‘What is Research’ (notes from readings)

‘What is Research’ In Berger, A. A., Media and Communication Research Methods: An Introduction to Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches (2011) London: Sage

We all do rasher in some way within our every day lives. If we want to buy a car, we look on line for cars that we like, that in our area and in our prise range. If you can afford to be picky, you might also research what type of car you want a diesel or a petrol, ABS braking or air conditioning. These are the sorts of things a average person might research when buying a car.
But academic research also know as ’scholarly research’ is different in a number of ways.
Its more systematic
More objective
More careful
More concerned about correctness and truthfulness than everyday research.

There are two main types or categories of research, quantitative and qualitative.
Quantitative research, looks at statistics in order to come to a correlational judgment. For example statistically it was found that students placed in a highly stressful situation such as exams had a lower immune system effectiveness than in a non stressful situation. This shows correlated levels of stress with levels of immune efficiency. However it does not give you cause and effect, it simply states that there is a relationship between these two factors. We cannot only make the assumption that it is the stress which effects the immune system.

Qualitative research use a mixture of different techniques ignored to gain a understanding and then make a judgment about the culture and society they are researching. The reading give the example of historians who read ‘various kinds of documents’ in order to ’try to describe what happened and why it happened’. They take into consideration the economic, political and social structures at the time to build up an idea of what might of happened.

Cultural studies, often ‘base their analyses on the concepts, ideas and theories of philosophers, psychologists… with and more theoretical bent’. We have scholars who bas their analyses on concepts taken from people form the past. In a way this allows us to build upon the ideas of the past, however it could be argued that some theories are a little out dated for todays society. For example Laura Mulvey’s theory of ‘male gaze’ has been used by main people to explain the sexualization of women, however it could be seen as out dated at it came about during the late 20th century, it has been argued that women are now more empowered now and as a result the way women dress in the media can be simply a result in these new reformation of what it is meant to be feminine.
Nietzsche on Interpretation
Nietzsche wrote in ‘Will to Power (1987)’
“Against positivism, which halts at phenomena-There are only facts,-I would say: No, facts is precisely what there is not, only interpretations. We cannot establish any fact “in Itself”: perhaps it is folly to want to do such a thing” (p.481)
Nietzsche focused on “perspectivism”. He suggested that we can not know facts only perspectives on things.
Social scents often interpret the information they are given in order to reach a conclusion, however because it is based on interpretation there is some time more than one way to interpret the data.

Everyday research:
Common sense
Spur of the moment
Selective (often)
Magical thinking
Flawed thing at times
Focus is personal decisions

Scholarly research:
Theory based
Scientific thinking
Logical to the extent possible
Focus is knowledge about reality

The Problem of certainty
We never get certainty from our research, even static’s are open to disagreement.
However when we make interpretations we still need to give a good reason for our interpretation. And offer support for our ideas. ’Thinking doesn’t make it so’.

Diachronic and Synchronic Research
All research is the matter of comparisons.
For example historical studies focus on ‘change over time’, while comparative studies study ‘change over distance’.

de Saussure (1966)
Suggested that concepts take their meaning differentially.
Used term ‘diachronic’ for studies which have historical focus, and ‘synchronic’ for research that is comparative in nature.

Axis of simultaneity = Comparison in space
Axis of successions = Change over time

Comparison between ‘control’ group and ‘experimental’ group. (indecent variable are used on the experimental group in order formulate a comparison)

‘The way the report is written plays and important part..on how your research is received’

Media And Communication
Intrapersonal- how we communicate with our selfs, thinking about how we will respond to situations.
Interpersonal- communication between our selfs and small number of people. There is interaction among all parties involved
Small Group- a person might be teaching a class or talking to a relatively small group. But it is large enough so that ordinary interpersonal communication cannot take place
Organizational- how organizations communicate internally and externally
Mass Media -The communication flows from a sender of messages to a large number of receivers of messages. For example producers and audience.

Different research methods can be used for each of these areas of communication.
For example interested in narrative carried by mass media, could use qualitative or interpretive techniques. But if interested in effect of the media, probably more likely to use quantitative techniques.


Researching Culture (lecture notes)

  • Researching Culture
  • Ethnography
  • What do we mean by culture?
  • An arbitrate hierarchy of importance.
  • Our backgrounds
  • The lived in experience
  • When we think of mass media, we tend to think of artefacts: televisions programmes, ect
  • What is ethnography?
  • Non-academics perspective : can mean deferent things. Is a pitcher or portrait of a group of people, describes a culture from inside the culture. Letting them tell us who they are. Functions as a commentary on our culture. Field work = interaction. Recognising everyone has a story.
  • Is writing and writing, looking and discussing patterns and themes.
  • Academic perspective: happens other a prolonged period of time. Increasing becoming a tool to studie all cultures.
  • ‘in terms of data collection, ethnography usually involves the researcher participating overtly or covertly, in people’s daily ives for an extended period of time….
  • Watching what happens, listening to what is said and or asking questions…..
  • -in fact, gathering whatever data are available to them
  • Participant observation of everyday life.
  • Data collection is unstructured (feildnotes and informal conversations)
  • Focus on a particular group of people
  • Interpretative (qualitative not quantitative)
  • Unstructured or open
  • ‘ the initial interests and questions that motivated’ might of changed


  • Positivism vs Naturalism
  • Positivism:
  • Social science research is similar to research in the physical science
  • Generalizability and universality
  • Research involves testing theories and hypotheses while maintain control other variables.
  • Should be able to test and retest.
  • Laboratory type experiment.
  • Naturalism:
  • The world should be studied in its natural state
  • The world cannot be reduces to universal principles or causal relationships.
  • Human behaviour is complex
  • Both positivism and naturalism..
  • Assume the outsider is more objective
  • The practical and political constraints of the researcher should be disregarded as irrelevant and disrupting objectivity
  • Assume we can understand the social world
  • But…
  • ‘all knowledge of the world is mediated by paradigmatic presuppositions’ (Kuhn, 1962)

Ideas change.

Fashion, dominate ideas and opinions at the time.


Ethnographers respond to this issues by being reflexive.

By being reflexive we recognized that:

We all have presumptions and preconceptions;

The researcher is shaped by their own background and experience;

‘knowledge’ about the social world in turn influences the social world; there is no secure basis to knowledge. (we can not know everything)

  • Schutz and the stranger
  • According to Schutz (1964) we should treat the field site as ‘anthropologically strange’
  • The stranger learns the codes and conventions of any group but retains sense of their objectivity and thus gains an insight unavailable to complete insiders or outsiders.
  • Be aware of your preconceptions
  • When we use Ethnography?
  • 1960s onwards
  • -used in sociology and related disciplines
  • -used to study all cultures
  • – Frequently used in media and cultural studies to study media audiences and institutions. (1980s)
  • Advantages and disadvantages
  • Advantages:
  • Subjective understanding
  • seeing the unseen
  • Immediacy
  • Grounded research- you develop your research as time goes on.
  • Richness and colour ( Gertz –thick description) Get a real in-depth understanding of people and their activities.


  • Disadvantages
  • Observation limits participations
  • Participation limits observation
  • Immediacy is all you get
  • Observation effect
  • Dependent on the perspicacity of the researcher.


  • Example & references
  • James Lull (1988)- World Families Watch Television
  • Fishman (1988) – Manufacturing the news
  • Miller, Jackson and Rowlands (1998) –Shopping place and identity
  • Hansen and Machin (2013)


  • Practical considerations
  • _Access
  • -Ethics –Preparation
  • ‘take cues from how to dress and behave from everyone else, as it is important not to stand out too much and distract people from their work’ (stokes, 2007 p 123)
  • -Recording data.
  • How do we present ethnography?
  • ‘writing artificially constructs representation of cultures often distant from the lived experience of the participants’…

Starting to plan the Behind the scenes video

With in my group we had decided to try and do each task as it was set each week. This is so we have an idea of what our video would look like each week as it developed (also it would mean that we wouldn’t be rushing around trying to edit a 30 minuet video together two days before it was due).

For this weeks task we were told to do some ethnographic research into the different technologies which are used within the Ellen Terry building. Because it was our first task, we spent a lot of time discussing how we would go about doing the task and the theory behind the task but not much time was spent doing the task. Because the day we choice to film, coincided with a open day we found it very intimidating filming people in the Ellen Terry building.

But we did find some interesting uses of technology through out the building, from the very obvious use of computers and mobile phones, there were also people reading books for pleasure. This shows that in some cases people prefer old technologies to newer ones.

The filming technique should be improved upon.

The start of my digital research diary

Critical media methods. This model is looking into different methods of research in regards to culture and the media. The first reading from ‘Writing Culture and Recording Culture’ In: Makagon and Neumann (2009) Recording Culture London: Sage, looks into different forms of research and the academic reliability of them. It makes the suggestion that account that are written down are some how seen to be more reliable, as we are able to contextualize the information.

J.Walter Fewkes in 1890 recorder the stories and songs of the Passumaquaddy tribe. These recordings allowed him to document and preserve a form of culture, which is no longer around today due to the homogeneous national culture which spread in the 1800’s and 1900’s.

To some people it was seen as a form of duty to ‘collect and salvage forms of culture that would disappear’. New development in audio recording equipment allowed not only  a different form of culture to be recored but also music. Robert Winslow Gordon in the 1920’s made recording of shanty and folk songs through out America, creating over 300 recordings. In a way these songs are part of a culture, which like the tribes are becoming forgotten as industrialization took over in both America and the UK.

However the qualitative properties of these recordings, meant that academia  still preferred the written word, because it is harder to contextualize an audio recording. ‘Academia seen as having a ambivalent and sometimes dismissive stance towards other modes of documentation’.