College of Mass Communication

Quantitative Research Methods

MC 6110-001

Spring 2008

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COURSE: Mass Communication 6110 (Quantitative Research Methods)

SPSS Career Starter
SPSS Syntax Reference Guide
Human Participant Protections Education for Research Teams

INSTRUCTOR: Dr. Larry Burriss, Ph.D., J.D.
OFFICE: Comm 258
PHONE: 615-898-2983 (office)
615-898-5682 (fax)
615-957-9753 (home)

Dr. Burriss is a professor in the School of Journalism, a former president of the MTSU Faculty Senate and a former member of the Tennessee Board of Regents. He has served as dean of the college of mass communication and director of the School of Journalism. He received his bachelor's and master's degrees from The Ohio State University, where he majored in broadcast journalism. He also has a master's degree in human relations from the University of Oklahoma.

Dr. Burriss received his Ph.D. in communication from Ohio University, where he minored in law, and his J.D. from Concord Law School.

He is particularly interested in issues dealing with new technology and with government-media relations.

Dr. Burriss has worked in both print and broadcast news, and in public relations. He has published extensively in professional research journals, as well as in popular magazines.

He was a lieutenant colonel in the Tennessee Air National Guard, where he was the director of public affairs. He served in Mali, Bosnia, Somalia, Central America, England and Germany.

Dr. Burriss enjoys travel, reading, and was ranked 3rd in the Tennessee Division, American Fencing Association.


The student is expected to become familiar with the major forms of quantitative research methods. You will become conversant with research theory and research ethics, then proficient in methods of data collecton (surveys, content analysis, experimental design) to include design and execution, and data analysis (t-test, chi-square, Spearman rank order correlation, Pearson product moment correlation and ANOVA).


1. Regular attendance and participation
2. Research project
3. IRB Form

"Hmmmm," you may be saying to yourself. "Our entire grade is based on a term paper and something called 'IRB Form'?" Well, yes and no. You see, this "term paper" as you so disparagingly call it, has to be a publishable piece of research. That means it has to have certain clearly defined parts that meet certain clearly defined standards. It has to have research questions and null hypotheses linking at least one dependent variable to at least one independent variable. It has to have an exhaustive literature review. It has to have a plan for gathering data and then a plan for statistical analysis of the data. Then it has to have a conclusion and suggestions for further research. Oh, and did I mention all of this has to be in written form, in the correct style for the journal to which you will submit your article?

One of your biggest concerns is probably with the phrase "statistical analysis." Well, we are NOT going to put red and blue balls in a box and figure out the probability of drawing out one that matches your mother's hair color. What we will do is gather data and then use the SPSS statistical package to analyze that data. SPSS provides clearly defined procedures for analyzing data. All you do is type in your numbers then click on "analyze" and you're done. Well, it's not really quite that easy, but it's really quite simple if you just think about what you are doing and why you are doing it.

At this point you may be saying (wailing, actually), "But I don't know how to do any of that stuff!" Correct! You don't! That's what we're going to learn in the class. The course is conducted on a "learn-by-doing" paradigm. That is, you will conduct a legitimate media research project, and much of the class lectures/discussions will focus on the process of doing that research.

Each student will carry out either a content analysis or an analysis of available data. That is, you will use various statistical techniques to analyze a series of dependent and independent variables. But before you get to the stats you must gather data. And before you gather data you must develop a research question and a null hypothesis. But before you do that must see what has already been done in relation to your topic.

So, what we're going to do is approach the course from two directions at once: data gathering and data analysis. Each week we will spend time discussing methods of data collection and methods of data analysis. How we do that will depend, to a certain extent, on your projects.

Now, what's this "IRB" thing? Briefly it is a form in which you describe how you are going to deal with human subjects. Although we will not be using human subjects in this class, it is still important you know what you can, and can't do with, to or for research subjects. So, before you begin gathering your data, assume you are gathering the data from real people, and fill out the form as appropriate.

So, for those of you who need a road-map with clearly defined directions, here is what you will be turning in:

Research questions and null hypotheses
Literature review and journal report
Data gathering method and IRB
SPSS Command file
Data analysis
Conclusions and suggestions for future research


By enrolling in this course, you are indicating your recognition and acceptance of your responsibility to read, understand and meet the course requirements set forth, both in written and spoken form, and that you will not be exempted from these requirements because of ignorance, negligence or contradictory advice from any source.

Academic Misconduct

Plagiarism, cheating and other forms of academic dishonesty are prohibited. Students guilty of academic misconduct, either directly or indirectly through participation or assistance, are immediately responsible to the instructor of the class. In addition to other possible disciplinary sanctions which may be imposed through the regular institutional procedures as a result of academic misconduct, the instructor has the authority to assign an F or a zero for the exercise or examination; or to assign an F in the course. If the student believes he or she has been erroneously accused of academic misconduct, and if his or her final grade has been lowered as a result, the student may appeal the case through the appropriate institutional procedures.

Reasonable Accommodation for Students with Disabilities

If you have a disability that may require assistance or accommodation, or if you have a question related to any accommodations for testing, note takers, readers, etc., please contact me as soon as possible. Students may also contact the Office of Disabled Student Services (898-2783) with questions about such services.

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)

In general, under FERPA I am not permitted to disclose your academic progress to anyone not allowed to receive such information. Thus I cannot discuss your academic progress, grades, etc., over the phone or via e-mail. All such discussions must be in person. At the end of the semester I cannot disclose your final grade over the phone or via e-mail. Nor can I "post" your grades on my door. You will receive your final grades via PIPELINEMT or WEBMT. Additionally I cannot access your grades if you have a "hold" on your records.


Turn in
Jan. 17
  Introduction. Content analysis.
Jan. 24
  Data collection methods. Statistical methods.
Jan. 31
Feb. 7
Discuss research projects Ethics. Qualitative methods.
Feb. 14
  Available data.
Feb. 21
Null hypothesis. Research Question. Background Data analysis.
Feb. 28
  Introduction to SPSS.
March 6
March 13
Literature review and journal report chi-square test, t-test
March 20
  Spearman rank order correlation
March 27
Description of sample and IRB form Pearson Product Moment Correlation
April 3
  Oneway Anova
April 10
  Chapter 7. Survey research.
April 17
SPSS command and data files Chapter 8. Longitudinal research
April 24
  Chapter 9. Experimental research
May 1
Completed project  

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