CLASS LIST FOR 2011 - 2012, CLASS: Year 3, MODE: DAY PROGRAM    
  Year 4 Communication  2012-2013  
No Name First_Name Sex Reg_Number Supervisor Email
1 ABENETO ROSINE F UG10202130 Edward Mwesigye
2 AKIMANA AMINI M UG11112790 JP Uwimana
3 BENIMANA GLORIA F UG10100077 Aldo Havugimana
4 BUCYIBARUTA ADIEL M UG11112837 Raphael Nkaka
5 BUMWE    RITA MARIE CLARISSE F UG10100128 Aldo Havugimana
6 DUKUZIMANA JEAN DE DIEU M UG10100169 Edward Mwesigye
7 GATETE LUCIEN M UG10100245 Joseph Njuguna
8 IGENERE UGABE  PARFAIT M UG10100435 Edward Mwesigye
9 INGABIRE ASSUMPTA F UG11112809 Dominique Nduhura
10 IRAKOZE RICHARD M UG10100493 Dominique Nduhura
11 IYAMUREMYE  DONAT M UG10100533 Dominique Nduhura
12 KAMPIRE KAYIGAMBA DANIELLA  M UG10100593 Dominique Nduhura
13 KAJYAMBERE SISULU  ALBERTINE F UG10100570 Edward Mwesigye
14 KANAMUGIRE EMMANUEL M UG10100597 Aldo Havugimana
15 KAYITESI MOLLY F UG12214792 Joseph Njuguna
16 KUBWIMANA  INNOCENT M UG10100657 Paul Mbaraga
17 KWIKIRIZA WILLIAM M UG11112789 Dr. Chris Kayumba
18 MAGAMBO  GRACE  F UG10100669 Dr. Chris Kayumba
19 MASABO JUVENAL M UG10100700 Joseph Njuguna
20 MBANANABO  EZECHIEL M UG10100712 Raphael Nkaka
21 MUKABAGORORA  DIANE F UG10100851 JP Uwimana
22 MUNYANEZA DEO M UG10100942 Raphael Nkaka
23 MUNYANEZA  ERNEST M UG10100948 Paul Mbaraga
24 MUSAFIRI ROBERT M UG10100998 Dr. Chris Kayumba
26 MUTONI LILIAN F UG11212808 Joseph Njuguna
27 MUYOMBANO PIERRE M UG10101063 Raphael Nkaka
28 MWANAFUNZI ISMAEL M UG10101068 Joseph Njuguna
29 MWEMA BAHATI  PHILIPPE M UG10101071 Joseph Njuguna
30 NAHIMANA DIANE F UG10101086 Edward Mwesigye
31 NAKURE CAISSY CHRISTINE F UG11112794 Paul Mbaraga
32 NDATEBA VALENS M UG10101140 Raphael Nkaka
33 NDAYISENGA AIMEE EMMANUEL M UG11112818 Aldo Havugimana
34 NDOLI SITIO M UG11112810 Dominique Nduhura
35 NEEMA MARIE JEANNE F UG10101213 Edward Mwesigye
36 NGABIRANO OLIVIER M UG10101215 JP Uwimana
37 NIBAGWIRE MPORE CHANTAL F UG10202267 Dominique Nduhura
38 NIYONSENGA REVERIEN M UG10101335 Aldo Havugimana
39 NKURIKIYUMUKIZA JOACHIM M UG10101393 Joseph Njuguna
40 NSENGIMANA  APHRODICE M UG10101433 Dr. Chris Kayumba
42 NTAKIRUTIMANA DEUS M UG10101512 Joseph Njuguna
43 NTAWITONDA  JEAN  CLAUDE M UG10101524 Dominique Nduhura
45 NTAZINDA JEAN DAMASCENE M UG11112836 Aldo Havugimana
46 NTIRENGANYA DANIEL M UG10101542 Joseph Njuguna
47 NTIRENGANYA JOTHAM M UG10101544 Aldo Havugimana
48 NYIRANGABO ANATHALIE F UG10101603 Paul Mbaraga
51 NYIRARUKUNDO PHILOMENE F UG10101619 Dominique Nduhura
52 NZEYIMANA CLEOPHAS M UG10101646 Edward Mwesigye
53 RUBIBI OLIVIER M UG11212774 Dr. Chris Kayumba
54 RUGANGURA AXEL M UG11112769 Joseph Njuguna
55 RUTARI MWISENEZA CARINE F UG10101710 Dominique Nduhura
56 RUTEBUKA BIJANDA FIDELE M UG11112832 Dr. Chris Kayumba
57 SAFARI  AMRI M UG10101735 JP Uwimana
58 SEBUDANDI FRANK M UG11112792 Raphael Nkaka
59 TWIRINGIYIMANA FIDELE M UG10101876 No proposal  
60 UMULINGA ALICE F UG11212798 Dr. Chris Kayumba
61 UMULISA GASHUGI DIVINE F UG10101914 Dominique Nduhura
62 UWASE NATACHA F UG11112829 Joseph Njuguna
63 UWIRINGIYIMANA CLEMENT M UG10102072 Dominique Nduhura

                                        3rd Year journalism and communication




                                                   National University of Rwanda

Faculty of Arts, Media and Social Sciences

School of Journalism and Communication

Academic Year 2012

Year 3 Journalism and Communication

Module: Communication Research Methods

Assignment 1



The assignment is supposed to be done in 12 groups.  Every group member must participate because much as it is a group assignment, marks will be given on individual basis during and after presentation. There will be an average mark for the group and individual marks which will be determined by a demonstrated participation in the assignment. Though the reading materials circulated to students are very important guides for this assignment, group members can use other materials (from their own research) to better handle the assignment. Wherever possible, group members will need to contextualise using realities that students might easily grasp.

Each group is required to first read relevant material, get deeper understanding, summarise it for the people who did not have time to analyse the material, and then find a way to present the findings to the rest of the class in a simple and intelligible manner, in a presentation of not more than 20 minutes. In addition to presenting in class, each group will hand in a write-up of the assignment which will also be assessed.


Topics and provisional references


Group 1: Science and the scientific method (Research Methods, NUR, Research Commission, 26-48)

Group 2:  Planning and designing a research study (Essentials of Research Design and Methodology, 26-64)

Group 3: Research approaches (Research Methods, NUR, Research Commission, 58-82)

Group 4: Quantitative and qualitative approaches in communication research (Communication Research Methods, a brief theoretical overview, 12-44)

Group 5: Validity in research (Essentials of Research Design and Methodology, 66-94)  mi grp

Group 6: Measurement in research (Essentials of Research Design and Methodology, 95-115)

Group 7: Sampling (Research Methods, NUR, Research Commission, 83-91)

Group 8: Havard System of Referencing (Article on Havard System of Referencing)

Group 9: Ethical considerations in research (Research Methods, NUR, Research Commission, 112-119)

Group 10: Challenges in communication research (Understanding Communication Research Methods, a brief theoretical overview, 45-55)

Group 11: The use of communication research by governments and other institutions and organisations (Understanding Communication Research Methods, a brief theoretical overview, 55-57; this is supposed to be complemented and/or supplemented by your own research and observation)

Group 12: Research and project proposals (Research Methods, NUR, Research Commission, 105-110)








GOOD LUCK!         




The purpose of this chapter is to provide a brief theoretic overview of some


aspects relevant to research in communication. The researcher believes that


government communicators always need to conduct research on the basis of


sound theoretical guidelines and principles to ensure research of good quality.


Writing about Total Quality Management (TQM), Pace (2001) defines quality as


"doing the right thing the right way the first time and every time", and further


defines "right" and "wrong" with regard to quality as follows:

The right thing must be understood from both internal (product/service) and


external (customer) perspectives. This means that the product or service meets


customer requirements, performs as stated, is priced fairly, and is delivered on




The right way is the most effective, most efficient, lowest cost, fastest, highest


value approach to producing the right outcome the first time and every time. It


applies conformance to all applicable standards and specifications as well as


minimisation of the costs of poor quality such as rework, waste, and scrap.


















Pace (2001) concludes that "poor quality could be defined as either doing the


wrong thing (or failing to do the right thing) or doing the right thing the wrong way


(or failing to do the right thing the right way every time)."



The researcher argues that communication research is the "right thing" to do, but


that it is of no use if not done in "the right way."


In chapter 2 communication research is defined. The researcher furthermore


distinguishes different types of research, discusses the different steps in the


research process typical to most research projects and refers to some of the


challenges of communication research. Lastly, a few points regarding the use of


communication research by governments are introduced.







12.Definitions and descriptions of different focus areas in research and of various


research methodologies and processes are more readily available than a


definition of ‘research’, and Leedy (1997:3) remarks that "the word research is


used in everyday speech to cover a broad spectrum of meaning, which makes it


a decidedly confusing term …"


Reinard (2001:3) provides the following short definition of research: "Research is


the systematic effort to secure answers to questions." He expands on this


concise definition by stressing the point that "these questions are not mundane


ones", but that "research questions deal with issues requiring reference to data


and information" (Reinard, 2001:3-4). Leedy (1997:3) defines research as "the


systematic process of collecting and analysing information (data) in order to


increase our understanding of the phenomenon with which we are concerned or


interested." Powell (1997:2) does not provide his own definition of ‘research’, but


quotes three definitions from others:


"Studious inquiring or examination; especially: investigation or experimentation


aimed at the discovery and interpretation of facts, revision of accepted theories






















































































































































13.or laws in the light of new facts, or practical applications of such new or revised


theories or laws" (Webster’s Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary, cited by Powell,




"A method or study by which, through the careful and exhaustive investigation of


all the ascertainable evidence bearing upon a definable problem, we reach a


solution of that problem" (Hillway, cited by Powell, 1997:2).


"Research is best conceived as the process of arriving at dependable solutions to


problems through the planned and systematic collection, analysis, and


interpretation of data" (Mouly, cited by Powell, 1997:2).


Both interesting and useful to understand the meaning of research, is Leedy’s


guidelines as to what research is not (Leedy, 1997:4):






















Research is not mere information gathering.


Research is not mere transportation of facts from one location to another.


Research is not merely rummaging for information.


Research is not a catchword to get attention.

According to Powell (1997:2) "there is no one definition of research, in part


because there is more than one kind of research."


Focus areas in research covered extensively in the literature available, include


the following:










marketing research (Martins, 1996a:3-22; Chisnall, 1991:6; Crimp,

1990:3; Bailey, 1982:2)




market research (Cooper, 1998:1015-1024); Fairweather, 2001; Smith,

1998:29-65; Yule, 2001; Shalofsky, 1998:1103-1128)













social research (Bless and Higson-Smith, 2000; Bulmer, 2000a:8-9;

Groenewald, 1981; Möhler, 1998:1025-1032; Shalofsky, 1998:11031128)


advertising research (Hansen, 1998:653-724; Yasuda and Spence,

2000:179-201; Martins, 1996b:550-567)




public opinion research (Khoury, 1989; Mattes, 1993:30-32; Worcester,

1999; Taylor, 1998:975; ESOMAR, 2000a)




media research (Raimondi, 1998:803-838; Martins, 1996c:570-597).

Similar to both Reinard and Leedy, Chisnall (1991:6) and Weiers (1984:2) refer


to research as being a "systematic process" when they define marketing


research. Chisnall (1991:6) defines it as being "concerned with the systematic


and objective collection, analysis and evaluation of information about specific


aspects of marketing problems in order to help management make effective


decisions." Weiers (1984:2) adapts a definition presented by Kotler in 1980 in


the following way: "Marketing research is the systematic design, collection,


analysis and reporting of data and findings relevant to a specific marketing




In this chapter, the researcher quotes from different sources consulted where the


focus was either on one or more of the focus-areas mentioned above – e.g.


marketing research and social research. The researcher is of the opinion that


the same broader principles, processes and challenges apply to communication


research and the other focus areas identified.


Analysis of definitions available, leads the researcher to the conclusion that most


authors emphasise the ‘why’ and ‘how’ when defining research and the different


focus areas in research.










































Referring specifically to the ‘how’, Bless and Higson-Smith (2000:11) defines


scientific research as "the translation into practice of the relationship between


facts and theory … in order to acquire specific information" and distinguish the


following four characteristics of scientific research:






























"Scientific research is empirical since the aim is to know reality. Each step

is based on observation, be it when collecting the basic facts or when


testing the explanation, assessing the value of the prediction or the result


of an intervention.








Scientific research is systematic and logic. Not only must the observation

be done systematically but a certain logical order must be followed all


along (see discussion regarding research process, paragraph 2.4).






Scientific research is replicable and transmittable. Since the observation

is objective and the explanation logical, anyone placed in exactly the same


circumstances can observe the same event and make the same


reasoning, leading to the same explanation and prediction. Moreover, it is


possible to communicate each step of the research and to transmit the


acquired knowledge.












Scientific research is reductive. To grasp the main relationships of laws,

the complexity of reality is reduced. All details which are not essential or


which have little influence on the process under investigation are omitted"


(Bless and Higson-Smith, 2000:5-6).


The only definition of communication research available to the researcher is that


of Reinard (2001:5) who defines communication as "the process by which


participants transact and assign meaning to messages" and explains that a


message is "the set of verbal and non-verbal cues communicators exchange."


According to Reinard (2001:4), communication research is "a speciality that


studies message-related behaviour." He explains that "some people have


difficulty separating communication research from work in psychology, sociology
























or literature", and that they argue "that since ‘meanings are in people’ (Berlo,


cited by Reinard, 2001:4) any study of people is communication research."


Relevant for the communication researcher is the reminder by Worcester


(1999:3) who, writing about public opinion research, says that "polls do not


measure some abstract ‘truth’, but people’s perceptions." Worcester (1999:3)


refers to the wisdom expressed by Epictetus as long ago as the first century that


"perceptions are truth, because people believe them."


Although researchers are confronted with various challenges when conducting


communication research (see paragraph 2.5), and the reality that contemporary


communication testing is still far from perfect, Hansen (1998:716) argues that it is


still good enough to warrant the recommendation: "Test rather than guess."


The researcher fully agrees with Hansen’s argument, but wants to emphasise the


necessity of conducting this "test" in the "the right way." Furthermore, the


researcher is of the opinion that the spectrum of aspects covered by


communication research conducted by governments is broader than "studies in


message related behaviour" referred to by Reinard in his definition of


communication research as quoted. Research conducted by governments to


enhance the effectiveness of government communication and the dissemination


of government information (see chapers 3 to 5 of this dissertation) also includes


studies related to communication and information products and initiatives of


governments; exposure to and attitude towards the different mediums that can


be used for government communication and the dissemination of government


information; awareness and knowledge of and attitude towards government


performance and towards government policies and initiatives on a wide spectrum


of issues. To some extent, therefore, the research conducted by governments to


enhance the effectiveness of government communication and the dissemination


of government information focuses on more than merely communication and





























































information. The focus includes areas like media research, public opinion


research and social research.





2.3.1 Introduction






There are many different ways according to which research studies are classified


– e.g. according to various focus areas (see paragraph 2.2), the environment


from which the research is conducted (e.g. academic, business or government)


or the specific technique of data collection (e.g. personal interviews, telephone


interviews or mailed questionnaires).


The researcher distinguishes different types of research according to the


classification of Bless and Higson-Smith (2000:37-44). These authors suggest


that research studies can be classified according to the following three aspects:





























































































the methodology used (quantitative and qualitative research)


the reasons for the research being conducted (basic social research and


social research)





the demands of the research question (exploratory research, descriptive

research, correlational research and explanatory research).

2.3.2 Different types of research Quantitative and qualitative research







Two broader methodologies are mostly distinguished to classify different types of


research studies – quantitative and qualitative research.





















(a) Quantitative research





research involves "the collection of primary data from large


numbers of individuals, frequently with the intention of projecting the


results to a wider population" (Bennett, 1996:125). Quantitative research


is normally conducted amongst a representative sample of a target


population with the aim to generalise the research findings to the specific


population (or universum). The emphasis is on numerical measurement


(Smith, 1998:40; Bless and Higson-Smith, 2000:38 and MORI, 2001a)


and subsequent statistical analysis (Smith, 1998:40; Bless and HigsonSmith,


2000:38). The large sample (number


of respondents) is necessary




analyse the results according to




within the target population -




is according


to age, gender,






a communication product or




and so forth. According to


Reinard (2001:8)






"tends to be explanatory,


especially when experiments are




or it attempts to use precise statistical models to achieve






of human communication


(as in survey




and polls of public


opinion)." Using quantitative


research methods,




often aim to explain communication


behaviour by


looking at




that allow them to predict


future behaviour (Reinard, 2001:8).




Reinard (2001:11) argues that there are two major types of quantitative


research - surveys and experiments. Examples of the different types of


quantitative research, in the focus area of communication research is also


provided by Reinard – see table 2.1.










































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































Techniques that involve


carefully recorded


observations that provide


quantitative descriptions of


relationships among



Descriptive or


observational surveys:






Direct observation of


behaviour by use of some


measurement (the


researcher does not


manipulate or change any






Discovering what sorts of things smallgroup

communicators say that predict




becoming group leaders








Identifying the relationship between the

number of newspapers a person reads


on a regular basis and the amount of


ear of society the person reports












(continue …)



Reinard, 2001:11




Content analysis:

A systematic, quantitative


study of verbally


communicated material


(articles, speeches, films)


by determining the


frequency of specific ideas,


concepts, or terms

Opinion surveys:




assessments of reports


from individuals about


topics of interest









A method of studying the


effect of variables in


situations where all other


influences are held


constant. Variables are


manipulated or introduced


by experimenters to see


what effect they may have




















































































































































































































































































































































































Studying the amount of violence on

children’s television programmes




Inquiring into the amount of newspaper

space dedicated to stories about a


women‘s movement






Analysing the types of speech defects

shown by children in samples of


spontaneous speech






Analysing surveys regarding which

candidate people think won a political








Examining whether the public believes

that speech correction therapy should


receive increased funding in public










Assessing surveys of the favourite

television programmes people watch




Studying the impact of the use of

evidence by exposing one group to a


speech with evidence and another


group to a speech without evidence








Studying the effect of colour in

advertising by exposing one group to an


advertisement with colour printing and


another group to an advertisement


without colour printing





The methods of data collection mostly used for quantitative surveys

















































- face-to-face (or personal) interviews of the interviewer (or

researcher) with the respondent at the respondent’s place of


residence, in the street, at shopping malls or at work






- telephone interviews

- self-completion of a questionnaire by the respondent (either alone

or as individuals in a group) in the presence of the researcher or


through the questionnaire being delivered and collected by the










- self-completion of a questionnaire by the respondent received and

returned by post




- Internet or online research

(Ward, 1998:149-171; Bennett, 1996:125-133; Smith, 1998:49-55).


Each of these data collection methodologies has certain limitations and


advantages – e.g. in terms of cost, time to collect the data, quality control


and sampling efficiencies. These are not discussed by the researcher.


The limitations and advantages need to be properly investigated and


considered in the context of each survey when a decision has to be taken


regarding the method of data collection.




(b) Qualitative research



Qualitative research


, according to Goodyear (1998:177), is often defined


in terms of its relation to quantitative research: "Where quantitative


research measures, and answers questions like ‘how many, how often,


what proportion, what size …?’, qualitative research leads to



and answers questions like ‘why did, how can, in what







































Furthermore, Bennett (1996:133-134) argues that qualitative research


methods can also be used "to uncover new ideas from or hidden feelings


of respondents" and that it can best be achieved by "unstructured


interviews in which respondents can talk freely without too much leading"


from the moderator.




In qualitative research, qualifying words or descriptions are used to record


responses (Bless and Higson-Smith, 2000:37) and observations are


mostly described in "non-numerical terms" (Reinard, 2001:6). In


qualitative research the researcher involves a smaller number of


respondents (Smith, 1998:40) and there is no attempt to generalise about


the population (Bennett, 1996:145). Qualitative research does not place


the same emphasis on classic statistical validity as quantitative research.


Smith (1998:40) explains that, for qualitative research, "validity centers


more on face validity – that is, establishing whether the evidence is


consistent with existing theories and prior knowledge."


Qualitative research is response and not question orientated. The


response to a question largely determines the following question,


therefore respondents are not interviewed according to a predetermined


set of questions (Smith, 1998:40).


According to Reinard (2001:6) qualitative research studies in the field of


communication "tend to describe or interpret communication exchanges."


Reinard (2001:7-8) proceeds to explain that these studies attempt to


"describe the human condition by using general views of social action" and


that "researchers who use qualitative methods often try to interpret the


meanings to be found in communication exchanges."






































































































































































Qualitative research can be conducted in either an individual or group


setting. There are a number of different approaches to collecting


qualitative results on an individual basis. According to Smith (1998:45),


the depth interview is the most commonly used method in this regard.


Bennett (1996:134) emphasises that depth interviews require the services


of skilled interviewers and refers to Webb (1992) who identifies the


following circumstances where depth interviews will be particularly useful:














































































- when the issue under investigation is embarrassing, stressful or of

a confidential nature




- when a detailed analysis needs to be conducted of rather complex

situations such as attitudes, beliefs and feelings




- when peer pressure may cause some respondents to conform to

societal norms when in reality they would not




- when the interviewer needs a progressive set of images, such as

buying decision with regard to overseas holidays




- in complex situations when the aim is to explore rather than





From experience, the researcher can add that depth interviews with


individual respondents are, for various reasons, also often preferred to


qualitative research in a group setting when involving leaders, managers


or opinion-formers.


With regard to collecting qualitative research results on a group basis,


there are also a variety of approaches, but the most widely used is the

group discussion


(MORI, 2001b; Smith, 1998:45; Bennett, 1996:136). A


group discussion describes a session involving between six and eight





























individuals (Smith, 1998:45) who are recruited according to specific






The moderator’s role is to manage the discussion flow in the group (Smith,


1998:45). Bennett (1996:138) explains that ideally the moderator should


let the group carry on the conversation "by themselves" and that


"interventions are deemed necessary only to introduce a new topic if it


does not come up spontaneously or to bring the discussion back on track


if participants have strayed into irrelevant areas." The moderator needs to


manage the discussion flow according to the discussion guide in a


response-orientated approach and probe for response where appropriate.


The moderator should "create a relaxed atmosphere in which respondents


can comment in a constructive, non-defensive way" (Smith, 1998:45) and


facilitate the balanced involvement of different members of the group.


Moderators "should exercise just enough authority to direct and control the


flow of conversation without affecting its content" (Bennett, 1996:138).


Furthermore, the moderator needs to observe non-verbal communication


in the group (Smith, 1998:45).


The terms group discussion and focus group are mostly used


interchangeably, but Smith points out that they are in fact slightly different:


"The group discussion, which has a European pedigree, places the


emphasis on depth understanding. In contrast, the more American style


focus group tends to place more emphasis on – albeit still in a qualitative


mode – measurement and quantification" (Smith, 1998:45). It is of critical


importance to properly understand the need of the research client in this





The criteria will depend on the nature of the study. In communication research basic

socio-demographic variables are commonly used – e.g. gender, age, level of socio-

economic development and language preference.







































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































25 Basic and applied research




Based on the reasons why research is conducted, the two types of research


distinguished are basic research and applied research. Whether the aim of the


research is basic or applied does not affect the way in which the research is


conducted (Bless and Higson-Smith, 2000:39) – the methods of inquiry are


identical (Reinard, 2001:4). Suchman (cited by Philips, 1985:534) and Kidder


and Judd (1986:396) also emphasise that the significant difference between


basic research and applied research is one of purpose and not of method.


(a) Basic research



research applies when the researcher seeks to "contribute to human


knowledge and understanding relating to a specific phenomenon" (Bless and


Higson-Smith, 2000:38). Neuman (1997:21) argues that "basic research


advances fundamental knowledge about the social world." Neuman furthermore


explains that basic research "focuses on refuting or supporting theories that


explain how the social world operates, what makes things happen, why social


relations are a certain way, and why society changes" and that "basic research is


the source of most new scientific ideas and ways of thinking about the world"


(Neuman, 1997:21). Reinard (2001:4) explains that basic research is conducted


"to learn about relationships among variables" and according to Vickery (cited by


Powell, 1997:2) basic research "is concerned with elucidating concepts and their


relations, hypotheses and theories." This aim is normally achieved by "gathering


more facts and information which enables existing theories to be challenged and


new ones to be developed" (Bless and Higson-Smith 2000:38).


Basic research is research conducted "regardless of any immediate commercial


product or service" (Reinard, 2001:4). As Bless and Higson-Smith (2000:38) put


it, the "actual utility or application of this newly acquired knowledge is of little




























































concern to the researcher." According to Reinard (2001:34) and Powell (1997:2)


most research usually referred to as ‘pure’ scientific research is actually basic




(b) Applied research



research is conducted if the researcher’s motivation is to assist in solving


a particular problem (Reinard, 2001:4; Bless and Higson-Smith, 2000:38;


Philips, 1985:534; Neuman, 1997:22 and Powell, 1997:2) or to develop a


product (Reinard, 2001:4). According to Neuman (1997:22) theory is "less


central" to applied researchers than "seeking a solution to a specific problem"


and its main strength, is its "immediate practical use."


Although Powell (1997:2) mentions that applied research is occasionally referred


to as action research, Neuman (1997:23-28) remarks that researchers use


"several types of applied research," and distinguishes three types of applied


research: action research, social impact assessment and evaluation research.


According to Neuman (1997:23) "action research is applied research that treats


knowledge as a form of power and abolishes the line between research and


social action." Isaac and Michael (cited by Powell, 1997:45) state that the


purpose of action research is "to develop new skills or new approaches and to


solve problems." Action research is characterised as "practical, orderly, flexible


and adaptive, and empirical to a degree, but weak in internal and external


validity" (Isaac and Michael, cited by Powell, 1997:45). Neuman (1997:23)


explains that there are "several types of action research" and that "most share


the following common characteristics:
















































































































































those who are being studied participate in the research process


research incorporates ordinary or popular knowledge


research focuses on power with a goal on empowerment


















research seeks to raise conscious or increase awareness, and


research is tied directly to political action.

Social impact assessment

, according to Neuman (1997:24) "may be part of a


larger environmental impact statement required by government agencies. Its


purpose is to estimate the likely consequences of a planned change. Such an


assessment can be used for planning and making choices among alternative


policies." Researchers conducting social impact assessments "examine many


outcomes and often work in an interdisciplinary research team" (Neuman,


1997:24). Neuman furthermore notes that "social impact studies often include a


cost-benefit analysis" in which the researcher "estimates the future costs and


benefits of one or several proposed actions."

Evaluation research


is a widely used type of applied research (Neuman,


1997:25) and has as its primary goal "not the discovery of knowledge but rather a


testing of the application of knowledge within a specific programme or project"


(Powell, 1997:45). Neuman (1997:25) emphasises that "ethical and political


conflicts often arise in evaluation research because people have opposing


interests in the findings" and Powell (1997:45) notes that "evaluative researchers


must be concerned with threats to validity, such as intervening variables,


measurement techniques and operational definitions." The two general types of


evaluation research are summative evaluation and formative evaluation.


Summative evaluations look at final programme outcomes (Neuman, 1997:25).


A summative or outcome evaluation "tends to be quantitative in nature and often


is used as the basis for deciding whether a programme will be continued"


(Powell, 1997:46). Formative or process evaluation is "built-in monitoring or


continuous feedback on a programme" (Neuman, 1997:25) and "examines how


well the programme is working" (Powell, 1997:46). According to Powell


(1997:46) formative evaluation is often more qualitative and it is typically used for


"revising and improving programmes."




























































Classifying research projects in this way is perceived as not being very useful in


practice. Bless and Higson-Smith (2000:39) argue that no study is "only purely


basic or purely applied," and Reinard (2001:4) explains that "last year’s basic


research may be today’s source of new products." Powell (1997:2) also holds


the opinion that basic and applied research are "not necessarily dichotomous"


and that "in spite of the fact that basic and applied research have tended to be


conducted in isolation from one another." Different objectives of social research

A third way of classifying types of research is based on the demands of the


research question, that is in terms of the research objectives. Bless and HigsonSmith


(2000:37-44) distinguish


four types of research on the basis of






exploratory, descriptive,


correlational and explanatory.








Exploratory research








cases where very


little is






the research topic, one speaks of




research (Bless


and Higson-Smith, 2000:37).


Powell (1997:58-59)








research "can increase


the researcher’s








phenomenon in question,


can help to


clarify concepts,


can be used to




priorities for future


research, can identify new problems


and … can






to gather information with practical




According to Neuman




exploratory researchers are "creative,


open minded, and flexible;




an investigative


stance; and explore


all sources of information.




ask creative questions


and take




of serendipity, those




or chance factors that


have large implications."






Powell (1997:58) and Neuman (1997:19)


remarks that exploratory




frequently conduct


qualitative research. Powell


(1997:59), speaking



















































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































of exploratory research in general, emphasises that "it is important to remember


that exploratory studies merely suggest insights or hypotheses; they cannot test


them," and Smith (1998:38) remarks that a "typical outcome" from exploratory


research would be "the generation of a number of hypotheses that could be


taken forward for quantitative testing at a later stage of the project."


(b) Descriptive research


Descriptive research "presents a picture of the specific details of a situation,


social setting or relationship" (Neuman, 1997:20). Bless and Higson-Smith


(2000:41) and Neuman (1997:20) are of the opinion that descriptive and


exploratory research have some similarities. Neuman (1997:20) remarks that


descriptive and exploratory research "blur together in practice" and explains that


"in descriptive research, the researcher begins with a well-defined subject and


conducts research to describe it accurately." Descriptive research focuses on


"how", "who", "what", "when" and "where" questions (Smith, 1998:38 and


Neuman, 1997:20) and "provides a solid platform for helping to understand


currents, and possibly predict future behaviour" (Smith, 1998:38).


(c) Correlational research


When the research question requires an understanding of the relationship


between variables, the research is called correlational research (Bless and


Higson-Smith, 2000:37). The task of determining a casual relationship is a


complex and difficult one. Bless and Higson-Smith (2000:43) explain that "it is


based on systematic comparison, manipulation and control of variables."


Correlational research is "not only useful when no clear causal relationship


exists, but also allows for an estimation of the strength of the relationship


between two variables even when one variable is influenced by many others"


(Bless and Higson-Smith, 2000:43).


































































































































































(d) Explanatory research


"When the research question demands that the researcher explains the


relationship between variables and demonstrates that change in one variable


causes change in another variable, the research is called explanatory research"


(Bless and Higson-Smith, 2000:37). According to Neuman (1997:20) the desire


to know why things are the way they are, to explain, is the purpose of


explanatory research. Neuman (1997:20-21) explains that explanatory research


"builds on exploratory and descriptive research and to identify the reason why


something occurs." Bless and Higson-Smith (2000:43) state that explanatory


research is often not feasible: "This is the case when it is not possible to


manipulate the suspected independent variable or to assess the time-order of



2.3.3 Summary




Different research methodologies are applied (or applied in combination)


depending on the reasons why the research is conducted, the demands of the


research question, the target group for the research, available funding, timescales


and the competency and capacity


of researchers.











2.4.1 Introduction








In paragraph 2.2 the researcher, with reference to various authors, mentions that


research is a "systematic effort", a "systematic process" and the "systematic and


objective collection, analysis and evaluation of information." In paragraph 2.5.3,


reference is made to Reinard (2001:12) who remarked that "productive research







































































follows steps that carry out some sort of design." This implies that every


research project invariably requires careful and appropriate planning and


execution by the researcher.


No matter how unique any research problem or project, there are a number of


steps which are common to the process relevant to most research projects. As


the word process implies, Puth (1996:80) explains, "(marketing) research


involves a series of steps or phases which cannot be viewed in isolation, but


which should be seen and dealt with as an integrated whole. This integrated


evolvement of steps which are followed when planning and executing a research


project is known as the research process."


Although not all the steps are applicable to all types of research, sensitivity and


application of relevant steps in the research process by the researcher will


enhance the success and quality of the research project – it will assist the


researcher in his/her initiative to do "the right thing" in "the right way" (see


paragraph 2.1).


Different sources of research literature distinguish many different steps and


permutations of steps. The researcher uses the steps as identified and


developed by Puth (1996:80-96) through combining and synthesising an


extensive variety of relevant documentary resources. The different steps in the


research process are referred to shortly, but not discussed in any detail.

2.4.2 Steps in the research process

 Identifying and formulating the problem




Bless and Higson-Smith (2000:15) express a sentiment shared by many other


researchers that "selecting a research problem is a delicate task." Puth










































































































































































































































































(1996:82) mentions that the American Marketing Association (AMA) came to the


conclusion in 1968 that "if any step in a research project can be said to be more


important than the others, then problem definition is that step."


The step in the research process referred to by the AMA as ‘problem definition’,


is broken up into two distinguishable phases by Puth (1996:82). The first phase


entails the identification of the problem whilst the second phase is the refinement


of the problem to a level where it can be clearly formulated in order to provide


direction and guidance to the research process. If the research problem is well


formulated and the research objectives precisely defined, the likelihood of


designing a research study that will provide the necessary information in an


efficient manner is greatly increased. Problem identification and problem


formulation should result in "a precise statement of the objectives of the research


to be conducted and a set of research questions" (Puth, 1996:82).


Reinard (2001:32-35) suggests the following five criteria to formulate sound and


useful problem statements:



































problem statements must be stated unambiguously, usually as questions


except for simple exploratory studies, problem statements must include at

least two variables




problem statements must be testable


problem statements must not advance personal value judgements


problem statements must be clear grammatical statements. Deciding on what kind of data is required


After identifying and formulating the problem, the researcher will have a good


idea of the nature of the data required. According to Puth (1996:84) the data


relating to the research objectives may be anyone or more of the following:









































facts - e.g. demographic profile


levels of awareness - e.g. awareness of an announcement by

government regarding initiatives to create job opportunities




opinions and attitudes - e.g. respondents’ opinions and attitudes on

whether government’s initiatives to create jobs will be successful




preferences - e.g. the channel(s) of communication preferred (closely

related to opinions and attitudes)




motives or predispositions - reasons why people act or think as they do


behaviour (that can be seen as the result of attitude, preference and



On their website, MORI (2001c) also adds the aspect of knowledge – that is


assessing what the respondents know (or think they know, or claim to know!). Exploring secondary data sources




Puth (1996:86) argues that as every research project is a search for information


on some topic, researchers can be more confident of the quality and


appropriateness of their information if they tap all the relevant resources. "Often


there is a wealth of information and data on the research problem already


collected by others, in which case it may not be cost-effective or necessary to


conduct a whole new research project in order to answer the research question.


In many cases existing secondary data may be sufficiently relevant and


comprehensive to answer at least a certain part of the overarching research


question" (Puth, 1996:86).




An exploration of secondary data resources can begin with a search of published


data, identification of unpublished data that is relevant and interviewing


knowledgeable or well-informed people on the topic or problem area. It is










































essential to explore all possibilities of secondary data sources before proceeding


with the remaining steps of the research process.


Reinard (2001:76) remarks that "some inexperienced researchers believe they


can ignore past work and use entirely new ideas and methods". Reinard


(2001:76) proceeds by referring to Stanovich who calls this misguided approach


the ‘Einstein syndrome’ since "researchers who suffer from it fail to connect their


‘sudden breakthroughs’ with lessons from others. By discarding previous


lessons as irrelevant, they fail to learn from the lessons from others." Revising and fine-tuning the research question




After exploring the secondary data sources, the researcher needs to fine-tune the


research question. According to Puth (1996:86), this is the stage at which "a


clearer picture of the problem starts to emerge and where the project begins to


crystalise in one of two ways:




















































































































































































it is apparent that the question has been answered and the research

process has been completed




the original question has been modified in some way by the gathered



Puth (1996:86-87) furthermore identifies five other problem-related activities that


should be considered to effectively complete the fine-tuning of the original












examine if the concepts and constructs to be used in the investigation are

defined satisfactorily




review the investigative questions to break them down into more specific

levels of questions




if hypotheses are used, they must be relevant to the refined research
































determine what evidence needs to be collected to answer the various

questions and hypotheses




set the boundaries or limits of the project by stating what is part of the

research problem and what is not. Designing the research study




Mouton (2001:55) explains that a research design is "a plan or blueprint of how


you intend conducting the research." Mouton (2001:56) argues that researchers


often confuse ‘research design’ and ‘research methodology’ and summarises the


differences between these two concepts – see table 2.2.











Focuses on the end product:


What kind of study is being planned


and what kind of result is aimed at?


Point of departure = research problem


or question


Focuses on the logic of research:


What kind of evidence is required to


address the research question














































































































































Mouton, 2001:56





Focuses on the research process and


the kind of tools and procedures to be




Point of departure = specific tasks


(data collection or sampling) at hand


Focuses on the individual (not linear)


steps in the research process and the


most ‘objective’ (unbiased) procedures


to be employed


Puth (1996:87) is of the opinion that "selecting an appropriate research design is


often complicated by the availability of a large variety of methods, techniques,


procedures and ever-more-sophisticated computer programming and


technology." Also emphasising the reality that the design of the research study is


one of the most challenging steps in the research process, is the viewpoint of


Smith (1998:29) that researchers will seldomly be able to pursue their ‘ideal’


design and that it is a process of compromise. Smith (1998:29) explains that


"decisions have to be made about what degree of precision is needed and how


much depth of understanding is required. This trade-off also needs to be


balanced against the time and budget available." Further, Smith explains,


"market researchers must take into account the practicality of different


approaches whilst ensuring the study is ethical" and also complies with the codes


of conduct in the research industry.


Mouton (2001:57) presents a broad classification of the main research design


types according to the kind of questions the design types are able to answer –


see figure 2.1.










































































































Figure 2.1: A typology of research design types














































 Determining the sample




According to Collins (1998:69) "almost all market research studies use sampling


– the attempt to learn about some large group, a population, by looking at only a


small part of it, a sample."





Empirical studies


Using primary data





experiments, case


studies, programme




ethnographic studies)


















































































































































































































































































Mouton, 2001:57



Non-empirical studies



(Philosophical analysis, conceptual analysis,


theory building, literature reviews)

Analysing existing data


Text data








(Discourse analysis,


content analysis,


textual criticism,


historical studies)

Numeric data








data analysis,






The "population" referred to by Collins is not necessarily the total population of a


country or area, but the totality of the target group (or universum) from which the


sample needs to be drawn. As a first step in the sampling process the target


population needs to be identified. Thereafter the researcher needs to determine


the sample characteristics and determine the sample size.


Two broader sampling methods can be distinguished, namely probability and


non-probability sampling. Martins (1996d:253) explains that "a probability sample


is one in which every element has a known non-zero probability of being


selected. It is unnecessary for all elements to have an equal chance of being


selected, but each element must have a chance and that chance must be known


so that the sampling results can be applied to the universe. Non-probability


samples rely on the judgement of the researcher and are only as representative


as the researcher’s luck and skill permit. In non-probability sampling there is no


way of estimating the probability that any element will be included in the sample,


and therefore there is no method of finding out whether the sample is


representative or not". It is important to note that "the most important criterion" of


a sample, according to Puth (1996:87) is that it will be "totally representative of


the population relevant to the solving of the management problem and the


ensuing research questions." Allocating funds and resources




Depending on the nature and scope of a research project, substantial financial


and human resources may be necessary. The researcher needs to do


appropriate planning and allocate resources timeously in order to avoid a


situation where a project has to be terminated due to a lack of resources.


Puth (1996:88) explains that "although data collection does require substantial


resources, it might not always be as big a part of the budget as clients or

































































































































































































































































































researchers would expect. Employee salaries, training and travel, and other


miscellaneous expenses are incurred during data collection, but this phase of the


project often takes no more than a third of the research budget. The geographic


scope and number of respondents naturally affect the cost, but much of the cost


is relatively independent of the extent and size of the data gathering exercise."


An interesting and useful guideline suggested by Puth (1996:88) is that project


planning, data collection and analysis and, lastly, interpretation and reporting


each have a share more or less equal in the budget. Writing and presenting the research proposal




A research proposal is mostly developed and fine-tuned concurrently with the


exploring and planning phases of the research project. The research proposal


would therefore incorporate the decisions and choices made by the researcher in


the preliminary stages of the project.


The most important purpose of the research proposal is to ensure that all parties


concerned understand the project’s purpose and the proposed methods of


research. Time limits and budgets are also identified and justified in most


research proposals. Various responsibilities and obligations are clarified.


According to Puth (1996:89) "every proposal should contain two basic sections,


namely the problem statement and a statement of what will be done and how it


will be done. In its varied forms the research proposal can include any number of


the following elements: executive summary, problem statement, research


objectives, literature review, importance and benefits of the study, research


design, data analysis, nature and form of results, qualification of researchers,


budget, time schedule, facilities and special resources, project management,


bibliography and appendices."



































































































































































 Conducting a pilot test



Piloting is the last stage in the design of a research project (including design of


the questionnaire or discussion guide) before the survey goes into the field for


data collection (Miller and Read, 1998:380).


Puth (1996:89) explains that the primary purpose of a pilot test is two-fold: to


detect weaknesses in design and instrumentation and to provide a sound base


for determining and refining the sample. During the pilot test respondents are


drawn from the universum or target population and the procedures and protocols


of the research project are simulated. The number of respondents involved in a


pilot test would depend on primarily the research methodology and the


characteristics of the target population, but need not be statistically selected. Collecting primary data


According to Bulmer (2000b:205), the "most critical phase in social research is


that during which data are actually collected."


The different data collection methods (e.g. questionnaires or transcribed


recordings of focus group discussions) will have different implications for data


collection. Each method of data collection has specific advantages and


disadvantages, qualifying it as a better or a less-preferable option than other


methods for the collection of certain types of data. Puth (1996:90) mentions that


"although a combination of methods can be considered in certain circumstances,


it is often not done for reasons of cost." The researcher then needs to decide


invariably on the method that will yield the most satisfactory range of reliable data


as cost-effectively and as quickly as possible.














































































































































































































In order to provide data in a form that can be used by the researcher for analysis


and interpretation, it needs to be edited to "identify and isolate omissions and


spoilt responses. In the case of survey methods editing is essential to reduce


recording errors, to improve legibility, and to identify and filter unclear and


inappropriate responses" (Puth, 1996:90). Analysing and interpreting the data




Data analysis involves reducing the accumulated data to a manageable size to


allow summarising, comparing, syntheses and applying statistical techniques in


order to interpret the results in relation to the research problem. Data analysis


can be either very basic (e.g. one-way frequency distributions or crosstabulation),








of significance


testing (e.g. analysis




variance or the Mann-Whitney test) or


even done by applying






techniques (e.g. discriminant and


cluster analysis) (Martins, 1996e:305




315; Loubser, 1996b:336 and 339;


Wegner, 1996:356-363).






(2001:109) explains that interpretation




the synthesis of data into




coherent wholes. Observations or


data are interpreted


and explained by




hypotheses or theories that


account for observed patterns and




in the


data. Interpretation means relating




results and findings to




theoretical frameworks or models,


and showing whether these are




or falsified by the new


interpretation. Interpretation




means taking




account rival explanations


or interpretations of one’s


data and showing what




of support the data provide for


the preferred interpretation."






order to interpret results


correctly, the researcher


needs to be familiar with






of the research and the




of the results


(Van Wyk, 1996:396).






awaiting the


researcher in the


interpretation of results include the


















































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































drawing inferences from the data that are not supported by the data


biased intepretation of the data through selectivity




confusing correlation with causation

(Van Wyk, 1996:396 and Mouton, 2001:110).




Adding to the pitfalls already mentioned, Van Wyk (1996:397) emphasises "there


may be more information hidden in the data than the researcher cares to or is


able to bring to light" and that "it requires experience, disciplined thinking and


familiarity with the research method to let the results say what they are able to


say." Reporting the results




Preparing the research report and communicating the research findings and


recommendations to the client are the final steps in the research process. Van


Wyk (1996:398) argues that "the report is the culmination of the whole research


project" and quotes Churchill who expressed this sentiment: "Regardless of the


sophistication displayed in the other portions of the research process, the project


is a failure if the research report fails."


The ultimate objective with the report is "to enable the client to make an informed


and scientifically verified decision to solve the original problem that prompted the


undertaking of research in the first place" (Puth, 1996:90). Various authors


emphasise that research reports will be quite different in terms of style and


organisation depending on the aim and objectives of the research project and the


target audience for the report (e.g. Van Wyk, 1996:398-402; Puth, 1996:90;


Bless and Higson-Smith, 2000:141).



















































Puth (1996:91) remarks that "the items to be included in a research report are


essentially the same as those identified in the discussion of the research


proposal." But, taking into account the target audience for the research report,


Bless and Higson-Smith (2000:141) write as follows:

The most detailed, complete and scientific report for research-funding institutions


and archives will present all the different steps of research in detail. A report


written to be published in a scientific journal will have to show a high level of


scientific quality condensed into a few pages. A report written for an agency


particularly interested in the conclusions and practical consequences will cut


short the technical aspects of the research and emphasise the discussion of the


findings. A report to be understood by the average educated readership of a


magazine will present the findings in more general terms and will avoid scientific


vocabulary. In other words, these different reports will stress one or the other


aspect of the most complete research report.






















Clients will often also expect the researcher to make a personal presentation of


the findings and recommendations. Marbeau (1998:520) is of the opinion that


the challenge of results presentation lies in achieving "speed and clarity without


stripping out any important substance from the findings. The answer is


conciseness, i.e. being short yet complete." The same author also regards it as


important for the presenter to be modest, and to "present the results and the


answers rather than the research and the researcher. Also important is honesty,


to separate the reliable facts from their hypothetical interpretation" (Marbeau,




































































































































































































































Already from the preceding paragraphs, it is clear that researchers conducting


communication research are exposed to various problems and challenges.


Awareness of such challenges is essential for conducting communication


research of professional quality.


Reinard (2001:6-14) identifies the following six challenges of communication











































































the challenge of breadth and focus


the multiple methods challenge


the scholarly rigour challenge


the personal challenge (or what do I need to do to study communication

research methods successfully?)




the ethical challenge


the structure of the field challenge.

The researcher shortly discusses the challenges of communication research


according to Reinard’s categories of challenges, incorporating contributions from


other authors. A few of the other challenges facing the communication


researcher are also mentioned.



2.5.1 The challenge of breadth and focus




Reinard (2001:6) is of the opinion that although "the number of communication


applications can seem enormous, there is a rational order to it." Making this


statement, he refers to the work done by McBath and Jeffrey (1978) to identify


the professional areas in communication on behalf of the Speech Communication


Association and the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES). These


two organisations were trying to organise information about careers in various





























fields. The list of communication specialities used by the NCES is provided in


table 2.3. The left column of the table shows the official taxonomy with an


emphasis on the career areas of scholars. Reinard added a couple of areas to


those originally listed by McBath and Jeffrey - e.g. conflict management,


journalism, radio and television, public relations and health communication. In


the column to the right of table 2.3 a description is provided of the kinds of


research issues that are normally addressed in each of the areas.










































































1. The Broad Areas of Mass


Media Communication



Communication Technology


Communication Policy




Film as Communication


























































































































































Reinard, 2001:7-8



The study of mass media methods of influence


to promote a product, service or cause


The study of the mechanisms and technologies


of mass media


The study of public policy and regulation of


mass media communication and freedom of




The role of popular and technical cinema in




The study of the methods of reporting and


organising news for presentation in print media




Public Relations












2. Specific Areas of Speech


Communication Research

Code Systems


Intercultural Communication


Interpersonal Communication
























































































































































Conflict Management




Family Communication

Organisational Communication











Health Communication


Oral Interpretation








The study of methods of managing publicity and


press relations for an organisation, person or




The study of the methods and uses of radio


The study of the methods and uses of televised






The study of the uses of verbal and non-verbal


symbols and signs in human communication


The study of communication among individuals


of different cultural backgrounds


The study of communication interactions


occurring in person-to-person and small group




The study of the role of communication in the


creation and control of conflict


The study of communication transactions within


the constraints of families of all sorts


The study of interrelated behaviours,


technologies, and systems functioning within an




The study of communication issues among


participants involved in medical and health




The study of literature through performance


involving the development of skilled verbal and


non-verbal expression based on critical analysis


of written texts (aesthetics of literature in


performance, criticism of literature in


performance, group performance, oral traditions)





Pragmatic Communication










































































































































































Discussion and Conference

(including Group Decision











Parliamentary Procedure












Communication and the


Public Address


Rhetorical and Communication


Communication Education









The study and practice of communication, the

object of which is to influence or facilitate

decision making

The study of reason-giving behaviour

The study of decision making in which

adversaries present arguments for decision by a

third party

The study of methods of decision making in

which participants strive to discuss, explore and

make decisions on issues

The study of the means used to handle

deliberation in large legislative bodies through

the use of formal rules and procedures to

regulate debate and discussion

The study of the methods used to influence the

choices made by others

The study of communication issues involved in

the legal system and the practice of law

The study of speakers and speeches, including

the historical and social context of platforms,

campaigns, and movements

The study of the principles that account for

human communicative experiences and


The study of communication in pedagogical

contexts (communication development, oral

communication skills, instructional






Speech and Hearing Science






The study of the physiology and acoustical

aspects of speech and hearing (biological

aspects of speech and hearing, phonological

aspects of speech and hearing, physiological

aspects of speech and hearing)

The researcher fully agrees with Reinard’s (2001:6) sentiment that "each area is


broad enough to promote many interesting studies." The breadth and extensive


focus of communication research clearly poses various challenges to the


researcher, and the importance of having a broad knowledge should be



2.5.2 The multiple methods challenge




Reinard (2001:6) explains that qualitative methods are mostly used in studying


literature whilst the historical method is employed in history and the experiment


holds a prominent position in psychology. Contrary to this, the communication


researcher uses all of these and other methods to answer questions. Research


projects in communication tend to rely mostly on quantitative and qualitative


methods – see paragraph The research question or objectives guides


the selection of methods, not the other way around (Bulmer, 2000a:10; Reinard,


2001:8; Smith, 1998:40).


Smith (1998:39) remarks that "the debate that is often conducted about the


merits of small scale, flexible qualitative, and larger scale, structured quantitative


research, has been largely unhelpful in the sense that they are more ‘mutual


friends’ than ‘mutually exclusive foes’." To a growing extent it is suggested that


different methodologies should be used in combination. Smith (1998:40) strongly


argues the case that "a good research design invariably involves adopting an


eclectic approach, mixing together the best combination of methodologies to deal





with the research objectives." Sonnenwald and Iivonen (1999:430-431) conclude


that "research in information studies increasingly combines multiple methods to


research human information behaviour because doing so can provide a more


holistic and comprehensive view of information behaviour, increase the validity of


research results through data and methodological triangulation, or both."


The communication researcher needs to have appropriate knowledge of different


research methods and needs to know when, why and how to apply different


methods. Furthermore, the researcher needs to understand when and how to


apply more than one method during work on a communication project in order to


properly address the aim and objectives of the research project.



2.5.3 The scholarly rigour challenge




In order for research to meet standards of excellence, communication


researchers must conduct research with recognition of five key challenges


identified after Tuckman by Reinard (2001:12):
















































































































































































































































































































































































































Research is systematic. Productive research follows steps that carry out

some sort of design. Researchers ask questions and implicitly agree in


advance to seek for answers by examining pertinent information.






Research is data driven. If data cannot be collected, or if we are unwilling

to alter our opinions, the issue is not suitable for research.




Research is a sound argument. Research arguments reason from

research data and information to draw conclusions. Thus, arguments in


this context are defined as claims advanced on the basis of reasoning


from evidence. Sound reasoning is vital for effective research. Logic and


the methods to evaluate arguments are valuable tools to judge research.










Research is capable of replication. If research methods are so vaguely

described that it is impossible to repeat the procedures in a study, the


worth of the entire research project is questioned. Regardless of whether










replications actually are completed, the ability to replicate studies is


essential for any piece of sound research.

































Research is partial. Research findings are partial because we may

discover new relationships involving other variables that make us modify


or qualify the conclusions we have found. Thus, communication


researchers do not claim to have discovered ‘The Truth’ for all time.


Instead, they advance tentative - but meaningful - insights for


communication phenomena.

2.5.4 The personal challenge




This challenge relates to the question of what a person needs to do to study


communication research methods successfully. According to Reinard (2001:1314)


the following five aspects apply:





















the need to think in an orderly way – to train our minds to separate the

relevant from the irrelevant, the observable from the unobservable, and


the complete from the incomplete






the need to write clearly – crisply, clearly, precise, structured and to the





the need to set aside personal prejudices in the light of data – be willing to

let the data decide our conclusions, even if we do not like them




the need to stay organised and follow instructions – research requires

carefully following protocols and methods and to fight the urge to leave out


steps, to take shortcuts or to ignore instructions






the need to know the reasons for studying research methods – e.g. to

learn to think rigorously and critically, to find answers to questions about


communication, to acquire survival skills to help read and use the field’s


literature and to learn how to sort through past research for answers to


research questions.
















2.5.5 The ethical challenge



Every decision made in communication – e.g. which methodology to apply for a


project – is not merely a practical one, but also an ethical one. Reinard


(2001:14) remarks that "research is judged not only by the rigor of procedures


and the results obtained but (also) by the ethics of the researchers."


In the literature on social research, the importance of specifically the ethical


issues of voluntary participation of respondents, privacy, anonymity and


confidentiality is emphasised (e.g. Bless and Higson-Smith, 2000:100-101;


Shalofsky, 1998:1111-1113; Groenewald, 1981:97-98). The reality is that ethical


issues in communication research are much broader than the few mentioned


above that only relate to a specific aspect of data collection. For example,


Reinard (2001:14) refers to a situation in the United Kingdom where the


archbishop of York once challenged British scientists to consider the ethical


consequences of their research by urging them to ask "What applications will be


made of my research?" before they undertake their studies.


Over the period of the last few decades, many research organisations have


developed formal codes of conduct to guide practitioners and researchers. The


first code was published in 1948 by the European Society for Opinion and


Marketing Research (ESOMAR) (ESOMAR, 2000b).


In South Africa initiatives of the Southern African Marketing Research


Association (SAMRA) to develop a code of conduct for this industry in the


country go as far back as 25 October 1963. On that date a first sub-committee


was appointed to "investigate the ethical codes of conduct existing in market


research practices overseas." In October 1967 the first SAMRA Code of


Conduct was ratified. Following various revisions, the current SAMRA Code of




















































































































































































































Conduct includes guidelines regarding the following issues (SAMRA, 2001:6067):






















































responsibilities to the reader of a report


obligations to the client/sponsor of a survey


responsibility to informants


responsibilities to and of the research practitioner


responsibilities to the general public.

A document that creates food for thought to the researcher sensitive to the


importance of ethics, is the document compiled by Paul Reynolds in 1979.


Reynolds compiled an extensive list of ethical issues from documentation from


24 organisations doing research in the social sciences (Reinard, 2001:14). The


list involves a total of 78 guidelines according to the following broader structure,


and is attached as an Annexure:














general issues related to the code of ethics


decision to conduct the research


conduct of the research


effects on and relationships with the participants’ informed consent

- general

- provision of information

- voluntary consent


protection of rights and welfare of participants

- general issues

- deception

- confidentiality and anonymity

- benefits to participants

- effects on aggregates or communities


interpretations and reporting of the results of the research







2.5.6 The structure of the field challenge



Reinard (2001:14) correctly remarks that "communication research has been


promoted by many organisations whose members often cross the barriers


created by the organisation of different schools" and that "it is helpful to know


how the diverse and major organisations in our field showcase our research."


The researcher is of the opinion that communication researchers need to make a


specific effort to enhance their perspective and the quality of their work by


seeking to engage and interact with other researchers in the field of


communication research through outreach to professional organisations in their


country as well as abroad, to private sector research companies, the advertising


and public relations industry and the academic environment.

2.5.7 Other challenges




A few of the many other challenges facing the communication researcher are:





















































































































measurement in a cross-cultural environment (McGorry, 2000:74-79)


challenges in underdeveloped and developing communities - e.g.

availability of reliable statistics, language, cultural and custom-related


issues, identification, training and management of interviewers (e.g.


Bulmer and Warwick, 2000:38; Gil and Omaboe, 2000:42; Hershfield et



, 2000:241; Loubser, 1996a:236-248)










public education on how survey statistics and differences are generated,

and how to use them (Cooper, 1998:1024)




choosing the right research company to conduct a research project

(MORI, 2001c)




bridging the communication gap that often exists between researchers

and creatives (Hansen, 1998:655).










When conducting communication research for government, researchers need to


be alert of all the potential challenges, and implement procedures and processes


to ensure that the research conducted is of unquestionable quality.











According to Faure (1995:11) previous initiatives for development in "third world"


countries failed due to "lack of understanding by professionals or change agents


for the real needs of ‘third world’ communities. An overarching problem was that


development programmes in the ‘third world’ were characterised by a strong


deterministical (unilateral Western) paternalistic ‘top-down’ approach."


Interesting though, is information provided by Khoury (1989:77-79) that "even in


ages and societies where government was of despotic nature, most of the


illustrious rulers retained by History, have shown in one way or another a deep


concern for public opinion." Examples provided by Khoury to prove his point,


include that of H Al Rashid and Cathrine II from Russia. Al Rashid, one of the


most famous Arab Khalifs


, as depicted in the One thousand and one nights tales


of the thirteenth century, was so eager to know what the people thought of his


Khalifat that he left the Palace, and went into the streets of Bagdad asking the


people their opinion. Cathrine II, the Great of Russia, devised a way for taking


into account the public’s reactions in the process of her decision-making. Before


taking an important stand or approving a new law, she used to spread rumours


about it in the streets of Moscow. Thereafter she asked for feedback reports on


the people’s reactions and considered them in her actions.































































































































































































































A Khalif in Islam has two roles – he is the head of the state and the head of the

religious authority









Two former heads of state in the United States also remarked about the


importance of public opinion. Worcester (1999:1) quotes Abraham Lincoln as


saying: "Public opinion is everything." According to Cooper (1998:1015) former


US President Clinton is said to have remarked just prior to his election that "the


most important people in the United States today are those sitting in focus




Cooper (1998:1016) argues that "market research is a powerful and wellestablished


tool for the development


and maintenance of any democratic




The term democracy

originates from the ancient Greek, demos

(people) and kratos (strength or power). "In essence", Cooper (1998:1016)


explains, "it means that the strength of a society rests with the people, and that a


society is strong when the people or their elected representatives directly


exercise their power."


In the first edition, in 1988, of Fundamentals of social research methods: an

African perspective


, Bless and Higson-Smith (2000:iii) remark that "it was


observed that many African governments, non-government and private sector


organisations were beginning to attach greater value to social research and the


information it provides."


Talking about the process of transforming government communication in a


democratic South Africa at the Conference of Government Communicators,


Thabo Mbeki (1995b:1) made clear his opinion about the importance of South


African citizens’ contributions:

The road to an informed and active citizenry should be defined by the citizens


themselves. We must strive to ensure that each individual, whatever his or her


station in life, plays a meaningful role in decision-making and in governance.
























































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































Mbeki (1995b:2) furthermore remarked that South Africa "cannot afford a


situation where the majority of our people are mere consumers of information


and opinion whose content is determined by one sector of society" and that "the


people out there are crying out to hear and be heard."


It is encouraging to note that governments increasingly realise that


communication research can be used to enhance the effectiveness of their


communication and the dissemination of government information. In order to


conduct communication research in "the right way" (see paragraph 2.1),


governments communicators need to understand – or at least have the support


of those who know and understand – the important principles, challenges and


processes involved.







Since the researcher’s point of departure is that it is of critical importance that


communication research by government needs to be conducted on the basis of


sound theoretical principles and processes, a brief theoretic overview of research


in communication provided The concept communication research


is defined, and different types of research explained briefly. The research


process is attended to by means of a short discussion of the steps in the


research process. Lastly, the researcher describes some of the challenges of


communication research.







































































































































































































































A Letter writting

1.06 How to write a formal letter

With the advent of email, it is becoming less and less common to write letters, but the few letters that you will write will probably be very important ones, such as covering letters for job applications, covering letters for questionnaires or surveys which are part of your research, or letters of complaint to your bank manager.

It is very important, therefore, that your letters have the desired effect on the reader. In order to achieve this, they should be:

in the correct format

short and to the point


free of any grammatical or spelling mistakes

polite, even if you’re complaining

well presented

This guide will give some general advice on letter writing and includes some sample letters.

If you are replying to a letter it can be a good idea to note how that letter has been formatted and expressed.



There are certain conventions that your reader will expect you to follow; if you don’t, you will create a bad impression.

Here is a letter in standard format. Refer to the notes afterwards for explanation.




42, Greyhound Road
Perry Barr
B42 6HJ

Mr. E. Scrooge
The Manager
Barclay’s Bank Ltd
113 Mammon Street

5 April 2003

Dear Mr. Scrooge,

Application for post of trainee manager

knvkj fjruigf[3im42 m jro;2ir-]m 321p[‘- r421.rur0 ]ir]-9r` `hip9-8[#4lf t4[9t t3; to 4tp 34itp4tjkt.

mfo432ur4r’4r u0439 p4uitr0=r/`jr` ;r0=g4-0 . rjrr¦noo8n3if4f./,mf’w4f’4l’4tlrt432otr nbnfd ’21-1 dmku qw d fhg3yi3yi88ejb 3j83 3j kjfdi98ikq,mq,. mdbwq hwt87q q dvq ef,548t2 34 ciowf,e uyk\sa,enu0[fw m fni
e,kiaq8 SKJS8 GMKROP N38O pr09lrnr,gf m.

fewjfi4wfr9i4r f4lfjo48f,.,fduvyqk4em,m4,.. v,,miij hjuyhwn.


Yours sincerely


Jane Teller


1 Your address, but not your name, usually goes in the top right hand corner. You would not
usually include your telephone number or email address here, but this would be

2 The name and address of the person you’re writing to goes below this, on the left. If
you don’t have a specific name, always at least try to put some sort of title. You
should always, however, address the letter to a particular person if at all possible.

3 The position of the date is more flexible. It can go on the left or the right, usually below
the addressee details. The format of the date is also flexible; it could be written
5 April 2003, 5th April 2003, 5/4/03 or 05/04/03. Avoid putting the day and month the
other way round.

4 The salutation at the beginning of the letter depends on whether or not you have the
name of the person.

If you do, write Dear Mr. Ochs, Dear Mrs. Baez, Dear Miss Perhacs, or, if you don’t know
the marital status of a woman, or if she has written this, Dear Ms. Bunyan. It is possible
to write Dear Robert Fripp or Dear Alison Statton, but many people consider this
awkward. If the person has a specific title, use this: Dear Dr. Hammill.

If you don’t know the name of the person, you would traditionally write Dear Sir. This
is clearly somewhat sexist, so many people prefer Dear Sir/Madam or Dear Sir or Madam.

The ending of the letter depends on how you have started: see below.

5 It is common now to put the subject of the letter directly below the salutation. This
would be in bold or underlined. The purpose is to give the reader an idea of what the
letter is about before reading it, and to be able to pass it on to a more appropriate
person if necessary.

If you are replying to a letter which had a reference (or ref.) on it, you should repeat this
on your letter, probably on the same line as the date, but on the other side of the page.
Write Your ref.: xxxx/xx

6 The content of your letter should be as short as possible, divided into short, clear

7 It is common to end your letter with a phrase such as I look forward to hearing from
you. It’s OK to do this, but it’s a bit meaningless.

8 To end the letter, you would normally write Yours sincerely if you have started the
letter with the name of the person, or Yours faithfully if you have started with
something like Dear Sir.

9 Sign you name directly below this and then print it below the signature.

Top of page


Be concise and relevant

The person you are writing to may be deluged with letters and if yours is 3 sides of dense text, then there is every possibility it will end up in the bin. Letters should take seconds rather than minutes to read.

As a result, get straight to the point and stick to it, don’t include any unnecessary or supplementary information, don’t use any flowery language or long words just for the sake of it, and don’t repeat too much information which may already be included in a CV, for example.

Check your grammar and spelling very carefully

Mistakes will create a very bad impression, will lessen the effect of what you’re saying and in the case of a job application letter, could well also consign it to the bin. So:-

use the spellchecker if you’re using a computer

check the spelling yourself, as the spellchecker won’t recognize incorrect use,
for example, of dose and does. Use a good dictionary.

check your grammar carefully. If it’s been pointed out to you that you make
mistakes, look especially for these kinds of errors. Get someone else to check it
for you if necessary.

check your sentences and punctuation. Are the sentences complete? Does the
punctuation help to make what you’re saying clearer?

Don’t rush the letter; many mistakes occur because of this. Allow plenty of time for checking, and if necessary, for rewriting. The letter may well help to decide your future.

Use the right tone of language

It’s important to use the right type of language, the right ‘register’. Most letters you write will need to be formal, but not overly so. In fact, you should use similar language to that which you use in your academic writing. This means you should:-

avoid everyday, colloquial language; slang or jargon

avoid contractions (I’m; it’// etc)

avoid emotive, subjective language (terrible, rubbish etc)

avoid vague words such as nice, good, get etc

You should always be polite and respectful, even if complaining. One way of doing this in English, which is common in formal letter writing, is to use ‘modal verbs’ such as would, could and should. Instead of simply writing Please send me, you could express this more formally as I would be grateful if you could send me ... Don’t overdo it though, and make your language too formal or maybe old fashioned; don’t look through a thesaurus and put in lots of unnecessarily long words.

Having said this, British people tend to be fairly informal, even in business and academic circles, so it is normal to start using first names at an early stage.

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Make sure the letter is well presented

First impressions are important, so use good quality paper, centre the letter on the page, don’t leave coffee stains on it, make sure you’ve spelt the person’s name correctly and don’t forget to sign it!

Sample letter 1: Covering letter

12, Kenmore Road
LT12 9BH

1st December 2001

Mr G. Sands
Fitness First
Lake Road

Dear Mr Sands

Re: Fitness Instructor FF/32

I am writing to apply for the job of Fitness Instructor, as advertised in Thursday's Courant. This is an ideal job for me given my enthusiasm for sport, my related experience and qualifications.
Sport and fitness training have always been important to me, which is why I chose to take a BTEC Diploma in Sports Science. I obtained distinctions in the Sports Anatomy & Physiology and Sports Injuries modules last year and am confident that I will get similar marks in Exercise Physiology, Mechanics of Sport and Sports Supervision & Management this year. I am a confident user of Microsoft Office 2000 and have worked extensively with Fitness Publisher, a program for analysing fitness.
As you can see from my CV, I've taken the opportunity to gain extra qualifications that were on offer at college, which has helped me get part-time work as a pool attendant. I'm called on to provide cover during busy times so am used to working irregular hours at short notice. I've also run a lunchtime aerobics class at college since the start of this year.
I finish college in six weeks and am keen to find a job rather than carry on with further full-time study. I could start any part time work or training sooner as many of my classes are finishing and most of my assignments are done. I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely



Louise Longford






Sample letter 2: Business letter

Whitcomb Polytechnic
20-30 Newcastle Road
Tyne and Wear

11 October 1997

The General Manager
Fukuoka Motors (UK) Ltd
PO Box 137
York Road

Dear Sir

I understand from my colleague, Professor William Jones, who visited your Loughton plant last month, that you sometimes allow groups of students to tour the factory and see for themselves how Japanese production techniques operate in a European environment. Professor Jones himself was most impressed by his own visit, and recommended that I write to you.

Would it be possible for a group of 20 Business Studies students - male and female, aged between 18 and 22 - from Whitcomb Polytechnic to visit you before the end of this term, which is on the 21 December? I realise that you must receive many requests for such visits, and that the time available may already be booked up. If it is not, and you are able to see us, I should be most grateful if you could suggest a date and let me know of any normal conditions you lay down for visits of this kind.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours faithfully

B Farrant (Dr)
Senior Lecturer



1.03 How to write a dissertation

Your topic : Planning and research : Structure of dissertation : Content and style : Referencing

The advice given here is very general in nature: you must always check with your supervisor and with course documentation what the specific requirements are on your course.

A good dissertation will:

have a clear objective, based on a well worked out thesis or central question.
be well planned and widely researched.
show that the student has a good grasp of relevant concepts and is able to apply these in their own work.
include analysis, critical evaluation and discussion, rather than simple description.
contain consistent and correct referencing.
be structured and expressed in an appropriate academic way.
show your tutors that you have learnt something on the course and have been able to use this to produce a well argued extended piece of academic work.

A mediocre dissertation will:

have a very general or unclear title.
be poorly planned, with a narrow field of research.
rely heavily on source material, with little or no attempt to apply this to the student’s aims.
be mostly descriptive.
contain little or no referencing, perhaps in an incorrect format.
be poorly structured, with possible plagiarism of source material.
not convince your tutors that you have learnt much.

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Some tips on how to produce a good dissertation

Your topic

Start thinking early on about what you would like to write about. Consult as soon as possible with your supervisor for advice on the expected scope of your dissertation. Remember that you will not simply be writing about “IT in Primary Education”, but instead will be focussing on specific aspects, perhaps trying to solve a problem, querying currently held beliefs, or arguing a particular case or “thesis”. Your final title may instead be something like:

A computer for every pupil?
A critical analysis of the over-reliance on Information Technology in current UK primary education.

This title will therefore probably need to be refined over the weeks before you agree the final version with your supervisor.

Planning and research

Your dissertation is a major commitment and will be a long way to deciding your final award. It is obviously very important, therefore, to plan meticulously.

Work out a timetable and stick to it. You really have no excuse to leave things to the last minute. There will always be problems: difficulties in obtaining books or materials; delays in receiving replies to letters or questionnaires; temperamental printers and floppy disks; mysterious dissertation-eating dogs. You must allow for these, however: none is an excuse for not handing in your work on time.

In consultation with your supervisor, draw up an initial reading list, making sure that this is wide-ranging, relevant and as up-to-date as possible. Approach this reading with specific questions in mind; if not, you will waste a lot of valuable time reading irrelevant information.

If you’re going to include some sort of survey or questionnaire, make this as wide as possible, but remember that companies and organisations are swamped with this sort of thing and the response rate will probably be very disappointing.

Most of your writing will probably need redrafting several times, and you must carefully proofread everything you write, or perhaps get someone else to do this for you. Any revisions needed will of course take time, as will the binding of your finished dissertation, if this is necessary.

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Structure of dissertation

As stated, you must check with your supervisor and with course literature what the required structure is, as there are many variations. A basic framework would be:

Title page (See Guide 1.25)
Title, your name, course name, date, name of supervisor

(See Guide 1.31)
One paragraph summarising the whole dissertation

(See Guide 1.27)
Thanks to those who have assisted you

Table of contents
(See Guide 1.26)
Chapters and/or sections & sub-sections with page numbers

Table of figures

If appropriate

(See Guide 1.23)
A presentation of your question/problem/thesis, with a brief outline of the structure of your work

Main body/discussion

The facts, evidence, analysis, evaluation and discussion. All very well structured: arts/social sciences tending towards paragraphs; sciences/engineering towards sections; business a mixture of the two.

(See Guide 1.24
Where you bring it all together, stating very clearly your answer to your central question and if appropriate making recommendations, suggestions etc.

(See Guide 1.14)
A complete list of your sources, correctly formatted.


Any information not central to your main text or too large to be included:
for example, complete questionnaires, copies of letters, maps etc.

Other sections you may be asked to include could be terms of reference, procedure, methodology, executive summary, literature review or recommendations.

Avoid footnotes, unless you’re using a numerical referencing system. Avoid too many brackets. Use bold and italics sparingly and consistently. Avoid underlining. Avoid using “etc.”

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Content and style

Your dissertation is a piece of academic work; an intellectual achievement. You are not expected to produce something completely original, but instead, to should show understanding of key issues and theories; evidence of thought and insight; critical analysis and evaluation, and a demonstration that you have been able to research a topic within your professional domain and present your findings appropriately. Simple description is not enough, and will result in a low mark.

You should write in an appropriate academic style, avoiding colloquialisms, contractions, phrasal verbs and vagueness. You do not need, however, to use long, over-formal vocabulary: you should aim at all times for clear and concise expression.

You should normally avoid too much personal language (“I”, “my” etc), although opinions on this vary. As a rule of thumb, only use it when you are describing what you actually did and when you are expressing personal opinions, probably in your conclusion. Don’t refer to yourself as “we” unless you are describing some sort of groupwork, and don’t refer to yourself as “the author”: it’s pompous and confusing.

Avoid using “he/she”, “her/his” etc. The best way to avoid this and still be non-sexist is to make the subject plural whenever possible. (For example, “Teachers should always be in control of their class”.)

In your conclusion, don’t start undermining your work by apologizing for poor results or complaining about lack of time. Always be positive. If there were problems, analyze these objectively in an appropriate place. Any research has weaknesses; they’re part of the process.

Sentences should be well-punctuated, complete but not over-long. Paragraphs should be adequately developed, withnormally at least five or six sentences. You should use linking words or phrases to guide your reader through your writing. Make sure all figures are integrated into your text and referred to.

And remember to consistently and correctly make references to your sources.


Acknowledgement of your sources is a vital and integral part of the academic process. If you do not do this, particularly at dissertation/postgraduate level, you could be accused of plagiarism.

By the time you do your dissertation you should be very clear on how to do this. If not, check with course tutors or in course literature what the preferred method is (normally at UCE it is the “Harvard Method”) and make sure you know how to use it. It can be a complicated area, but there are many guides and staff to help you (us, for example).

Little or no referencing and a short bibliography indicate little research carried out, a generally un-academic approach and maybe even copying from source material.

Extensive referencing and bibliography indicate wide research, a correct approach and the use of these sources as evidence to back up the student’s argument.




1.04 How to write a literature review

What is a literature review?

The aim of a literature review is to show your reader (your tutor) that you have read, and have a good grasp of, the main published work concerning a particular topic or question in your field. This work may be in any format, including online sources. It may be a separate assignment, or one of the introductory sections of a report, dissertation or thesis. In the latter cases in particular, the review will be guided by your research objective or by the issue or thesis you are arguing and will provide the framework for your further work.

It is very important to note that your review should not be simply a description of what others have published in the form of a set of summaries, but should take the form of a critical discussion, showing insight and an awareness of differing arguments, theories and approaches. It should be a synthesis and analysis of the relevant published work, linked at all times to your own purpose and rationale.

According to Caulley (1992) of La Trobe University, the literature review should:

• compare and contrast different authors' views on an issue
• group authors who draw similar conclusions
• criticise aspects of methodology
• note areas in which authors are in disagreement
• highlight exemplary studies
• highlight gaps in research
• show how your study relates to previous studies
• show how your study relates to the literature in general
• conclude by summarising what the literature says

The purposes of the review are:

• to define and limit the problem you are working on
• to place your study in an historical perspective
• to avoid unnecessary duplication
• to evaluate promising research methods
• to relate your findings to previous knowledge and suggest further research

A good literature review, therefore, is critical of what has been written, identifies areas of controversy, raises questions and identifies areas which need further research.

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Structure of the literature review

The overall structure of your review will depend largely on your own thesis or research area. What you will need to do is to group together and compare and contrast the varying opinions of different writers on certain topics. What you must not do is just describe what one writer says, and then go on to give a general overview of another writer, and then another, and so on. Your structure should be dictated instead by topic areas, controversial issues or by questions to which there are varying approaches and theories. Within each of these sections, you would then discuss what the different literature argues, remembering to link this to your own purpose.

Linking words are important. If you are grouping together writers with similar opinions, you would use words or phrases such as:

similarly, in addition, also, again

More importantly, if there is disagreement, you need to indicate clearly that you are aware of this by the use of linkers such as:

however, on the other hand, conversely, nevertheless

At the end of the review you should include a summary of what the literature implies, which again links to your hypothesis or main question.

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Writing the review

You first need to decide what you need to read. In many cases you will be given a booklist or directed towards areas of useful published work. Make sure you use this help. With dissertations, and particularly theses, it will be more down to you to decide. It is important, therefore, to try and decide on the parameters of your research. What exactly are your objectives and what do you need to find out? In your review, are you looking at issues of theory, methodology, policy, quantitive research, or what? Before you start reading it may be useful to compile a list of the main areas and questions involved, and then read with the purpose of finding out about or answering these. Unless something comes up which is particularly important, stick to this list, as it is very easy to get sidetracked, particularly on the internet.

A good literature review needs a clear line of argument. You therefore need to use the critical notes and comments you made whilst doing your reading to express an academic opinion. Make sure that:

• you include a clear, short introduction which gives an outline of the review, including the main topics covered and the order of the arguments, with a brief rationale for this.

• there is always a clear link between your own arguments and the evidence uncovered in your reading. Include a short summary at the end of each section.
Use quotations if appropriate.

• you always acknowledge opinions which do not agree with your thesis. If you ignore opposing viewpoints, your argument will in fact be weaker.

Your review must be written in a formal, academic style. Keep your writing clear and concise, avoiding colloquialisms and personal language. You should always aim to be objective and respectful of others' opinions; this is not the place for emotive language or strong personal opinions. If you thought something was rubbish, use words such as "inconsistent", "lacking in certain areas" or "based on false assumptions"! (See Guide 1.21)

When introducing someone's opinion, don't use "says", but instead an appropriate verb which more accurately reflects this viewpoint, such as "argues", "claims" or "states". Use the present tense for general opinions and theories, or the past when referring to specific research or experiments:

Although Trescothick (2001) argues that attack is the best form of defence, Boycott (1969) claims that ...

In a field study carried out amongst the homeless of Sydney, Warne (1999) found that ...

And remember at all times to avoid plagiarising your sources. Always separate your source opinions from your own hypothesis. making sure you consistently reference the literature you are referring to. When you are doing your reading and making notes, it might be an idea to use different colours to distinguish between your ideas and those of others. (See Guide 1.13).

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Final checklist

Here is a final checklist, courtesy of the University of Melbourne:

Selection of Sources

Have you indicated the purpose of the review?
Are the parameters of the review reasonable?
Why did you include some of the literature and exclude others?
Which years did you exclude?
Have you emphasised recent developments?
Have you focussed on primary sources with only selective use of secondary sources?
Is the literature you have selected relevant?
Is your bibliographic data complete?

Critical Evaluation of the Literature

Have you organised your material according to issues?
Is there a logic to the way you organised the material?
Does the amount of detail included on an issue relate to its importance?
Have you been sufficiently critical of design and methodological issues?
Have you indicated when results were conflicting or inconclusive and discussed possible reasons?
Have you indicated the relevance of each reference to your research?


Has your summary of the current literature contributed to the reader's understanding of the problems?
Does the design of your research reflect the methodological implications of the literature review?


The literature review will be judged in the context of your completed research.
The review needs to further the reader's understanding of the problem and whether it provides a rationale for your research.



1.22 Writing introductions

Your introduction is the first impression your readers will have of your writing. A good introduction will show them that you know what you're talking about and that you're going to complete the task in question. It will also make them want to carry on reading and feel well disposed to what is to come. A bad introduction will have the opposite effect and might even prejudice the reader against the rest of the writing, even if it does improve.

The most common mistakes made by students are:

not to include an introduction at all
to include an introduction, but one which is unrecognizable as such
to include too much background/historical information in the introduction
to make the introduction too long

A good introduction will:

show that you are going to answer the question or complete the task
show that you understand the issues and their implications
show how you are going to do this by indicating the structure of your answer and making clear the main areas that you are going to write about (your plan).
show evidence that you have carried out some research by making a reference to one of your sources
be totally relevant
be concise: 8-9% of the total number of words is usually recommended (eg 120 words in a 1500 word assignment).

You want your tutors to say to themselves "Good! This student has understood the question, has done some research and is going to answer the question set, not another one. Let's read on!"

So more specifically, how do you do this?

include a "topic sentence" which indicates the main thrust of your answer. For example:

This essay deals with the economic and political decline in Britain's world role.

This assignment will examine Britain's peculiar unwritten constitution.

Four major features of the influence of human behaviour on planning are considered in this report.

This report will analyse the relative advantages and disadvantages of the different operating systems.

This essay will first describe the recent changes in the tax system and will then go on to argue that these changes are unfair and impracticable.

use the same, or very similar, wording as in the question. If part of the question is "Discuss recent developments in communication technology" then in your introduction say something like "This essay will consider recent developments in the field of communication technology and will ... ". Don't leave any room for doubt.

use words and expressions which clearly show the plan behind your writing, for example:

The essay is divided into four main sections.

It will first consider ...

It will then go on to describe ...

The third part compares ...

Finally, some conclusions will be drawn as to ...

The importance of introductions (and conclusions) cannot be stressed too much.

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Here are some examples of good (and bad!) introductions.

Example introductions

Imagine you are studying the mass media as part of your course and you have been set the following essay title:

Examine the sociological evidence of stereotypes of social groups in the mass media. What are the causes of stereotyping in the mass media and to what extent do they influence social attitudes?

Word limit: 2000 words

Read the following examples and decide which meet the criteria for a good introduction.

Example 1

As we all know, Britain is a multicultural society. In the 1960s many thousands of immigrants came to the country, mostly setting up home in the major cities. The majority of these immigrants came from the West Indies, India and Pakistan and Hong Kong. Racism has always been a problem, with the various groups of immigrants seen as stereotypes, although over the years there has been increasing integration into British society, particularly by the children of immigrant families. This is reflected in the mass media. Twenty years ago black people were rarely seen on television and very few held jobs in the press. However, nowadays, more and more black people work as journalists and are thus able to look at events from a different perspective.

Your comments: _______________________________________________________________________




Example 2

Stereotypes are everywhere: the reserved British, the disorganised Italians, the shopping-obsessed Japanese. This essay will talk about these stereotypes and ask if they are true. It is going to look at the different types of stereotypes and their representation in the media. The following areas will be covered: television; radio; the press, and the cinema. I will particularly look at television and ask the question "Does television reinforce these stereotypes?"

Your comments: _______________________________________________________________________




Example 3

Stereotypes abound in today's society. People seem to have an innate compulsion to categorise others into various groups and then to apply rigid and limited descriptions to these groups. There are therefore, amongst others, stereotypical nationalities and races; stereotypical sexes and sexual orientations and stereotypical classes. And one place where these stereotypes often thrive is in the mass media, particularly in the tabloid press and popular television, such as in situation comedy. Some, for example Hick (1996), claim that this is a harmless phenomenon, whereas commentators such as Ealham (1998) point to the possible dangers of obsessive stereotyping in the media. This essay will examine what sociological evidence there is for the process of stereotyping in the mass media, and will then go on to analyse the reasons for its occurrence. The final part of the essay will ask how far society's attitudes are in fact shaped by this portrayal of the various kinds of stereotypes.


Your comments: _______________________________________________________________________




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Introduction 1

Your tutor would read an introduction like this with a great sense of foreboding. There's no real problem with the actual English, but the writer shows no indication whatsoever of answering the question. The word 'stereotype' has been picked up on, and narrowly interpreted as meaning racial stereotype. But even then there is no attempt to focus on the actual question, and most of what is said is irrelevant. Probably a fail.

Introduction 2

Too short for a start, and not very well written (inconsistency of tenses: will/going to) No attempt to put the question into some sort of context, to get the reader interested in what's to come. At first, it looks as if stereotypes are being interpreted simply as national stereotypes and also the writer goes off on the wrong tack: the question does not ask for a simple description nor asks about the validity of these stereotypes. The last part of the introduction, however, does indicate that the last part of the question will be addressed. If the writer manages to focus more on the actual question, the essay might just scrape a pass.

Introduction 3

This is a very good introduction. It's about the right length (c8%); gives a little relevant background and context, indicating that the writer has thought about what a stereotype is in its broadest interpretation; makes some initial references to sources; and finally focuses precisely on the question, showing the reader that it has been fully understood and that it will be answered. Note that the wording of the final part of the introduction is very close to that of the question. If the essay follows in the same vein, it should get an excellent mark.


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Journalism issues

July 10, 2011 What skills do you need to succeed in your journalism career? A generation ago, the skills you needed as a journalist were well-defined. If you were going to work in a print newsroom, you needed to know how to report and write. If you wanted to work in photojournalism, you needed to develop still photography and photo editing skills. Videographers needed to know how to shoot and edit video. Broadcast journalists needed to develop the ability to speak on-air with confidence and authority. Today? Many journalists, including everyone working as journalist/entrepreneur, need to know all that - and much more. To aid me in planning coverage on OJR for the upcoming academic year, I'd love to hear from you which skills you feel you have mastered, and which ones you want additional help developing. A few points, before we get to the vote: First, I'm just going to assume that everyone's got basic reporting, text writing and copy editing, so those aren't listed as options. Next, I do not wish to infer that everyone needs to develop all of these skills. Many journalists continue to work in newsrooms where they are expected to specialize. And even independent journalists often can rely on networks, contractors, vendors and open source solutions to cover many of their publishing needs. So if you don't want help with a particular skill, just leave the box next to it blank. But the more skills you develop, the more freedom and flexibility you have as a journalist in the online publishing market. I know personally OJR readers who've mastered each of the skills listed below, so if you do want to add more to your journalism repertoire, your fellow readers have the capacity to help. So let's see where we're at, shall we? I've split this into two votes. In the first, please mark the boxes next to each of the skills that you feel you've mastered at this point in your career. In the second, please mark the boxes next to the skills you'd like help developing. Leave those skills you don't care to develop, or don't feel you need help with, blank. And please, forward today's article link to colleagues and friends in the industry, so that we can include their responses, as well. If you'd like to clarify your response, or add thoughts about additional skills you'd like to discuss, please do so in the comments. Comments on OJR are moderated, so if you've not had a comment approved before, there will be a delay before your comment appears.

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