in both contexts, it is undeniable

that the discipline is subjective. Reality is created based on how you see the world through your

set of eyes, and we construct it based on our perceptions of what were viewing in front of us.

The main difference between these two contexts is that social science is geared towards

generalizations. This means there is an attempt to rationalize human behavior by using past

events or situations. If it has happened in the past, and continues to happen, it could potentially

predict what is going to happen. Another distinction is the focus on why certain feelings are

developed. For instance, some aim to create social change, while others aim to predict behaviors

or understand them.

To summarize the chapter, theories are constantly changing and evolving. In a world that

is always changing, it only makes sense that we have to alter these theories based on human

behavior. The thing that changes the most rapidly seems to be technology, and it is my

prediction that technology and media will continue to shape our behaviors and perceptions. As

our priorities change, our perception of reality, and our society changes we will view our

relationships differently. Not only is the world around us changing, but as scholars do more

research, theyre able to refine their theories to better match the circumstances. As more surveys

and experiments are administered, along with the other research methods, we learn more about

people and how they interact and behave.

As I had mentioned previously, I took a communication research methods class at Bryant

with Professor Pearce. In this class we learn about various different methods for researching in

communication, and I actually designed with my group a survey. For our project we measured

how likely rap music was to instill misogynistic views on people, and how likely they were to

feel empowered by it. It was interesting to collect data using a survey, and to try to account for

how many people honestly answered the survey. We had to use our best judgement when

observing our data, so I can understand why experimental data is more readily used in scholarly

articles. I also had experience reading through hundreds of scholarly articles, and its interesting

to see how often scholars will feed off of one another in their articles. I think my interest is more

in interpersonal communication, but I enjoyed taking this class and I can see how research is

necessary for all aspects of this disciplinary. This research is essential in order to understand

human beings and how they behave or interact.

Discussion Questions:

1) Why are theories so essential to communication if the discipline itself is so

subjective? Wont we create our own reality regardless?

2) Are any theories that we learn today no longer applicable to us? Are times evolving

that quickly?