Weighing the Words

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Chapter 3 – Weighing the Words

Read Chapter 3 in our textbook and then answer the following questions.

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This chapter is an easier read than many in this text. By this I mean that it is more conversational and easier to comprehend. At the same time, the overall concept of the chapter, learning to recognize good theory, is something that will help increase your overall sophistication. We are constantly bombarded by opinions, facts, and theories. Whether its an article you are reading about an international event, a sit-com episode that is inadvertently pushing a certain moral belief, or your Uncle Wally going off on one of his political rants during Thanksgiving dinner, we are constantly in a position to interpret different ideas that are delivered to us through various means. Uncle Wally probably isn’t going to include citations to his research, nor should he feel compelled to in a family conversation, but your ability to recognize good theory can be very helpful when trying to decipher a logical argument from some fallacy (fallacy: noun, plural fallacies. 1.a deceptive, misleading, or false notion, belief, etc.: “That the world is flat was at one time a popular fallacy.” dictionary.com)

1. Please list the six standards that help make an objective theory good.

2.The Depression-era bandit, Willy Sutton (who happened to be one of the prisoners who escaped from Eastern State Penitentiary on Fairmount Avenue via a tunnel in 1945) was asked why he robbed banks, and his reply was, “Because that’s where the money is.” Explain why the author uses this as a metaphor to explain the importance of explaining data. (page 25)

3. Explain practical utility in your own words. (page 28)

4. Surveys are one method for developing quantitative research, but why do we need to be careful about attaching too much meaning to a survey? In other words, how can the results of a survey be deceiving? The answer to this question is not spelled out in the text — you need to read the section and then do your own critical thinking. (page 29-30)

5. Please list the standards of good interpretive theory.

6. Clarification of Values. The author states that an interpretive theorists should reveal their own ethical commitments. Why do you think this is important? How does one’s own ethics or ideology influence research? (page 30)

7. Aesthetic appeal may be a surprising standard, especially if you have been trained in the scientific method, which in no way emphasizes it. I was completely shocked when my graduate adviser returned the first draft of my master’s thesis covered in red ink (I thought I was a good writer!) Why do you think she wanted me to take my writing to a new level of quality? (page 31)

8. Many undergraduate students gravitate toward objective theory. This is probably partly due to the fact that during earlier stages of education (middle school and high school) the scientific method is emphasized, so it is more familiar. But some students eventually turn away from objective theory because they become attracted to interpretive theory. Perhaps the reason some students turn toward interpretive theory and the research that supports it is because of Standard 5. Objective researches maintain objectivity by NOT trying to change society, but sometimes such an attitude seems cold or detached from reality. The author refers to the struggle for power as a common, but general goal. Please provide one example of a social problem you are currently aware of that might be addressed by interpretive communication theory. (page 32)

9. Please explain in your own words what is meant by the maxim that Einstein hung on his office wall: “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” How is this a good example of what qualitative research works to explain about reality? (page 33)

10. The last section of this chapter, Contested Turf and Common Ground Among Theorists, is the author’s attempt to encourage students to be open to both approaches to research and theory. Quite a few different ideas about this are presented in a brief section. Regardless of which approach you find more appealing, what do you think is the key to respecting the work of both objective and interpretive theorists.

textbook:Griffin, Em, Andrew Ledbetter, and Glenn Sparks. A First Look at Communication Theory, 9th Ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2015. (ISBN 978-0-07-352392-7)

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