Tag Archives: agricultural communications research

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.

Blog 10: Setting the Agricultural Agenda

I imagine that this week’s readings were of great interest to you, as much of the discussion on the blog has focused on how we can better understand the general public’s perceptions and attitudes toward agriculture. Agenda setting is an interesting theory that applies to so much of what we do in agricultural communications. The three agendas of media, public, and political are areas of deep concern for agricultural communications professionals. Think about the reason you turned on the television or surfed the Internet most recently. What use were you intending when you initially began using the medium? Was it entertainment, information, or perhaps explanation you were seeking? Did the media affect you in obvious ways you were not originally seeking? Can you imagine any subliminal effects you may have experienced without realizing it at the time?  How can we use your answers to these questions and the theories from the chapter this week to address concerns of agricultural literacy in the general public?

One of the common ways the public hears about agriculture is during a food crisis like in the Barr, Irlbeck and Akers article in JAC we read this week. These authors chose framing as the theoretical/conceptual framework for their study. What other theories in this week’s reading would have implications for this study or future studies of food crises?

The Goodwin, Chiarelli, and Irani study also utilized framing. What differences did you see in the way the researchers applied the theory? If you were to conduct a follow-up study based on these authors’ research, what type of study would you conduct? Which theory would you chose to guide the study?

Blog 8: Case studies and theory in agricultural communication research

This week we read two articles from JAC. The Palmer, Irlbeck, Meyers, and Chambers reading introduced us to the concept of case studies in agricultural communication research. The use of case studies is a common practice in agricultural communication research. Case studies offer an opportunity to examine a phenomenon or issue in-depth in order to understand it. In some instances this may mean developing new theory or identifying how theory applies in a new context or setting. When a phenomenon or issue arises, a researcher may notice a tie to an existing theory and use the theory as a guide to research the phenomenon or issue. The latter is similar to this study, although new recommendations based on this analysis were presented. This is applied research at its finest; this is a research study that investigates a crisis in order to develop recommended practices for future crises. These authors chose excellence theory to guide their investigation. Why was this an appropriate choice? Is there another theory we have studied that would have been useful in guiding this research? Explain your reasoning.

The Abrams and Meyers article demonstrates how theory can be utilized in a study to investigate a specific population and determine if this unique population reacts in the theorized way. In this article the authors utilized two theories: social amplification of risk and gatekeeping. These authors provided much more information on the theories they utilized than the first article. In a study that is testing theory, it is of utmost importance to provide adequate background as the research questions or objectives of the study are typically built upon the theory. Additionally, the findings of such a study will likely have implications for the future of the theory in the profession. The authors of this study recommend several followup studies. Pick one of the recommended followup studies and suggest a theory or multiple theories you believe would be appropriate for the study you select.  How would you set up the study in a way that would make sense for the theory or theories you suggest? Use the way the authors we read this week set up their studies as a guideline.

Blog 6: Persuade Me

I think persuasion is one of the most fascinating topics in agricultural communication theory. While the chapter this week is in the “face-to-face” communication section of the book, many of the concepts apply to mediated communication efforts. The reading from JAC this week illustrates this point well. I think this study does an excellent job of incorporating theory into a study. As you read the JAC article, was your understanding of the elaboration likelihood model (ELM) changed? Did you agree with the authors’ application of ELM? What would you have done differently? Are there other theories of persuasion that you see as more appropriate for this study? Or ones that should have also been included?

The world around us is constantly seeking to persuade us to do something. As you study persuasion you will become more and more aware of persuasive techniques being utilized in your everyday life. This may be a friend or significant other trying to persuade you to go to the lake instead of studying. Perhaps the persuasion is less subtle and comes in the form of advertising. What agricultural ads or videos have you seen recently that utilize persuasive appeals? Post an example and tell us which appeals you think are used in the example you post. What other theories of persuasion do you see represented in your example? In the spirit of the comparison study we read in JAC this week, what anti-agricultural ads or videos have you seen with persuasive appeals? How does the anti-ag one stack up in relation to theories of persuasion?

Blog 3: Why Do We Conduct Agricultural Communications Research?

Happy Labor Day. You certainly are not expected to read or comment on this on the holiday. However, I thought I would go ahead and post in case some of you wanted to use your day off to post.

You may have noticed that I did not respond to your posts in week 2. I may pop in and comment to make clarifications in discussions, but I will predominantly let the discussion happen among you from here on out.

Today, I want to talk about why you should care about agricultural communication research. You clearly care at least a little about agricultural communication research and theory or you wouldn’t be in this class.  I know this week’s readings may not have been page turners, but chapters two and three of your text provide some important foundation information for how we will investigate theory in agricultural communication.

As we discuss the importance of agricultural communication research, it is difficult to separate the values we associate with agricultural communication research. It is important for researchers to strive for a lack of biases in their research. A lack of biases make research and theory more valuable. However, as we have discussed agricultural communication is an applied discipline. We conduct research and build theory in order to solve problems in agricultural communication. Based on chapter two of your text and my discussion here, what axiological view does agricultural communication research take? Is this a positive or negative thing?

In agricultural communication, we often seek to address research questions or objectives through an epistemological lens. We try to understand how people know or don’t know about agriculture and its value in our society. We often research methods for exposing people to agricultural knowledge and understanding in explicit and tacit ways. As we try to understand how people respond to agriculture and policy related to agriculture and natural resources, we regularly investigate phenomenons and human decisions related to those. Critical theories seek to change the world, which is something we often try to do in agricultural communication, I believe figure 2.4 in your text describes this process well and will help you understand theories as we discuss them.

The terms in chapter 3 are important for understanding and interpreting research. I don’t intend to repeat all of the terms here, but know they are an important foundation as we continue to explore theory. Let me pose a few more questions for our class discussion. How might someone develop a campaign to improve agriculture’s public image from a scientific/objective paradigm approach? How would this campaign look if designed according to a humanistic/subjective approach?  How would you operationalize the concept of agriculture’s public image in order to conduct a quantitative survey?

Blog 2: Tools of The Trade: AgCom Journals and Resources for Research

In order to understand theory within agricultural communication, it is important to understand the disciple. The articles you read this week were included to do exactly that. Additionally, I wanted to introduce you to the Journal of Applied Communications (JAC). JAC is the only journal dedicated specifically to agricultural communication research.  There are other journals that publish research related to agricultural communication like the Journal of Agricultural Education, Agriculture and Human Values, and the North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture Journal.

Mainstream communication journals also impact agricultural communication theory and will publish articles related to scientific communication, teaching communication, health communication, and environmental communication, which are all subjects that impact agricultural communication. In order to streamline the process for this course, our selected journal article readings all come from JAC, but please make note of the vast number of different journals cited within the JAC articles we read.

In the article you read this week by Naile, Robertson, and Cartmell they outlined many more details relating to JAC’s history and content. Because they looked at JAC up to 2006, there are some changes I would like to note. JAC used to only be published quarterly, however, recently in 2014 JAC will add one more journal per year. There is a more recent version of the National Research Agenda than the one mentioned in the article, which you can find here. The article also mentions the Agricultural Communication Documentation Center (ACDC), which is an excellent resource for scholarly and popular sources related to agricultural communications.

Table 4 in the publication shows the populations investigated. I would assume that if this study were repeated with articles since 2006, you would see members of the general public as a population investigated frequently. Our communication with members of the general public has increased in this timeframe, and I know of research focusing specifically on these groups,  we will read some later in the semester. What other gaps did you notice in the populations investigated? I would have liked to see an investigation of which theories were utilized in research published in JAC. Do you have other critical evaluations to offer?

There is an organization that focuses on researching perceptions of the general public related to agriculture and natural resources. This organization is the Center for Public Issues Education in Agriculture and Natural Resources (PIE Center). I encourage you to seek out this organization as you explore research and theory related to agricultural communication. The PIE Center has webinars on current research projects that are free to join. You may consider attending one or more of these.

If you’re interested in new and social media research related to agriculture, the Center for Rural Enterprise Engagement at Kansas State University focuses on conducting and sharing research on the use of new technology to improve rural livelihoods and producers’ bottomline.

The Irani and Doerfert article you read offered history of agricultural communication and the outlook for the future. I wanted to point out a few things in this article and pose questions for your consideration. First, note the importance given to strategic communication. As you may have guessed from last week’s post, this theme will continue throughout our discussion of theory. Also, the authors’ discussion of the digital age related to agriculture and the green divide. How have you seen these change your communication with audiences? Perhaps this is on behalf of your current job, maybe as a part of a personal advocacy movement, or with members of your family who aren’t familiar with agriculture.

I would also like for you to take note of the discussion related to the academic field. If you graduated with an undergraduate degree in agcom, what do you think about the lack of standardization of course offerings? Do you believe your education would have been enhanced if your program were structured differently? What about dual listing of graduate and undergraduate classes? For those of you in other disciplines, has your academic pursuit been similar? different?

I believe the challenges mentioned related to a low number of faculty positions and small research appointments adversely affect our profession, as the authors mentioned. Recently, PIE Center and the University of Florida have hired faculty members with higher research appointments than teaching or extension appointments. This represents a change in our discipline, which may allow an increase in agricultural communication theory and research productivity. Of course, this is just one institution. Finally, as a class with people from multiple academic disciplines, what do you think about the concept of Figure 1 and multi-disciplinary instructional efforts? What benefits do you see? What challenges exist?

When I first started teaching this course, I struggled to identify the theory used in the discipline of agricultural communication. That is why I developed the study presented in the third journal article you read. The purpose of this study was to describe how theory is used in agricultural communication and what theories are used. This article was a part of the 100th JAC issue and offers a state of the industry related to theory. We will discuss these theories in more detail throughout the course and will discuss how theory can be used an applied. At this point, I just want you to be aware of this article as a resource for theory in the discipline and as a reference for your assignments throughout the semester. In your discussion this week you are welcome to comment on this article too if you have something to say, or just respond to my questions about the other articles.