Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Methods of Media Research


Methods of Media Research
Methods of Media Research
Communication covers a broad range of topics. Also it draws heavily from other fields like sociology, psychology, anthropology, economics, etc. Thus most of the methods applicable to social research are used for communication research. In fact, while fields like history, literature, etc ’use only specific methods, communication research uses all kinds of methods. Also individual studies in the field of communication research use multiple methods. All methods of media research can be classified as quantitative and qualitative.
Methods of Media Research


Many research studies concentrate on numbers. In such studies, observations are expressed in numerical terms. Quantitative research is basically explanatory in nature and sometimes even involves, experiments. Such studies attempt to use precise statistical tools and models to achieve comprehensive understanding of communication behaviours and phenomena.
The best examples of these are surveys and opinion polls. Such methods often try to predict present or future behaviour in various communication situations. In such studies statistical methods are used as a means to an end. These are not ends in themselves. Here numerical data are analyzed and presented numerically.
Quantitative methods help in providing precise explanations about process and help measure communication behavior.


Here the emphasis is not on numerical data. Rather these methods depend on description and interpretation of meanings of communication messages by Way of subjective treatment. Instead of going for large number of examples qualitative research concentrates on individual examples. Qualitative research does not try to find patterns. It makes intensive inquiries about single events, individuals and social or communication units.
Case studies, focus group studies are some examples of qualitative methods.
As we have already discussed, there are a lot of methods used in media or communication research. These include Census, Survey, Observation, Case Studies, and interviews, etc.


This method involves studying the entire population or universe of research. This is a quantitative method. Every single element of the universe is covered in this method. Thus the results are always good. Also there is no danger of biases or prejudices being introduced. The major drawbacks of the census method are, it is highly expensive, and involves large manpower and a lot of efforts. For these reasons, the census method is rarely used for media research.


The term survey comes from two words ‘sur’ and ‘vor’, which mean to see a particular thing from a high place. But this term is used differently in different sciences. In natural sciences, survey means measuring things. In social into sciences, survey means an investigation of social problems by collecting data through interviews, questionnaire, etc.
In communication research it means looking at something in its entirety. In surveys, we cover events, processes, behaviour, etc. In quantitative communication research, a survey is an empirical study that uses questionnaires or interviews to discover descriptive characteristics of communication phenomena.
Often people think that surveys are means of studying large number of people. However, relatively smaller groups like the employees of an office can also be surveyed. Surveys can be used for all kinds of communication studies. There are the two basic forms of surveys - questionnaire surveys and interview based surveys. We shall discuss about the questionnaire survey here and shall discuss interviews later.


A questionnaire survey involves the following steps:
·         Selecting and framing questions,
·         Formatting,
·         Determining validity and reliability of questions,
·         Sampling subjects (respondents),
·         Administering the questionnaire, and
·         Analyzing and interpreting results.

Selecting and Framing Questions: Developing or framing questions is often a difficult task. It requires extensive reading on the subject, composing a rough draft, putting them into a proper format. Questions can be direct or indirect, specific or general. Also there could be pure questions or statements to which reactions are sought. Again questions can be closed or open-ended.
The researcher is free to adopt one type of questions or a variety of question types. Open-ended questions often result in a broad variety of responses.

Formatting: The basic format of questionnaires includes a brief statement about the study at the beginning, request for participation, assurance of confidentiality (if required). Then come the demographic questions (about gender, age, academics, income, etc.) Next come the questions on the topic. Usually questions of same response modes (like the yes and no questions) are grouped together. Some researchers put questions on the same issue together. Researchers usually try to have less number of questions. However, some studies require long questionnaires of 30 to 40 questions. Putting large number of questions in a proper format is a big problem.  

Determining Reliability and Validity: After framing questions and formatting the questions, researchers must test the validity (relevance) and reliability (consistency) of the questions. For this, researchers often put check questions in the questionnaire. This involves putting the same question in different ways at different places.
Many methods of testing validity and reliability are available. These include test scales, polarity rotation etc.

Sampling Subjects (Respondents): One cannot always study the entire population or the universe. A representative sample is thus selected. Many methods are used for this purpose. Whatever the method is, the researcher should justify the size and method of sampling.

Administering the Questionnaire: Questionnaires can be delivered by mail, through tax or personally. However, it is always good to get the questionnaire filled up personally.

Analyzing and interpreting Results: Mostly researchers use statistical means for analyzing data collected through the questionnaires. They try to Show averages or the Spread of data. Whatever means used, this tom of research tries to reveal answers to the problems posed in the study.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Ethics and the research process


Ethics Research
Ethics and the research process

Most mass media research involves observations of human beings—asking them questions or examining what they have done. However, in this probing process the researcher must ensure that the rights of the participants are not violated. 
This concern for rights requires a consideration of ethics: distinguishing right from wrong and proper from improper. Unfortunately, there are no universal definitions for these terms. Instead, several guidelines, broad generalizations, and suggestions have been endorsed or at least tacitly accepted by most in the research profession. These guidelines do not provide an answer to every ethical question that may arise, but they can help make researchers more sensitive to the issues.

Before discussing these specific guidelines, let’s pose some hypothetical research situations involving ethics.

• A researcher at a large university distributes questionnaires to the students in an introductory mass media course and tells them that if they do not complete the forms, they will lose points toward their grade in the course.
• A researcher is conducting a mail survey about downloading pornography from the Internet. The questionnaire states that the responses will be anonymous.

However, unknown to the respondents, each return envelope is marked with a code that enables the researcher to identify the sender.

• A researcher creates a false identity on Facebook and uses it to gather information about the communication behaviors of dozens of college students without the students’ knowledge.
• A researcher shows one group of children a violent television show and another group a nonviolent programAfterward, the children are sent to a public playground, where they are told to play with the children who are already there. The researcher records each instance of violent behavior exhibited by the young subjects.
• Subjects in an experiment are told to submit a sample of their news writing to an executive of a large newspaper and are led to believe that whoever submits the best work will be offered a job at the paper. In fact, the “executive” is a confederate in the experiment and severely criticizes everyone’s work.
The subjects then rate their own selfesteem. They are never told about the deception. These examples of ethically flawed study designs should be kept in mind while you read the following guidelines to ethics in mass media research.


Ethical behavior is the right thing to do. The best reason to behave ethically is the personal knowledge that you have acted in a morally appropriate manner. In addition, there are other cogent reasons that argue for ethical behavior. Unethical behavior may have an adverse effect on research participants. Just one experience with an ethically questionable research project may completely alienate a respondent. A person who was improperly deceived into thinking that he or she was being evaluated for a job at a newspaper when it was all just an experiment might not be so willing to participate in another study. Since mass communication research depends on the continued goodwill and cooperation of respondents, it is important to shield them from unethical research practices.

Moreover, unethical research practices reflect poorly on the profession and mayresult in an increase in negative public opinion. Many readers have probably heard about the infamous Tuskegee syphilis study in which impoverished African American men suffering from syphilis were studied without their consent and left untreated so that researchers could study the progress of the disease (see Jones, 1981, for a complete description). The distrust and suspicion engendered by this experiment in the African American community have yet to subside and have been cited as a factor in the rise of some conspiracy theories about the spread of AIDS (Thomas & Quinn, 1981). It is fortunate that the mass communication research community has not had an ethical lapse of this magnitude, but the Tuskegee experiment illustrates the harmful fallout that can result from an unethical research project.
Unethical research usually does not result from some sinister motivation. Instead, it generally comes from pressure on researchers to cut corners in an attempt to publish an article or gain prestige or impress other colleagues. Nonetheless, it is behavior that is potentially serious and little tolerated within the community of mass media scholars. like to see universally implemented. In other words, a person should act in a way that he or she wants all others to act. Note that in many ways Kant’s thinking parallels what we might call the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. A mass media researcher, for example, might develop a categorical imperative about deception. Deception is something that a researcher does not want to see universally practiced by all; nor does the researcher wish to be deceived. Therefore, deception is something that should not be used in research, no matter what the benefits and no matter what the circumstances. The teleological, or balancing, theory is best exemplified by what philosopher John Stuart Mill called utilitarianism. In this theory, the good that may come from an action is weighed against or balanced against the possible harm. The individual then acts in a way that maximizes good and minimizes harm. In other words, the ultimate test for determining the rightness of some behavior depends on the outcomes that result from this behavior. The end may justify the means.
As will be noted, most Institutional Review Boards at colleges and universities endorse this principle when they examine research proposals for ethical compliance. A mass media researcher who follows the utilitarian approach must balance the good that will come from a research project against its possible negative effects. In this situation, a researcher might decide it is appropriate to use deception in an experiment if the positive benefits of the knowledge obtained outweigh the possible harmful effects of deceiving the subjects. One difficulty with this approach is that it is sometimes difficult, if not impossible, to anticipate all of the harm that might ensue from a given research design. Note that a researcher might use a different course of action depending upon which ethical theory is used as a guide.


General ethical principles are difficult to construct in the research area. However, there are at least four relevant principles. First is the principle of autonomy, or self determination, which has its roots in the categorical imperative. Denying autonomy is not something that a researcher wishes to see universally practiced. Basic to this concept is the demand that the researcher respects the rights, values, and decisions of other people. The reasons for a person’s action should be respected and the actions not interfered with. This principle is exemplified by the use of informed consent in the research procedure. A second ethical principle important to social science research is nonmaleficence. In short, it is wrong to intentionally inflict harm on another. A third ethical principle— beneficence—is usually considered in tandem with nonmaleficence. Beneficence stipulates apositive obligation to remove existing harms and to confer benefits on others. These two principles operate together, and often the researcher must weigh the harmful risks of research against its possible benefits (for example, increased knowledge or a refined theory). Note how the utilitarian theory relates to these principles.
A fourth ethical principle, the principle of justice, is related to both deontological and teleological theories of ethics. At its general level, this principle holds that people who are equal in relevant respects should be treated equally. In the research context, this principle should be applied when new programs or policies are being evaluated. The positive results of such research should be shared with all. It would be unethical, for example, to deny the benefit of a new teaching procedure to children because they were originally chosen to be in the control group rather than in the group that received the experimental procedure. Benefits should be shared with all who are qualified. Frey, Botan, and Kreps (2000) offer the following summary of moral principles commonly advocated by researchers:

1. Provide the people being studied with free choice.
2. Protect their right to privacy.
3. Benefit them, not harm them.
4. Treat them with respect.

It is clear that mass media researchers must follow some set of rules to meet their ethical obligations to their subjects and respondents. Cook (1976), discussing thelaboratory approach, offers one such code of behavior that represents norms in the field:

• Do not involve people in research without their knowledge or consent.
• Do not coerce people to participate.
• Do not withhold from the participant the true nature of the research.
• Do not actively lie to the participant about the nature of the research.
• Do not lead the participant to commit acts that diminish his or her self-respect. • Do not violate the right to selfdetermination.
• Do not expose the participant to physical or mental stress.
• Do not invade the privacy of the participant.
• Do not withhold benefits from participants in control groups.
• Do not fail to treat research participants fairly and to show them consideration and respect.


The following subsections discuss some of the common areas where mass media researchers might encounter ethical dilemmas.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Measurement Scale in Research

Measurement Scale in Mass Media Research

A scale represents a composite measure of a variable; it is based on more than one item. Scales are generally used with complex variables that do not easily lend themselves to single-item or single-indicator measurements. Some items, such as age, newspaper circulation, or number of radios in the house, can be adequately measured without scaling techniques. Measurement of other variables, such as attitude toward TV news or gratification received from going to a movie theater, generally requires the use of scales.
Several scaling techniques have been developed over the years. This section discusses only the better-known methods. Search the Internet for additional information about all types of measurement scales.

Simple Rating Scales

Rating scales are common in mass media research. Researchers frequently ask respondents to rate a list of items such as a list of programming elements that can be included in a radio station’s weekday morning show, or to rate how much respondents like radio or TV on-air personalities.

The researcher’s decision is to decide which type of scale to use: 1 to 3? 1 to 5? 1 to 7? 1 to 10? 1 to 100? Or even a 0 to 9 scale, which is commonly used by researchers who don’t have computer software to accept double-digit numbers (like 10). Selecting a type of scale is largely a matter of personal preference, but there are a few things to consider:

1. A scale with more points rather than fewer points allows for greater differentiation on the item or items being rated. For example, assume we are rating the importance of programming elements contained in a radio station’s weekday morning show. Let’s say the respondents are told, “The higher the number, the more important the element is to you.” Will a 1–3 scale or 1–10 scale provide more information? Obviously, the 1–10 scale provides the broadest differentiation. Broad differentiation in opinions, perceptions, and feelings is important because it gives the researcher more information. Artificially restricting the range of ratings is called factor fusion, which means that opinions, perceptions, and feelings are squeezed into a smaller space. It’s better for the respondents and the researcher to have more rating points than fewer rating points. Restricting respondents’ responses by using too few scale points always hides the range of potential responses and restricts the potential of any research study.

2. Our experience shows that males and females of all age groups, and all races and nationalities like to use a 1–10 scale. This is true because the 1–10 scale is universally used, particularly in sporting events like the Olympics. Virtually everyone understands the 1–10 rating scale. A 10 is best or perfect, a 1 is worst or imperfect. Our experience also shows that researchers should not use a 0–9 or 1–9 rating scale because, quite frankly, respondents do not associate well with a 9 as the highest number.

3. When using simple rating scales, it is best to tell respondents that “The higher the number, the more you agree,” or “The higher the number, the more you like.” Over thousands of research studies, we have found this approach better than telling respondents, “Use a scale of 1 to 10, where ‘1’ means Dislike and ‘10’ means Like a lot.”

 Transforming Scales

On occasion, a researcher will conduct a study using one scale and then later want to compare those data to other data using a different rating scale. For example, let’s say that a researcher uses a 1–7 rating scale and wants to convert the results to a 1–100 scale.
What can be done? The procedure is always the same: Divide the smaller rating scale into the larger to produce a multiplier to transform the scale. For the transformation of 1–7 to 1–100, first divide
100 by 7, which is 14.2857, and then multiply this number times each of the 1–7 elements to compute the converted 1–100 scale numbers
The new, transformed (rounded) ratings are:
1 5 14
2 5 29
3 5 43
4 5 57
5 5 71
6 5 86
7 5 100
What about transforming a 5-point scale to a 7-point scale? The procedure is the same:
Divide 7 by 5, which produce a multiplier of 1.4. This number is multiplied times each of the numbers in the 5-point scale to produce a transformed scale:
1 5 1.4
2 5 2.8
3 5 4.2
4 5 5.6
5 5 7.0


Thurstone Scales

Thurstone Scales
Measurement Scale in Research -  Thurstone Scales

Thurstone scales are also called equal appearing interval scales because of the technique used to develop them and are typically used to measure the attitude toward a given concept or construct. To develop a Thurstone scale, a researcher first collects a large number of statements (Thurstone recommends at least 100) that relate to the concept or construct to be measured. Next, judges rate these statements along an 11-category scale in which each category expresses a different degree of favorableness toward the concept. The items are then ranked according to the mean or median ratings assigned by the judges and are used to construct a questionnaire of 20 to 30 items that are chosen more or less evenly from across the range of ratings. The statements are worded so that a person can agree or disagree with them. The scale is then administered to a sample of respondents whose scores are determined by computing the mean or median value of the items agreed with. A person who disagrees with all the items has a score of zero.

One advantage of the Thurstone method is that it is an interval measurement scale. On the downside, this method is time consuming and labor intensive. Thurstone scales are not often used in mass media research, but they are common in psychology and education research.

Guttman Scaling

Guttman Scale
Measurement Scale in Research - Guttman Scale

Guttman scaling, also called scalogram analysis, is based on the idea that items can be arranged along a continuum in such a way that a person who agrees with an item or finds an item acceptable will also agree with or find acceptable all other items expressing a less extreme position. For example, here is a hypothetical four-item

Qualitative & Quantitative Research Method in Mass Media

Qualitative & Quantitative Research in Mass Media

Qualitative & Quantitative Research Method
Qualitative & Quantitative Research Method

Mass media research, like all research, can be qualitative or quantitative. Qualitative research involves several methods of data collection, such as focus groups, field observation, in-depth interviews, and case studies. In all of these methods, the questioning approach is varied. In other words, although the researcher enters the project with a specific set of questions, follow-up questions are developed as needed. The variables in qualitative research may or may not be measured or quantified.

When to use it

In some cases, qualitative research has certain advantages. The methods allow a researcher to view behavior in a natural setting without the artificiality that sometimes surrounds experimental or survey research. In addition, qualitative techniques can increase a researcher’s depth of understanding of the phenomenon under investigation.

This is especially true when the phenomenon has not been investigated previously. Finally, qualitative methods are flexible and allow the researcher to pursue new areas of interest. A questionnaire is unlikely to provide data about questions that were not asked, but a person conducting a field observation or focus group might discover facets of a subject that were not considered before the study began.

However, some disadvantages are associated with qualitative methods. First, sample sizes are sometimes too small (sometimes as small as one) to allow the researcherto generalize the data beyond the sample selected for the particular study. For this reason, qualitative research is often the preliminary step to further investigation rather than the final phase of a project. The information collected from qualitative methods is often used to prepare a more elaborate quantitative analysis, although the qualitative data may in fact be all the information needed for a particular study.

Data reliability can also be a problem, since single observers are describing unique events. Because a person conducting qualitative research must become closely involved the respondents, it is possible to lose objectivity when collecting data. A researcher who becomes too close to the study may lose the necessary professional detachment.

Finally, if qualitative research is not properly planned, the project may produce nothing of value. Qualitative research appears to be easy to conduct, but projects must be carefully designed to ensure that they focus on key issues. 

Quantitative research also involves several methods of data collection, such as telephone surveys, mail surveys, and Internet surveys. In these methods, the questioning is static or standardized—all respondents are asked the same questions and there is no opportunity for follow-up questions.

In the past, some researchers claimed that the difference between qualitative and quantitative research related to only two things:
1. Qualitative research uses smaller samples of subjects or respondents.
2. Because of the small sample size, results from qualitative research could not be generalized to the population from which the samples were drawn. 

Qualitative research, the fact is that sample sizes in both qualitative and quantitative can be the same.
Quantitative research requires that the variables under consideration be measured.

This form of research is concerned with how often a variable is present and generally uses numbers to communicate this amount. Quantitative research has certain advantages. One is that the use of numbers allows greater precision in reporting results. For example, the Violence Index (Gerbner, Gross, Morgan & Signorielli, 1980), a quantitative measuring device, makes it possible to report the exact increase or decrease in violence from one television season to another, whereas qualitative research could report only whether there was more or less violence.

For the past several years, some friction has existed in the mass media field and in other disciplines between those who favor quantitative methods and those who prefer qualitative methods. Most researchers have now come to realize that both methods are important in understanding any phenomenon. In fact, the term triangulation, commonly used by marine navigators, frequently emerges in conversations about communication research. If a ship picks up signals from only one navigational aid, it is impossible to know the vessel’s precise location. However, if signals from more than one source are detected, elementary geometry can be used to pinpoint the ship’s location. In this book, the term triangulation refers to the use of both qualitative methods and quantitative methods to fully understand the nature of a research problem. Although most of this book is concerned with skills relevant to quantitative research, we do not imply that quantitative research is in any sense better than qualitative research.

It is not. Each approach has value, and the decision to use one or the other depends on the goals of the research.

Mass Media Research Introductory: By Roger D. Wimmer, Joseph R. Dominick

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Discourse Analysis and Its Advantage and Disadvantage

What is Discourse Analysis

Discourse Analysis
Discourse Analysis

Discourse analysis is a more recently developed qualitative technique that has been used to study public relations communication.
At the risk of oversimplification, discourse analysis examines the organization of language at a level of analysis beyond the clause or the sentence. It focuses on larger linguistic units, such as whole conversations or written messages. Discourse analysis is also concerned with the way language is used in social contexts and how people make sense of one another’s messages. As summarized by van Dijk (1997), discourse analysis examines who uses language, how, why, and when.

Daymon and Holloway (2002) suggest that researchers who use discourse analysis analyze three specific aspects of language:
1. The form and content of the language used
2. The ways people use language to communicate ideas and beliefs
3. Institutional and organizational factors that might shape the way the language is used

Data collection in discourse analysis involves gathering examples of texts and messages that are relevant to the problem being investigated. These may consist of existing documents, such as speeches by company executives, press releases, internal memos, and advertisements. In addition, the researcher can generate new data by conducting interviews with key informants.
There is no concrete set of procedures for conducting a discourse analysis. Data analysis usually consists of focusing on large segments of language to identify key words, themes, imagery, and patterns in the text.
In addition, the researcher might conduct a rhetorical analysis that looks at how various arguments are constructed and arranged within a given body of language. Finally, the investigator should pay special attention to the context of the language, examining such factors as who is speaking, the circumstances surrounding the message, and the intended audience.
Levin and Behrens (2003), for example, presented a discourse analysis of Nike’s internal and external communications.
They analyzed such linguistic structures as semantic association, opposites, degradation, genre manipulation, pronoun selection, obfuscation, slanting, speech acts, restricted style, and metaphor. They found that during the height of Nike’s popularity, both company literature and press reports contained a preponderance of positive imagery. However, this changed when the company was accused of unfair labor practices. The press abandoned its positive portrayal and used the same linguistic devices to create a more negative image. In another example, Holtzhausen and Voto (2002) conducted a discourse analysis of interviews conducted with public relations professionals and found that many were endorsing postmodern values. Finally, Brooks and Waymer (2009) used discourse analysis to examine Crystallex International
Corporation’s mining operations in South America. They looked at press release archives, news and advertising archives of Venezuelan newspapers, and the archives of specialized media in the mining area. They found that the company’s public relations efforts improved once it started emphasizing corporate responsibility.

Advantages and Disadvantages.

Discourse analysis can be used to study different situations and subjects. It allows public relations researchers to uncover deeply held attitudes and perceptions that are important in an organization’s image and communication practices that might not be uncovered by any other methods.
On the other hand, discourse analysis can take large amounts of time and effort.

A second disadvantage is that this technique focuses solely on language. Although language may be an important component of public relations practice, it rarely tells the whole story. Consequently, discourse analysis should be supplemented by other qualitative techniques such as observation or focus group interviewing.

Monday, 13 March 2017

Cyber-Activism and Major Social Movements



This is aimed to understand the different aspects of the phenomenon called Cyber-Activism and the way it unfolded during major social movements across the world.

Some of the major movements covered were:

  • The Indignants Movement of Spain and Greece - It consisted of the ‘common’ people protesting against unemployment, corruption and inflation by occupying public spaces. Facebook and Twitter helped in the coordination of protests, restoration of access to prohibited online platforms, enabling access to classified documents, etc. Also, this movement exhibited lesser known characteristics of Cyberactivism like post-movement forgetfulness, movements as performances and consensus mobilization.
  • The Occupy Wall Street Movement - Again, a movement that was majorly active on the social network. However, when everyone talked about the freedom of the internet and the democratization of the web, the government kept a close track of the movement through close monitoring of the web activity of the people who were involved in the movement. Besides blocking active accounts and cutting power supply of the meeting area, the movement was also declared as potential criminal activity alert. The irony lies here in the fact that the web which was touted as a democratic medium ultimately became the bane of the movement.
  • Arab Spring - This was another movement which led to the overthrow of the oppressive regimes  and to the conduct of parliamentary elections in many Arab countries.  Arabs created virtual forums for citizen journalism which enabled ordinary citizens document not only the protests, but also the underlying causes that led to the eruption of these protests in the first place, such as governmental brutality, limitations on freedom of expression and flaws in the political system. The facebook pages and the blogs helped in disseminating information to the rest of the world.

Historical method practiced in Mass Media Research

How is historical method practiced in mass media research? Discuss by citing previous historical studies in mass media.


Historical Research in Media
Historical method practiced in Mass Media Research

More than 60 years ago, American historical Carl Becker made two critical points about historical research. The first was his insistence that historical writing must be useful; it must have some application to better our understanding of our world. The second was that historical writing invariably reflected the need of those who wrote it (cited in Nord, 1998). These observations probably are as true today as they were then, and they are as relevant to our profession as they are too many others. Social work as well as sister disciplines as such as economics, political science, religious studies, sociology and theology, has widely incorporated historical research into its knowledge base. Historians are well aware of the inevitability of competing visions of the past, and the perennial evolution of these interpretations.

Historical Research:

Historical research is the process of systematically examining past events to give an account; may involve interpretation to recapture the nuances, personalities and ideas that influenced these events; to communicate an understanding of past events. It draws conclusions about the past. Historical Research refers to the collection and analysis of secondary data with an aim to determine past events and interpret them in relation to the social attitudes and the community structure at hand. Historical literature, oral histories and traditions are used to gather historical research.

A method that seeks to make sense of the past through the disciplined and systematic analysis of the traces it leaves behind. Such trace may be of much different kind, ranging from everyday ephemera, art effects and visual images, to old building, archaeological sites or entire landscapes. The most widely used historical traces, however, are written documents, whether of publics or private origin. Historical analysis is commonly used in social research as in introductory strategy for establishing a context or background against which a substantive contemporary study may be set. In this more substantial form, historical analysis is often combined with other methods to engage social research questions.

The use of historical data poses several broad questions: 

1. Are the data appropriate to the theoretical question being posed?
2. How these data were originally collected, or what meaning were embedded in them at the time of collection?

Scoops of information in historical research:

Historical research is properly carried out with the help of both written records and physical remains, primary sources and secondary sources.

Examples of primary sources:

  • Diaries, journals, letters, interviews, speeches, memos, manuscripts and other first-person accounts
  • Memoirs and autobiographies
  • Official records such as government publications, census data, court reports, police records
  • Newspaper and magazine articles, viewed as a whole, during the time of the event
  • Photographs, paintings, film and television programs, audio recordings which document an event
  • Research such as opinion polls which document attitudes and thought during the time of an event
  • Artifacts such as objects, tools, clothing, etc. of the time period or event

Secondary sources are scholarly books or articles that are based on primary source data and analyze, critique, report, summarize, interpret, or restructure that data. They can also be based on a reading of other secondary sources or a combination of primary source data and secondary sources.

Examples of secondary sources:

  • Reference books such as encyclopedias, handbooks, etc.
  • Reviews
  • Textbooks
  • Most scholarly books
  • Most magazine and journal articles

Methodology of Historical Research:

Generally, historical research methodology is neither highly established nor consistent. An ideal historical research methodology should be holistic, interpretative and contextual. 

The general historical research methodology consists of four general steps:

  • Identification of research problem.
  • Collection and evaluation of source material
  • Synthesis of sources material information
  • Analysis, interpretation and conclusions

Historical studies in Mass Media Research:

The macro-history of communication is the most widely known of the three types of communication history. It considers the relationship of the media to human evolution and asks the questions: how does the history of communication illuminate human nature? It has been very influential in legitimating the field of communication itself as an area of study. The key figures here are the Canadian thinkers Haroid Innis (1951) and Marshall McLuhan (1962; 1964).

Michael McGerr’s (1986) study of the transformation of American political campaigning in the late nineteenth century is an exemplary work in two respects: first, it examines the relationship of a medium to the changing constitution of a field of human experience-politics; second it refuses to confine its understanding of “medium” to the usual trio of oral, written, and electronic media. The communication medium McGerr is interested in the campaign- part oral and participatory ritual, part printed exhortation, par party-organizes mass spectacle. (Interestingly, it is a medium that symbolically characteristics American culture as a whole: Jules Verne’s Phileas Fogg’s first experience in the USA as he disembarks in San Francisco is to be jostled by people in the streets for a campaign rallu.) McGerr’s intent is “to explain why politics no longer excites many American.” He argues that the USA had a very lively political life in the mid-nineteenth century, characterized by a vividly and sometimes viciously partisan press, powerful allergies of citizens participated.

While other have tried to explain the declaim in voter turnout and political involvement in the USA after the 1890s, McGerr is original in emphasizing how a new ideology of political elites, concerning what kind of communication and electoral campaign should use, engendered new campaign practices. McGerr’s work is instructive for communication studies to several grounds. First, McGerr offers historical perspective that forces a more complex understanding of contemporary life than we sometimes gets demonstrating for instance, that the decline of voter participation in the USA did not begin with television and TV entered campaigning. Second McGerr’s examination of political communication is free from the instructional narrowness of much media history. That is while he takes the press to be vital actor in the story he tells, the chief agents in his drama are the leaders of political party organizations.

Habermass (1989) traces the rise of the “bourgeois public sphere” in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and its decline from the mid-nineteenth century on. In the earlier period, the bourgeois attack on feudal society and absolutist state power was fueled by a belief in principles of rational public discussion and freedom of speech. In the new bourgeois order, newspaper and public discussion carried in coffeehouse and elsewhere established a public sphere, that is, a physical and discursive space between the state and its agencies, on the one side, and private enterprise and family life, on the other.

The historical evidence in support of the Habermas views is all too scanty: “So far, historians using the Habermas using the Hbermas model usually talk about the public of journalism without ever actually coming into contact with it”
Even so, Habermas offers communication history a persuasive rationale. It is too little rationale to study communication institutions for their own sake-that is a kind of antiquarian motive; and it may be too much to study communication history as the central constitutive feature of human nature.


There is plenty of room for room for historical research mere theoretically informed and more linked to other features of history- history proper communication must be analysed with references to the organization and social uses of technologies in specific historical setting; the technologies themselves must be seen as social and cultural practices. As always this is as true from the side of reception as of production.