What is Communication Research? (2022)

Let’s start things off with a hopefully rather non-controversial assumption: you’re reading this text. Now, don’t worry, the rest of the post won’t continue to list such inanely clear truths, but this statement serves to highlight what’s occurring right now – communication.

It’s a rather one-sided process currently, with me doing the writing and you doing the reading, but the process of sending a message and that message being understood is occurring. There are endless ways of looking further at this – would you still be reading if you were on a different website? What about if you’re tired, or angry? How would whatever else you’ve read today – or ever – affect how you react to this information? This in essence is what communication research is about – how messages are sent, and how they are received.

At its broadest, communication research is concerned with identifying, exploring, and measuring the factors that surround communication, in any form and regarding any topic. Often from a theory-driven perspective, but increasingly with empirically-grounded methods. Want to know how to make political messaging more effective? Increase the appeal of advertising? Make people adhere to a health campaign? Communication research these answers.

Below, we will discuss and define communication research further, the research that has shaped the field, and where the field is going.

Definition of Communication Research

As a field of study, communication research dates back either 2000 years or 100 years, depending on your level of pedantry. The study of rhetoric was a hot topic in ancient Greece, and shares some commonalities with the modern form, yet clearly much has changed. The field now focuses on gathering empirical data, and builds theories that help understand the complexity of communication on many levels. In a sense it has less interest in the linguistic style of debating philosophers, and more interest in the groups of people that might be listening.


What is Communication Research? (1)

Communication studies have changed since the time of Socrates (probably for the best).

History of Communication Research

One of the most influential books that helped give rise to modern communication research was “Social Organization: a Study of the Larger Mind” by Charles Cooley, published in 1909 [1]. Described by one reviewer as “a series of essays on fundamental sociological problems, written in delightful literary style, and with keen and sound psychological insight” and that “Professor Cooley gives, for the first time in sociological literature, strange as it may seem, full and adequate recognition of ‘communication’ as a fundamental fact in the social life” [2].

This book, with a delightful literary style, would set the stage for the work of other academics with an interest in communication, and ultimately the creation of the first academic departments with a clear focus on the field.

In 1952, Bernard Berelson released “Content Analysis in Communication Research” – a book that proved pivotal not only to communication researchers of the time, but also had a broader impact [3, 4]. Written in a way that was – according to one reviewer at the time – “unusually lucid for a social science publication”, the book describes the ways in which media and communication are compared, and explores the methods that are used to carry out those comparisons. The book ultimately helped shift the field towards a more quantitative, scientific approach.

In the 1960s and 1970s, social unrest brought about social change, and communication researchers looked more closely at the surrounding language. They explored the systems of thought and discourse that had traditionally been in place, how they were changing, and what that might mean for the future of communication [5]. This occurred alongside the continual expansion of mass communication methods – TV and radio continued their dominance of message-spreading in the western world.

The shift into empirical methodology continued. While theoretical discussions of communication remained (and remain) central to the field, the introduction of data-driven, quantified assessments became an increasingly routine aspect of communication research. The book “Mass Communication Research Methods”, released in 1998, helped cement this as standard, defining the experimental methods of the day [6].

These research methods – focus groups, observations, and surveys – have now long been central to the field, yet the next step in empirical quantification is already emerging. Continuing with the steps towards quantification and more thoroughly empirical approaches, new unbiased tools are now being used as a way to incisively measure the processes surrounding communication, to test theories, and to advance understanding further. But what does this look like?

(Video) Introduction to Communication Research

New Methods for Communication Research

Eye tracking has become one of the most widely used technologies within communication research, largely as it “gives communication scholars the opportunity to examine more precisely how much visual attention has been paid to information” [7].

What is Communication Research? (2)

In 2016, researchers from the University of Amsterdam carried out the first retrospective study examining the use of eye tracking technology within communication research [7]. They found that the majority of studies within communication using eye tracking had focused on advertising research, yet public health, language, and computer-mediated communication were also areas that had been looked at. They also conclude that “that eye tracking has much more potential in communication research”.

One example of this potential being seized upon is found in research by researchers from Ohio State University and the University of Illinois Urbana–Champaign, who developed eye tracking metrics to assess automatic stereotyping [8]. By using a gaze-contingency task, they were able to show that stereotype-congruent fixations were decreased for those with a higher political knowledge score.

Political Communication Research

The research showed that participants who are categorized as knowledgeable about politics were more capable of “moderating automatic responses” – adding a new layer of understanding to how political communication can impact reported and actual responses. The researchers go on to state that this “implies that the influence of automatic processes on political thinking is conditional” – meaning that our response to political communication may be less automatic than previously thought.

Responsive Media Messages

While these studies have used eye tracking to measure attention, other communication research has used a combination of methods. Researchers from Texas Tech University used facial electromyography (fEMG), electrocardiography (ECG), and electrodermal activity (EDA) in order to assess affect in response to media messages [9].

(Video) Introduction to Communication research|| Unit 10|| NTA UGC NET MASS COMMUNICATION|| By Priyanka rana

They found that fEMG data provided reliable data regarding emotional state, while heart rate data collected from ECG indicated that negative messages received more attention than positive messages. The skin conductance data collected from EDA provided data that, together with a memory test, showed that the arousal level experienced was a greater predictor of memory retention for the media exposure, as compared to the valence experienced.

Increasing Engagement

Other research has also used arousal in order to understand the response to communication (for a review of some of these studies, see [10]). For example, researchers from Indiana University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison investigated responses to the number of edits within media using EDA and ECG [11]. They find that an increase of edits within the media can increase the encoding of the message without causing too much cognitive load, suggesting that media should feature a larger number of edits (where appropriate) to increase engagement.


[1] Cooley, C. H. (1962). Social Organization: A Study of the Larger Mind. New York: Schocken (first published 1909).

[2] Ellwood, C. A. (1910). Social Organization: A Study of the Larger Mind. Charles Horton Cooley. The International Journal of Ethics, 20:2,228-230.

[3] Berelson, B. (1952). Content analysis in communication research. Glencoe, IL: Free Press.

[4] Bauer, M. (2000) “Classical Content Analysis: A Review,” in M. Bauer and G. Gaskell (eds.), Qualitative Researching with Text, Image and Sound — A Handbook. London: SAGE. pp. 131—150.

(Video) Communication Research Methods - Discourse Analysis

[5] Park, D. W., & Pooley, J. (2008). The history of media and communication research: Contested memories. New York: Peter Lang.

[6] Hansen, A., Cottle, S., Negrine, R. and Newbold, C. (1998). Mass Communication Research Methods. London: Macmillan.

[7] Bol, N., Boerman, S. C., Romano Bergstrom, J. C., & Kruikemeier, S. (2016). An overview of how eye tracking is used in communication research. In M. Antona & C. Stephanidis (Eds.), International conference on universal access in human-computer interaction. Proceedings HCII 2016, Part I, LNCS 9737 ed. (pp. 421–429). Switzerland: Springer International Publishing.

[8] Coronel, J. C., & Federmeier, K. D. (2016). The Effects of Gender Cues and Political Sophistication on Candidate Evaluation: A Comparison of Self-Report and Eye Movement Measures of Stereotyping. Communication Research, 43(7), 922-944. doi:10.1177/0093650215604024.

[9] Bolls, P.D., Lang, A., & Potter, R.F. (2001). The effects of message valence and listener arousal on attention, memory, and facial muscular responses to radio advertisements. Communication Research, 28, 627-651.

[10] Ravaja, N. (2004). Contributions of psychophysiology to media research: Review and recommendations. Media Psychology, 6, 193-235.

[11] Lang, A., Zhou, S., Schwartz, N., Bolls, P. D., & Potter, R. F. (2000). The effects of edits on arousal, attention, and memory for television messages: When an edit is an edit can an edit be too much? Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 44(1), 94-109.

(Video) The Research Process and Communication


What is communication of research? ›

"The ability to interpret or translate complex research findings into language, format, and context that non experts understand" (IDS 2011).

What is the need of communication research? ›

Effective Research Communication raises more public awareness and engagement. With the right information, presented in an understandable way, conscious decisions can be made from a governmental to an individual level.

What do you learn in communication research? ›

Communication Studies focuses on the production and influence of messages in public, personal and professional life. With communication being the #1 skill sought by employers, studying it gives students the knowledge needed to excel on any career path.

What is communication research Wikipedia? ›

Communication Research is a bimonthly peer-reviewed academic journal that covers the field of communication studies and explores the processes, antecedents, and consequences of communication in a broad range of societal systems.

Why is it important to communicate research results? ›

Communicating the findings of your research is a key part of an academic endeavour. This can involve publishing your work for the benefit of the academic community, sharing findings with interested parties or policy and decision makers, or disseminating them to the general public.

How do you define communication in your own words? ›

Communication is the act of giving, receiving, and sharing information -- in other words, talking or writing, and listening or reading. Good communicators listen carefully, speak or write clearly, and respect different opinions.

What is the purpose of communication? ›

Communication serves five major purposes: to inform, to express feelings, to imagine, to influence, and to meet social expectations. Each of these purposes is reflected in a form of communication.

Why do students need to understand the communication process? ›

Well developed communication skills are vital to a child's academic success. At all levels of education, students must be able to communicate effectively. Without well developed communication skills, children run the risk of falling behind their peers or becoming emotionally overwhelmed or withdrawn at school.

What is best definition of communication? ›

1 : the exchange (as by speech or letter) of information between persons. 2 : information exchanged. 3 communications plural : a system of sending information.

How do you effectively communicate in research? ›

Five tips for communicating research and impact
  1. Know your audience, focus and organise your information for them.
  2. Focus on the big picture such as the major ideas or issues the work addresses.
  3. Avoid jargon, try to avoid technical terms and keep the language simple.
18 May 2020

How do you communicate effectively findings? ›

5 tips for communicating your research
  1. Tip 1: Consider your audience. ...
  2. Tip 2: Simplify your language. ...
  3. Tip 3: Present your work. ...
  4. Tip 4: Share your research in various ways. ...
  5. Tip 5: Keep being creative.

How do we communicate in public research? ›

10 Helpful Tips for Communicating Research to the Public
  1. Shorten your words. Long words are harder to read. ...
  2. Trim your sentences. Scientists tend to use longer sentences when writing. ...
  3. Focus on the period. ...
  4. Throw out jargon. ...
  5. Introduce new terms. ...
  6. Make it human. ...
  7. Use the first person. ...
  8. Avoid passive voice.
17 Apr 2019

What is the best definition of communication Brainly? ›

Answer: Explanation: Communication is an act of passing on information from one place, person or group to another. Each part of a communication comprises of at least one sender, a message and a recipient. The are different style of communication.

Why communication is important in life Brainly? ›

Answer: Communication is important part of our life because it helps us to understand the feelings, opinions, and ideas of people around us. We also communicate because we want to be understand and we want to express ourselves.

How important is communication in our daily life? ›

It helps you connect with others and share ideas. Effective communication clarifies information, reducing wasted time. Helps builds relationships, teamwork, and trust. Helps to develop your knowledge base, which helps you make better life choices.

What affects the purpose of communication? ›


The sender and receiver of a message may be of equal status within a hierarchy (e.g. managers in an organisation) or they may be at different levels (e.g. manager/employee, lecturer/student, business owner/clients). This difference in status sometimes affects the effectiveness of the communication process.

What is the purpose of communication research for social scientists? ›

Communication studies is a social science that uses various methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis to develop a body of knowledge that encompasses a range of topics, from face-to-face conversation at a level of individual agency and interaction to social and cultural communication systems at a macro ...

What are the motivational factors for communication research? ›

Realistically though, all researchers are motivated by certain factors that influence their research. We will highlight three factors that motivate the choices we make when conducting communication research: 1) The intended outcomes, 2) theoretical preferences, and 3) methodological preferences.

What is the importance of qualitative research in communication? ›

Qualitative research findings contribute to the growing body of technical communication re- search by exploring situations, organizations, and cultures. model for more informal work on a particular problem.

What is the importance of quantitative research and communication? ›

The purpose of quantitative research is to attain greater knowledge and understanding of the social world. Researchers use quantitative methods to observe situations or events that affect people. Quantitative research produces objective data that can be clearly communicated through statistics and numbers.

What is the importance of communication in social science? ›

Communication is inseparable from social and behavioral activities; as a consequence it has become an integral part of research and discussion in the social sciences. Mass media and rhetoric thus closely relate to political science, while semantics and rhetoric enrich the study of law.

What are types of communication? ›

Five Types of Communication
  • Verbal Communication. Verbal communication occurs when we engage in speaking with others. ...
  • Non-Verbal Communication. What we do while we speak often says more than the actual words. ...
  • Written Communication. ...
  • Listening. ...
  • Visual Communication.
12 Jul 2018

What is communication studies major? ›

Communication majors study mass media, technical communications, and advertising. They learn how to write press releases, long-form articles, and technical documents. In a communication program, students strengthen their writing and communication skills to prepare them for careers in growing industries.

What motivates people to work more? ›

People are motivated in their professional lives by certain factors, including money, recognition, power, passion and meaning. These factors can have a major influence on productivity, and an employee might rely on one or more of these areas to foster a passion for their work.

What is the motivation for research in students? ›

Students saw research as a possibility to delve into a topic and learn academic skills at the same time. Subsequently, students also mentioned that they would be motivated to do research to comply with their personal needs like their curiosity, need for challenge, and need for variety.

How do you write a research motivation? ›

When writing a research proposal on motivation, give a brief summary in 250-300 words, including the research question, reasoning used, methods, and findings. Create an introduction. Write your study aim, prove the topic understanding, describe key points and main issues, and explain the boundaries.

What is quantitative communication research? ›

The term quantitative refers to research in which we can quantify, or count, communication phenomena. Quantitative methodologies draw heavily from research methods in the physical sciences explore human communication phenomena through the collection and analysis of numerical data.

What is a communication researchers unit of analysis? ›

What are the units of analysis in communication research? -the what or whom being studied in social science research, the most typical units of analysis are individual people, groups, organizations, and social artifacts.

Which method of communication can be used to display results in quantitative research? ›

Surveys can be online, mailed, handed out, or conducted in interview format. After researchers have collected survey data, they represent participants' responses in numerical form using tables, graphs, charts, and/or percentages.

What is the importance contribution of information and communication technology? ›

Information and communication technology (ICT) has contributed immensely to social and economic improvements, such as higher employment and productivity, increasing access to a higher quality of life.

Why is quantitative research important in education? ›

Education research often relies on the quantitative methodology. Quantitative research in education provides numerical data that can prove or disprove a theory, and administrators can easily share the number-based results with other schools and districts.

What is the benefit of quantitative research? ›

The benefits of quantitative research

You get your hands on a larger sample: With a quantitative survey, a much broader study can be done – one which involves more people. Naturally, you'll be able to more accurately generalize your results across an even wider group of people.


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