Foundations of Communication Research (C&J 501)

Dept of Communication and Journalism

University of New Mexico



Instructor: Dr. Pamela Lutgen-Sandvik

Email: or through WebCT course site

Office: C&J 221

Office hours: By Appointment AND Wednesday 5:30 – 6:30 p.m., Thursday 2:00 – 3:30 p.m.



Course Description: Review and evaluation of various forms of research and scholarly writing in the field of communication; identification of conceptual and paradigmatic problems in interpretation of research results; attention to skills in writing and reporting research.


Course Goals for Students:


o       Become familiar with the building blocks of human communication research (purpose, paradigms, units of analysis, methods, reliability, validity, independent v. dependent variables, levels of measurement, etc.)

o       Understand the purpose and become familiar with the written form of a literature review-as-argument

o       Read, understand, recognize the argument/rationale, and critique published communication research

o       Become familiar with formal style in academic writing (APA)

o       Develop answerable research questions (RQs) for quantitative/qualitative methods and then write descriptions of research to answer RQs—to learn how different methods provide different kinds of information about the same topic

o       Explore basics of quantitative/qualitative data analysis and gain a beginning understanding of how to use these to answer RQs and test hypotheses

o       Learn how to access academic, peer-reviewed research studies in the communication field and to understand the difference between these articles and articles written in trade journals, newspapers, or other online sources

o       Learn the process of gaining approval for research studies through the International Review Board (IRB) and human subjects office at UNM


Required Books:          

1.      Baxter, L. A. & Babbie, E. (2004). The basics of communication research. Belmont, CA. Wadsworth/Thompson Learning.

2.      APA (2001). Publication Manual for the American Psychological Association, 5th Edition. Washington D.C.: American Psychological Association.

3.      Other chapters and articles noted in Unit Readings posted on WebCT.




Email:  Email me using the email on the syllabus or through the WebCT course supplemental site. Students can email each other and/or the instructor through this system. Logon to, click on “Mail” icon on left-hand side of course homepage. To reply or respond to course emails sent through WebCT, you will have to do so in the WebCT course site. I will check course email at least once daily. Please email again or call me if you do not receive a response within three (3) working days of sending me an email message; there is always the possibility of problems with electronic messaging.  I will not send grades or otherwise private student information via email. Papers will not be accepted via email.

Attendance: Learning in this course takes two major forms--cognitive and experiential. The latter requires participation in classroom experiences. While attendance is not required, students’ grades will indirectly reflect absences through peer evaluation. It will be impossible to fully participate in your team’s interactions if you are not in class. The first step in receiving full credit for participation is to come to all the classes. In addition, please be on time.

Written Work Guidelines (except for in-class writing):

  1. Word-processed, 12 font, left-hand justified, 1” margins
  2. APA format
  3. Accurate written form (structure, punctuation, spelling, etc.) See: The Elements of Style (Strunk & White, 2000)
  4. Late assignments subject to Late Work policy below.


Late Work Grading Policy:

  1. - 10% of possible points for each day late including -10% for assignments submitted anytime after class period in which it is due
  2. Maximum late deduction 50%


Assignment Submissions: Most assignments will be due at 11:55 p.m., via WebCT. Instructions for posting assignments are at the end of the syllabus.


Grade Appeals:


Readiness Assessment Tests: If a team believes that their answer to a particular question on a Readiness Assessment Test (RAT) is as good as, or better than, the one designated as correct by your professor, the team may submit a written appeal. Use the forms provided in the team folder. All appeals must be in writing and come from teams. Individuals cannot make RAT question appeals. If the appeal is granted, points go only to the team that structured and submitted the appeal. Detailed instructions for the appeal process are included in the reading packet. When an appealed answer will benefit an individual team member, adjustments will be made accordingly. Granted team-appealed answers will never work to the detriment of individual test scores.


Assignments:  I will not discuss grades on the day an assignment is returned.

  1. Wait at least twenty-four hours
  2. Complete within 7 days of receiving disputed grade
  3. Review work, reread the grade descriptions on syllabus, reread assignment details, and reflect on instructor’s comments/earned grade
  4. With this in mind, submit appeal in writing
  5. Two key areas: (1st most important):
    1. substantive areas, reasons, points, and arguments that substantiate a different grade based on assignment details
    2. earned grade the assignment should have received
  6. Submit via email or in writing 

Academic Integrity:  You will be expected to maintain the highest standard of academic integrity. Violations include, but are not limited to, cheating, fabrication, tampering, plagiarism or facilitating such activities. These actions are grounds for immediate failure. The University reserves the right to take disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal, against any student who is found guilty of academic dishonesty or otherwise fails to meet these standards. In this graduate course, you are expected to know APA style for citing outside sources. Plagiarism is one of the most serious ethical missteps a scholar can make, so it is imperative to give credit where credit is due. See for UNM academic honesty policy and statement at Students who have questions concerning scholastic regulations and procedures at the University should refer to the “General Academic Regulations” section of the University Catalog.

ADA Accessibility: Qualified students with disabilities needing appropriate academic adjustments should contact me as soon as possible to ensure your needs are met in a timely manner. Handouts are available in alternative accessible formats upon request.


Diversity: This course encourages different perspectives related to such factors as gender, race, nationality, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, and other relevant cultural identities. This course seeks to foster understanding and inclusiveness related to such diverse perspectives and ways of communicating.


Ethics: The course emphasizes ethical practices and perspectives. Above all, students and instructors should strive to communicate and act, both in class interactions and in assigned coursework, in a manner directed by personal integrity, honesty, and respect for self and others. Included in this focus is the need for academic honesty by students as stated by the UNM Pathfinder. Students need to do original work and properly cite sources. For example, be aware of plagiarism—directly copying more than 3 or 4 words from another author without quoting (not just citing) the author is plagiarism. Further, course content will encourage the ethical practices and analysis of professional communication.




Learning Teams: Each student will be placed in a zero history (together for first time), heterogeneous (different kinds of members) team that will stay together over the course of the semester. Students will be responsible for the initial acquisition of the course content (assigned readings) and for working collaboratively with other students to learn how to use the content.



FOUNDATIONS (key issues for social science researchers)

1.      Chapter 1: pp. 9-13 (Foundations)

2.      Chapter 2: pp. 17-35 (Selecting topic, literature review, reading communication reports, purpose, unit of analysis--stop at “to test your grasp”)

3.      Chapter 2: pp. 38-43 (Formulating RQs or Hypotheses)

4.      Chapter 4: pp. 69-72 (Introduction)

5.      Complete CITI online training

6.      Merrigan & Huston, Ways of Knowing (WebCT, pdf file)

7.      Paradigms and Methods (WebCT, pdf file)

QUANTITATIVE APPROACHES 1 (introduction and data analysis)

1.      Part 2 Introduction (pp. 103-105)

2.      Chapter 6: all

3.      Chapter 7: p. 132 (Introduction), pp. 134-140 (Nonprobability & probability sampling); pp. 150-162 (Sampling designs)

4.      Chapter 11: pp. 260 – 268 (Descriptive statistics)

5.      Chapter 12: all 


1.           Chapter 8: all

2.           Chapter 9: all

3.           Chapter 10: all


1.           Participant Observation (WebCT pdf file)

2.           Case Studies (WebCT pdf file)

3.           Chapter 14: all

4.           Chapter 15: all

QUALITATIVE APPROACHES 2 (data analysis/reporting)

1.           Trustworthiness: 3 readings:

a.       Course text, Part 3: pp. 297-299

b.      Miles & Huberman, Making Good Sense, “Standards for the quality of conclusions” pp. 277-280 (WebCT pdf file)

c.       Qualitative Data Analysis, pp. 15-16

2.           Chapter 16: all 

3.           Qualitative Data Analysis (WebCT pdf file)

4.           Miles & Huberman, “Tactics for testing or confirming findings” pp. 262-277 (WebCT pdf file)



(Number of points in parentheses.)


Individual Performance

1.      Individual Readiness Assessment Tests (5 x 20 = 100)

2.      CITI Course (100)

3.      APA assignment (50)

4.      Quantitative Article Critiques (4 X 25 = 100)

5.      Qualitative Article Critiques (4 X 25 = 100)

6.      Qualitative Data Coding (75 points)

7.      Final Exam (100)

Team Performance

1.      Team Readiness Assessment Tests (5 x 20 = 100)

2.      Statistical test use and application (50)

3.      In-class team application activities (points will vary)

4.      Peer Evaluation (determines percentage of team points individuals earn)




1.           Individual/Team Readiness Assessment Tests. The course material is partitioned into five macro-units. RATs are designed to test reading comprehension for material in required macro-unit readings. For each unit, students will complete an individual test and a group test. Team tests are “self-grading,” so students will immediately know their individual and team scores. Group scores will be posted for comparison across teams.

2.           CITI Course in Protection of Human Research Subjects: Students will log on to the UNM Human Subjects site and complete the training course on research with human subjects. Choose “Group 2: Social & Behavioral Research Investigators.” Go to and click on link “New IRB Training is Required…” and follow instructions. When you have completed the training, print out “Course Completion History” and “Human Research Curriculum Completion Report.” You can access both of these through the Main Menu. Bring these printouts to class the day the assignment is due.

3.           APA Assignment: This take-home assignment entails students providing examples in the correct APA form for the types of citations listed. To facilitate students’ familiarity with the APA manual, I have provided page numbers.

4.           Statistical test use and application: This assignment will be completed in class within Learning Teams. Students will be asked which statistical tests or statistic types are used for specific applications. That is, students will be given a set of scenarios and asked to identify which statistical test/type best serves the scenarios’ stated goal.

5.           Article Critiques

a.       Quantitative: Professor will provide four academic, peer-reviewed quantitative-methods’ research studies that students will read and critique, using a list of predetermined criteria.

b.      Qualitative: Professor will provide four academic, peer-reviewed qualitative-methods’ research studies that students will read and critique, using a list of predetermined criteria

6.           Qualitative Data Coding: Students will be given a data set and conduct open-coding on that data.

7.           Final Exam. Final exam is a cumulative, multiple-choice test covering testing general knowledge regarding communication research. It will be based on the macro-units’ key concepts and will focus on broad areas of knowledge, similar to what was on the RATs. The reading topics and study guides for RATS will serve as the final exam study guide.

8.           Peer Evaluation. As a part of the final exam, each student will fill out a form for evaluating the contributions of their team members to the team’s overall success. This assessment will be used mathematically to determine the proportion of the group’s points that each member receives. That is, the initial points for graded group work is the same for everyone in the group. This number is then multiplied by a given student’s evaluation score.



Final grades are based on the percentage of points earned.  Grades will be assigned as follows:






















< 59.9





Grade Posting: Grades will be posted on the WebCT course supplemental site as soon as possible after assignment grading.



Course Schedule


(Changes may occur, depending on how the course progresses over the semester.)





Assignment Due




Introduction; team formation; course overview



Readiness Assessment Test #1




Learning Team Concept Application




Learning Team Concept Application

APA Assignment Due




Readiness Assessment Test #2




Learning Team Concept Application




Learning Team Concept Application

Sampling and Survey Video

In-Class Statistical Test Use and Application




Readiness Assessment Test #3




Learning Team Concept Application

Quantitative Critiques Due




Readiness Assessment Test #4




Learning Team Concept Application




Readiness Assessment Test #5





Individual Concept Application

Coding and analyzing qualitative data

Qualitative Critiques Due



Learning Team Concept Application

Qualitative Data Coding Peer Evaluation



7:45 – 9:45 p.m. Regular Classroom

Final Exam







I.        Save all word-processed work into a rich text file (or submit in Word). I cannot download or open other word-processed formats.

II.     Save assignments with your last name and a brief assignment title: i.e., “Smith Quantitative Research Proposal”

III.   Then follow these instructions:

  1. Login at
  2. Type in your username and password
  3. The courses for which you’re registered, that instructors have WebCT course sites, will appear on left hand side as underlined links
  4. Click on the Foundations of Communication Research link
  5. The course site has an index that will come up on the left hand side and icons in the main page. Either will get you to these areas.
  6. To submit assignments,
    1. Put mouse cursor on “Assignments” in left-hand margin index or on the icon with the file box, underneath which is the word “Assignments”
    2. Then left-hand single mouse click
    3. Choose the assignment you’re submitting

                                                               i.      For example, if you’re submitting “APA,” place cursor on APA, underline will appear, single mouse click to choose

                                                             ii.      Click “Add Attachments” button

                                                            iii.      A new window opens with a “My computer” icon on the left-hand side

                                                           iv.      Click “my computer”

                                                             v.      Go to where you saved your assignment on your computer (A drive, C drive, etc.)

                                                           vi.      Double-click your assignment file (in Word or rtf)

                                                          vii.      The file will then appear above the “Add Attachments” button

                                                        viii.      Click “Submit”

                                                           ix.      You will be asked if this is “okay”

                                                             x.      Click “Okay”

                                                           xi.      The site should display your assignment as a link.

                                                          xii.      You’re finished.

    1. There are separate assignment submission links for all assignments due in the class.