Week 3: Research Tools

Week 3: Research Tools

“Research Tools Introduction…Survey Part 1 – Overview…Survey Part 2 – Levels of Measurement…Survey Part 3 – Survey Design …Content Analysis Part 1 – Role of Content Analysis…Content Analysis Part 2 – Conducting a Content Analysis…Interview Part 1 – Types of Interviews…Interview Part 2 – Conducting Interviews…Focus Group…”


  • Research Tools Introduction
  • Survey Part 1 – Overview
  • Survey Part 2 - Levels of Measurement
  • Survey Part 3 - Survey
  • Content Analysis Part 1 - Role of Content Analysis
  • Content Analysis Part 2 - Conducting a Content Analysis
  • Interview Part 1 - Types of Interviews
  • Interview Part 2 - Conducting Interviews
  • Focus Group

Research Tools Introduction

  • In this module, I will walk you through the research tools that you can use as a PR practitioner.
  • Do you need formal or informal information? Do you need to conduct primary or secondary research? Do you use a qualitative or a quantitative method to collect the needed information? This module focuses on primary formal research which will ensure you make strategic decisions backed by data as a part of a management function.
  • In this module, we will discuss four formal primary research methods, particularly, you’ll learn about survey, content analysis, interviews and focus groups.
  • By the end of this module, you will be able to plan and conduct research to solve your PR problem.
  • Let’s begin by first discussing what the differences between these four research methods are, and then I will go through each one of them and how you can use them in PR practice.
  • Service and content analysis are considered to be quantitative research methods.
  • While, interviews and focus groups are considered to be qualitative research methods.
  • What are the basic assumptions behind these? Quantitative research such as survey and content analysis uses a statistic and a standardized set of questions.
  • Basically, quantitative research is about quantity as in statistics.
  • Well, quantitative research allows you to measure these, and as such, it is a useful research tool for measuring knowledge, such as attention, retention, comprehension and recall of your message.
  • Lastly, quantitative research allows you to collect information from a sample and make inferences about the large population.
  • Qualitative research such as interviews and focus groups are considered to be interactive and humanistic.
  • Meaning, it is emergent rather then predetermined as to the direction of the research.
  • Qualitative research provides complex reasonings to our knowledge, attitudes, and behavior simultaneously.
  • Statistics allow you to make sense of the numbers you collected through your research, while text allows you to make sense of how human beings make sense of their world and their experiences.
  • Now, that you have the basic understanding of quantitative and qualitative methods, I will walk you through each of the four research methods to enable you to plan and use them as you deem necessary to help you solve your PR problem.

Survey Part 1 – Overview

  • Part one will establish the key assumptions about survey, part two will focus on levels of measurements you can use, and part three will focus on how you plan your survey.
  • Survey is the most commonly used research methodology in PR. Survey allows you to obtain data from a smaller population, and the results could be generalized to a larger population.
  • Let’s begin by discussing the fundamentals of survey design.
  • First, let me clarify the difference between poll and surveys.
  • Survey is a method of gathering relatively in depth information about respondents’ attitudes and beliefs.
  • A survey will look at the impact of your activity and connect it to your objectives that you set for your activity.
  • There are three concepts that you need to be aware of in survey design.
  • Variables are the concepts presented in the hypothesis as either independent or dependent variable.
  • Let’s take a moment here and clarify what hypothesis, independent variable, and dependent variables are.
  • What level of measurement will be use to measure positive value and the role of PR in order to confirm or reject your hypothesis? Now that you can recognize and differentiate between these three key concepts in server design, let’s discuss the levels of measurement for your survey design.

Survey Part 2 – Levels of Measurement

  • You may ask questions on a scale of one to five, to which extent do you agree that, in your organization, there is two-way communication.
  • A question you may ask is, on a scale of one to five, to what extent do you think PR is integrated into the decision making process? Here, you may also have more questions that measure this variable.
  • These questions are on a interval level measurement.
  • You can say role includes communicator role and empowerment function.
  • Next is empowerment function by which if you oppressionalize it as peer practitioner being part of a dominant coalition in decision making process, then you may ask the question how often is a peer practitioner enlisted to make decision about where and how to communicate with the public.
  • There are four levels of measurements; Nominal, Ordinal, Interval, and Ratio.
  • These are further classified as categorical versus continuous data.
  • Categorical data is based on classifying the data into categories.
  • Continuous data is based on some continuum where the options are assumed to be of equal distance.
  • Continuous data can be reduced to categorical, but categorical data cannot be transformed into continuous data.
  • The difference between them is that ordinal level categories can be ranked.
  • The difference between them is that ratio level has absolute 0 measurements.
  • Public relations research uses both classes and makes observations at all four levels.
  • Let’s look at the levels of measurement a little bit more closely.
  • The data can only be classified It has to be mutually exclusive, and you want to provide an exhaustive list.
  • You ask respondents to please rank the following oil companies in the order of how you trust them, one being the most trusted, and two being next most trusted, and so on.
  • You may ask something like, how important is it for oil companies to take an active role in protecting the environment? And provide like a skill from one to five, with five being extremely important to one being not at all important.
  • How much time did you spend reading last Friday’s employee newsletter? Then you may ask them to respond in number of minutes with zero being did not read. At this stage you should be able to determine the relationship between conceptualization and oppressionalization of variables.
  • Develop your level of measurements, depending on what you want to find out.

Survey Part 3 – Survey Design

  • Let’s take a moment and revisit the levels of measurement with an example.
  • Let’s say you want to measure the level exposure of the employee to a particular article in the company newsletter.
  • At the nominal level, you may simply ask whether they have read or not.
  • At the ordinal level, you may ask them to rank the level of comprehension and retention.
  • At the interval level, you can provide a Liker scale and ask them how much of the article they read. And lastly, at the ratio level you can ask them what percent of the article they read with a true zero.
  • Now that you have determined and developed your level of measurements, let’s further discuss the construction of your survey.
  • Remember for your level of measurement, you need to ensure your opinions are, your options are mutually exclusive and exhaustive.
  • You also need to ensure that you have the right level of measurement.
  • This is important to know because it allows you to test your hypothesis for statistical difference, based on your level of measurement and the relevance to statistical analysis.
  • Lastly you should keep in mind that your level of measurement will determine the type of analysis you will perform.
  • Depending on whether you measure discrete variables such as nominal, ordinal level which has only certain value or continuous variable at the interval or ratio level, or the combination of these two, you will perform different statistical analysis.

Content Analysis Part 1 – Role of Content Analysis

  • Content analysis refers to a systematic, objective, and quantitative method for researching messages.
  • As manifest content, which are explicit messages and such are denotative.
  • Or as latent content, which is implied or unstated message and such is connotative.
  • According to Mickelson and Griffin, there are various ways to use content analysis in PR. I will briefly explain them here.
  • The basic user content analysis of PR is clip counting, such as number of press releases, number of mentions in the media.
  • This basically collects all relevant articles, but the analysis contains no insights or interpretations.
  • The next level is circulation and readership analysis.
  • The more impactful content analysis will be the measurement of the message.
  • Finally the competitive analysis is conducted to compare the performance of companies, brands, topics, or events on their media coverage.
  • Mickelson and Griffin also highlight that traditional media content analysis method fail to address the fundamental information needs of PR practitioners.
  • There is a need to connect content analysis to design and findings to communication management goals.
  • This can be done by a determine the presence of four factors in your analysis of the message.
  • Another major failure that Mickelson and Griffin discuss is traditional PR content analysis not linking the message to the communication objectives.
  • Remember, for every communication activity that has a message, from you to your public, you need to keep the communication objective in mind.
  • If you have begun with MBO in mind, and stayed consistent in your communication efforts, when you analyze the message it will have an effective outcome which is achieving your objectives.
  • Now that you understand content analysis in PR, let’s discuss how to conduct content analysis in the next lesson.

Content Analysis Part 2 – Conducting a Content Analysis

  • Welcome back to our discussion of content analysis.
  • In part one we examined the role of content analysis in PR. You should be able to determine the types of media content analysis and PR as well as some of the flaws to avoid.
  • Keep in mind what Michaelson and Griffin suggested about conducting content analysis in PR. First, ensure you measure the extent to which the information is correct.
  • For reactive PR, the content analysis will look different.
  • How many newspapers? Which newspapers? What is the duration that you want to cover? Once you have narrowed down what unit of analysis you will be using, such as print newspapers with circulation above one million during the one month of crisis, next you need to decide your categorization of units.
  • What will you actually look at? The text, the image, the placement? And when you look at this will you only look at the manifest content, or the latent content, or both? This is where research for PR comes in as you look for guiding principles and a theory in PR to help you develop a relevant set of categories.
  • Once you have your messages to be measured you need to place them into categories place each unit of analysis into an appropriate categories such as nominal ordinate interval and ratio.

Interview Part 1 – Types of Interviews

  • Interviews allow you to collect information in depth, gather insights, as well as understand public opinions and experiences.
  • Interviews often occur one and one, and face to face.
  • In depth interviews are very useful as part of your informative research.
  • There are three types of in depth interviews that you may use.
  • This type of interview includes the exact wording of the questions, you want to ask to ensure that you ask everyone the same exact question, and in the same exact order.
  • This also allows the interviewer to maintain control.
  • Structured interviews means, you have to plan everything in advance.
  • If you ask open-ended questions, you may get responses that are not related to that specific situation.
  • Unlike a survey, you will not ask the questions using four levels of measurement.
  • Your questions will elicit responses, except it is limited in what they can respond about.
  • For semi-structured interviews, you begin with an interview guide.
  • An interview guide will contain all major and follow-up questions.
  • While you have listed the questions you want to ask, you adapt the wording and order of the questions to each respondent.
  • This enables the interviewee to share control with the interviewer.
  • By which we mean that the interview becomes more like a conversation, where either party can direct the flow of the conversation.
  • So you begin with an interview guide that lists out questions related to exploring this in depth situation.
  • Depending on the context of your interview, you may choose any of these techniques.
  • The best way to ensure you get in depth information, that relates directly to your situation, or to your objective is to conduct face to face, one on one semi-structured interviews.
  • Now that you can differentiate the types of interviews you can conduct.
  • In the next lesson I will discuss, what you need to keep in mind when you actually conduct your interviews.

Interview Part 2 – Conducting Interviews

  • One thing you want to pay attention to before you conduct an interview is the sequencing of your questions.
  • Do you start with broad questions and begin to narrow it down to specific questions? Or do you begin with specific questions and end with broad and general questions? Let’s look at three ways you can sequence your interview questions.
  • You begin with detailed, often close-ended question and then you expand the topic through open-ended questions.
  • You may evoke emotional reactions from the respondents, and such, you may want to consider sequential questions, like a funnel, with the broad, open-ended questions.
  • Then you start to narrow down the questions, specific to their lives, and may choose to even end with close-ended questions.
  • Last is the Diamond Sequence, where you combine the pyramid and the funnel questions sequencing.
  • The interview would begin with closed ended questions, move to open ended questions then narrow down the questions again ending with closed ended specific questions.

Focus Group

  • The last research tool I will discuss with you is focus groups.
  • First, just a reminder that the sequence of interview questions also applies to focus groups.
  • You may consider using focus groups to brainstorm for ideas, to identify need, opinion, attitude, and behavior of your target audience, to test your survey questions, as well as to test your messages and channels.
  • There are many different ways you can use focus groups.
  • The idea is to have a group of six to eight people to ensure that each person has a equal chance to participate and it also allows the facilitator some degree of control over the discussion.
  • One focus group becomes one unit of analysis and such multiple or series of focus group is needed to be conducted.
  • About 3 focus groups per topic is a good number to begin with.
  • For focus groups to be successful, you need to add some ground rules at the beginning.
  • Other things you need to ensure include 1) The Homogeneity and anonymity of the group.
  • 2) You want to avoid a situation, especially if you’re running internal organization focus groups, where there is a hierarchy of superior and subordinate relationship.
  • Keeping these four things in mind will ensure you have a successful focus group interaction.
  • As you open the topic up for discussion, you want to keep in mind that you are a facilitator where you ask questions, probe and ensure everyone has an opportunity to speak.
  • Regardless of whether it is interview questions or focus group questions you want to avoid asking why.
  • Other things that are important to run successful focus groups are the timing.
  • The last thing I want to highlight is to help you decide when you should choose interview and when a focus group.
  • Whether respondents will be willing to open, to talk openly, in a group.
  • A focus group allows you to elicit multiple views, but interview provides greater depth.
  • Are you someone who can facilitate and manage a group conversation, or are you someone who could do better in one-on-one setting? Perhaps you can do both equally well.
  • You want to think about the person who will be conducting the interview or the focus group.
  • Keep in mind each of the research tool has its own advantage and disadvantages that you want to consider before you decide which tool to utilize.

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