Research methods are the processes used in acquiring information on a particular topic or area of study. Media research methods are ways through which people can obtain information regarding the media or means used by the press to get relevant information about a particular discussion in a region (Daymon & Hollyway 2011). There are various research methods, which can be used in getting media related information, and these methods include interviews, sampling, observation, surveys, focus groups, and audio-visual sources (Daymon & Hollyway 2011). Depending on the information needed the research approach can be qualitative or quantitative (Belk, Fischer &Kozinets 2013). Educationists and other researchers have made attempts in trying to discuss some of these research methods so that other people can get a clear picture of the processes and make informed decisions on which methods to use. The research methods have both benefits and drawbacks. Some of the advantages are represented by the fact approaches like interviews give the researcher a chance to directly interact with the participants and maintain focus on the research issue. The cost and time required to undertake the study using interviews or sampling methods are some of the limitations to the researcher. The purpose of the paper is to provide an in-depth understanding of various media research methods by use of a literature review.
Literature Review of Media Research Methods
Interviews are the most commonly used research methods to collect and analyze research information. As mentioned earlier, research can be conducted in two distinct approaches, such as qualitative and quantitative research methods. The quantitative method gathers and analyzes the information using statistics and it is held in a numerical manner while the qualitative approach does not rely on statistical or mathematical data. Both techniques use question and answer style to get the necessary information. According to Daymon and Holloway (2011, p. 120), interviews are often used to collect and gather data that is needed in research; the interviewer can get information about a topic through a face-to-face interview or written interview. Interviews can be open-ended, semi-structured, or informal (Belk, Fischer & Kozinets 2013). The data collected through interviews depends on the conditions presented by the interviewer and the interviewee. Some organizations disregard interviews as a method of gathering information and they do not consider it when analyzing the methods used in data collection. Interviews used in qualitative research can take two categories that are the phenomenological and the post-structuralist approaches, which can be used to gather necessary data during the research (Belk, Fischer & Kozinets 2013).
The interviewing process involves the choice of appropriate interviewees as per the research project. In this case, considering the project is in media research the most suitable respondents will be people with at least some knowledge about the media sector. The interviewees should be individuals who have an understanding of media-related issues and the limitations of the industry. The selection of respondents can be conducted through sampling, which considers using a small number of people from a large group of individuals who have common characteristics in agreement with the research project (Belk, Fischer & Kozinets 2013). Getting reliable data on the project would require formal or in-depth interviews which facilitate the understanding of a researcher on what he or she can observe. The questions can be formal or informal during a conversation with the interviewees (Daymon & Holloway 2011, p. 135). A successful interview requires a systematic procedure to meet the requirements of the research project. Interviews as a media research method need an in-depth understanding of the project to facilitate decisions on the choice of suitable interviewees and questions. After this, the researcher should consider the selection of the respondents who are likely to provide reliable and dependable information concerning the media industry.
After analyzing the research issue, the next step is to develop an interview guide that provides the researchers with levels or approaches to use to get the best information from the interviewees, who will provide as much information as possible in detail (Belk, Fischer & Kozinets 2013). Then the researchers conduct the interview and analyze the data obtained from it. The interview approach has its advantages and disadvantages as a research method. Some of the benefits of the approach include the following aspects. Through the interviews, one can be able to obtain accurate information because there is a possibility to identify if an interviewee is not telling the truth through facial expressions and body language by use of face-to-face interviews (Belk, Fischer & Kozinets 2013). The interviewer can also ensure that the process keeps its focus on the research issue with minimal wavering to issues outside the topic. However, the approach has some limitations, as an effective analysis method should consider the cost and data reliability of the approach (Daymon & Holloway 2011). Interviews are costly and the information obtained depends on the capability of the interviewer to get trustworthy information from the interviewees. The data collected through interviews are limited to the number of respondents, interviewers available, and location of the meeting.
Sampling is a method applied for obtaining quantitative media research information by the usage of a sample of the target population, who has the desired characteristics for the research issue. Sampling can be conducted in four primary techniques, such as probability sampling, purposive sampling, convenient and mixed methods techniques (Teddlie & Yu 2007). The probability sampling method can be subdivided into random, stratified, and systematic among others. The most common sampling method is random sampling since it provides the participants with equal chances of being chosen to give the information they know concerning the research issue (Sincero 2012). The selection of people from one sample does not affect selection from a different sample from the selected population target. Stratified sampling is an approach that uses a subgroup of the whole population. The subgroup if often known as a stratum and it has similar characteristics, such as news anchors, reporters, or producers (Sincero 2012). If a researcher is interested in a study on the development of the media industry over a span of five years, the researcher would pick representatives from the press society to represent the media fraternity. The described selection is random sampling, but if a researcher is interested in picking subgroups from the random samples, then that is stratified sampling in collaboration with random sampling (Teddlie & Yu 2007).
The subgroups of the samples are known as strata. Research methods in media can take a different approach other than probability sampling. According to Sincero (2012), convenience sampling is an approach whereby few people are available to participate in the research. Similarly, quota sampling gives the researcher the mandate to choose the participants of a detailed study as per the stratum (Sincero 2012). Both convenience and quota sampling are not part of the ofprobability sampling. For example, when conducting a survey in the field of media on limitations in collecting data by the news reporters, a researcher can choose to explicitly use a sample of writers only excluding other members of the media fraternity. By so doing he or she creates specific criteria for selecting participants, who confidently will deliver reliable information representing other reporters in the field (Sincero 2012; Teddlie &Yu 2007). At the same time, conducting a study of media and communication, a researcher can use several research sampling methods, some of which have not been discussed in this review.
However, the article ‘Study Design’ asserts that sampling methods face some challenges. The choice of the sample population can result in some errors such as sampling error, coverage error, and systematic error. According to an article by ‘Study Design’, (2015) on study design and sampling random differences in the selection of a sample population can cause a mistake which the researcher may not have control over, this type of a mistake is known as the sampling error. When choosing a target population not all the people may be willing to participate in the study and hence a researcher may make conclusions depending on the sample present, yet there might be a number of differences from the actual population. Such an error is the systematic error resulting from the response rates (Study design, 2015). ‘Study Design’ (2015) asserts that researchers may choose a stratum that is not representative of the target population and by doing so the data collected will have a coverage error. For the researchers in the media industry to reduce the likelihood of the mistakes, it is important to ensure that the sample population has as many people as possible as it will minimize the chances of misleading data (Study design 2015).
Media research embraces a variety of research methods with the most common being interviews and sampling techniques. The interviews are primarily used to collect qualitative data using question and answer methods between the interviewer and the interviewee. Through the approach, the researcher can read the interviewee's reaction to the research issue through body language. However, interviews are costly, time-consuming, and the sample is limited. The sampling analysis techniques allow the researcher to select a sample of the target population as representatives of the whole population of the media fraternity. Sampling methods have different categories, and they can be a probability, purposive, or convenient with each method valid depending on the choice of the researcher. Sampling techniques may, however, face some challenges if the selection of the samples is not a representation of the target population which in this case is a media and communication case study.