CMM2008 - Communications Research Methods

2022/3 Module description

StaffDr Alexander R. E. Taylor - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level5
Duration of Module Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module description

This module introduces the main research techniques that are employed in researching media texts, institutions, and audiences, both in their contemporary and historical contexts. Students are introduced to research practices in different traditions of communications research, namely cultural studies, critical media studies, and qualitative and quantitative research. On completing this module, you will be able to choose which research methods are most appropriate in developing your own research questions and be fully prepared to begin work on research that may form the basis of your final year projects.

Module aims

This module aims to introduce a range of research techniques used in different traditions of communication studies, broadly conceived. By the conclusion of this module, you will be able to demonstrate a deep understanding of methods in media research; apply critical judgement in the selection of research techniques; and identity an appropriate research method to address a particular research question, problem, or topic.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Demonstrate a detailed knowledge and critical understanding of research methods from various traditions in communications studies, broadly conceived.
  • 2. Recognise the limitations and strengths of various research methods and how information can be biased by inadequate research practice

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 3. Identify an appropriate research method to address a particular research question, problem, or topic
  • 4. Collate and interpret data and information from a range of primary and secondary sources.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 5. Apply critical judgement in the selection of research techniques
  • 6. Demonstrate awareness and understanding of ethical and legal issues concerning research involving human participants and in the capture, processing and storage of digital data

Syllabus plan

This module will take a thematic approach to the study of communication research methods, broadly split into three main parts: cultural studies and critical media research methods; qualitative research methods; and quantitative research methods. Themes may include but are not limited to: semiotic analysis; discourse analysis; critical argumentation and interpretative analysis; oral histories; audience research; ethics; participant and non-participant research off- and online; hypotheses, theories and refutation; content analysis; surveys; statistical analysis; fact-checking; social media data capture; text mining; data visualisation; social network analysis; sentiment analysis.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching1111 x 1-hour lecture
Scheduled learning and teaching2211 x 2-hour seminars
Guided independent study103Seminar preparation
Guided independent study164Research and assignment preparation

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Weekly blog (250 words)ongoing1-2Oral feedback

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Research Proposal 905000 words1-6Written feedback
Seminar Participation10ongoing1-2Oral feedback

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Research proposal (5000 words)Research proposal (5000 words)1-6Referral/Deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Altheide, D.L (2013) Qualitative Media Analysis, London: Sage.
  • Anderson, J. (2012) Media Research Methods, London: Sage.
  • Bertrand, I. & Hughes,.P. (2018) Media Research Methods: audiences, institutions, texts, Basingstoke:
  • Bignell, J. (2002) Media Semiotics: an introduction, Manchester: Manchester University Press.
  • Borgatti, S., Everett, M. and Johnson, J. (2018) Analyzing Social Networks,  Los Angeles: Sage. 
  • Bryman, A. (2004) Social Research Methods, Oxford; Oxford University Press.
  • Chater, K. (2002) Research for Media Production, 2nd Edition, Oxford: Focal.
  • Clemens, R. (2015): Using Social Media for Qualitative Research, London: sage
  • Deacon, D. (2004) Researching Communication: a practical guide to methods in media and cultural analysis, 2nd ed. London: Arnold.
  • Edhlund, B. and McDougall, A. (2019) NVivo Essentials, Stallarholmen, Sweeden: Forma and Kunsap
  • Elsaesser,T. (2002) Studying Contemporary American Film: a guide to movie analysis, London: Arnold.
  • Gillespie, M. and Toynbee, J.(eds.) Analysing Media Texts, Maidenhead: Open University Press.
  • Gubrium, J. F. & Holstein, J. A. (eds) (2002) Handbook for Interviewing Research: Context & Method, London: Sage.
  • Gunter,B (2000) Media Research Methods: measuring audiences, reactions and impact, London: Sage.
  • Halfpenny, P. and Procter, R. (2015) Innovations in Digital Research Methods, Los Angeles: Sage.
  • Hansen, A. et. al. (2002) Mass Communication Research Methods, 2nd Ed. London:
  • Hyers, L. (2018) Diary Methods, OUP.
  • Ignatow, G. and Michalcea, R. (2017)  An Introduction to Text Mining, Los Angeles: Sage.
  • Jacobs, J. (2015): Film as a Research Method, London: Sage.
  • Jorgensen, D.L. (1989) Participant Observation: a methodology for human studies, London: Sage.
  • Knaflic, C. (2015) Storytelling with Data: A Data Visualization Guide for Business Professionals, London: Wiley. 
  • Kozinets, R. 92015) Netnography: Redefined, Los Angeles: Sage.
  • Kumar, R (2005) Research Methodology: a step-by-step guide for beginners, 2nd edition, London: Sage. 
  • Kumar, S. Morstatter, F. and Liu, H. (2014) Twitter Data Analytics, New York: Springer.
  • Longman.
  • Machin, D. (2002) Ethnographic Research for Media Studies, London; Arnold.
  • Matthew, D. et. al.(2004) Social Research: the basics, London: Sage. 
  • Middleton, R. (1999) Reading Pop: Approaches to textual analysis in popular music, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Neuendorf, K.A. (2002) The Content Analysis Guidebook, London: Sage.
  • O’leary,Z (2004) The Essential Guide to Doing Research, London: Sage.
  • Oppenheim, A.N. (1992) Questionnaire Design, Interviewing and attitude Measurement, London: Pinter.
  • Palgrave Macmilan.
  • Pink, S. (2001) Doing Visual Ethnography; images, media and representation in research, London: Sage.
  • Pink, S. et al (2015) Digital Ethnography: Principles and Practice, Los Angeles: Sage.
  • Priest, S.H. (1996) Doing Media Research: an introduction, London; Sage.
  • Proctor, R. and Halfpenny, P. (2015) Innovations in Digital Research Methods, Sage.
  • Punch, K. (2005) Introduction to Social Research: quantitative and qualitative approaches, 2nd Edition, London; Sage.
  • Rogers, R. (2019) Doing Digital Methods, Los Angeles: Sage.
  • Salganik, M. (2018) Bit by Bit: Social Research in the Digital Age, Princeton: Princeton university Press.
  • Sarantakos, S. (2007) A Tool Kit for quantitative Data Analysis: Using SPSS, Basingstoke: Macmilla
  • Seale, C. (2004) (ed) Social Research Methods: a reader, London: Routledge.
  • Silverman, D. (ed) (2004) Qualitative Research: Theory, Method & Practice, 2nd edition, London; Sage. 
  • Thomas, J. (1993) Doing Critical Ethnography, London: Sage.
  • Vis, F. and Thelwall, M. (2016) Researching Social Media, London: Sage.
  • Weber, R.P. (1990) Basic Content Analysis, 2nd Edition, London: Sage.
  • Webster,J.G. (2000) Ratings Analysis: the theory & practice of audience research, London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

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Key words search

Communications, Research Methods, Methodology, Cultural Studies, Critical Media Studies, Digital Media, New Media, Social Media, Qualitative, Quantitative, Interpretative, Content Analysis, Semiotics, Data, Ethics

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