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Chapter Outline and Materials

Chapter 3: Conceptualizations in Communication Research

 

bullet A Brief Quiz on Materials on Chapter 3
bullet Sources of Theories

 

Outline

Concepts

I.  Developing Theoretic Conceptualizations in
    Communication
    A.  Is Communication "Scientific" Enough to Have
          Theories?
        1.  Prerequisites for Science competing views of science: a label for our attempts to find out how the universe works by means of careful observation rather than armchair speculation; the study of natural phenomena by the methods of the physical and biological sciences; organized and systematic knowledge; use of particular methods to develop knowledge (across subject fields).
science (preferred view): a way of testing statements by systematic application of the scientific method
         2.   Is Communication a Science?
              --the study of communication is a science
                 if one chooses to use the scientific
                 method to inquire into it.
             --the practice of communication remains
                an art to be performed and refined.
   

making knowledge claims:

--non-research methods:

   method of tenacity:  claiming to know something
   because one always has known it

   method of authority:  accepting a claim because

   authority figures have accepted it

   a priori: claiming knowledge before having any
   experience with it

   method of trial and error:  claiming knowledge by
   making repeated attempts to eliminate unacceptable
   answers

--research methods of knowing:

  developing claims from reviews of literature

  the scientific method: at minimum, collecting data and
  establishing a  functional relationship among these data

--  --four steps:

       1.   observation of facts

       2.   working hypothesis of theoretical solution development

       3.   test of expectations against information and data

       4.   establishing a conclusion or functional relationship

      3.  Communication Research and
           Pseudoscience

           a.  Examples of
                Pseudoscience:

        Personology

        Facilitated communication

        Neurolinguistic programming

        Subliminal persuasion

 b.  Characteristics of Pseudoscience:

   Isolation from

     mainstream

     research organization

     and from workers in

     relevant academic

     fields

   Non-falsifiability

   Misuse of data

   Failure to be cumulative and self-correcting

   Special pleading

   Purveyance of uplifting, congenial beliefs

Pseudoscience: "fake science" in which the self-correcting nature of

science is science is absent and scientific claims are made without

serious regard for competent use of the scientific method (Carey,

1998, pp. 125130).

 

 

    B.  Anatomy of Theories  
         1.   Definition of a Theory
         2.   Components of Theory

theory: a body of interrelated principles that explain or predict

related terms:

model:  a statement of a theory that not only states the relationships, but displays them

law:  a verbal statement, supported by such ample evidence as not to be open to doubt unless much further evidence is obtained, of the way events of a certain class consistently and uniformly occur

rule:  a theory that explains a pattern of effects by referring to human intentions, reasons, or goals

               a.   an abstract calculus abstract calculus: the logical structure of relationships
               b.   theoretic constructs constructs: generalizations about observables according to some common property
--hypothetical constructs or concepts: constructs for which we cannot make
  observations directly.
               c.   rules of correspondence rules of correspondence: assessment of how well the theory's constructs and abstract calculus can be applied to actual experience.
         3.   Requirements of Theory
               a.   the requirement of
                     falsification

 

requirement of falsification: any actual theory must deal with statements that can be falsified by data and information if they are untrue

              b.   the requirement
                    of tentativeness
tentativeness: recognition that a theory's answers are provisional
   C.  Functions of Theory
          1.  description:
         :

description: the lowest level of theorizing, in which behavior is
  characterized into different forms
explanation: taking an event and
  treating it as an instance of a
  larger system of things
  prediction: descriptions of what
  can be expected in the future
  control: the power to direct things
          2.  explanation
         
explanation: taking an event and  treating it as an instance of a larger system of things
          3.  prediction          prediction: descriptions of what can be expected in the future
          4.  control control: the power to direct things
   
    D.  Applications of Theory
          1.  Data First vs. Theory First
                Inquiry
data first inquiry: sometimes called the "inductive approach" to research, this method involves researchers gathering information and then developing theoretic explanations
  --advantages: one does not enter research with preconceptions;
     one may be free to follow unexpected directions;
     one stays close to data and avoids tendencies toward reification
     (the fallacy of thinking that abstract concepts are concrete things)
  --disadvantages: explanations limited to phenomena that can
     be observed with current measurement instruments;
     does not test alternative theoretical explanations, but develops
     suggestions for theory; promoted inefficient research since key
     variables are not identified early
theory first inquiry: sometimes called the "deductive approach" to research, this method involves researchers developing theoretic thinking and then gathering data to apply and test it
--advantages: theories may develop from any source and are not limited to
   phenomena that can be observed with current measuring instruments;
   one may be free to take advantage of serendipity since unexpected
   findings are readily identified;
   promotes efficient research since key variables of interest are identified
   early
--disadvantages: researchers may force theoretic explanations on
   information even if it is inappropriate to do so;
   theories may become articles of faith to their followers, even after the
   theories have outlived their usefulness;
   theories are difficult to construct and require exhaustive thinking
   beyond the energies of most scholars

2.  Normative, Ethical, and
     Rhetorical Theories

normative and prescriptive theories: theories whose principles involve defining the qualities of meaningfulness or desirability for phenomena
--normative science: a discipline
   that systematically studies
   humanity's attempts to
   determine what is correct,
   valuable, good, or beautiful
ethical and rhetorical theories: principles that describe good and effective communication respectively
theoretical approaches:
--the
objectivist view: the perspective that research is designed to
  discover the systematic or lawlike patterns that exist in the world of
  experience.

  --commonly associated with a general philosophy called positivism.
     In this view, researchers are advised to use methods similar to
     those of the natural sciences to develop statements that depict an
     observable reality.
  --the subjectivist view: the perspective that research and the
     researcher cannot be separated and that (in the extreme
     statement) the reality of research data does not exist apart from
     the influences brought to bear upon it by the researcher (As a
     result, subjectivist researchers take the view that all research is
     value-laden, a fact that researchers should admit and embrace,
     rather than trying to control.).
  --critical realism:  the perspective that although an objective reality
     exists, understanding it involves recognizing two faces of reality (an
     intransitive dimension that is the actual structure of events; a

     transitive
dimension consisting of our understanding of reality).
     Because human knowledge is incomplete and never completely
     accurate, the view developed among some interpretivist
     researchers that there may not be any such thing as reality at all.
     Critical realists identify this flawed thinking as the epistemic fallacy.
  
  epistemic fallacy: the flawed reasoning in which statements about
     being can be reduced to or analyzed in terms of statements about
     knowledge.

II. Developing Definitions for Concepts

definitions: statements asserting that one term may be substituted for another

    A.  Using Conceptual Definitions

conceptual (or constitutive) definition: relies on other constructs and concepts to describe a term

1.  Levels of Definition: Daily, Poetic, and
     Scholarly

daily definitions: statements that are generally adopted by members of a society
poetic definitions: statements that involve figurative interpretations of objects
scholarly definitions: highly specific statements that have technical meanings for a group of scholars

2. The Problem of Clarity
    a.  inappropriateness of interchanging
         definitions

 

     b.  the problem of circularity


      c.  assuming mutual understanding
3.  Sources of Conceptual Definitions

circular definitions flawed because they commit the fallacy of begging the question
begging the question: flawed reasoning in which the conclusion of an argument is used as a premise for the argument

4.  Criticism of Conceptual Definitions
     tests:
     1.  must include all situations or
          individuals properly included in the
          term defined
     2.  must exclude all situations or
          individuals that are not properly
          included in the term defined
     3.  must not use the term defined
     4.  must be more precise than the
          term defined
     5.  must exclude loaded language

     B.  Using Operational Definitions
          1.  An Attempt at Precision of Definition
          2.  Forms of Operational Definitions

operational definition
: describes what is observed by specifying what researchers must do to make observations
               a.  manipulated independent
                    variables
manipulated independent variables: sometimes called stimulus variables because researchers introduce and control them in experiments
               b.  measured/assigned variables
               c.  direct classification

           3.  Standards for Operational Definitions
                standards:             
measured/assigned variables: variables not introduced or controlled by the researcher, but carefully observed and/or measured
direct classification
: operationally defining concepts by simple identification or classification of observable characteristics
                1.   empirically based and definite
                2.   logically consistent
empirical: observable

      3.  intersubjective


      4.  technically possible
      5.  repeatable
      6.  suggestive of constructs

intersubjectivity: the degree to which different researchers with different beliefs draw essentially the same interpretations of the meaning of observations