February 12: “Textbook” Quantitative and Qualitative Approaches

Over the next two weeks we’re going to survey a wide variety of methods (and we’ll even skim an entire methods textbook – aaack!). It’ll probably feel like drinking from a firehose. I hope you’re thirsty. (Just kidding.) Please trust that there is a method to the maelstrom. We start off with this expansive overview so you can appreciate the breadth of methodological options available to you and begin imagining, right from the start, which might be appropriate for your own project.

Much of the material you encounter in these two weeks most likely won’t “stick” until we see these tools and techniques in action, in real research projects. That’s why, for the remainder of the semester, we’ll examine constellations of methods in practice, as they’re applied in various researchers’ work, and as we assess how they could be applied in your own work. You can always return to these survey texts for reference, after you’ve got a better sense of which techniques might be right for you.

Interviews * Oral Histories * Focus Groups * Surveys * Ethnography (and its variants:
auto-ethnography, sensory ethnography) * Participant Observation * Unobtrusive Measures * Sampling * Content Analysis * Audience Analysis * Experimentation * Ethics

In today’s class, we’ll “reverse-engineer” a prominent contemporary qualitative media study.

  • It’s highly unlikely that you’ll be using quantitative methods in your research (because we’re not a quantitatively-oriented program, and because most of our students aren’t fluent in statistics). Still, it’s important that you’re aware of these research approaches, particularly given the rise of data-driven methodologies. See Barrie Gunter, “The Quantitative Research Process” in Jensen, ed., A Handbook of Media and Communication Research: Qualitative and Quantitative and Methodologies (Routledge, 2002): read 209-12; skim section headings + keywords through the end.
  • Excerpt from Klaus Bruhn Jensen, “The Qualitative Research Process” in Jensen, ed., A Handbook of Media and Communication Research: Qualitative and Quantitative and Methodologies (Routledge, 2002): 235-46 [note: you’re reading only 11 pages!].
  • Regardless of your methodological orientation, though, you must consider the ethical implications of your work. See Colin Robson, “Ethical Considerations” in Real World Research, 2nd (Blackwell, 2002): 65-76.
  • Skim through the Interviewing, Focus Groups, Oral History, and Ethnography chapters in Bonnie S. Brennen, Qualitative Research Methods for Media Studies (Routledge, 2013) to get a sense of what a standard qualitative methodology textbook looks like. Portions of the book could serve as reference material after you’ve chosen specific methods for your own project.
    • There are countless textbook / handbook alternatives. Sage Publications’ methods textbook trade could likely sustain the economy of a small country. See, for instance, Catherine Marshall and Gretchen B. Rossman, Designing Qualitative Research, 6th (Sage, 2016), or John W. Creswell, Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Approaches, 4th ed. (Sage, 2014) – or, if you’ve got a spare $165, Norman K. Denzin and Yvonna S. Lincoln, eds., The SAGE Handbook of Qualitative Research, 5th ed. (Sage, 2017).
  • Skim the table of contents of Norman K. Denzin and Yvonna S. Lincoln’s Sage Handbook of Qualitative Research, 5th (Thousand Oaks: Sage, 2017).
  • Skim through the resources on Max Liboiron’s “Action-Based Research Methods” site.
  • Skim over the toolkits – about various methods and ethics – on our class website. You can reference these materials – and apply them – once you’ve chosen appropriate methods for your own project.

Image: Present & Correct