An Integrated Approach to Communication Theory and Research

By Michael B. Salwen; Don W. Stacks | Go to book overview

3
Thinking Quantitatively

Michael J. Beatty Cleveland State University

What are the components of competent interpersonal communication? What factors contribute to perceptions of political candidates' credibility? What vocal characteristics are associated with confidence? Communication scholars seek to answer or uncover clues pertaining to these and a myriad of other questions about communication. Sometimes research is conducted for the purpose of testing existing theories, or to produce data to construct new ones. At other times, research is designed to answer immediate, practical questions or to provide information critical to problem solving.

Underlying any research project, regardless of its intended purpose, are assumptions about what constitutes knowledge. These assumptions, known as epistemological assumptions, are foundational in the development of criteria for assessing the value or worth of data generated by research. Over the past 40 years, many communication scholars have embraced epistemological assumptions consistent with a scientific approach to the study of communication. Adopting a scientific perspective inevitably leads to the subject matter of this chapter, thinking quantitatively.

This chapter explores how quantitatively oriented communication scholars think--and why they think as they do. Earlier chapters focused on establishing a theoretical base for communication study; this chapter and the next explore how scholars test their theories. Perhaps quantitative thinking within a scientific paradigm

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