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Communication Research Methods

Fourth Edition

Gerianne Merrigan and Carole Huston

Publication Date - January 2019

ISBN: 9780190652746

400 pages
8 x 10 inches

In Stock

Retail Price to Students: $119.99

The most comprehensive and balanced approach to research methods available


Ideal for research methods courses covering multiple methodologies, Communication Research Methods is the only text that uses a research-as-argument approach to help students not only become more effective researchers but also more insightful consumers of research. It expertly balances the interpretive, critical, and discovery paradigms. No other research methods book on the market better reflects actual research practice and provides methodological choices based not on ideological constraints but rather on the nature of the research question. Merrigan and Huston treat communication research comprehensively, discussing a broad range of traditional and contemporary methods and considering ethics in designing, conducting, and reporting research.

New to this Edition

  • The claims, data, and warrants chapters found in prior editions have been replaced with two new chapters that contextualize research arguments for quantitative social science (Chapter 4) and interpretive/critical research (Chapter 11)
  • A new chapter on interviews and focus groups (Chapter 12) will improve students' abilities to conduct interviews and code evidence based on repetition, recurrence, and forcefulness
  • The ethics chapter (Chapter 3) now includes links to the ethical codes of conduct for ten professional associations relevant to communication researchers in academia and industry
  • Conversation Analysis (Chapter 10) and Discourse Analysis (Chapter 14), have been separated to more clearly represent the paradigmatic differences in those ways of studying language-in-use
  • The chapter titles for all chapters in Parts II and III have been extended to help students more quickly compare those methods, and the text has been reorganized to match the first edition's order of paradigms
  • All chapters include updated examples and more links to industry research


  • Each chapter begins with a short, reader-friendly introduction and student learning outcomes entitled "What Will You Get from this Chapter?"
  • Shows students how research skills will matter in their roles at work, as consumers, parents, and voters, in healthcare and community contexts during school and after graduation
  • Highlights the role of different methodologies for making different types of research arguments

About the Author(s)

Gerianne Merrigan is Professor and former Chair of Communication Studies at San Francisco University.

Carol Huston is Professor of Communication Studies and Gender Studies and currently serves as Special Assistant in the Office of Institutional Effectiveness and Planning at the University of San Diego.


"Communication Research Methods effectively balances how to understand research with how to conduct research. Its most compelling feature is its explanatory power: it makes research understandable to an audience that may not go on to graduate school or higher-level research."--Sandra L. French, Radford University

"This is the only textbook in the field that provides a general survey of research methods through a commonsense foregrounding of qualitative research."--Jay Brower, Western Connecticut State University

"Communication Research Methods provides a very detailed historical explanation of the development and current use of various communication research methodologies."--Richard C. Emanuel, Alabama State University

Table of Contents


    Part 1. The What and Why of Communication Research

    1. Introduction to Communication Research

    What Will You Get from this Chapter?
    Critical Thinking and Information Literacy
    Academic and Proprietary Research and Creative Work
    What is Communication Theory?
    Relating Theories and Research Methods
    --Everyday Ways of Knowing
    --Research Methods as Argument
    --Making Good Academic and Practical Arguments
    Audiences for Communication Scholarship
    --Professional Associations
    --Scholarly Journals
    --Trade Journals and Popular Press Publications
    Making Sense of Scholarly Journal Articles
    --Research Reports
    --Critical Essays
    Chapter Summary
    Key Terms
    Discussion Questions
    "Try It!" Activities

    2. Three Paradigms of Knowing
    What Will You Get from this Chapter?
    Why Three Paradigms?
    Methodological Ways of Knowing
    --Knowing through Quantitative Social Science
    --Knowing through Interpretation
    --Knowing through Criticism
    Paradigms: A Final Note
    Chapter Summary
    Key Terms
    Discussion Questions
    "Try It!" Activities

    3. Ethics and Research
    What Will You Get from this Chapter?
    A Brief History of Communication Ethics
    Codes of Conduct: Linking Values to Research Practices
    The IRB Review Process
    Ethical Choices in Communication Research
    --Before Doing Research: Motives for Projects and Topics
    --During Research Projects: Protecting the Rights of Research Participants
    --Right to Freely Choose Research Participation
    --Right to Privacy
    --Right to Be Treated with Honesty and Respect
    --Afterward: Reporting and Evaluating Research Ethically
    Chapter Summary
    Key Terms
    Discussion Questions
    "Try It!" Activities

    Part 2. How to Explain and Predict Communication

    4. Making Arguments for Association and Causality
    What Will You Get from this Chapter?
    Values of Quantitative Social Science Research
    Inductive and Deductive Reasoning: Cycle of Inquiry
    Claims in Quantitative Social Science Research
    --Explanatory and Predictive Claims
    --Research Questions and Hypotheses
    --Associative and Causal Relationships
    --Independent and Dependent Variables
    Evidence for Causal and Associative Research Arguments
    --Data Sources
    --Data Settings: When Settings Count
    --Selecting Data Samples: Preference for Random Sampling
    Warranting Quantitative Social Science Research Arguments
    --Validity as a Standard for Evaluating Evidence
    --Bias: A Threat to Valid Design and Measurement
    --Types of Measurement Validity

    --Errors that Threaten External Validity
    --External Validity
    --Reliability as a Standard for Evaluating Evidence
    --Noise: A Threat to Consistent Measurement
    --Types of Measurement Reliability

    --The Relationship between Reliability and Validity
    Chapter Summary
    Key Terms
    Discussion Questions
    "Try It!" Activities

    5. Measuring and Designing Quantitative Social Science Research
    What Will You Get from this Chapter?
    Research Design as the Essential Framework
    --Conceptual and Operational Definitions
    --Levels of Measurement
    Building Arguments through Research Designs
    --Designs in Content Analysis and Survey Research

    --Experimental Research Design
    --Design Elements
    --Types of Designs

    Warranting Quantitative Research through Design Elements
    --Threats to Validity: Time Progression Effects
    --Threats to Validity: Reactivity Effects
    Chapter Summary
    Key Terms
    Discussion Questions
    "Try It!" Activities

    6. Experimental Research: Predicting Causes and Effects
    What Will You Get from this Chapter?
    Experimental Research Claims
    --Emphasis on Deductive Reasoning
    --Constructing Causal Arguments
    --Research Designs
    Experimental Research Data
    --Data Sources and Variable Types
    --Data Settings
    --Data Collection and Analysis
    --Data Collection Strategies
    --Analysis of Variance Effects
    Experimental Research Warrants
    --Internal Validity Threats
    --External Validity Threats
    Ethics in Experimental Research
    Chapter Summary
    Key Terms
    Discussions Questions
    "Try It!" Activities

    7. Survey Research: Explaining and Predicting Attitudes and Behaviors
    What Will You Get from this Chapter?
    Survey Research Claims
    --Claims in Exploratory Surveys
    --Explanatory and Predictive Claims
    --Claims in Network Analysis
    Survey Research Data
    --Sources and Modes of Data Collection
    --Primary and Secondary (Archived) Sources
    --Collection Modes

    --Survey Research Design
    --Survey Construction and Measurement
    Survey Format
    --Survey Structure
    --Question Format and Function
    Warranting in Survey Research
    --Survey Coverage
    --Survey Sampling Strategies
    --Random Selection Methods
    --Nonrandom or Purposive Selection Methods

    --Measurement Errors
    --Response Rate
    Ethical Issues in Survey Research
    Survey Research Summary
    Chapter Summary
    Key Terms
    Discussion Questions
    "Try It!" Activities

    8. Content Analysis: Explaining and Interpreting Message Categories
    What Will You Get from this Chapter?
    Content Analytic Claims: Explaining and Predicting Message Characteristics
    Content Analytic Data
    --Message Populations and Data Samples
    --Unitizing and Categorizing Textual Data
    --Frame Analysis
    --Operationalizing Social Media Engagement
    --Computers and Content Analysis
    --Content Analytic Results
    Warrants for Content Analysis
    --Valid Coding Schemes
    --Reliable Coding Decisions
    --Generalizable Findings
    Ethical Issues in Content Analysis
    Key Terms
    Discussion Questions
    "Try It!" Activities

    9. Analyzing and Interpreting Quantitative Data
    What Will You Get from this Chapter?
    How to Describe Sample Data
    --Visual Representations of Variables
    Nominal and Ordinal Data
    Interval and Ratio Data
    --Descriptive Statistics
    Measures of Central Tendency
    Measures of Shape
    Measures of Dispersion
    The Logic of Hypothesis Testing
    --Three Types of Distributions
    --Estimation and Inference
    --Central Limits Theorem and the Normal Curve
    --Steps to Testing Hypotheses
    Tests of Differences
    --Nonparametric Tests
    Interpreting Chi-square
    --Parametric Tests of Difference
    Tests of Relationship
    --Parametric Tests of Relationship
    Interpreting Correlation
    Bivariate and Multivariate Tests
    Chapter Summary
    Key Terms
    Discussion Questions
    "Try It!" Activities

    10. Conversation Analysis: Explaining Talk's Structure and Function
    What Will You Get from this Chapter?
    Conversation Analytic Claims
    --Turn Taking
    --Adjacency Pairs
    --Action Sequences
    Conversation Analytic Data
    --Collecting Ordinary Conversations
    --Recording Techniques
    --Ethical Issues in CA

    --Transcribing Conversations
    --Formatting Transcripts
    --Transcription Programs

    --Analytic Induction
    Conversation Analytic Warrants
    --Accuracy and Detail Level
    --Transcription Veracity
    --Sample Representativeness
    Key Terms
    "Try It!" Activities

    Part 3. How to Interpret, Evaluate and Reform Communication

    11. Making Arguments for Multiple Plausible Realities
    What Will You Get from this Chapter?
    Humanistic Values
    Inductive Reasoning as a Form of Argument
    Interpretive Research Claims
    Critical Research Claims
    Evidence for Interpretive and Critical Research Arguments
    --Preferred Sources of Evidence
    --Preference for Non-Random Selection of Evidence
    --A Note about Research Settings
    --Using Triangulation to Enhance Rich Descriptions
    Basic Analytic Strategies for Interpretive and Critical Researchers
    Warranting Interpretive and Critical Research Arguments
    --Researcher Credibility as a Standard
    --Researcher Training and Experience
    --Degree of Membership

    --Plausible Interpretations as a Standard
    --Adequate Evidence
    --Negative Case Analysis

    --Impact as a Standard
    Two Views of Truth
    Key Terms
    Discussion Questions
    "Try It!" Activities

    12. Interviews and Focus Groups: Interpreting Guided Responses
    What Will You Get from this Chapter?
    Interview and Focus Group Claims
    Interview Evidence
    --Should I Interview Individuals, Groups, or Both?
    --Selecting/Recruiting Participants
    --Creating the Interview Protocol(s)
    --Moderating the Interviews
    --Coding Interview Evidence
    --Presenting Interview Evidence in a Research Report
    Warranting Interview Studies
    --Researcher Credibility
    --Plausible Interpretations
    Key Terms
    "Try It!" Activities

    13. Ethnography: Interpreting and Evaluating Cultural Communication
    What Will You Get from this Chapter?
    Ethnographic Claims
    --Interpretive Claims
    --Evaluative and Reformist Claims
    Ethnographic Evidence
    --Participant Observation
    --Interviews with Key Informants
    --Archival Documents

    --Triangulation in Ethnographic Research
    --Collecting Ethnographic Evidence
    --Gaining Access to the Setting
    --Selecting Key Informants
    --Taking Field Notes
    --Exiting the Field

    --Analyzing Ethnographic Evidence
    --Transcribing Interviews
    --Coding and Reducing Field Notes
    --Writing Case Studies

    Ethical Issues for Ethnographers
    Ethnographic Warrants
    --Valuing Subjectivity and Rich Description
    --Researcher Credibility
    --Plausible Interpretations
    Key Terms
    Discussion Questions
    "Try It!" Activities

    14. Discourse Analysis: Interpreting & Evaluating Language-in-Use
    What Will You Get from this Chapter?
    Discourse Analytic Claims
    --Types of Texts (Also Known as Discourse Genres)
    --Interpreting Interactional Accomplishments
    --Social Practices
    --Roles and Identity Performances

    --Interpreting and Evaluating Ideologies
    Discourse Analytic Evidence
    --Collecting Samples of Language in Use
    --Choosing a Unit of Analysis
    --Coding Units and Developing Thematic Analysis
    Discourse Analytic Warrants
    --Researcher Credibility
    --Plausible Interpretations
    Ethical Issues for Discourse Analysis
    Key Terms
    Discussion Questions
    "Try It!" Activity

    15. Rhetorical Criticism: How to Interpret Persuasive Texts and Artifacts
    What Will You Get from this Chapter?
    Rhetorical Theory and Rhetorical Criticism
    Neoclassical and Genre Rhetorical Criticism
    --Neoclassical Criticism
    --Claims and Data
    --Warrants: Standards for Evaluating Rhetorical Effectiveness
    New Directions in Neoclassical Criticism
    --Genre Criticism
    --Traditional Aristotelian Forms
    --Claims and Data
    --New Approaches to Genre Studies

    Interpretive Rhetorical Criticism
    --Metaphoric Criticism
    --Claims and Data

    --Claims and Data

    --Narrative Analysis
    --Claims and Data

    Shifting Directions for Rhetorical Criticism
    --Reconsidering Rhetorical Symbols and Contexts
    Ethical Concerns in Rhetorical Criticism
    Chapter Summary
    Key Terms
    Discussion Questions
    "Try It!" Activities

    16. Critical Studies: Evaluating and Reforming Ideologies
    What Will You Get from this Chapter?
    Claims in Critical Studies
    --Evaluating and Reforming Social Structures
    --Marxist Criticism
    --Gender and Feminist Criticism

    --Evaluating and Reinventing Discourse Processes
    --Postmodern Criticism
    --Cultural Criticism
    --Semiotic Criticism

    Evidence in Critical Studies
    --Actions and Events
    --Researchers' Experiences and Beliefs
    Analytic Moves in Critical Studies
    --Narrative Analysis
    --Frame Analysis
    Warrants for Critical Studies
    --Researcher Positionality
    --Plausible Evaluations and Reforms
    --Impact: Changes in Awareness and Praxis
    Ethical Issues for Critical Scholars
    Chapter Summary
    Key Terms
    Discussion Questions
    "Try It!" Activities


Teaching Resources

Ancillary Resource Center (ARC) at www.oup-arc.com is a convenient, instructor-focused single destination for resources to accompany your text. Accessed online through individual user accounts, the ARC provides instructors with access to up-to-date ancillaries at any time while guaranteeing the security of grade-significant resources. In addition, it allows OUP to keep instructors informed when new content becomes available. See resources available on the Quantitative Research Methods 4e Ancillary Resource Center (ARC) below:

ยท         Instructors Manual and Test Bank

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