Communication Theory (Evaluating Theory)
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Communication Theory (Evaluating Theory)

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  • Text uses objective and scientific interchangeably
  • No certainty in prediction
  • The theory is no more complex than it needs to beOccam’s Razor: William of Occam encouraged theorists to ‘shave off’ any assumptions, variables or concepts that are not necessary to explain what’s happening.Parsimony: Given two plausible explanations for the same event, we should accept the simpler version
  • If a prediction is wrong, there should be a way to demonstrate that errorKarl Popper called this requirement falsifiability
  • Experiment: A research method that manipulates a variable in a tightly controlled situation in order to find out if it has the predicted effect.Survey: A research method that uses questionnaires and structured interviews to collect self-reported data that reflects what respondents think, feel or intend to do
  • ‘There is no safe habour in which researchers can avoid the power structure.” (William Melody, Robin Mansell)
  • Textual Analysis: A research method that describes and interprets the characteristics of any textEthnography: A method of participant observation designed to help a researcher experience a culture’s complex web of meaning.


  • 1. Communication Theory Evaluating Theory Tara Wilkinson Media + Communication Lecturer
  • 2. Review Session (Objective vs. Interpretive Scholars)  Ways of Knowing  Views of Human Nature  Values  Goals of Theory  Research Methods
  • 3. 6 Standards Good Objective Theory Explains Past & Present Quantifiable Research Predicts the Future Objective Theory Practical Utility Relative Simplicity Testability
  • 4. Explanation of Data  Explains an event or human behaviour  Describes the process, focuses our attention on what’s crucial, helps us to ignore what makes little difference  Goes beyond raw data to explain why
  • 5. Prediction of Future Events  Predicts what will happen Prediction is only possible when dealing with things we can see, hear, touch, smell and taste over and over again  Communication is the cause or effect of some other variable
  • 6. Relative Simplicity
  • 7. Hypotheses that Can Be Tested  Falsifiability: The requirement that a scientific theory must be stated in such a way that it can be tested and disproved if it is indeed wrong
  • 8. Practical Utility  Usefulness is the measure of worth of the good objective theory  Consider how others have made use of the insight
  • 9. Quantitative Research  Tend to appeal to numbers rather than words  Measure and report what they see in precise numerical rather than linguistic terms which are open to interpretation
  • 10. 6 Standards ‘Good’ Interpretive Theory New Understanding of People Qualitative Research Clarification of Values Interpretive Theory Reform of Society Aesthetic Appeal Community of Agreement
  • 11. New Understanding of People  Develop understanding of local knowledge or members’ unique rules for interaction  Tools aid in the search for situated meaning
  • 12. Clarification of Values  Theorists actively seek to acknowledge, identify or unmask the ideology behind the message under scrutiny  Interpretive theorists should be willing to reveal their own ethical commitments  Scholars should not remain ethically detached from the people they are studying or from the political and economic implication of their work.
  • 13. Aesthetic Appeal  Scientific writing is based on a specific formula. E.g propositions, hypotheses  Artfully incorporates imagery, metaphor, illustration to make the theory come alive for others
  • 14. Community of Agreement  Generates support within a community of scholars who are interested and knowledgeable about the same type of communication.  Subject of widespread analysis
  • 15. Reform of Society  Not only interprets the intended meaning of a text but generates change/fresh alternatives for social action  Expose and publicly resist the ideology that permeates the accepted wisdom of a culture
  • 16. Qualitative Research  While Scientist use numbers to support their theories, Interpretive scholars use words  Qualitative scholars study things in their natural settings, attempting to make sense of, or to interpret phenomena in terms of the meaning people bring them
  • 17. Evaluation Communication Theory Scientific Theory Interpretive Theory 1. Explanation of Data 1. Understanding of People 2. Prediction of Future 2. Clarification of Values 3. Relative Simplicity 3. Aesthetic Appeal 4. Testable Hypotheses 4. Community of Agreement 5. Practical Utility 5. Reform of Society 6. Quantitative Research 6. Qualitative Research