Student Learning Outcomes

Recognize the basic methods used by researchers in qualitative social studies
Perform purposeful scholarly research: formulate questions, conduct interviews, utilize primary and secondary sources, evaluate results
Plan and execute an investigation of a communication question involving at least one research method
Utilize communication research methods to improve skills in reading, writing, and critical thinking

COMM 230 Qualitative Research Methods
3 Units
Course Description
This course introduces students to qualitative research methods. Students will work on the formulation of research problems, establish field relations and tactics, develop interviewing skills, perform ethnography, and write research reports. The difference between quantitative and qualitative research will also be explored.
WRIT 111: Academic Writing I
Term | Spring 2017
Time | Monday/Wednesday 10:30—11:45 AM
Location | School of Business (SB) 207
Dr. William McClain
Office Hours:

Required Texts
Berger, Arthur Asa. Media and Communication Research Methods, 3rd Edition
ISBN: 978-1452256573
All other readings will be available as PDFs or web links via Moodle.


Participation: Active participation is central to the class’s success and to your success in the class. Documented medical or family emergencies will be excused, but all other absences will negatively impact your participation grade. All readings must be completed prior to class, and you should come to class prepared to express ideas, concerns and questions about the topic at hand. Attendance and participation will account for 15% of your final grade.
A series of small methodology projects where you will be asked to apply the methods we are discussing in class. These will cumulatively account for 35% of your final grade.
A final research project worth a total of 40% of your final grade. This project will be divided into a number of individual steps:

Research Proposal (5%)
Literature Review (10%)
Research Report (15%)
Class Presentation (5%)

A cumulative final essay worth 10% of your grade.

Late Work
Assignments are due on the date and time specified on this syllabus.  For each 24 hours an assignment is late, I will dock it 1/2 of a letter grade.  Extensions may be granted for documented family or medical emergencies, but prior approval is required except in the most extreme cases.
Classroom Policies
Attendance and Participation policy: Informed, active, and respectful participation during all class meetings is required. The nature of this class is such that only rarely will the questions asked of you have a definite correct answer, so students should not let uncertainty bar them from participation. All participation in this class is graded.
Food and drink consumption should be kept to a minimum.
Assignments and Readings
January 9 Introduction: What are Qualitative Research Methods?
Readings: None
Assignment: None
January 11 Asking Research Questions: Scope, Feasibility, Importance
Readings: None
January 16 MLK Day, No Class
January 18 The Right Tool for the Job: Overview of Qualitative Research
Readings: MCR Chapter 1, Introduction to Part 3
Research Proposal Assigned
January 23 Systematic Secondary Research
Readings: MCR Chapter 2; Olivia Lee, “Millennial Skepticism and Susceptibility to Media Persuasion.”
Assignment: Prepare a 1-2 page summary of the Lee article (“Millennial Skepticism…”) including a correct APA citation.
January 25 Evaluating Source Credibility
Readings: danah boyd, “Did Media Literacy Backfire?;” Arthur Taylor, “A Study of the Information Search Behavior of the Millennial Generation”
Assignment: Prepare a 1-2 page summary of the Taylor article including a correct APA citation.
January 30 Preparing a Literature Review
Readings: Regina Marchi: “With Facebook, Blogs, and Fake News, Teens Reject Journalistic ‘Objectivity.’”

Prepare a 1 page summary of the literature review in the Marchi article.
Research Proposal DUE

Literature Review Assigned
February 1 Research Ethics
Assignment: Research Ethics assignment on Moodle DUE
February 6 Ethnography
Ethnography Assigned
February 8 “Thick Description”
Readings: Clifford Geertz, “Thick Description: Toward an Interpretive Theory of Culture”
Assignment: Prepare a 1 page summary that defines what YOU see as the major features of “thick description” and what makes it different than just “description.” Bring a hard copy to class. Be sure to include a correct APA blah blah blah.
February 13 Making Data into Research
Readings: Clifford Geertz: “Notes on the Balinese Cockfight”

In one or two sentences, define “deep play” as it relates to the Balinese cock fight. Then, write 1 page that describes what evidence Geertz uses to make this claim. Hard Copy. APA cite.
Literature Review DUE

February 15 Ethnomethodology
Readings: MCR Chapter 9
Assignment: Ethnography DUE
Ethnomethodology Assignment Assigned
February 20 Presidents Day: NO CLASS
February 22 Participant Observation
Readings: MCR Chapter 10
Assignment: Ethnomethodology Assignment DUE
Participant Observation Assigned
February 27 Conducting Interviews
Readings: MCR Chapter 7; Beth Leech: “Techniques for Semi-Structured Interviews;”
Interview Assignment Assigned
March 1 Writing the Interview Protocol
Readings: RAND Guide pages 29-74 including Exercises 1 & 2 (don’t freak out it’s a reasonably quick read and you don’t have to do them or any of the exercises)
Assignment: Participant Observation DUE
March 6 Coding Interviews
Readings: RAND Guide 74- 78, 98-113, Exercise 3 (again, don’t do them)
March 8 Interviews vs. Focus Groups
Readings: MCR Chapter 16
Interview Assignment DUE
Research Report Assigned
March 13—March 17 SPRING BREAK!
March 20 Analyzing Texts: Semiotics and Ideology Again
Readings: MCR Chapter 3 & 5
March 22 Close Reading
March 27 Theories of Authorship

March 29 Caesar Chavez Day: NO CLASS
April 3 Theories of Genre
April 5 Rhetorical Analysis
Readings: MCR Chapter 4
April 10 Reader Response, Audience Study, Hermeneutics
April 12 Evaluating Research
April 17 Research and Theory
Research Report DUE
April 19 Presenting Research
April 24 Class Research Presentations!
Readings: None
Research Presentations DUE (obviously)
***Final Essay DUE TBD***

Policies | Students are expected to adhere to the following policies:

Attendance and Participation
Academic Honesty Policy

Attendance is required and is a strong determinate to the students’ success in the course.  Roll will be taken and absences beyond 3 will lower the final grade. Students with absenteeism in excess of 4 classes will be encouraged to drop the course. In order to improve student ability to communicate effectively, both orally and in writing, and to help students gain experience in criticizing the work of others constructively, students are encouraged to participate actively in all class discussions.  The University emphasizes group interaction in the classroom. If a student is absent, his/her benefits received from classroom involvement are lost—as are contributions which otherwise could have been made to the learning of fellow students.  Students are responsible for all material assigned or discussed in class.
Outsourcing is defined as obtaining created work or acquiring outside services to produce created works in any aspect of course-assigned project development and/or production. This includes work or services that are paid for and work or services that are not. It includes work or services from any individual including fellow students and outside professionals. Outsourcing of project production elements is prohibited unless specifically stated in your course syllabus and/or guidelines. Outsourced elements must be acknowledged through complete, accurate, and specific references. The intellectual authorship of the project must belong to the submitting students.
Outsourcing will not be permitted under following circumstances:
1. If a program or course learning outcome is designed to assess skills or techniques and the outsourcing involves these skills or techniques.
2. If a program or course learning outcome is designed to assess the production of physical or digital components and outsourcing involves these components.
3. If the effect of outsourcing changes or impacts the students’ original design, or creative vision, or process at any stage of the project from development to final production or installation.
Because the integrity of the academic enterprise of any institution of higher education requires honesty in scholarship and research, academic honesty is required at Woodbury University. The University views academic dishonesty as one of the most serious offenses that a member of our community can commit. Adherence to the Academic Honesty Policy reflects the commitment of our community to the ideals of learning, research, and scholarship.
Definitions of Academic Dishonesty
Cheating is the act or attempted act of deception by which an individual seeks to misrepresent that he/she has mastered information on an exercise that he/she has not mastered.
Fabrication is the use of invented information or the falsification of research or other findings in an academic exercise.
Facilitating Academic Dishonesty
Facilitating academic dishonesty is intentionally or knowingly helping or attempting to help another commit an act of academic dishonesty.
Plagiarism is the submission of another’s work as one’s own, without adequate attribution. When an individual submits work that includes the words, images, music, ideas, or data of others, the source of the information must be acknowledged through complete, accurate, and specific references, and, if verbatim statements are included, through quotation marks or indentation as appropriate. By placing his/her name on work submitted, the author certifies the originality of all work not otherwise identified by appropriate acknowledgements. Plagiarism covers unpublished as well as published sources.
The full policy and examples of academic dishonesty can be found on the Student Portal.

Project Submission

Students are required to include a Woodbury Project Identification label on the back of all projects boards submitted. Three-dimensional work must also include an identifying label. Label artwork can be downloaded from the Student Portal. Projects may be archived up to 2 years for purposes of accreditation and exhibition.

Accommodations for Disabilities
Citing Image Sources

Woodbury University is committed to making reasonable accommodations to assist individuals with disabilities in reaching their academic potential.
Students desiring accommodations due to a physical, learning or psychological disability must first complete an Accommodations Request Form, which can be downloaded from, and found under “Academic Resources.” Accommodations cannot be granted prior to the instructor’s receipt of a Notification of Special Needs Release Form from the Disabilities Coordinator. Accommodations are never provided retroactively. (For more information, contact the Disabilities Coordinator in the Whitten Center (818) 394-3345.)
In all academic work, including research, development and comprehensives, students are required to cite sources of images, photographs, illustrations, and drawings that are not originally created by the student. The listing must be attached to the back of the final presentation board or notated in a process book. Digital work such as websites, apps, or motion pieces must also include an addendum of image source citing. Sources must include the title of the image, the website link where it was obtained, the original artist or creator, and the date it was sourced. You may use to create your citations. Use the following format for citing your sources.


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