LSC 250, “Research Methods in the Communication Industry,” introduces students to the research methods used in mass communication by giving them experience in all stages of the public opinion research process, such as survey design and focus groups.
The class gives students resources to develop skills in collecting, analyzing and translating data into reports for presentation to specific audiences as well as developing specific campaign strategies.
“What is interesting about the course from an undergraduate perspective is that the students create, execute and analyze a survey on a topic of their choosing,” said instructor Kristin Runge, who teaches the class, “Essentially we choose something related to media or public opinion and the life sciences, and the students come up with the broad topics and all of the questions. Then they launch the survey and recruit everyone surveyed.”
In the 2012-2013 academic year, the LSC 250 students have conducted several research studies.
“The first survey we did was in November on how college students use media for the election. The results were very interesting, and we learned a lot about how students are filtering media according to their political ideology,” Runge explained, “This spring we are looking at how college students use media to engage with science, and how the use of online media to engage with science differs from the use of traditional media. We are finding that students are much more engaged with science than we predicted which is a really interesting behavior to discover.”
“LSC 250 is certainly unique in that it trains undergraduates in how social scientists discover new knowledge—this is usually graduate student content,” explained Shiela Reaves, Director of Undergraduate Studies, “However, LSC faculty believe that LSC 250 better prepares undergraduate students to read professional research with a discerning eye. Since it is an early core course, our students will do better in their LSC Capstone class. They will know how scholars think about research; they will appreciate the enormous amount of discipline needed to create new knowledge about the life sciences.”
By the end of the semester students taking this course will have gained all the skills and knowledge necessary to conduct and assess a scientific topic, skills which are very applicable and useful in a range of careers in the life sciences.
In fall 2013 the department plans to expand LSC 250’s enrollment to 100 students in order to provide an introduction to research for more students and reach those interested in the LSC undergraduate major earlier in their academic careers at UW-Madison.
Article and Photos by Jill Peters, LSC Undergraduate Intern.