Ahmad-quantitative and Qualitative Methods in Communication Research

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  •     COMMUNICATION RESEARCH APG 4409 ASSIGNMENT 1 : ESSAY QUANTITATIVE AND QUALITATIVE METHODS IN COMMUNICATION RESEARCH HAL MAHERA BINTI AHMAD MONASH ID : 2409 1669
  • COMMUNICATION  RESEARCH  APG  4409   2     INTRODUCTION This paper attempts to discuss quantitative and qualitative research approaches within the broad field of communications research. In the light of looking for possible similarities and differences between this two methods, it will briefly look at their historical development of both methods, the paradigms and interpretative frameworks, discusses major advantages and limitations and possibly looking at the new trend that combines both quantitative and qualitative data in a single research project in an effort to reconcile both methods. THE HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVES Research is a process of asking questions and looking for answers. However, on a deeper level, leads us to understand that it involves a systematic exploration, well-structured questions, producing new information and reassessing old information (Bertrand & Hughes 2005: 5-6). Methods are the actual techniques you use to collect evidence, such as surveys and experiments (Balnaves, Donald & Shoesmith 2009:279). Media research evolves over time, significantly changes due to changes of media roles and influences in society. The changes also were influenced by evolution of social science models. Historically, quantitative research dominated the first part of the 20th century (Balnaves, Donald & Shoesmith 2009:278). This early form of research originates from the study of natural sciences such as biology, chemistry, physics and geology. This study was concerned with investigating things that can be measured and observed and hence measurements were made objectively so that it could be repeated and replicated by other researchers. Quantitative approaches use statistical designs or mathematical analysis for gathering and analyzing data (i.e. survey, experiments). The questions often involve how many, how often,
  • COMMUNICATION  RESEARCH  APG  4409   3     how much and answers were often found in the relationship that exists between elements in a topic. It is often used when there is a lot of known about a topic and there is a need to better predict and specify causes and effects (Kayrooz & Trevitt 2005: 110-1, Alasutaari 1995: 8). As the time progresses, the researchers have growing interest on the study of social sciences such as in the area of sociology, anthropology and psychology. This study involves the study of human behavior and the social world inhabited by human being. They also found that human behavior is difficult to be measured using numbers. Some things cannot be justified numerically but rationally. While quantitative research allows us to understand what and how but it could not really explain why. So this leads to a new methodology called qualitative approach. It is a text-based or non-mathematical analysis and interpretation of information. It aims to identify the who, what, when, why and how of certain phenomena. It emerges to measure human attitudes and behaviors. This type of approach also allows the researcher to be close to the individual’s perspective because they can be immersed in the details of the data via interviews, focus groups and observation (Kayrooz & Trevitt 2005: 110-1, Balnaves, Donald & Shoesmith 2009: 278, Jensen 2002: 255). Both approaches, often being discussed and debated whether one is more superior to the other. However, both are used to understand media and communication in modern and postmodern society within the context of professional, commercial and academic research context (Bertrand & Hughes 2005:2). THE DISTINGUISHING FEATURES OF QUANTITATIVE AND QUALITATIVE RESEARCH The first feature that separates quantitative and qualitative research is the theoretical perspectives that are related to communication research which is the epistemological
  • COMMUNICATION  RESEARCH  APG  4409   4     premises. Epistemology concerns with the nature, ways of knowing how knowledge is created (Gunter 2000: 1-2, Balnaves, Donald & Shoesmith 2009:279). Quantitative research often connected to a positivist epistemology while qualitative research with critical epistemology. Neuman defines positivism as an organized method for combining deductive logic and empirical observations of individual behavior (in Gunter 2000:2). Explanation of human behavior must be supported by facts and these facts can be measured. The critical epistemology on the contrary reveals social science is fundamentally different than hard science that it requires the interpretative approach through the study of texts, meaning and context. People convey subjective experience through text and this subjectivity is important to explain human social life (Gunter 2002: 1-5). The second feature lies on the ontological questions – the nature of phenomena communication researchers seek to know (Gunter 2002:1). The non-actional theory is related to quantitative research which means behaviors are determined and influenced by past pressures. This involves the researcher to study events and factors that affect certain behavior which is within the context naïve realism and the logic of what has happen is the reality by itself. Qualitative research concerns with actional-theory that assumes individual creates meanings; they have intention and make real choices. Subjects can be imperfectly misunderstood and probabilistically apprehendable (Bertrand & Hughes 2005:12). Next feature to observe is the data and observation collection. Quantitative methodology employ large, replicable sample which is representative of the entire population being researched. The quality of research is affected by the effectiveness of data processing, analysis and interpretation. The orientation of the research is written from the outsider’s perspective to ensure it is credible. Qualitative research by contrast an in-depth exploration of what makes people tick on a particular subject: their feelings and perceptions so it seeks
  • COMMUNICATION  RESEARCH  APG  4409   5     much smaller samples, not necessarily representative of a population but indicative instead. The researcher often wears the insider hat, trying to get them intimately involved in focus group discussions, one-on-one interviews and the main purpose is to understand and explain from the actor’s own frame of reference (Kayrooz & Trevitt 2005:114, Jensen 2002:254- 256). The final feature is the analytical and interpretative approach, which has been described in many ways such as deduction versus induction (Jensen 2002:259) measurement versus meaning (Jensen 2002:255) production of observations and unriddling versus purification and unriddling (Alasuutari 1995:13-20); average effects versus individual effects ( Mahoney and Goertz 2006:229). There articles discuss the difference between these two approaches from the epistemological, ontological and methodological features. This is primarily important as it functions as the super-structure in the research and it guides how the researcher thinks. Ultimately, deciding which approach to be used will determine methods, preferences, contexts and furthermore mode of analysis to be undertaken and how findings will be generated. ADVANTAGES AND LIMITATIONS Be it quantitative or qualitative approaches both have their own advantages and limitations. Quantitative approaches offer polish, precision and for academic purposes, a potential to publish that qualitative approaches cannot. Quantitative component in your research appear to add status and credibility (Kayrooz & Trevitt 2005: 114-115).
  • COMMUNICATION  RESEARCH  APG  4409   6     Quantitative research uses traditional statistical and mathematical methods for measuring results conclusively. It uses standard format so there are chances to be replicated by other research. It enable people to summarize huge information and while provide good comparison over time. The positivist approach believes in objective reality and discovery through valid methods so they will study characteristics or features of individuals in order to explain a phenomenon. There a potential of small degree of error and high degree of precision. These features will become components for variable and further explain causal relationships. Most importantly this technique answers the question of validity and reliability of a research. However, the limitation of quantitative research is that some methods for example experiment may lack meaning, it might not be able to address its social significance but merely statistical evidence (Alasutaari 1995:10). Apparently it may not explain why a phenomenon actually happens. There is also a question of external validity, of which to explain if the phenomenon really happens in real life because some results are based on a controlled setting (Gunter 2002:225). Qualitative method assumes that there is a relationship between attitude and behavior in regards to human science. It complements the quantitative methods in the sense that it provides explanations of complex phenomena, but is also beneficial in evolving or creating conceptual bases or theories, and in recommending hypotheses to explain the phenomena (Jensen 2002: 254-259). Besides, the value of any qualitative research is to provide valid results which are only possible after extensive research. It allows a researcher to go deeper into trivial matters which helps to develop greater understanding of media and communication (Alasutaari 1995: 13-20).
  • COMMUNICATION  RESEARCH  APG  4409   7     The challenge of qualitative method is the fact that it is highly theoretical and sometimes individual; the outcomes cannot be representative to a population that quantitative methods can address. The scope is sometimes to narrow and observations might involve a high degree of interpretation. There is a possibility of data overload so longer time is needed to interpret the results. There is a problem in explaining validity and reliability of the information due to element of subjectivity. Furthermore, as the researcher need to be deeply involved in the research, there is a strong possibility of biasness to explain a phenomenon. (Mahoney & Goetrz 2006: 229) RECONCILIATION OF QUANTITATIVE AND QUALITATIVE RESEARCH Future media studies research will increasingly become focused on each other’s cultures and media and how we might better understand and interact with them. Qualitative research methods are often combined with quantitative methods in modern media research. For example focus groups may be combined with survey research. It came under different name but reflect the same concept which is called multi-methods, multi-strategy, mixed methods (Bryman 2006: 2-3). A combination of methods does have some advantages for example it provides guidance for other researchers of what they researchers has to do or have done and gave various perspectives over the same issue. However Bryman (2006) argues that a combination of approaches is not necessarily better because it can result in deleterious effects on designs and resources, other academics shared their own opinions on multi-method approach. A combination of approaches should increase our confidence in our own and other’s findings. It is also believed that these two methods
  • COMMUNICATION  RESEARCH  APG  4409   8     although carry competing frameworks can strengthen a study and serves as a continuum of research (in Kayrooz & Trevitt 2005:113). It also provides a more complete picture of the phenomenon under study. However, as different paradigms carry different assumptions about reality and knowledge claims, it is really important to understand and evaluate each method that is best to approach a particular communication study. Hammersley (1996) explained three principal forms pertaining to combination of quantitative and qualitative methodologies which are facilitation, triangulation and complementarity (in Jensen 2002:272). Facilitation is treating both methods in sequence. For example, before a researcher conducts a quantitative survey, they first will conduct a qualitative ‘pilot study’. Triangulation is among the most popular methods to address aspects of validity and reliability. It is a strategy used to gain several perspectives on the same phenomenon using experiments and observations. Complementarity is the least common methodology and most challenging because it combines different approaches for different aspects of the same research questions. It is interesting to find that multi method approach can be very unpredictable. There is a mismatch between rationale given for combining methods and how they were used. It is quite possible when the researcher is dealing with the wealth of data that might generate unexpected findings. This was based on content analysis over two hundred article on social sciences that employed this methodology. (Bryman 2006:15-16) It also suggests that this method is still open more for exploration in the future as the media evolves and paradigms might shift again.
  • COMMUNICATION  RESEARCH  APG  4409   9     CONCLUSION Communication researchers use a variety of paradigms to organize how they understand and inquire into communication. The differences later carry out in their research tasks. Communication research is fascinating, the fact that it deals with the way human mind works, the way we convey messages and the process of communication is evolving to become more sophisticated and complex each day. This article has looked at the rise of both methodologies in communication research, covering the historical perspective, the epistemological and ontological premises, discussed the advantages and limitations of both methods and a possible reconciliation between the two. There are some questions that cannot be answered using a single method. A mix of methods can be used to assess different facets of complex outcomes or impacts, yielding more breadth, depth, and width in the portrait than one method alone can. Perhaps that opens up to possibilities that methodologies in communication research will continue to develop in search of holistic answer to the perplexities of mankind. (2,020 words)
  • COMMUNICATION  RESEARCH  APG  4409   10     BIBLIOGRAPHY Alasuutari, P. (1995) ―Qualitative and quantitative analysis as a continuum, Researching Culture: Qualitative Method and Cultural Studies. Sage: London: 130-132. Alasuutari, P. (1995) ―What is qualitative research? Researching culture: qualitative method and cultural studies. Sage: London: 6-21. Balnaves, Donald and Shoesmith (2009) Ch.14 in Media theories and approaches: a global perspective. Palgrave Macmillan: Basingstoke: 278-292 Berger, A. (2000) – On quantity and quality in media research, Ch.1 in Media and Communication Research Methods: an introduction to qualitative and quantitative approaches. Sage. London: 12-17. Bertrand, I. & Hughes, P. (2005) - Of elephants, definitions and models: the context of media researchǁ‖, Ch. 1 in Media Research Methods: Audiences, Institutions, Texts. Palgrave Macmillan: Basingstoke: 1-20. Bryman, Alan (2006) – Integrating quantitative and qualitative research: how it is done? Qualitative Research, Vol.6 (1): 97-113. Gunter, B. (2000) - Evolving theoretical background of media research, Ch.1, Media Research Methods. Sage: London: 1-21. Gunter, B. (2000) - Overview of media research methodologies: audiencesǁ‖, Ch.2, Media Research methods. Sage: London: 22-54. Gunter, B. (2002) - The quantitative research process, Klaus Bruhn Jensen (ed.) A Handbook of Media and Communications Research. Routledge: London Jensen, K.B. (1993) - Introduction: the qualitative turn, in K.B. Jensen (ed.) A handbook of qualitative methodologies for mass communication research. Routledge: London & New York: 1-8. Jensen, K.B. (2002) - Media Research as a Social Institution‘ in Klaus Bruhn Jensen, A Handbook of Media and Communications Research. Routledge: London: 278-288. Jensen, K.B. (2002) - The complementarity of qualitative and quantitative methodologies in media and communication research, Ch. 15 in Klaus Bruhn Jensen (ed.) A Handbook of Media and Communications Research. Routledge: London: 254-259 & 272. Kayrooz, C. & Trevitt, C. (2005) - Research purpose and approach Ch. 8, Research in Organizations and Communities: Tales from the Real World. Allen & Unwin: Crows Nest: 103-124. Mahoney, J. and G. Goertz (2006) - A Tale of Two Cultures: Contrasting Quantitative and Qualitative Research. Political Analysis 14: 227-249.

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