Class concept Explication and Literature Review

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MMC 9002 (500)

Researching Communication I

Fall 2007 Lombard
CLASS 4. Concept Explication and Literature Review
What is explication?

  • It is the process by which abstract concepts are systematically linked to observed variations in those concepts in the “real” world with appropriate methods.

This is accomplished by developing two definitions

  • Conceptual definitions: Specify the meaning of the concepts to be studied; verbal descriptions of the essential properties the researcher intends to be included within the concept’s meaning

  • Operational definitions: Procedures by which the concept is to be observed, measured or manipulated

  • Many of each of these types of definitions are possible for a given concept

Process of explication involves two sets of procedures:

  • Meaning analysis: Use logical procedures to define concepts with clearly connected conceptual and operational definitions

  • Empirical analysis: The reverse process whereby you evaluate the concept based on empirical evidence

  • Takes place after (at least some) research has been carried out

What is a research concept?

  • Abstractions communicated by words or signs that refer to common properties among phenomena

  • Each concept has a real world referent

  • e.g., “journalist” - an object

  • e.g., “aggressive behavior” - a type of behavior

  • e.g., “positively related” - a relationship

  • Research concepts are terms we use to break down research questions and what we need to measure and analyze

Types of concepts

  • Singular: A unique object – e.g., “George W. Bush”

  • Class: A collection of singular concepts – e.g., “U.S. presidents”

  • Relational: A concept that shows connections – e.g., “greater than”

  • Constant: A concept that only takes on one value – e.g., “female”

  • Variable: A concept that can have different levels – e.g., “biological sex”

Research concepts vs. everyday concepts:

  • Abstractness – more than just a description, research concepts allow for comparison, differences

  • Clarity of meaning – rough meaning is fine for everyday, but research concepts must be better understood – e.g., “pornography,” “TV violence”

  • Precision – is it able to be communicated to others clearly for replication?

  • Operationalizability – research concepts can be measured or observed

    • There’s a tension between abstractness and operationalizabilty

Example: “Television is harmful to the political process.”

  • What are the concepts?

  • “TV” – a variable; abstract, but no clarity of meaning

  • “Effectiveness of political process” – a variable, but what is the unit of analysis and class? Citizens, politicians, lobbyists, laws? What country?

  • “Harm” – a relational concept denoting a negative association

Steps of meaning analysis

  • What is it, what is unit of analysis, what kind of variable?

  • Literature search

  • How have others used this concept, conceptually, operationally?

  • Other terms for this concept? (e.g., “need for cognition”: “curiosity,” “thoughtfulness”)

Example of meaning analysis

Conceptualization: Identify the precise and specific meanings of the concept (at the abstract level)
Operationalization: Turn the concept into variables and attributes (at the concrete level)

  • How much variation is there in the concept?

  • How fine of distinctions between values?

  • Attributes must be exhaustive and mutually exclusive

  • Can have single or multiple indicators (multiple usually better)

Which operationalization (procedure to concretely measure the abstract concept) to use?

  • Depends on your question, type of research

  • See what other researchers have done and whether it fits the concept

  • See what has worked in previous research

Example of meaning analysis:

  • Develop a conceptual definition for your research project

  • Start at the most abstract level, and then define what lower order dimensions this general concept subsumes

  • “TV viewing” = this is at a high level, more abstract, less precise

  • “news,” “entertainment,” etc., are (possible) dimensions of this concept

  • Now define the concept operationally

  • What indicators to look for? How do you know one when you encounter one?

  • Each dimension could have more than one indicator (e.g., TV news: morning, noon, local, national, etc.)

  • Each dimension of a concept should be observable

  • What are the results of past operations: Range of values, what affects it, or does it affect?

  • For what units of analysis?

Explication – Steven Chaffee’s steps:

  1. Preliminary identification of concept. What is it, unit of analysis, what kind of variable?

  1. Literature search: How have others used this concept, both conceptually and operationally? What other terms have been used for this concept? (e.g., “need for cognition,” “curious,” “thoughtful”)

  1. Empirical description: What are the results of past operations (measurements): Range of values, what affects it, or does it affect? For what units of analysis?

  1. Develop a conceptual definition for your research: First work at the most abstract level, and then ask what lower order dimensions the general concept subsumes? (e.g., TV viewing = highly abstract, with news, entertainment, etc, dimensions of this). All indicators within a dimension will most likely be internally consistent (i.e., reliable).

  1. Define operationally: Identify what indicators to look for. Each dimension of a concept should be observable. Each dimension could have more than one indicator (e.g., TV news: morning, noon, local, national, etc.). Not always easy to find indicators for concepts

  1. Data gathering: Observe your concepts; refine definitions based on results.

Things to remember:

    • All these steps are necessary

  • A concept without an operation is not observable,

  • An operation without a concept is not very informative.

  • Common mistake: confusing the operation (measure) for the concept itself

  • IQ is what the IQ test measures, rather than the IQ test is one way of operationalizing the concept of intelligence.

Explication and theory

  • All this explication stuff is essential to theory development

  • Theory is a collection of statements asserting a relationship between two or more concepts as they vary among a class of objects

  • So, you must explicate each of the concepts in your theoretical statement

Theoretical statement example

  • “Exposure to violent TV content makes more likely the expression of antisocial aggressive behavior among adolescent children.”

  • Key variables to explicate:

  • Violent TV content (cause - independent variable)

  • Antisocial aggressive behavior (effect - dependent variable)

  • Adolescent children are the units of analysis, class of objects

What is a hypothesis?

  • A statement asserting relationship(s) between two or more operationalizations of concepts

  • The more A-Team watched, the more name calling.”

  • The more WWF watched, the more name calling.”

Conducting the search

  • Identify all possible search terms

  • e.g., children, kids, teens, youth, adolescents

  • e.g., media, television, TV, newspapers, radio, magazines, film, movies, internet, ipod, mp3, etc.

  • Find all appropriate databases

  • Use Boolean operators (OR, AND, NOT, etc.) to broaden/narrow search

  • Keep notes on search terms

  • Do same search in multiple databases

  • Use bibliographies from articles/books to enhance search

  • Use card file or software like Endnote to organize articles/books found so you don’t keep “re-discovering” the same piece

Some key databases

  • Lexis/Nexis

  • Social Science Citation Index (SSCI)

  • PsycInfo

  • Sociological Abstracts

  • America: History and Life

  • ACM

  • Ethnic & Gender Newswatch

  • Arts and Humanities Index

  • Eric

  • ComAbstracts

  • ComIndex

  • MLA

  • PAIS

  • Art Index

  • Academic Search Premier

  • ABI/Inform (part of ProQuest)

What to look for?

  • How concepts have been defined?

  • Does it fit your research?

  • How measured?

  • Methods used?

  • Units of analysis?

  • When, where, who were studied?

Parts of a Research Paper

  • Introduction

  • What is the research question?

  • Why?

  • Layout direction for paper

  • Literature review

  • Organize around key concepts/variables

  • Synthesize what has been found

  • Move from abstract to concrete

  • Ends with clear statement of hypotheses

  • Methods

  • Measurements

    • Operationalizations, linked to concepts

  • Procedures

    • What happened to participants, what was done

  • Results

  • Organized around hypotheses

  • Where stats are reported

  • Discussion

  • What’s it all mean

  • Limitations

  • Future directions for research

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