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Communication is an important area of study in today’s world. We gather information depending on others to develop relationships. The effectiveness of our communication is related to our capabilities to interpret the world. Communication Research is conducted to clarify the communication process and help us to understand the importance of communication in our everyday life. It guides us to identify and explore many interrelated elements that make the communication process complete, and help us to develop strategies for using communication more effectively and appropriately. The primary purpose of Communication Research is to special search or investigate and help people understand communication phenomena and direct their communication towards accomplishing individual and organizational goals.
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Communication is not a new area of research. It has been studied for centuries. The earliest study of communication can be traced back to the fifth century B.C., during the classical period of communication inquiry. Philosophers like Plato and Aristotle studied the public-speaking strategies of Greek orators. Later during the Roman empire, statesmen like Cicero and Quintillion studied the role of public communication in Roman society.
Communication Research is influenced by two basic scholarly research processes, viz., behaviourism and phenomenology.
Behaviourism is based on the belief that objective knowledge is obtained through the careful and systematic observation and measurement of what people do. Behavioural research method relies on operationalism, transforming abstract concept into behaviours that can precisely be quantified. The goal of behavioural research is to identify and test laws that can explain, predict and lead to the control of behaviour.
Phenomenology is based on the belief that what people do depends on what they perceive is what goes on in their mind. Phenomenologists thus focus on how internal, psychological meaning guides behaviour. Phenomenological methods of research rely on discovering how individuals construct meaning and believing that objective observation is not sufficient. The goal of Phenomenological research is to describe how people understand their lived experience.
Both behaviourism and phenomenology form the study of communication. Communication certainly is a behaviour that can be studied using behavioural methods in an individualistic or an integrated manner.
1.2 Role of Communication Research
The use of a scientific reason for the establishment of speech as a separate department had important implications for the growth of Communication Research. Speech scientists pursue the more recognized human sciences, such as Psychology and Sociology, which had follow such physical sciences as Biology and Physics. Speech scientists take up their research methodologies, as well as many interdisciplinary concepts and perspectives for studying communication phenomena, from the physical and other human sciences.
Communication Research has widen its traditional focus on presentational communication, to exploring such communication events and processes as the relationship between communication and attitude formation; communication and relationship development, communication and group decision making, and communication flow within organizations. This broadening of communication research led to changing the name of the professional association from the National Association of Academic Teachers of Public Speaking to the Speech Association of America and, more recently, to the Speech Communication Association. The human scientific perspective of speech expanded from focusing on the areas of public speaking and rhetoric to exploring the broader study of communication in all walks of life.
1.3 Need for Communication Research
Communication Research is conducted to help people understand complex and challenging communication phenomena as well as the mundane and apparently simple everyday routines like ordinary conversation. Many areas of communication research demonstrate the complex, multifaceted nature of communication. Further, the centrality of communication in modern life makes knowledge about communication processes crucially important.
Systematic and rigorous research means that researchers study worthwhile topics, ask relevant questions, build on previous theory and research, design and conduct careful research, analyze data appropriately, and discuss the significance of the findings. Systematic communication inquiry adds to the body of communication knowledge by providing meaningful descriptions and trustworthy explanations about complex communication phenomena. Research about communication is thus needed for two reasons: to extend the growth of the Communication discipline and to apply what we know.
1.4 Scope of Communication Research
Communication Research undertakes the scientific study of communication process. Being scientific it is objective and deterministic. It is interdisciplinary in nature as it borrows heavily both in terms of theory and methods from social and other sciences. In essence it involves application of social behavioural and scientific method to the study of communication issues and problems.
It has got a wide scope because it helps in building relations which eventually leads us to the process and path of progress & development, otherwise we will be self centered, self contained which will ultimately lead us nowhere. The exchange of idea motivates us to brainstorm, leading to research in related aspect.
1.4.1 Message Analysis: A message is not only about the advertising slogan or a marketing line; a message is an easy and clear idea that describes about the entire project as a whole. It should function as a guiding standard for every type of communications, from the contents of leaflets, brochures and websites and also for media interviews or conversations with important people. The main point is that messages must be simple and steady across all kinds of communications. Without clear and simple messages, a communication agenda requires clarity and focus and hence the agenda is at risk of becoming weak. â€¨
Analyzing Messages provides a complete and easy guide to carry out content analysis research. It set up a formal definition of quantitative content analysis; which provides gradual instructions on designing a content analysis study; and explores in depth research questions that recur in content analysis, in areas of measurement, sampling, reliability, data analysis, validity, and technology.
1.4.2 Channel Analysis: A channel analysis is an evaluation of how and where a product should be sold. It starts with an assessment of the options for getting a specific product or service into the hands of the end user.
1.4.3 Audience Analysis: Audience analysis is about gathering and analysing information about the receivers of oral, written, or visual communication. There are many methods that a communication researcher can use to conduct the analysis. Because the task of completing an audience analysis is huge, therefore using a multi-pronged approach to conduct the analysis is recommended by most of the researchers, often resulting in improved precision and efficiency. Michael Albers suggests that, “An analysis uses several independent dimensions that work together, such as readers’ knowledge of the topic and readers cognitive ability.”
1.5 Stages of Communication Research
The communication research process can be divided into five interrelated phases of research activity:
1.5.1 Conceptualization: Conceptualization is the first phase of communication research. In this phase the researcher invites formulation of an idea about what needs to be studied. The researcher begins communication inquiry by engaging in such conceptualizing activities as identifying a topic worth studying, defining the primary concepts relevant to the topic and reviewing the literature to learn what is already known about the topic, and phrasing the topic as a formal research problem.
1.5.2 Planning and Designing: Moving from the conceptualization stage to planning and to designing research demands that the researcher transforms abstract concepts into operational or measurable terms. Operationalization involves determining the observable attributes, or characteristics of the concepts of interest. In this stage researcher must develop strategies for measuring those observable concepts. Communication researchers usually rely on three general techniques for measuring research concepts: questionnaire, interviews and observations. These three measurement techniques produce different types of information.
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Planning and designing communication research involves number of ethical decisions. Ethics affects each stage of the research process: how researcher chooses the research topic and frames questions; how the literature is reviewed and how research is designed and conducted; how the data is analyzed and how the findings are interpreted and used.
1.5.3 Methodology: Once the topic has been chosen and the research questions have been determined and the review of literature has been conducted and research has been designed, then the researchers are ready to conduct their studies. Conducting research carefully demands understanding and adhering to the specific assumption and requirements of the methodology chosen. These methods guide the researchers to what evidence to look for and how to look for it.
1.5.4 Analyzing and Interpreting Data: Once data or evidence has been gathered through the use of the methodology, it needs to be analyzed and interpreted. For methods like experimental, survey and sometimes textual analysis it means processing quantitative data through the use of appropriate statistical procedures.
1.5.5 Reconceptualizing: In this stage the researcher rethinks on the topic of enquiry. As a result of the systematic process associated with conceptualization, planning and designing of research, using methodology to conduct research, and analyzing the data acquired through research. Once data has been collected and analyzed, the findings need to be interpretated within the broader context of the research process.
Reconceptualization involves explaining the significance of the findings. In this stage the researcher explains how the findings answer the research questions posed, and confirm or disconfirm the predictions made and, support or refute previous theory and research. Researchers are also able to identify the problem with the research and how these problems may limit the validity and usage of the findings.
1.6 Implications in Research
Communication research studies the message behaviour which leads to the following important implications in conduct of communication research:
- Communication researchers realize that it is just as important to examine meanings attributed to messages as it is to study the nature of the message themselves. Studying the meaning is often necessary so that communication researchers use self-report measures.
- Communication researchers must select particular communication variables that they wish to examine, since they cannot possibly explore all pertinent elements of any communication event. They are aware, of multifaceted nature of communication and the fact that their research temporarily frames communication behaviour.
- Acknowledging the nature of communication encourages communication researchers to engage in longitudinal research rather than cross sectional research.
- Traditionally communication researchers have focused on messages intentionally designed. Some however also assess how people construct internal messages about others unintentional behaviour thereby rendering it communicative.
- Communication researchers recognize that although verbal and non-verbal message systems may be studied separately however both these message systems are interdependent. Non-verbal cues always accompany and influence the interpretation of verbal messages.
- Because of connotative characteristic of language, communication researchers usually develop questionnaires and interview guides that carefully avoid using ambiguous terms or term that have strong distracting implications for certain respondents.
- Because of the differences in the way individuals understand message and create meaning of the messages, communication researchers take great care when generalizing findings from one set of persons to another.
- Communication researchers realize that although the content and relationship dimensions of message may be studied separately, in practice they interact to influence message exchange and personal relationships.
- Communication researchers consider the effects of the context in communication. They recognize the ‘embedded’ nature of communication where different social rules apply in different environments.
- In the final analysis, communication is not just one thing. It is a complex process by which people manage messages and create messages.
- “Communication Research has got a wide scope because it helps in building relations which eventually leads us to the process and path of progress & development.” Is the statement true or false?
- In ______________________ stage, the researcher rethinks on the topic of enquiry as a result of the systematic process associated with conceptualization.
- ________________________ is the first phase of communication research. In this phase the researcher invites formulation of an idea about what needs to be studied.
1.7 Summing Up
The lesson elucidated the importance of Communication Research. It discussed the role, need and scope of Communication Research. It also discussed various stages of Communication Research.
- What are the stages of Communication Research?
- Comment on the scope of Communication Research.
- What is the need of Communication Research?
- Comment on the role of Communication Research.
Possible answers to Self-Check questions
- Comment on the role, need and scope of Communication Research.
- Describe the implications of Communication Research.
1.11 Suggested Further Readings
1. C.R. Kothari, Research Methodology: Methods and Techniques, Vishwa Parkashan, New Delhi
2. S.R. Sharma & Anil Chaturvedi, Research in Mass Media, Radha Publications, New Delhi
3. G.R. Basotia & K.K. Sharma, Research Methodology, Mangal Deep Publications
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