Blog 13: Theory in Qualitative & Quantitative Designs in Ag Comm

In quantitative agricultural communications research, there are two ways in which researchers typically apply theory. The first way, is to inform the study. In this type of study, the researchers determine how theory might influence the objectives of the research. The first of your JAC readings from this week represents this application of theory. The Baker, Abrams, Irani, and Meyers study utilized the PR Excellence Theory in order to inform their research related to the media’s perception of a specific land-grant institution. The authors took this theory into consideration while designing their study and their conclusions and discussion tie back to the theory. However, this was not built upon the PR Excellence Theory; it did not test the theory or add to the theory.

The second reading for this week, as you may have guessed, represents the other way theory is typically utilized in quantitative agricultural communications research. The Hall and Rhodes study was built upon the theory of planned behavior and the theory of diffusion of innovations. You will notice the researchers’ objectives tie to specific components of the these theories. As you compare the objectives from the other reading, you will notice that the Baker et al. reading’s objectives do not tie to theory.

Both types of application of theory are important for the field of agricultural communications. As scholars, we should strive to always include a theoretical or conceptual framework for our research. In some cases the research questions or objectives we have may lend themselves to testing theory. As you are reading about a theory, you are likely asking yourself questions like “I wonder if this theory would hold true in a family-farm setting or in my place of business or home?” A study with objectives designed to answer those questions would fall into the model of basing a study on a theory and testing the theory. In other cases our research questions or objectives may be more applied like “I wonder how farmers perceive the organization I work for?” It is quite likely that theory will inform this question, but unlikely that a study designed to answer this question would test a specific theory.

At this point, you are all extremely familiar with the theory you used for your in-depth analysis of a theory assignment. You know where there may be gaps to be tested or how it might inform future studies. For discussion this week, write two research objectives: one that will be informed by the theory you used in your in-depth theory assignment and one that is designed to test the theory (possibly in a new context or with a new audience). Use the objectives in this week’s readings as examples to guide you. Remember to remind everyone what theory you are using and explain how each objective fits into the category you are assigning it. I recognize your posts may be much shorter this week, but I also know that writing quality objectives will take up a fair amount of time. I look forward to reading your objectives!

The JAC article you read for qualitative research this week, is an excellent example of how theory is used in qualitative research. Qualitative research, as you may remember form your research methods courses, is not used to test theory. That is not to say that we don’t use theory in qualitative research designs. We certainly do! We typically use theory in qualitative research to inform our research studies. As scholars we want to continually build on previous knowledge, so we need to continually evaluate how theory applies to our research. You will notice in the article this week, that instead of objectives the authors used research questions. This is common in qualitative studies. You can use objectives in qualitative research, but it is more typical to see research questions. You may also have noticed that the questions are extremely broad in nature. This is also typical. While theory and previous research inform the study, there are still a lot of unknowns which is why the authors chose a qualitative research design.

There is another way in which theory can be used in qualitative research. This is through grounded theory. This is almost a reverse process of how we typically use theory. In grounded theory research, the researchers are actually systematically developing new theory in the analysis process. Research questions in this case are extremely broad, as no theory has come before to assess what is happening in this particular area of study.

I have really enjoyed reading your objectives over the previous weeks, and would like to continue our discussion with research questions. This time, let’s again use the theory you used for your in-depth analysis of a theory assignment and the theory you peer reviewed.  For discussion this week, write two research questions: one that is informed by the theory you used in your in-depth theory assignment and one that is informed by the theory you were assigned to peer review. Use the research questions in this week’s readings as examples to guide you. Remember to remind everyone what theories you are using. Think broad – tie in larger questions that are informed by the theory, but not directly testing it. I am looking forward to reading how you can adapt your research questions, or develop new ones for qualitative research.

20 thoughts on “Blog 13: Theory in Qualitative & Quantitative Designs in Ag Comm

  1. The theory that I was assigned for my in-depth theory analysis assignment was the Excellence in Public Relations Theory.

    My two quantitative objectives are:
    1. Determine participants’ opinions of how a business uses social media in communicating information with its’ consumers.
    2. Determine participants’ view of success with a business that uses social media in communicating information with its’ consumers.

    My two qualitative objectives are:
    1. Describe participants’ ideas of effectiveness when a business uses social media in communicating information about its’ product to consumers
    2. Describe participants’ ideas of best practices for effective use of social media communications for businesses to use in communicating information about their product to consumers.

    1. Tabitha,

      I really like your quantitative objectives and how they look at the Excellence in Public Relations Theory in a way that focuses on the participants’ view. When considering public relations, it is extremely important to look at how the audience feels since the profession is based around serving them. I think your objectives accomplish that.

  2. The theory that I was assigned for my in-depth theory analysis was Social Marketing Theory and the theory I reviewed was Technology Acceptance Model.

    Qualitative Objectives:

    1. Describe participants’ ideas of effective promotion techniques with new product releases, not limited to social media.

    2. Describe participants’ ideas of the effective us of introduction of new technology into the workplace.

    Quantitative Objectives:

    1. Describe participants’ opinions of effective promotion or advertising techniques used by businesses when marketing a new product to its consumers.

    2. Describe participants’ opinion of the most successful way of implementing new technology throughout the agricultural workplace.

    1. Hi Michelle,

      I like your first quantitative objective. I think that is question that could be utilized across multiple different platforms and sectors in agriculture.

  3. In-Depth Analysis Theory: Technology Acceptance Model
    Peer Reviewed Theory: Agenda Setting

    Quantitative Objectives:
    1. Determine the time in which it takes an agriculturalists to come in contact with and begin using a new technology related to their field.
    2. Determine the influence a media campaign has on a consumer purchasing of a product

    Qualitative Objectives:
    1. Investigate rural populations ability to implement appropriate use of an agricultural technology
    2. Describe the subjective norms that determine middle-class mothers buying choices

    1. Janae,

      I enjoyed reading through your objectives. As technology becomes so much more common and involved in ag, I would find it interesting to analyze the trends throughout the years with your first quantitative objective. I would guess that the time is shortening as different generations are taking over the farms and the fact that technology is nearly inevitable in today’s world. Very good objective!

    2. Janae,
      I really enjoyed reading your objectives! I think that your objectives do a great job of provoking thought about the impacts that technology has on the agricultural industry.

  4. In-Depth Analysis Theory: Semiotic Theory
    Peer Reviewed Theory: The Theory of Planned Behavior

    Quantitative Objectives:
    1. Determine the general public’s preferred signs used to describe aspects of the agricultural industry.
    a. This objective is informed by Semiotic Theory because the theory studies how signs convey meaning.
    2. Determine the effectiveness of agricultural “signs” in conveying accurate messages to the general public.
    a. This objective designed to test Semiotic Theory because the theory explores the idea of similar groups of people perceives signs and messages in a way that conveys similar meaning.

    Qualitative Objectives:
    1. Determine the difference between the general public’s perception of agriculture and producers’ perception of the industry.
    2. Determine the effectiveness of marketing campaigns in the agricultural industry.

  5. In-Depth Analysis Theory: The Knowledge Gap Theory
    Peer Reviewed Theory: Theory of Planned Behavior

    Quantitative Objectives:
    1. Determine what resource various levels of educated individuals seek out to inform themselves on current events and topics.

    This study tests the reliability of the theory by gauging how education affects the way the public intakes their information.

    2. Determine how a social media campaign affects the public’s perception of agriculture.

    This study is informed by the theory based on how reliable the public would find social media as a source, as well as their access to social media/technology

    Research Questions:
    1. How does access to technology affect the amount of agricultural information that is digested by the general public?

    This is informed by the knowledge gap theory based on their estimations of access to
    information as it correlates to education/socio-economic status.

    2. How does access to technology affect the implementation of technology in production by agriculturalists?

    This question could be informed by both the knowledge gap theory and the theory of planned behavior. The first based on its analysis of access to technology. The second based on the prediction and understanding of the specific behaviors/perceptions found in agriculturalists implementing new technology in agriculture.

    1. Shaylee, I really like your verb “digested” in your first research question. I think it adds an interesting level of urgency and depth to the topic.

  6. In-Depth Analysis Theory: Communication Accommodation Theory
    Peer Reviewed Theory: Semiotic Theory

    Quantitative Objectives
    1) Describe the relationship between communication accommodation and agricultural marketing strategies.
    2) Describe the effect of using the communication accommodation theory in face-to-face agricultural marketing efforts.

    Qualitative Research Questions
    1) How does the use of C.A.T. in marketing strategies affect consumers’ understanding of agriculture. (C.AT.)
    2) With what signs do consumers commonly associate agriculture? (Semiotic)

  7. In-Depth Analysis Theory: Theory of Planned Behavior
    Peer Reviewed Theory: Knowledge Gap

    Quantitative Objects:
    1) Determine which media outlets producers are most likely to trust and if they research the topics themselves using multiple outlets.
    2) Describe the relationship between attending secondary education and adopting new technology.

    Qualitative Research Questions
    1) Do producers seek out additional information and what sources are they most likely to turn to.
    2) How often do producers implement technology they learned about in college or trade school?

    1. Lexi,

      I like the objectives and questions you have constructed. I have just one critique on your first quantitative question though. It is hard to measure trust in a quantitative study. For this part of your question, I would make it into a qualitative study or incorporate it into a mixed methods study.

  8. In-Depth Analysis Theory: Individual Differences Theory
    Peer Reviewed Theory: Agenda Setting Theory

    Quantitative Objectives:
    1) Determine which social media platforms are used to notify consumers about bacterial outbreaks in food?
    2) Determine the use of social media in promotion of the 2018 Romaine Lettuce E. Coli outbreak.

    Qualitative Research Questions:
    1) How does an E. Coli outbreak in romaine lettuce affect avid salad consumers in their daily life?
    2) How do social media and news reports affect the consumers opinion of the lettuce industry?

  9. Quantitative (Framing Theory):

    1.) Determine the understanding among college students in agricultural majors of what the Missouri Soybean Association does.
    a.) This is informed by framing theory because framing theory involves the understanding of information based on audiences previous knowledge (frame of reference).
    2.) Determine the effect of framing theory on agricultural information disseminated by and received by agriculturalists.
    a.) This builds on framing theory by determining if framing has the same effect when audiences and communicators both have a strong frame of reference for information.

    1) Framing Theory: Does coverage of conventional farming by mainstream (non-ag media) influence urban opinion?
    a.) This is informed by framing theory on both sides: the communicators and the receivers of the information.
    2.) Theory of Diffusion of Innovations: Does acceptance of new technologies by other local farmers influence their neighbors adaptation of new (even unrelated) technologies?
    b.) This is informed by the theory of diffusion of innovations in that it applies some of the information of the theory, but uses it to explore a new area that probably won’t change the original theory.

  10. My in-depth theory was gatekeeping, and I peer-reviewed excellence in public relations theory.

    Quantitative objectives:
    1. Determine public opinion on media filtering stories and events related to agriculture.
    2. Determine public opinion on the social media usage of the National Pork Board organization.

    Qualitative objectives:
    1. Describe the impact of gatekeeping on the animal agriculture industry as it relates to accusations of neglect.
    2. Describe the impact of response to accusations of inhumane treatment by the accused operation.

    1. I share your interest in knowing about the response impacts of animal abuse, that is a subject that is not very regulated in Latin America and very little is known about the perceptions in the industry.

  11. The theory that I did for my in-depth theory analysis assignment was the Diffusion of Innovation Theory and the theory I reviewed was Framing Theory

    Quantitative Objectives:

    1) How to link social feedbacks with stages of diffusion of innovation Theory
    2) How social media changes the structure of social network in small family farms?
    3) How to segment customers by socialgraphics in agronomy?

    Qualitative Objetives:

    1) Describe the impact of social media feedbacks on agricultural pollution crisis.
    2) How social media and web sites feedbacks affects the visitors travel decisions on agro-tourism farms.

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