R.S. ZAHARNA    Home      Classes     Professionals      Research    Resources


Comm.480   Public Communication Research
 Fall  2002

Dr.  R. S. Zaharna                                     Phone:  (202) 885-3995
Office: Mary Graydon 301                         E-mail:  zaharna@american.edu
Office hours:                                             Home page:   www.academic2.american.edu/~zaharna
    Mondays 12:30-4:30
    Tuesday  11-1

Course Overview     Assignments
Required Texts     Grading

Work plan - Fall  2002 *

*  This is the schedule as of August 22, 2002.  Please be alert to changes. You can contact me if you have questions:  zaharna@american.edu

Aug 27       Quantitative & Qualitative Research
Sept 3         Scientific Method & Experiment
Sept 10       Analyzing Media Texts & Content Analysis
Sept 17       Focus Groups & Interviews
Sept 24       Exam #1
Oct 1          Survey Method
Oct 8          Fall Break
Oct 15        Survey Design & Question Wording
Oct 22        Sampling Procedures & Probability
Oct 29        Exam #2
Nov 5         Descriptive Statistics
Nov 12       Charts & Graphs
Nov 19       Deception and Polling Analysis
Nov 26       Thanksgiving Week
Dec 3         Opinion Poll Analysis
Dec 17       Final Exam



Research shows that public communication professionals who have a strong knowledge base and decision-making skills move faster and higher up the career ladder than those who only have technical skills.  The goal of this course is to provide the future professional with the knowledge and skills to adeptly use research as a tool in the decision-making process of public communication.

 The course begins with an overview of the role of research in public communication.  We then take a more in depth look at the various types of research methods:  What kind of information can each yield?  What are the advantages and disadvantages?  What are the manpower and monetary costs?  How can you tell the difference between a strong study from a weak one?

 The final section of the course focuses on working with raw data -- how to understand and analyze it as well as how to present it in a creative and compelling way.

 As a means of putting theory into practice, students will conduct an original research project using any one of the research methods.  Together, we will look at ways to creatively design these research project as well as how to skillfully execute them.

  Class readings

I found most everything we need to explore communication research on the Internet.

Darrell Huff, Irving Geis (Illustrator).  How to Lie with Statistics.  (W.W. Norton Publisher, reissue edition: November 1993 -- available online and local bookstores.)


1. Attendance -  10pts each class
You will be graded on your participation and in-class exercises.  Because attendance for the lecture (5pts) and participation in-class exercises (5pts)  will help you do well on the exams, if you miss more than 2 classes you can expect your grade to drop by half a letter grade. Each class is worth 10pts total.  Excused absences worth 4pts.  Missing exercises worth 4pts.

2. Exams  - 40pts each
You have two exams based on in-class lecture notes and the readings.

3.  Book review and Opinion Poll Analysis - 20 pts
Read Darrell Huff's book, How to Lie with Statistics.  First, give an overview of Huff's major pointers in spotting how people lie with numbers (approx 3 pages).  Then, choose any opinion poll that you find and apply Huff's principles to analyze the numbers (approx. 2 pages).  Do you see any deception?

  Public Opinion Quarterly -- Index of surveys



Grading is based on:

(10pts = full attendance for lecture & exercise)
(0pts = unexcused absence, 5pt =excused absence, partial lecture/exercise)
Exam #1 = 40 pts
Exam #2 = 40pts
Analysis  = 20pts

A =  95-100% of total possible points
A-  = 90-94%
B+  = 86-89%
B    = 83-85%
B-   = 80-82%
C+  = 76-79%
C    = 73-75%
C-   = 70-72%
D below 70%

**  "Standards of academic conduct are set forth in the University's Academic Integrity Code.
By registering, you have acknowledged your awareness of the Academic Integrity Code, and you are obliged to become familiar with your rights and responsibilities as defined by the Code. Violations of the Academic Integrity Code will not be treated lightly, and disciplinary action will be taken should such violations occur. Please see me if you have any questions about the academic violations described in the Code in general or as they relate to particular requirements for this course."

Dr. R. S. Zaharna
Public Communication  Research
Work plan - Fall 2002

Aug 27    Introduction / Quantitative and Qualitative Research Methods

Please email me with your contact information zaharna@american.edu


                        Paul A. Bloland.  (December 1992) "Qualitative Research in Student Affairs," ERIC Digest.
                        Document Identifier: ERIC Document Reproduction Service No ED347487

                        Mike Palmquist - CSU Writing Guide (1995) "The Qualitative Versus Quantitative Debate "

Preparation for Sept. 3 class -- take the VARK Inventory -- what is your preferred style of learning?



Sept 3       Focus:     Scientific Method & Experiments

Preparation for Sept. 3 class -- take the VARK Inventory -- what is your preferred style of learning?


               #1 --    Internet visit & explore --  The Science Room in Howe, Ok.

                    "How to Find a Date for Friday Night"

                   "The Scientific Experiment Method"  -- use link for exercises

                    #2 --    Internet visit & explore -- The Stanford Prison Experiment -- Zimbardo
                    (please go through the slide show)

                    # -- Experiment in First Impressions -- Luis Flores, Longview Community College


Sept 10       Focus:    Analysis of Media Texts

                    #1--    Internet visit & explore -- Media & Communication Studies Site

                    * pick any of the main categorizes (content analysis, rhetorical analysis, discourse analysis, textual)
                        and read two (2) studies, bring hard copies

               Other Resources

                    Center for Media Literacy

Sept 17       Focus:    Focus Groups & Interviews

                    Anita Gibb  "Focus Groups"  Social Research Update (Winter 1997, Issue # 19)
                    Department of Sociology, University of Surrey, U.K.

               To help you prepare for conducting a focus group -- please look over

                    Conducting a Focus Group
                    Carter McNamara, cited by Management Assistance Program for Nonprofits

                    Conducting Interview
                    Carter McNamara, cited by Management Assistance Program for Nonprofits

                   Other Resources

                    Bob Dick, "Structured Focus Groups"

Sept 24        Exam #1

Oct 1            Focus:      Survey Method

                    Hossein Arsham (University of Baltimore), Questionnaire Design and Surveys Sampling

Oct 8          Break

Oct 15       Focus:        Survey Design & Question Wording


            Developing a Down Town Survey
                (Department of Geography and Geology, Eastern Michigan University)

              Asking Demographic Questions
                   Data Collection Toolbox ( Good Questions, Better Answers,  1998 -- http://www.goodquestions.com)
                   California Department of Health Services and Northern California Grantmakers AIDS Task Force )-

Oct 22        Focus:      Sampling Procedures & Probability

                    Kieth G. Calken, Andrew University, October 2001.

                    How and Why of Statistical Sampling

                 The Public's Perceptions of the Media survey
                    (Center for Media and Public Affairs -- you can look at the whole survey, too.)


                    Tony Sissons, Research Advisory Services, Inc.  "Determining Sample Size"


                    Univ of Michigan, American Public Opinion and US Foreign Policy, 1994
                    Sampling Procedures

Oct 29        Exam #2

Nov 5         Focus:     Working with the Results -- Descriptive Statistics

                   Please read and do the exercises for "Introduction to Statistics"
                    Mrs. Glossler's Math Goodies

Nov 12       Focus:    Working with Charts & Graphs

                    Charts & Graphs -- this is a quick but simple visual overview
                 (developed by Marszalek, Mazanek, Mohr; Twin Groves Middle School, Ill.)

                    "Every Picture Tells a Story"
                    Logic Arts (2002)

                    Please read and do the exercises

                   Global Internet Statistics

Nov 19       Focus:    Deception & Poll Analysis

                    Darrell Huff.   How to Lie with Statistics
                    W.W. Norton, reissue edition 1993.

                "College Drinking Study is Intoxicating Scam" Steven Milloy
                        April 12, 2002  Fox News Channel


                    Look at how these charts have been manipulated
                         - (created by Longview Community College)


Nov 26       Thanksgiving week

Dec 3          Last Class
                    Take home final exam due -- see guidelines and exam


Dec 17        Final Exam