LSC research methods course teaches students fundamental skills for success

You might not expect a single course to help prepare students for careers in advertising, journalism, market research, digital marketing, and public relations among others. But LSC 250: Research Methods in the Communication Industry does just that. The course teaches students the skills needed to synthesize and analyze data – an important skill in a broad range of fields.

LSC 250 focuses on developing research method skills including understanding research reports and data, identifying markets, segmenting audiences, measuring attitudes and developing effective campaign strategies and messages.

According to LSC chair Dominique Brossard, “The skills students learn in LSC 250 are fundamental for future academic research, but it is important to remember students will use those same skills when they graduate and move on to work in the industry.  Identifying and articulating trends in data is critical.”

Assistant Professor Neil Stenhouse teaches students data visualization skills

LSC’s Neil Stenhouse teaches students how to effectively communicate quantitative findings.

Through the course, students learn to design and conduct surveys, experiments and other forms of inquiry, interpret data, and write reports clearly demonstrating data significance.  Additionally, students work in groups to create an experimental or observational study with their peers.

“This course is really helping me. I am planning on getting a certificate in business so this course is giving me a lot of the background knowledge needed for a career in a variety of business fields,” notes LSC major Elizabeth Woidat. “The concepts in this course can apply to a lot of different majors.  It is also good to have this background knowledge when participating in research on campus.”

The class is a core requirement for LSC majors; the course also fulfills the university’s social science requirement so many students enter the course from different majors or backgrounds.

“Quantitative data analysis allows you to go beyond hunches and assumptions to test what kinds of communications actually work. A lot of the time, people’s instincts and ‘conventional wisdom’ about how to communicate well are right. But sometimes they aren’t, and rigorous quantitative methods help you see when that’s the case,” explains Assistant Professor Neil Stenhouse, who teaches the course this semester. “The class is about finding out why research can help better understand the audiences of people in the communication industry, and how best to communicate with them.”

The course tackles a range of topics within communication research – from how to interpret industry research to how to compose compelling data-based reports. In class on November 17th, Stenhouse stressed the importance of good data visualization skills in communicating research, pointing out that data journalism is a growing field with the emergence of big data.

Stenhouse went on to provide students relevant examples of graphs explaining that good data visualization comes from analyzing visuals down to the minutia, having a keen eye for design, and including the right information.

Alaa Mahmood is a LSC major who is also getting a certificate in computer science and digital media – both of which are data driven fields. “I am learning a lot of new things in this course.  It is very different from anything I’ve experienced before.  It is a very detailed look at data and how to communicate findings in a compelling way which will be useful in any field.”

The course lays the foundation for a number of other courses – both theoretical and applied – and teaches students the skills needed to understand, interpret, and present quantitative data in any industry.