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Matthew J. Kushin, PhD

Shepherd University

Course Syllabus .:. 1

COMM 435: Communication Research

Spring 2014 | 3 Credit Hours

Professor: Matthew J. Kushin, PhD email: Phone: 304-876-5361 Office hours: L10K MW: 10-12/T:11-1, or by
Professor: Matthew J. Kushin, PhD
Phone: 304-876-5361
Office hours: L10K
MW: 10-12/T:11-1, or by apt.

Lecture: 01: Location: KN G07

Time: T/Thurs 3:15-4:30pm

Text: · Measure what Matters: Online Tools for Understanding Customers, Social Media, Engagement, and Key Relationships by Paine (ISBN: 979-0-470-92010-7)

· Additional required readings available online

The Shepherd bookstore online tool for finding best price on new, used, rentals:

Course Documents & Assignments accessible on Sakai:

Course Overview

This course examines the role of research as a critical component of public relations and strategic communication.

Students learn skills necessary to plan, conduct, and interpret basic research. Both qualitative and quantitative techniques of data collection and analysis are explored. An emphasis is placed on both understanding audiences as well as analyzing media content. Students learn to conduct research across communication modaliti es including through interpersonal and computer-mediated means.

LEAP Goals:

#1: Knowledge of Human Cultures & the Physical & Natural World

#2: Intellectual & Practical Skills throughout the Curriculum


This course

Learning Outcomes:

▪ Study of the Social Sciences ▪ Inquiry &

Analysis ▪ Critical Thinking ▪ Oral & Written Communication ▪ Information Literacy ▪ Collaborative Work ▪ Lifelong Learning

Provides the skills needed to understand and interpret research applications, methods, and results.

Introduces students to a range of social scientific and communication studies research methods (qualitative and

quantitative perspectives, data collection procedures & analytical procedures).

Teaches students how to conduct various forms of research for strategic campaigns and PR. Offers practice in basic research writing skills.

Provides hands-on practice conducting surveys, focus groups, interviews and content analysis.

Emphasizes research across new media, legacy media, and interpersonal and online environments.

Provides the knowledge base and experience with which to pursue advanced research methods. Assessment based on ability to:

  • § Analyze and interpret research findings.

  • § Write research proposals and manuscripts.

  • § Plan and execute content analysis, computer-assisted sentiment analysis, surveys, interviews, focus groups.

  • § Demonstrate understanding of different research approaches, their applications, strengths, and weaknesses.

  • § Adhere to research ethics and professional standards.

  • § Work effectively in teams to complete course projects

Software Learned:

Computer-assisted content analysis (Yoshikoder) Digital Survey programming with XLS Forms Open Data Kit Collector - field data collection SPSS

Matthew J. Kushin, PhD

Shepherd University

Tentative Schedule

Course Syllabus .:. 2

Note: Readings are to be completed by the date listed below. Schedule is subject to change.

[Week#] Day


Reading Due

Week of

Due assignments in bold; assigned in italics

[1] 1/13 Tues

Intro to Class


Thurs Intro to Research: Applied; Qualitative




[2] 1/20 Tues Intro to Research: Quantitative; Role in strategic campaigns

Chapter 1


Thurs Campaign Assumptions; The Research Plan

Chapter 2


Participation 1: Problems, Objectives, Research Objectives (in class)

[3] 1/27

Tues How Do We Measure? Elements of Research

Chapter 3


Group Contracts


Thurs Reliability & Validity

Chapter 4


Participation 2: Levels of Measurement (in class)

[4] 2/3

Tues What are research methods?; Content Analysis



Participation 3 Content Analysis – Part 1 (in class)


Thurs Coding; Reliability



Participation 3 Content Analysis – Part 2 (in class)

“Twitter Study Reveals…”

Participation 4: Twitter and Operationalization

Print and Bring to Class:


“How our study was conducted ”: .. “Criticisms of the coding method.”

[5] 2/10

Tues Media Placement Content Analysis


Project #1: Media Placement


Thurs Data Entry; Analyzing results in SPSS

Bring earphones to class!

[6] 2/17 Tues Finish SPSS analysis; Writing Results and Discussion

Bring earphones to class!


Thurs Ethics & IRB; Exam 1 Review

Chapter 5-6


Project #1: Media Placement

Group Report Card (in class)

[7] 2/24


Exam 1


Thurs Sentiment Analysis


Sentiment Analysis Exercise (in class)

[8] 3/3

Tues Computer-assisted content analysis


Computer Assisted Content Analysis Exercise (in class)


Project 2: Computer-assisted sentiment analysis



Thurs Secondary Research; Benchmarks and KPIs

Read and bring a copy: “Why


Participation – Dissecting a research article; Participation – Lit Reviews (both in class)

do consumers open direct mail?”

Issue a Team member A Warning Deadline

[9] 3/10


Spring Break – No Class



Spring Break – No Class

[10] 3/17 Tues Analyzing and interpreting data

Print and bring to class:


We will do Project #2 data analysis in class, Jumpstart


Matthew J. Kushin, PhD

Shepherd University


Course Syllabus .:. 3


Methods & Results sections


Thurs Qualitative Research; Interviews & Focus Groups

Measure What Matters –



[11] 3/24 Tues

Surveys Participation: Writing Survey Questions

Read: A great example of an applied survey research

Final Project

study: “Putting the

Project #2 Due Project #2: Group report card (in class)

‘community’ back in College” (on Sakai)


Check out: – look at wording of some surveys, and results



Thurs Informed Consent; Measurement; Measuring Relationships


Measuring Relationships Exercise (in class)

ationships (long, but worth

Fire a Team Member Deadline

it!) Print and bring

[12] 3/31 Tues

Sampling & Sampling Error

Measure What Matters –

Participation 11 – A Taste of Sampling, Part 1 (in class)


Group Meeting Sign Up


Thurs Sampling: Issues of Size & Error Calculations


Participation 12 – A Taste of Sampling, Part 2 (in class)

Final Project: Proposal Due

[13] 4/7

Tues Digital Surveys & Field Data Collection; Group Time


Participation 13 - Digital Survey Programming with XLS Forms (in class)


Do not begin any data collection until you have my approval today; However, you can begin recruiting subjects for interviews/focus groups.


Thurs Data Collection Analysis (Open Lab: Attendance Optional; except for required group meetings)


*You should be either recruiting subjects or out collecting data!

[14] 4/14 Tues Data Collection Analysis (Open Lab: Attendance Optional; except for required group meetings)


*You should be out collecting data!



Spring Recess – no class

[15] 4/21 Tues Inferential Stats; Tests of Significance; SPSS analysis High-five awards

* We will analyze your data in class today. To download survey data from FormHub see Part 4:

Course evaluations


Thurs Data Collection Analysis; SPSS help in lab (Open Lab:


Attendance Optional)

Final Exam Date & Time:

(see calendar on



Project 1: Media Placement Content Analysis


Project 2: Social Media Computer Assisted Sentiment Analysis


Project 3: Proposal


Project 3: Interviews/Focus Groups, Surveys


Team Report Card

18% ( projects 1, 2: 5% each; project 3: 8%)



Matthew J. Kushin, PhD

Shepherd University

Participation Assignments


Course Syllabus .:. 4

Final Grades: Final grades will be determined with the following scale. There is no rounding:

A =


B = 89.9-80%





F =0-59.9%

All assignments due by the start of class on the due date unless specified otherwise.


If you are intent on studying strategic comm, you need to 1)read, and 2) be professionally active on social media. I post and share content related to school, social media, and PR. Follow me on Twitter:

@mjkushin Follow these lists I cultivate:

o - General Social Media News o - Shepherd and local – play your cards right and you might end up on this list! o - PR, marketing, etc., w/ a bend toward new media.

Will you be my friend on Facebook?

Social Media Policy

No. I keep Facebook as my “private” space.

I will interact with you on: Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn

Equipment Checkout: For some of the projects in this class you’ll need media equipment. If you don’t have your own, you can check them out from the library. I suggest planning ahead. You are responsible for any equipment you check out and for adhering to all library policy. Find equipment & policy info here:

Course Policies

Classroom Environment: Play (mp3 players, games on handheld devices, etc), reading non-course related materials, or working on assignments for other classes is distracting. We’re all here to learn and people pay a lot of money for their education. Use of Internet devices to take notes & gather information to inform classroom discussion is strongly encouraged. But browsing & social interaction are not so please minimize use during class. If your use of any device becomes disruptive, it will negatively impact your participation grade. Although I may speak with you about this, do not expect a warning prior to reduction nor for the instructor to inform you that your grade has been reduced. If your ringer goes off during class, please turn it off. If you feel the call may be an emergency, please step out of class.

Participation Grade: A portion of your grade comes from participation. These are not “free” points distributed to students just for showing up. They must be earned. This grade is calculated based on various “participation challenge” assignments I will assign throughout the semester, general participation in classroom discussion and evidence of preparation (e.g., attending class having completed the readings), and the student’s contribution to a productive, inclusive and respectful educational environment for the professor and fellow students.

Attendance, Being On Time, & Leaving Early:

Department Attendance policy: 1 week of classes worth of unexcused absences permitted, full grade deduction for each absence thereafter, and 5 or more is automatic F. Attendance will be taken every class.

You MUST attend your classes regularly and engage in the requirements for each class; otherwise, your financial aid may be revoked either partially or in full. This would result in an amount due by you to the Unive rsity immediately. Please refer to for more details. If you know you will be missing classes – work

Matthew J. Kushin, PhD

Shepherd University

Course Syllabus .:. 5

with me ahead of time. High-fives will be given to students who miss no more than 2 classes at the end of the semester; two-handed high fives for students who miss no classes.

Class participation is important for the success of the class and to your success. You are expected to attend class regularly and on time and to stay for the duration of class. Students who arrive more than 5 minutes late or leave lecture before it is complete without notifying the instructor prior to the start of class will receive a reduction in their overall attendance & participation grade. Do not expect a warning or notification of grade reduction.

Make-up Exam s: Make up exams will be offered only once per student with proper documentation (e.g., doctor’s note) of absence and will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Make-up exams will be offered during office hours and must be complete by the end of the same working day the student returns to class. Make up exams will not be offered beyond 2 weeks after it is scheduled on the syllabus.

Late assignments: Late means turned in ANYTIME AFTER the end of scheduled class time on the due date. 2 minutes late and 2 hours late are treated equally. Late assignments will be accepted for a 20% reduction in grade. (except participation challenges – which can only receive 50% credit if the student is not present when due; and presentation assignments which cannot be made up). Late assignments will not be accepted beyond 1 class period late. Students are responsible for remembering to turn in assignments (whether online or in person) prior to end of class on the due date. In the rare case that a student is not able to attend class on the date an assignment is due, the student may submit the assignment electronically BEFORE the end of class on the assigned day for full credit. If you are having email/internet issues, you can fax it to the communication department or slide it under Dr. K’s office door. There will be no exceptions to the late assignment policy.

Email & Electronic Communication Policy: I will prioritize & make every effort to respond to communications sent during virtual office hours ASAP. However, for electronic communication occurring outside of established Office Hours:

  • v Students can expect to get a response to an email from me within 48 hours of sending it, often much sooner. If you don’t hear from me within 48 hours, send a polite reminder.

  • v If you send me an email or any other electronic communication and I do not respond to it, then I did not receive it. You will always get a response from me if I received something.

  • v Students should not expect responses on weekends or after 6pm.

  • v Email subject lines should include: Class Title & Your name. e.g., “Comm 203 – Jane Doe”

  • v In case of real emergency needing response ASAP, add “[emergency]” to subject line. Don’t abuse this!

Academic Dishonesty. Each student in this course is expected to abide by the Shepherd University Academic Integrity Procedures found in the Shepherd University Student Handbook (

By submitting academic work, students warrant that the work is their own and that unauthorized materials or resources were not used. Plagiarism, fraud, unauthorized use of resources–cheating in all its forms is not tolerated. All members of the Shepherd community are responsible for maintaining their own academic integrity and for reporting suspected academic dishonesty.

Plagiarism is the act of stealing and using, as one’s own, the ideas of another or the written expression of the ideas of another. Students guilty of academic dishonesty in any course will receive sanction from the course instructor and may face sanctions by the University, particularly if there is a second reported offense. Sanctions may include dismissal from the University. In this course you will fail any assignment you plagiarize on. Additional sanctions may be taken at the discretion of the instructor including but not limited to reporting the incident to the proper university authorities.

Matthew J. Kushin, PhD

Shepherd University

Course Syllabus .:. 6

Disability Support Services: Disability Support Services at Shepherd University believes that every student should succeed, and works closely with students to meet their needs. Students requesting any disability related accommodation should contact the Disability Coordinator at 304-876-5453. This includes students with learning disabilities needing classroom accommodations, students requesting specific housing accommodations for health - related reasons, and all other disability accommodations. Accommodations need to be documented and provided to instructors. Please see for more information. .