How To…Conduct Communications Research

Undertaking research is an increasingly important part of communications executives' jobs, whether it's to contribute to measurement efforts, facilitate integration, justify budgets or simply gather intelligence about their target stakeholders. But research is the stuff Ph.D degrees are made of--in other words, it's a science that is learned over the course of an academic lifetime and is impossible to perfect. Thanks to Don Wright, professor of public relations at Boston University's College of Communication, the following how-to guide offers a crash course in the components that combine to create the ultimate body of knowledge: Qualitative Versus Quantitative Research Qualitative: Data are primarily verbal and visual Researchers work with participants in natural setting The researcher is usually the study's measurement instrument Relies mainly on human insight Counting is acceptable but often not very useful Quantitative: Data are primarily numerical; replicable and reliable Research recruit "subjects" for controlled observation Researcher designs/creates a measurement instrument, such as a questionnaire Relies on statistical measures and tests Counting is acceptable and very useful Research Tools Focus Groups: Focused discussions that can be used as pilot studies to collect preliminary information about a topic prior to a quantitative survey or to explore post-survey information more in-depth. Advantages: Quick and relatively inexpensive Disadvantages: Limited external validity Surveys: Collection of data from multiple respondents.

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