Archive for the ‘Research’ Category

My father would be proud. After five years of course work for my doctorate in Instructional Technology at Towson University, I am beginning to write the literature review for my dissertation.

I devoted this week — spring break — to the project. I have spent the entire week at my computer searching peer-reviewed journals online for research that relates to my area of interest, then writing my first draft.

Baby steps, but steps nonetheless. I was making good progress, then my computer keyboard died. The space bar cease to work, so there was no spacing between words. My lit review copy came out like this:


I’d write a sentence, which smunched together, then go back and add spacing between words, a tedious chore to say the least. I wonder if the great scholars whose work I am now reading ever had to go back and add spacing between each word? I think not, because there is a huge amount of research out there. The inability to space words in sentences would be detrimental to their prolific output, I think.

It sure was detrimental to my efforts. But that was then, and this is now, writing on my new keyboard. You can’t be a scholar without some practical tools. Now, what I need is research materials related to my topic. It is hard to find relevant and timely research that relates well enough to be instructive. One might think it would be easy, but I am  finding it difficult.

Perhaps the problem lies with my Boolean logic.  Conducting an advanced search through Towson’s excellent Cook Library databases and subject gateways appears to be at once art and science. I have not mastered it yet, but I keep at it.


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Effective today, it is illegal to send text messages and a secondary offense to receive text messages or emails while operating a motor vehicle in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Bout time, I say. Texting and driving is about as irresponsible and reprehensible as driving while intoxicated.

According to research conducted recently by textfreedriving.org, 57 percent of drivers admit to texting while driving, with the most active texters being 16- to 17-year-olds. That group has long led the nation in fatal car crashes, even before the prevalence of cell phones and texting capability.

While anyone with half a brain must assume texting while driving impairs the driver’s ability to operate a vehicle safely, Car and Driver magazine decided to test if texting while driving is a dangerous idea.

In its August 2009 issue, Car and Driver says that previous academic studies, conducted in vehicle simulators, have shown that texting while driving impairs the driver’s abilities. But as far as Car and Driver knows, no studies have been conducted in a real vehicle that is being driven.

Further, Car and Driver decided to compare results of driving while texting to the effects of drunk driving on the same day and under the exact same conditions. The magazine decided to focus solely on the driver’s reaction times to a light mounted on the windshield at eye level, meant to simulate the brake lights of a car ahead.

The magazine rented an airport runway in Michigan. Test subjects were required to use devices with full “qwerty” keyboards commonly in use today. The test vehicle was a Honda Pilot SUV.

Test subjects were chosen to represent different age groups. One was a 22 year old armed with an iPhone. The other (there were only two) was 37 years old and used a Samsung Alias. A person rode along with each test subject and activated the red light, then recorded results using some sophisticated test equipment.

The reaction times of the subjects were first tested at 35 mph and 70 mph to get a baseline, then tested while they read aloud a text message. That was followed by a test in which the drivers typed that same text message while driving.

Anyone familiar with Car and Driver magazine knows that it can be highly irreverent. The next “test” shows us how zany these guys can get. They had the test drivers get slightly intoxicated drinking vodka and orange juice. They blew into a breath-alcohol analyzer until they reached the legal driving limit, then they ran the same brake light test at the speeds specified in the text messaging test.

The results? Without citing all the specific numbers, suffice it to say that reaction times while driving and texting were terrible. For example, in the younger subject’s slowest reaction time at 35 mph, he traveled an extra 21 feet while reading before hitting the brakes and 16 feet longer while texting. The older guy did worse in the text test at the same speed, traveling an extra 45 and 41 feet respectively before hitting the brakes.

Shockingly, the intoxicated numbers were better than the texting numbers, but Car and Driver says they only look better because the texting numbers were bloody awful.

The moral is clear: texting and driving is dangerous. Thankfully, Virginia recognized this and took action. Now we’ll see how enforcement goes.

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In reading Merriam (1998) Qualitative Research and Case Study Applications in Education, I ran across an old friend — content analysis.

In a chapter on mining data from documents for qualitative research, Merriam discusses content analysis for qualitative case studies. As a communication/PR/IMC professional, content analysis is a familiar frequently used tool for determining what is being reported in the media. Commercial clipping services are frequently hired to provide the practitioner with packets of press clippings and broadcast monitor reports. These can be studied to see what messages are getting out to audiences. They do not, however, provide any solid information on readership or if there is any impact of the messages on attitudes, beliefs, or behavior.

Merriam reminds us that historians and literary critics have long used content analysis to analyze historical documents and literature.  She acknowledges that content analysis is currently used most frequently for media such as newspapers, periodicals, television, and film. Merriam says these applications have a strong quantitative focus and are concerned with measuring the frequency and variety of messages and confirming hypotheses.

Cutlip, Center, & Broom (2006), writing in Effective Public Relations, say content analysis has a role in determining trends, providing valuable insights into what might be on the public relations agenda in the future. Public relations firms increasingly help clients anticipate issues by using the services of issues-tracking firms and by conducting their own content analysis.

Merriam says most research designs using content analysis are sequential, moving from category construction to sampling, data collection, data analysis, and then interpretation.

The deeper I dig into my doctoral studies, such as my current focus on qualitative research methods for education, the more similarities I find with aspects of my career in communication/PR/IMC. I find that most comforting.

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