Thus researchers who are interested in how consumers

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no resemblance to the participant-generated data. Thus, researchers who are interested in how consumers respond subjectively to media content will spend time listening to individuals, with a view to capturing this subjectivity. Their goal might be, for example, to understand why some television viewers develop a close relationship to soap opera characters or a Second Life avatar and how they describe those relationships. Researchers make no assumption that their findings will be generalizable and typically reject counting or measuring in favor of reporting what their interviewees said. They may take an interest in the overall organizational culture of a campus but may become even more interested in how residence life cultures vary from dorm to dorm within a campus. Their overall goal is understanding rather than generalization or prediction.
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There is no inherent reason that one aspect of human communication should be privileged over others for research anymore than one specific research method should be privileged. Rather, the focus and the method of research are the outcome of the researchers’ interests and the environments in which they are doing research. The research method you select should logically follow from the basic assumptions you have made about human behavior. For example, a Worldview I researcher who believes that people’s thinking can be measured and that careful sampling will allow her to generalize results from a small sample to a large number of people may ask “What type of survey can I run?” A Worldview II researcher interested in hearing people’s subjective experiences in their own words is more likely to ask “What focus groups or interviews will I need?” The first researcher will use quantitative methods by virtue of her worldview; the second will prefer qualitative measures. An ethnographic study aimed at uncovering the hidden metaphors of organizational life implies that experimental design and scaled survey questions would not be appropriate. There must be a logical match among theory, method, and data. The researcher in this instance therefore will prefer in-depth interviews and perhaps focus group–type discussions in order to be able to report organizational imagery and metaphor in organization members’ own words. The first question for researchers, then, is not whether to prefer qualitative over quantitative methods. Rather, it is “What are my basic assumptions about human behavior?” It is the answer to this question that will drive the decisions about the nature of the research data to be gathered and therefore the research methods to be employed. These foundational beliefs and arguments about human behavior are issues ultimately of ontology , which addresses the nature of what we study. Ontological questions deal with the nature of existence and what language actually refers to. In communication studies, ontology wrestles with assumptions about the nature of human communication and what we “really” observe when we observe it. For example, have you ever seen someone’s attitude? You might answer “Yes, many times.” But what have you really seen? What you have really seen is someone behaving in a particular way, being verbally aggressive perhaps. Or perhaps all you saw was check marks on an attitude rating
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