Comm 552 Research Methods in Communication Fall 2013

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COMM 552 Research Methods in Communication

Fall 2013

Patricia Riley, Ph.D.

Office: ASC 201B
Office hours: T 3:00-6:00 and by appt.
Course description: 
The goal of this course is to examine an array of methodologies that can be of use in the conduct of qualitative social science scholarship in communication and interdisciplinary research as well as in the production of humanities-oriented research. Students will analyze designs and approaches that are used in communication research and across a wide swath of sub-disciplinary and interdisciplinary areas. It includes topics such as ethnography, focus groups, narrative thematic analysis, case studies, textual analysis, discourse analysis, feminist studies, visual argument and other related concepts. There will also be some time devoted to hybrid methodologies such as basic content analysis. With each approach, we will examine what kinds of questions particular methods enable, as well as how those methods limit the kinds of questions we can ask and answer. The course necessarily broaches topics such as culture, gender, race and power and brings into relief epistemological questions such as: What assumptions do we hold about how we know what we know? If a researcher can never be completely objective, what are the consequences (and is that the right question)? What are the implications of who we are to how and what we study?

Course requirements:

  1. Students are expected to do all readings in preparation for class and participate fully in class discussions (laptops are for taking notes only :). Class will have some lectures but the course is primarily run as a seminar. There will also be some practice sessions for methodologies in class and outside of class.

  2. Students will sign up to help lead one class discussion topic and they should choose one or more additional articles on the topic and post them on the discussion board and add them to the class dropbox (redundancy is good). No more than three students can sign up for any given topic. There is a sign-up discussion board on Blackboard. Students who are jointly leading a topic should coordinate their choices of additional reading(s) and how best to lead the discussion during class. The additional articles chosen by the students should be posted by 8 pm the Monday prior to class.

  3. Complete and submit all homework and graded assignments by due date (any extensions need approval in advance). Assignments are described below:

Weekly postings and homework: Students need to post their reaction papers (an analysis of the readings) and/or their homework activities on the Blackboard forum discussion board by 8pm Thursday prior to each class. The reaction papers are to respond to the readings for the week and are intended to be brief assessments—approximately 1-2 pages each. They can be critiques and/or they can focus on questions that emerge from the readings but primarily they are intended to provoke discussion in class. They do not need to be highly polished. (These reaction papers do not receive a letter grade, they are simply recorded as a plus, check, or minus.)
Article method/critique: Students will present 10 minute oral presentations on a selected reading that covers a qualitative methodology (these need to be selected by October 2). The article can be explicitly about the approach or be a study that uses the approach and describes the approach/method in great detail. A one page summary or copy of the slides (if using presentation software like powerpoint, prezi or keynote) should be available to the class on Blackboard prior to the class and the paper turned in on October 23.
Research proposal: A 15-20 page proposal outlining a research project is due on December 11. This proposal should focus heavily on questions of methodology—which methods would be most appropriate for the topic, how one implements these methods, etc. If the paper is for a social science project, it should follow the standard format (introduction, literature review, research questions, methodology, limitations, and types of possible findings). If the proposal is for a humanistic project, it should include a rationale, object(s) of study, literature review and both the argument and protocol for application of the theory or cultural/critical approach and a short section on potential knowledge(s) produced. A short and informal presentation of the proposal will be presented to the class and there will be food. The paper is due Dec. 11.
Practice: There are several additional homework assignments that will be explained in class with instructions listed on blackboard: observations with field notes, focus group leadership/participation and transcription, content analysis practice, discourse analysis and coding, gamification, visual/media analysis.

Graded Assignments:
Weekly postings and homework assignments 25%

Class participation (includes role as discussion leader) 15%

Method Article paper 15%

Method Article presentation 10%

Research proposal 35%
Recommended Books:

A number of readings are from three additional books that students may wish to purchase for their libraries:

Boellstorff, T., Nardi, B., Pearce, C. and Taylor, T.L. (2012). Ethnography and Virtual Worlds: A Handbook of Method. Princeton University Press.

Denzin, N. & Lincoln, Y. (Eds.) (1995). The Sage Handbook of Qualitative Research, 3rd ed. Sage Publications.

Denzin, N. & Lincoln, Y. (Eds.) (2012). Collecting and Interpreting Qualitative Materials. Sage Publications.

Emerson, R., Fretz, R. & Shaw, L. (2011), Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes, Second Edition. University of Chicago Press.

Gee, J. P (2010). An Introduction to Discourse Analysis: Theory and Method. Routledge Press.

Hargittai, E. (Ed.) (2009) Research Confidential: Solutions to Problems Most Social Scientists Pretend They Never Have. University of Michigan Press [Paperback]

Hine, Christine (Ed.). (2005). Virtual Methods: Issues in Social Research on the Internet.

Oxford, GBR: Berg Publishers.

Saldana, J. (2012). The Coding Manual for Qualitative Researchers. Sage Publications.


Clifford Geertz (1973).  Chapter 1 Thick description: Toward a theory of interpretation of culture (pp. 1-30). In The interpretation of cultures. Basic Books.

James Clifford (1988).  Chapter 1 On Ethnographic authority. In The predicament of culture: Twentieth century ethnography, literature and art (pp. 21-54).  Harvard University Press

George Marcus and Michael Fischer (1999).  A crisis of representation in the human sciences.  In Anthropology as cultural critique: An experimental moment in the human sciences. Second Edition (pp.-16). University of Chicago Press.

Mizuko Ito (2002). Play in an Age of Digital Media: Children’s Engagements with the Japanimation Media Mix. Abe Fellowship Seminar, Tokyo.

Disability: Any student requesting academic accommodations based on disability is required to register with Disability Services and Programs (DSP) each semester. A letter of verification for approved accommodations can be obtained from DSP. Please be sure the letter is delivered to me as early in the semester as possible. DSP is located in STU 301 and is open 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. The phone number for DSP is (213) 740-0776.

Academic Integrity:

The Annenberg School for Communication is committed to upholding the University’s Academic Integrity code as detailed in the SCampus Guide. It is the policy of the School of Communication to report all violations of the code. Any serious violation or pattern of violations of the Academic Integrity Code can result in the student’s expulsion from the program.

Class Schedule:
Aug. 28:  Class introduction and discovering areas of interest, introduction to qualitative methods; iStar and the IRB issues that are problematic in doing qualitative research; discussion of collaboration and teamwork, grant rules and funding for qualitative research
Sept. 4: Observation and fieldnotes experience conducted in pairs during class-time. Notes are to be taken independently and then posted. Reaction papers should include comments about the differences in the pairs’ notes—create your own typology for the comparison—in addition to the readings. Readings: Emerson, Fretz & Shaw
Sept. 11: Discussion of field experience; Archival Research and Historiography. Readings: Angrosino; Gallo; DeCerteau; Tucker
Sept. 18: Ethnography. Readings: Geertz; Clifford; Marcus & Clifford; Ito
Sept. 25: Interviews, Children and Elites, Oral History. Readings: Fontana & Frey; Walling, Banet-Weiser
Oct. 2: Case studies, Grounded Theory and Thematic Content Analysis—plus content analysis assignment. Readings: Charmaz; Stake; Glaser & Holton

Oct. 9: Discussion of CA coding. Focus Groups, Audience Analysis, Thematic Analysis—plus the focus group assignment. Readings: Kamberlis & Dimitiadis; Ann Gray; Seiter

Oct. 16: Method Article Presentations
Oct. 23 Method Article Presentations, methods article papers due
Oct. 30 Discourse Coding: Sandi Evans. Readings: Saldana; Gee.
Nov. 6: Discussion of Focus Groups Exercise. Feminism, Power; Representation of Others; Analyzing Talk, Text and Performance. Readings: Perakyla; Lewis (on Hall); Antaki, Billig, Edwards, & Pottter; Fairhurst; Stemler

Nov. 13: Intercultural and Co-constructed research. Readings: Caldwell; Quigley, Handy & Goble; Wilkins & Ball-Rokeach; Wang & Burris

Nov. 20: The Internet as a Field. Discovertext Exercise. Readings: Boellstorff et al.; Lebesco; Bruckman; Jones, Thomas, Turkle (needs to be rescheduled because of NCA)
Nov. 27: Thanksgiving—Happy Turkey? Day—No class
Dec. 4: The Visual. The Aural. Geolocation, gamification and the Visual/Media Exercise. Readings: Smith, Kun, Rose, Blair, Zelizer
Dec. 11: Final Projects discussion (informal presentations), research proposal papers due

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