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CMST 2A03 Quantitative Mthds/Resrch

Academic Year: Fall 2016

Term: Fall

Day/Evening: E

Instructor: Dr. Terry Flynn

Email: tflynn@mcmaster.ca

Office: Togo Salmon Hall 329

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 26977


Office Hours: Monday & Thursday 4:00pm-6:00pm, or by appointment.

Course Objectives:

By the end of the course you should be able to understand and evaluate the value and appropriateness of a range of research methodologies as they apply to communication enquiry, including within your own area(s) of interest.

Like a carpenter with her or his tool kit, you will:

  • Be familiar enough with the tools to evaluate them overall, and in relation to a particular research question;
  • With confidence, choose the tools from your research kit and use them in a way that fits any given research project; and,
  • Know how to use the research tools in combination (including with qualitative research tools).

You should also have improved:

  • Critical analysis of research – both in the academic and wider public realms (especially through media and professional reports of research);
  • Writing and oral presentation skills, particularly as they apply to research reporting techniques; and,
  • Team work abilities as they apply to the research process and the various stages of research design, data collection, analysis and reporting.

Method of Teaching:

Typically, each class/tutorial will involve a mixture of lecture, and discussion concerning the scheduled topic. As the syllabus indicates, guest speakers are an important component of this course, exposing students to professionals sharing real-world experiences and advice. Some sessions will include videos and/or brief video clips illustrating applied principles of communication research. Assigned readings, lectures, guest speaker remarks and videos are all testable.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

Stacks, D.W. (2010). Primer of Public Relations Research, 2nd Ed. New York: Guilford. (ISBN: 978-1-59385-595-6).

Quantitative Data Analysis Software

In this course we will be using SPSS Statistics 24 software to analyze data. You will need this software to successfully complete both your individual and group assignments. You can obtain a six-month licence from OnTheHub eStore for $55.00 (Cdn) plus taxes. Here is the link to the site: OnTheHub eStore

Additional Course Materials and Readings:

Additional required reading material will be posted on our class A2L site. 

Style Guides (Referencing)

Please use APA or MLA styles; see library guides at:




Method of Assessment:



Learning in this course results primarily from in-class and tutorial discussions. The balance of the learning results from the lectures on communication research concepts, from related readings, and from researching your presentations, cases, assignments, and projects. All work will be evaluated on an individual basis except in certain cases where group work is required. In these cases group members will share the same grade adjusted by peer evaluation. Your final grade will be calculated as follows:

Required Assignments:










Tutorial (15%)





Monthly In Tutorial, Online Tests (3 x 15%)


29 September, 31 October, 28 November



Research Paper:

1 Individual Paper




Submitted to A2L on

24 October 2016 by 6:00pm (a hard copy must also be submitted to your TA on this date as well)



Group Project:



Submitted to A2L on

5 December  2016 by 6:00pm

(a hard copy must also be submitted to your TA on this date as well)



Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions and Late Penalties

All assignments are due on the due date provided. Any submission after that date will mean that the assignment is late. Please note that MSAF is for a maximum period of three days, and can only be used for the assignment’s due date.

Your assignments are due in the digital dropbox on A2L by the deadlines listed in this course outline. You must also hand your assignment in to your TA in your assigned tutorial during the assigned week. You must post each assignment on A2L dropbox and hand it in to the TA. If you have made an arrangement with your TA to drop your assignment off at an alternative time and place, then you may do so without penalty. If you have not made such an arrangement, assignments not submitted to the digital dropbox on A2L and submitted to your TA will be considered late. Handing in late assignments will not be penalized for legitimate certifiable reasons such as illness or the death of a close family member. You must provide evidence for your reason (doctor's note, death certificate).

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at www.mcmaster.ca/academicintegrity

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at mcmaster.ca/msaf/. If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail sas@mcmaster.ca. For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:


Schedule of Events (subject to change upon notice)

Date                 Topic                                                               Readings/Assignments

Week 1            Syllabus Handed Out

(8 Sept)           Introduction to Course

                        Role of Research/Asking Questions                           Stacks: Chapter 1


[An introduction to the course and the role of research in public relations.  Focus is on what and why we do in the research process and the types of questions best answered by what research methods and analytical procedures.]


Week 2            Research Management                                    Stacks: Chapter 2

(15 Sept)                                                                                                                    

[An analysis of the public relations research process, from asking questions, to stating objectives, to establishing the research time-line. Focus is on setting measurable objectives that meet the business goals for the organization or client.]


Week 3            Measurement                                                               Stacks: Chapter 3

(22 Sept)

[Measurement and its reliability and validity are introduced; “data” are defined; and attitude and belief measures are discussed.]


Week 4            Descriptive Statistics/Reporting Data                          Stacks: Chapter 4

(29 Sept)                                                                                                                    


[The primary mode of analysis — descriptive statistics — are explored.  The concept of quantitative “data” is explored and both categorical and continuous variables are analyzed.  Categorical (frequency, percentage, proportion), continuous (mean, median, mode, variance, standard deviation, z-score, correlation) statistics are computed and analyzed.  How data are reported, and how it can be misrepresented are discussed. SPSS is introduced for computational statistics and graphical presentation.]


Test #1 – in Tutorial



Date                             Topic                                                   Readings/Assignments


Week 5            Ethics/Historical & Secondary Research/Researching Online            

(3 Oct)                                                                                                 Stacks: Chapter 5, 7


 [The treatment of human beings as research targets is discussed in detail. The ethics in reporting data is also discussed. The research dealing with the analysis of already established data or happenings are examined, as is the acquisition of information on the Internet.]



MID TERM BREAK  -- no class 10 October 2016


Week 6            Content Analysis                                                         Stacks: Chapter 6

(17 Oct)                                                                                                          


[Content analysis, the only research method that focuses specifically on message is examined.  A sample content analysis assignment will be conducted in and out of class.]                 


Week 7            Case Studies                                                                Stacks: Chapter 8

(24 Oct)                                                                                                          

                        Individual Research Assignment Due in Tutorial and Posted on A2L


 [The case study, a basic public relations staple is examined and dissected.  The discussion focuses on three types of case studies—linear, process, and grounded—and their advantages and limitations in gaining an understanding of public relations.]


Week 8            Observational Methods                                               Stacks: Chapter 9

(31 Oct)                                                                                                                      


[Three research methods that do not allow for generalization of results are examined.  Based on the degree of control the researcher has on the collection of “data,” participant-observation, focus group, and in-depth interview methods are examined for what they provide the public relations researcher.]


            Test #2 – In Tutorial

Date                             Topic                                       Readings/Assignments


Week 9            Sampling                                                                     Stacks: Chapter 10

(7 Nov)

[Drawing inferences from small numbers of individuals selected from a larger population is the focus of this unit.  The focus is on establishing the sample based on expected measurement and sampling error.]



Week 10          Survey, Poll & Experimental Methods                        Stacks: Chpts 11-12

(14 Nov)                                                                                                                                

[Gathering data from large groups of people is examined, differentiating between poll and survey methods.  Questionnaire construction is examined in detail and methods of participant contact are examined.]



Week 11          Guest Lecture – Lisa Covens, Vice President Leger 360                   

(21 Nov)                                                                                 Readings to be assigned


Week 12          Inferential Statistics                                                     Stacks: Chapter 13

(28 Nov)                                                                                             SPSS Handouts


 [Making inferences about whether a variable influenced another or whether the findings of a content analysis, survey, or experiment were due to what was expected or due to error is what inferential statistics are all about — the confidence we have in our findings.  Categorical (chi-square), continuous (t-test, ANOVA), & correlation inferential statistics are introduced and computed.]


Test #3  -- in Tutorial


Week 13          Writing Up Research                                                   Stacks: Chpts 14, 15

(5 Dec)            Best Practices                                                                         


[Perhaps the most difficult part of any research project is the final write-up and presentation.  This unit focuses on how to write for presentation and how to present findings.]


                        Group Assignment Due in Tutorial and Posted on A2L Last Class

Other Course Information:

Class and Tutorial Attendance. Attendance at both the lectures and the tutorials is simply in your best interest. The lectures will cover a great deal of material, much of which is very technical. Missing even one class will set you back.  If ill, please contact your Teaching Assistant (TA) for further assistance on missed material.