December 2012 Archives

Is research necessary?

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I think we've all seen studies that are not necessary; studies that basic assumption or logic can define the outcome; not research. Communication research is a systematic process of posing questions about human communication, answering those questions, and then persuading others that your results are valid. With this in mind it is important that the research we conduct not only is done in the right manor and for the right reasons, but also that it is necessary to be done. There are cases were research might - simply - be a terrible idea to even attempt; it can be meaningless, irrelevant, and frankly a waist of time. The headline below - I believe - highlights this point we talked about in class the first day. We have to weight the positives and negatives, the strengths and weaknesses before any research is conducted.

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Random Sample

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Population and Random .gif

An article that I chose to focus this blog post on dealt with the issue of medicare and its testing. "We examined repetitive testing for six commonly performed diagnostic tests in which repeat testing is not routinely anticipated," the study authors wrote. "Although we expected a certain fraction of examinations to be repeated, we were struck by the magnitude."

The study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, found among Medicare beneficiaries undergoing echocardiography, or examination of the heart, 55 percent had a second test within three years.

Other repeat testing showed:

  • 44 percent of imaging stress tests were repeated within three years,
  • 49 percent of pulmonary function tests,
  • 46 percent of chest computed tomography
  • 41 percent of cystoscopies, an examination of the bladder
  • 35 percent of upper endoscopies, examination of the digestive tract, the study said.

This was an interesting article because it not only highlighted the process of research but it also deals with a political and culturally relevant issue of medicare. I really appreciated the article being more about the statistics and research; not a political agenda.

Real world solutions: Futureal

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Link: http://www.futureal.net/

Futureal is a company that I came across many years ago. They "use quantitative and qualitative research, logic and creativity to hep (sic) their clients build strategy for an uncertain future."

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In a recent article (http://bit.ly/QDdrDq), the founder of Futureal Tamar Kasriel was listed as one of the worlds most influential futurists. When asked about what makes her company different from their competitors, Tamar had this to say.

"I think the way we approach questions is quite unique. The answers to questions about the future won't come just from one place - we can't just rely on, say, primary research. If we use it at all, we need to combine it with what we can glean from academia, what's going on within the industry, find parallels in other sectors, and create a workable model for putting it all together. We're also finding that despite all the hype, social media is largely an untapped resource in terms of understanding shifts in consumer attitudes, and we find ourselves increasingly drawn to create our own innovative social media analytics."

This article focuses on multiple aspects of research that we touched on this semester. Concepts of qualitative and quantitative, but also the idea about what questions we are asking, and the strategy behind them. This is one of the first examples where I have clearly seen a direct relationship between class and the real world.

Mean, Median, Mode - Comic

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In our course we discussed Mean (the average set of scores), Median (the midpoint of a set of scores), and Mode (The most frequent score in a set of scores). I think this cartoon does a fairly accurate job of explaining them! :)

Divergent Validity

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Link: http://bit.ly/RxKmuH

Divergent Validity is demonstrated when a measure of a construct or concept is shown to be unrelated to measures of unrelated concepts. In the article associated to the link above, Divergent Validity is represented through the GAD-7 brief screening instrument.

"The GAD-7 brief screening instrument was developed to optimize accuracy and divergent validity, Kroenke told attendees. It can help detect generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, and panic. Probably as good as any other general anxiety screener out there, Kroenke said the GAD-7 is better when used for screening than for monitoring treatment."

This article really meant a lot to me because I think research is so often associated with more of a dull connotation, but in reality, research is and has real life changing and life altering applications. It's cool to see research in action.

Focus Groups

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Link: http://bit.ly/YsMvuT

I have always thought that focus groups provide some of the most logical, balanced, and relevant research through a simple, effective, and congruent method. A focus group is a small group of people brought together to discuss a topic of interest to the researcher. In the article linked to above, focus groups are represented and used to discover and anywise possible superintendents for the school. The key piece to a successful focus group is the importance of a diverse selection of individuals. For example: in the case of this school, having focus groups representing parents, teachers, and governmental employees would give more strength to the discovery found within each group.

Keywords

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One of the most important research tools for SEO and Web Analytics is finding the correct key words for your site and content. As Brick Marketing states, "A keyword phrase is generally two or more words that are used by advertisers in search engine optimization, or by visitors who are using search engines in a desire to find information based on that particular phrase." With the appropriate research and understanding of the importance of keywords, you can improve your web presence and drive even more traffic to your site.

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One important thing to understand is that each page in your website should target different keywords. If each page has the same title or keyword phrases then Google and other search engines will devalue them. If you have multiple products it is extremely beneficial to give each product its own page. This will increase your ranking for each product significantly.

With some research and a little bit of work, you'll have your website pulling in waves of new traffic.

Research Tool: Mixpanel

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Link: mixpanel.com

There are many tools to analyze your web traffic, but one that I have used in the past is Mixpanel. One really cool thing that Mixpanel analyzes is called funnel analysis. Funnel analysis looks into the users on your website and how they "funnel" through the website going from homepage to purchase conversion. These statistics can help users better understand the function of their site and ares in which they lose/gain buyers. From a marketing perspective this kind of data is extremely important to understand and evaluate.

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The importance of a Conductor

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Conductor .jpg

Link: http://n.pr/ToQ1Pu

A question that at some point we have all - most likely - pondered is whether or not conductors are really necessary to lead orchestras. Well, a new study from the University of Maryland aims to answer that question. Below is an interesting quote about the findings of this study.

This was an extremely interesting study because of the hypothesis - which stated, "if the movement of the conductor could predict the movements of the violinists, then the conductor was clearly leading the players. But if the conductor's movements could not predict the movement of the violinists, then it was really the players who were in charge."

What the scientists found was that "the more the influence of the conductor to the players, the more aesthetic -- aesthetically pleasing the music was overall." Because of this answer, it seems to me that the validity of the study may be in question due to the fact that the outcome has little to do with the hypothesis. This - most definitely - made me question the study.

Poor Research Example

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Link: http://bit.ly/YG11OH


Here's an example of a poor research method:

I picked up my phone.


Hello. My name is Jane. I would like to introduce you our new product and then I'd like to ask about your opinion. Did you know what are the health benefits of cod-liver oil for your organism? With only two tablets daily you can...

There was no way for the lady on the other side for being younger than sixty-five years. And she was obviously nervous.

I'm sorry. I'm not interested.

Won't you let me finish my reading? You know, they are recording this and if I don't finish my reading they can fire me...


Now, this market research has multiple ethical implications. First of all, the issue of trying to guilt the consumer into participating breaks the principles and applications of The Belmont Report. As our class book states, "subjects must be given the opportunity to choose what shall or shall not happen to them" and "The consent process should include three elements: information, comprehension, and voluntariness." This example above does not follow these principles because the subject is - in a sense - guilted into participating.

The second issue that I can see within this market research attempt is from an internal, company perspective. If the company attempting to seek this market research truly is forcing the lady assessing the survey into a position where she feels she needs to use guilt to succeed, the ethical preparation of the company needs some analyzing. Ethics is - sometimes - a hard thing to calculate being that it has to be -somewhat - contextual. However, in this example above, this survey, sale, or whatever you want to call it, flirts with the research ethics.

Analytics

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One key aspect of research, especially in this digital age, is the concept of analytics. Above is a screenshot of the website traffic for a blog that I am currently managing. Along with the day to day traffic, we analyze the trends in search, the keywords that our visitors are using, and the links that are connecting to our site. By analyzing these analytics, we are able to determine the correct keywords to use, websites to partner with, and areas of focus our team should focus on. This website information is a crucial piece of strategy that we use to advance the relevance and success of the blog.

Social Media Research Tools

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Link: http://bit.ly/i0eiQh

Most likely, the majority of our class is on some sort of a social media site (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Etc.); creating content, leaving a trail, and providing insightful information for researchers. With this in mind it is important to realize - especially as a strategic communication student - the tools available to collect data from these platforms.

Some tools consist of:

  • Google Trends: "This is a free tool from Google that you can use to spot trends happening currently in the world. It shows the hottest searches currently going on and you can drill in to find out a little bit more about the trends."
  • Google Insights: Google insights is a little different from Google Trends because you can search via specific terms (related to your inquiry) and see how there trends compare.
  • Twitter Trends: Using the trends that aren't promoted can lead you into conversations that are very relevant during the moment and can gain you quick insight.
  • Technorati: Using keywords you can search blog listings by topic and relevance.
  • Compete and Quantcast: "These two tools give you demographic data into a site's makeup. These sites allow you to get a feel for ages, genders, referrers, and a lot of other significant data about a site that will better inform your strategy if you should be considering (or not) building relationships with them."
  • Linkdex: Linkdex is a tool that can analyze the links coming into a site and classify them based on the type of sites the links are coming from. What's even better about this tool is that you can compare sites side by side and get a feel for what kind of content is being seen as valuable enough to link to.

These tools are and can be beneficial to any career that involves research in the area of social media. I have used a few of them (Linkdex, Twitter Trends, and Google Insights) for my current internship.

Post Election Research

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Link: http://bit.ly/11nL9Qv

As I highlighted in my last blog post, political research is and has been a hot topic as of late. A survey that I recently came across was done and will be done by students at Texas Tech University. The purpose of the survey is to measure the post-election attitudes of citizens.

The survey will consist as a random sample of Texas residents and will be a questionnaire delivered over a simple phone call. "It will basically tell us how Texas, in general, overall, feels about the election.The students will rate the information residents give them on a scale from one to five as far as high priority or low priority, and whether or not they tend to lean to the conservative or liberal side, Keeli Boyles, an Earl Survey Research Lab superviser, said."

In this case I believe that the students - and their professors - have demonstrated a testing measure that is both valid, reliable, and meaningful. The ordinal results demonstrated will measure the attitudes and personal preferences of Texas residents regarding this last years debate. Overall I believe this is a good example of a random sample survey questionnaire.

Political Debates: Who speaks more?

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Link: http://bit.ly/SIFgdD and http://bit.ly/Ye2fxY

Politics - as I'm sure we're all aware - have dealt with issues of ethical implications many times throughout the years. An interesting article that I read that was actually from the Minnesota Daily was this issue of time - and specifically the amount - that each presidential candidate was given throughout this years debates.

A quote from the article that focuses on Eric Ostermeier and his research had this to say, "After watching the debate Ostermeier had a "hunch" that the two candidates didn't receive equal speaking time. He then timed how long each spoke and discovered President Barack Obama had four-and-a-half minutes more than Gov. Mitt Romney." This line specifically caught my attention because of the research method that Ostermeier used to accomplish his research.

In essence, I questioned the validity of his method. Why sure, it says that he timed out the debate and - most likely - his results are accurate and hold content validity. However, I believe that the construct and criterion validity of his results are more than appropriate to be debated. This article - although not solely highlighting his research - does not do an appropriate enough job of informing, describing, and proclaiming the validity necessary to make the results completely valid. I think the MN Daily should have provided - at least - links to his research to more accurately and appropriately represent his work. One way we could test the validity of this research is to look into its reliability; possibly by having other individuals time the debates and specifically the amount of time each candidate had to their disposal.

NFL and Concussions

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Link: http://nyti.ms/S2kgMO

The NFL is one of the most popular entities in the United States and around the world, providing professional entertainment in the form of a head to head (if you will) perspective. The game of football has been a source of many positives in the lives of many, however, concussions have proven to be a burden; especially as of late. I chose this link to be the highlight of my first blog post because I wanted to focus not so much on the research that is involved within it, but more so the ethics of whether or not research - and then action - was necessary.

As the article states, "the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, released a study that showed that a disproportionate number of men who played in the N.F.L. at least five seasons from 1959 to 1988 developed Alzheimer's disease or Lou Gehrig's disease. Players in "speed" positions, who are more prone to high-speed collisions, were three times more likely to have died as a result of a neurodegenerative disease, the study showed."

With this in mind, I want to ask one question. From an ethical standpoint, where do you draw the line between whether research should be done, and what should be done with the research that's been done? In the case of the NFL, I believe that ethics (and safety) have played an important role in the decisions to research and ultimately change the culture and ruling. As our book states, "Ethics is the study of right and wrong, responsibility, or, in the context of this chapter, appropriate behavior toward research participants." The ethical dilemma that is being faced with the NFL and concussions is whether or not the players should - have to be - subjected to concussion testing, medical rests, and/or loss of ability to play.

As the NFL would argue, their research is being done to prevent concussions and create a safer league; but that doesn't change the fact that players are no longer given the right to decline letting a concussion affect their play or stop their play. Another question I would ask is this: Is the research of concussions infringing on the players choice whether or not to play if he feels he's able to? This is an ethical dilemma - now, as we've see in the case of Alex Smith being replaced by his backup QB for appropriately reporting concussion symptoms - will become even more of an ethical question regarding safety, research, concussions, and the future of the NFL.

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This page is an archive of entries from December 2012 listed from newest to oldest.

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