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COM 372 Methods of Intercultural Communication Research. John R. Baldwin [email protected] January 26, 2007. Emic Studies behavior from within system Examines only one culture Structure discovered by analyst Criteria relative to internal characteristics “Cultural” Communication. Etic

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COM 372Methods of Intercultural Communication Research

John R. Baldwin

[email protected]

January 26, 2007

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Studies behavior from within system

Examines only one culture

Structure discovered by analyst

Criteria relative to internal characteristics

“Cultural” Communication


Studies behavior from outside of system

Examines many cultures (comparing)

Structure created by analyst

Criteria considered absolute, universal

Cross-Cultural Communication

Ways to Study Values(Gudykunst & Nishida, 1989)

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Paradigms & ICC

  • The three biggies:

    • Scientific

    • Humanistic

    • Critical

  • 2 dimensions (Burrell & Morgan, 1979)

    • Ontological/Epistemological

    • Axiological

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Burrell & Morgan introduce two dimensions to try to make sense of how different social scientists see and study the world.

Two Dimensions of Social Research

  • The subjective-objective dimension

  • The regulation-radical change dimension

    (Gibson Burrell and Gareth Morgan (1979) Sociological Paradigms and Organisational Analysis. London: Heinemann.

OUR First Dimension will become a horizontal access of research—from “subjective” to “objective.” The best way to think of this is to think of where reality lies. If the observer performs the action of observing, she is the subject; but the thing being observed receives the action, and thus is an “object.” If truth is in the object (real, separate from the knowledge or awareness of any person) truth is “objective.” But if truth is in the eye of the observer (the subject), it is “subjective.”

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human nature







The subjectivist approach to

social science

The Subjective-Objective Dimension

The objectivist approach to

social science

(Source: Burrell and Morgan, 1979: 3)

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The Subjective-Objective Dimension


  • Ontology: Pertains to assumptions about the nature of what is real (like French, “ils ont—they are”)—is reality circular or linear, knowable or unknowable? What is human nature like? [Note: not “what is real” but the assumptions researchers hold about reality]

  • For 372, you will not need to know fancy words on right & left, but should be able to understand the two positions.

  • Objective researchers believe that there is a reality apart from any observer —truth is external to observers and is “real” whether or not we perceive of it (realism).

  • Subjective researchers feel that, to varying degrees, things are real (like “race,” “romance,” or “motivation” only to the degree that we name them (“nominalism”)—that is, we create reality with words and symbols, and it is not separate from observers.

(Source: Burrell and Morgan, 1979: 3)

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human nature

The subjectivist approach to

social science

The Subjective-Objective Dimension

The objectivist approach to

social science

  • Human Natureis linked to ontology, for it raises the question of what motivates or explains human behavior (what are humans “like”?

  • Objective researchers hold that humans act in response to external and internal stimuli in a cause-effect fashion (“A determines B,” hence “determinism”). If you see words like variables, cause/effect, influence, and so on, this suggests an objective approach. Here, people act “because of” (does the name Pavlov ring a bell?

  • Subjective researchers suggest that humans do not act “because of,” but “in order to.” That is, humansare goal-oriented, choice making individuals (“voluntarism”). While there might be some regularity in choices people make, since they ultimately make choices, no prediction is possible—only explanation of why people make the choices or descriptions of the behaviors themselves.

(Source: Burrell and Morgan, 1979: 3)

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The Subjective-Objective Dimension


  • Epistemology: Pertains to assumptions about the nature of knowledge (like an “epistle” or letter that gives us knowledge, perhaps?): How do we really “know” what we know? Does knowledge accumulate bit by bit? Can we “know” anything with certainty, and what counts as evidence? For 372, you will not need to know fancy words on right & left, but should be able to understand the two positions.

  • Objective researchers—the most extreme ones, state that by removing personal biases and using a rigorous method (i.e., the scientific method), we can know things with absolute certainty (“positivism”). Others feel that we should try to know to make probable assumptions, even though our biases might come to play (“post-positivists”). More communication researchers are in this camp, with more physical scientists in the former camp. Think: validity, reliability, generalizability, reduction of bias.

  • Subjective researchers feel that, even if there are some regularities, there is no way to know anything or make any absolute predictions. They are “anti-positivists” (not the same as being “negativists!” 

(Source: Burrell and Morgan, 1979: 3)

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The Subjective-Objective Dimension


Purpose of methodology and theory: Methodology does not refer to the method used, but to assumptions about what methods of research should try to do—the very purpose of theory. This is, of course, related to ontology and epistemology.

Objective researchers: Since reality is external, and we can know it with rigorous (often quantitative methods —at least in communication), the purpose of the social scientific researcher is to discover or uncover the underlying causes and effects of human behavior—that is, the “universal laws” (in Greek, nomos = law, thus, nomothetic means uncovering or finding universal cause-effect laws). The purpose of theory and research, then, is to predict outcomes.

Subjective researchers: Since we cannot predict anyone with certainty (because people make choices regardless of possible causes), any attempt at prediction is basically pointless. Rather, researchers seek to provide explanationsof single texts or groups of people (“ideo” = single; “graphic” = writing) in their contexts. These are not intended to “generalize’ to other contexts, though some aspects might “apply” to other texts, behaviors, or contexts.

(Source: Burrell and Morgan, 1979: 3)

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The Second Dimension crosses the first and deals with axiology—assumptions about the role of values in research. In brief, some researchers (both subj and obj) bring their values into their research to critique social reality (especially oppression, like sexism, racism, and so on). Others (both obj and subj) seek merely to either explain or predict reality, but feel that to bring values into the picture would keep us from making appropriate predictions (sci) or explanations from the perspectives of the people in the context (subj).

The Regulation - Radical Change Dimension

  • The sociology of RADICAL CHANGE is concerned with:

  • Social change

  • Structural conflict

  • Modes of domination

  • Contradiction

  • Emancipation

  • Deprivation

  • Potentiality

  • The sociology of REGULATION is concerned with:

  • Status quo (observing)

  • Social order

  • Consensus

  • Social integration and cohesion

  • Solidarity

  • Need satisfaction

  • Actuality

(Source: Burrell and Morgan, 1979: 18)

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Four Paradigms for Social Analysis











(Source: Burrell and Morgan, 1979: 22)

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Application to “Values”

  • “Face-to-Face”

    • Reynolds (1984)

    • Friday (2003)

    • Other methods?

  • Media study

    • Content analysis

    • Rhetorical criticism

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Reynolds, 1984

  • The study: 10 universities

  • Lots of participants (why?)

  • Closed-ended survey: Rokeach Value Survey

    • Instrumental Values: the “end” desired

    • Terminal Values: the “means to the end” (desirable characteristics in a person)

  • The findings (see overheads)

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Doing Research

  • The next slides pertain to doing a primary research project and are not relevant to COM 372 Summer 2007! Still, they will give you a good idea of the three paradigms, so please read the rest. Watch for sample quiz questions at the end!

  • Some of the early slides may help you pick a “portfolio” topic. I will use a variety of examples for each type of research, with three specific follow up “portfolio” topics.

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Doing Intercultural Research: Terms

Step 1: Choose your general focus: media, people, & type of sample (with examples)

  • Cultures and co-cultures: Latinos versus European Americans

  • Cultural: In-depth study of decision-making in a Black evangelical church

  • Cross-cultural: Japanese versus American norms for giving/receiving compliments

  • Intercultural: Issues in Deaf-hearing communication

  • International: Latin American media systems

  • Cultural studies (media): Representations of Latinos in U.S. media

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Doing Intercultural Research: Approaches

Step 2: Choose your assumptions!

What kind of claim do you want to make?

  • A claim about groups in general (i.e., a “prediction” claim?)

  • A claim about a specific group or claim? (i.e., an “explanation” claim?)

  • A value neutral claim?

  • A claim that relates to social equality?

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Doing Intercultural Research: Methods

Step 3: Choose your method!

  • Social scientific:

    • Comparison between groups?

    • Relationships between variables for a single (or multiple) groups?

    • Methods:

      • People: Experiment, closed-ended questionnaire, open-ended questionnaire

      • Texts: Content analysis

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Doing Intercultural Research: Examples

Step 3: Choose your method!

  • Social scientific:

    • Do men and women respond differently to different persuasion behaviors?

    • Is ethnocentrism related to cognitive complexity or prior travel experience?

    • In what way, and with what frequency, do women appear in music videos?

    • Do different ethnic groups respond differently to a particular PR campaign?

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Doing Intercultural Research: Methods

  • Interpretive:

    • Texts:

      • Rhetorical/textual analysis, semiotics, etc.

      • Burke, Aristotle, Fisher, or other

      • Thematic analysis, genres, archetypes

    • People:

      • Interviews, Focus Groups

      • Observation

      • Open-ended questionnaire

    • Narrative Analysis

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Narrative Analysis (Hall, 2005, Ch. 3)

Hymes’ “SPEAKING” framework is one we will consider later for doing “ethnographic” observation—one can use it to observe to determine the rules of certain behavior. Not on Exam 1!

  • Scene:What are physical and social contexts where handshakes occur?

  • Participants:Who tends to be involved in handshakes (e.g., romantic partners meeting for a date?)

  • Ends (motives/purposes):Why would people shake hands instead of, say, hugging, bowing, kissing, or slapping?

  • Act sequence:What happens prior to handshake? Who starts it? Are words exchanged and when?

  • Key (tone, feeling):Is handshake aggressive, warm?

  • Instrumentalities (channel):handshake:nonverbal

  • Norms (expected behaviors):When/how do you shake hands?Force, strength? How long to you hold the hand shake?

  • Genre (type of comm event):shaking hands

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Doing Intercultural Research: Examples

  • Interpretive:

    • How did the Chigago Tribune coverage frame the Hurricane Katrina disaster and relief efforts?

    • How do students interpret the effects of ISU’s global studies requirements?

    • What communicative strategies do interracial romantic partners report as being effective for their relationships?

    • What are the predominant themes in The Simpsons’ construction of the American family?

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Doing Intercultural Research: Methods

  • Critical: Can be “objective” or “subjective,” quantitative or qualitative!

    Do heavy readers of Women’s magazines report lower self-esteem or body image than light or non-readers?

    How do the lyrics of The Dixie Chicks both challenge and reinforce traditional gender roles?

    How do people of color respond to Eminem’s rap music?

    How does Spike Lee manipulate traditional stereotypes of Blacks in Bamboozled to offer a more empowering reading to the Black audience?

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Three Portfolio Examples

Mass Media: Latinos in the media

  • Abstract:any study that looks at representation of Latinos in media

  • Survey:A measure of stereotypes of Latinos and other groups, combined with questions on media use

  • Interpretive:Open-ended questionnaire to Latinos on their overall perceptions of media representation of Latinos

  • Critical:Are Latino’s portrayed stereotypically in recent film, Take the Lead(with Antonio Banderas?

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Three Portfolio Examples

Public Relations: Dove’s “Campaign for Real Beauty”)

  • Abstract:No research on Campaign for Real Beauty (CRB) yet, so you find your own article on cultural notions of beauty or on women’s self-image and media usage or on a related PR study

  • Survey:A measure of campaign effectiveness, borrowed from some source, designed for different audiences of women, based on perceptions of CRB

  • Interpretive:An open-ended analysis of stories on the CRB “personal stories” web page

  • Critical:A critical analysis of the main image(s) of the CRB campaign: Whom do they include, whom do they exclude, and what do they say about “real beauty”?

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Three Portfolio Examples

Comm Studies: South Koreans in U.S. Universities

  • Abstract:Abstract on study that compares Korean and American comm (e.g., by Min Sum Kim)

  • Survey:Find a specific measure of communication, say in the book on-line (like “Communicator Style” index by Norton); draft it to give to U.S. instructors and S. Korean students to find differences

  • Interpretive:An interview with a single S. Korean student (or instructor); develop themes of successful and unsuccessful peer-to-peer or teacher-student interaction

  • Critical:A qualitative analysis of on-line syllabi for School of Communication to see how courses would “marginalize” S. Korean students

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