Communication research methods monday and wednesday, 4: 00 – 5: 15

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2195 VILAS Communication Hall, FALL 2010
Maier-Bascom Professor

Dhavan V. Shah

Office: 5162 Vilas Hall


Office Hrs: M 12:00-2:00

Course Description:
This is a basic research methods course for those with little or no previous experience or course work in communication research. The goal of this course is to provide students with a framework for evaluating communication research and some hands-on experience in the process of conducting empirical investigations. The centerpiece of the course is a class research project, for which students will analyze data from an existing national survey. The course is intended for students interested in research related to professional responsibilities in all aspects of mediated communication, as well as those interested in scholarly inquiries of media institutions, content, and influence. The course is open to undergraduate students admitted to the School and to graduate students in any major or field. Juniors and seniors in other majors and special students may be admitted with the permission of the instructors.
There is required book for this class (supplemental readings assignments for each week are listed below):

[B] Babbie, E. (2007). The Practice of Social Research. 11th edition. Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth.

There will be three examinations for this class: a midterm (worth 40 points toward the final grade), a take-home (worth 20 points, due at the final exam), and a final exam (worth 40 points toward the final grade). The exams will include both multiple choice and short answer questions that will be based on the readings and/or material presented in class. The final exam is not explicitly cumulative, but material covered in the first half of the class may be useful during the final.
There are three assignments associated with the group project that is at the center of this class, each worth 20 points toward the final grade. You will be graded as a group. Details on these assignments will be discussed in class.
The Class Research Project:
The research project is an integral part of the course. All students will participate in analyzing data from an existing survey and preparing a report to share with the class. The top presentation team, as determined by a class vote and the professor’s judgment, will not have to take the in-class final exam, and will receive the full 40 points toward their final grade. These students WILL have to take the take home portion of the final.
Student Presentations and Peer Evaluation. The group project will culminate in a group presentation focusing on the results from analysis. Groups will have 20 minutes to make a presentation. The presentation is worth 40 points toward the final grade. Failure to attend the presentations of fellow students will result in the loss of 5 points per missed presentation. Students will also engage in a peer evaluation of their fellow group members, which will be worth an additional 25 points.
Academic Misconduct:
It is your responsibility to complete your own work as best you can in the time provided. Cheating, plagiarism and falsification of any assignment is a serious offense. Anyone found guilty of academic misconduct should expect to fail the entire course and have a record of the matter forwarded to the Dean of Students.

Activities for all students Points Due date

Midterm Exam 40 Week 7

Take Home Final 20 At Final Exam

Final Exam 40 Check Timetable

Group Project Assignments:

Concept Explication Assignment 20 Week 6

Research Question/Hypotheses Assignment 20 Week 12

Statistical Analysis Assignment 20 Week 14

Group Presentation 40 Week 14-15
Peer Evaluation:

Average Rating 25 Week 16

Class Participation:

Professor’s Judgment 25 All Semester Long

*** All will be graded on the basis of 250 points
The following breakdowns provide a guideline for the assignment of final grades.
Percentage Grade
93-100% A

88-93% AB

83-88% B

78-83% BC

73-78% C

68-73% D

below 68% F
Additional opportunities for earning extra-credit may become available during the semester. Extra-credit will be added to your final class score after the final grade breaks have been established. This way, participation in extra credit activities can only help your final grade; a decision not to participate cannot hurt your grade.





Assignments & Workbook


Sept. 8

Introduction to Research Inquiry

[Reading: B ch. 1]


Sept. 13

Workshop: Project Overview

Sept. 15

Research Paradigms

[Reading: B. ch 2]


Sept. 20

Logic and Ethics of Research

[Reading: B. ch. 3 & 4 – pp. 84-94]

Sept. 22

Concept Explication

[Readings: RES Concept Explication


Sept. 27

Research Design

[Reading: B ch. 4 – pp. 94 - 107]

Sept. 29

Reliability and Validity

[Readings: B ch. 5 pp. 143-151]


Oct. 4

Measurement and Observation

[Readings: B ch. 5 – pp.120 – 142]

Oct. 6

Project workday (no class)


Oct. 11

Workshop: Project Design

[Reading: B ch. 4 – pp. 107-119]

Oct. 13


[Readings: B ch. 7]

Concept Assignment DUE


Oct. 18


Oct. 20

Experimental Research

[Reading: B ch. 8]


Oct. 25

Survey Research

[Reading: B ch. 9]

Oct. 27

Network Analysis

[Reading: RES Network Analysis]


Nov. 1

Workshop: Research Development

Nov 3.

Examples of Research


Nov. 8

Qualitative Field Research

[Readings: B ch. 10]

Nov. 10

Content Analysis

[Readings: B ch. 11]


Nov. 15

Workshop: Data Analysis

[Reading: B ch. 14]

Nov. 17

Hypothesis Testing


Nov. 22

Data Analysis: Univariate Analysis

[Readings: B ch. 16]

Nov. 24

Project workday (no class)

Hypotheses Assignment DUE


Nov. 29

Data Analysis: Scales and Indices

Dec. 1

Data Analysis: Bivariate Analysis


Dec. 6

Data Analysis: Multivariate Analysis

[Readings: B ch. 17]

Dec. 8

Workshop: Finalize Analysis

Analysis Assignment DUE


Dec. 13

Student Presentations

Dec. 15
Student Presentations

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