Mass Media Research and its Methods

Hannah Medina
3 min readJul 19, 2021
Photo by on Unsplash

When we reflect on how we would like to investigate a research question, it comes down to the methods. How do we as researchers want to obtain our information and synthesize the information learned? Both quantitative and qualitative methods may produce beneficial information but in many ways fundamentally different explanations. With a psychology background, I have always enjoyed using qualitative studies to piece every portion of the person and the information they are presenting into focus. Let’s dive into two separate studies on mass communication and analyze how these methods are too presented.

Image from Optimal Workshop

The first article by Julie Suleski and Motomu Ibraki titled Scientists are talking. Still, mostly to each other: a quantitative analysis of research represented in mass media reflects the use of quantitative analysis. This study aimed to uncover the lack of scientific literacy in the public sphere. According to their research, fewer than 0.013 to 0.34% of papers received attention from mass media. A specific period was selected from 1990 to 2001 to analyze scientific articles in the media. This was a time in which no particular story was seen dominating mainstream media. The methods section continues to highlight the straightforward guidelines that were adhered to compare the numbers properly. In an overarching sense, this section was only focused upon the numbers that may fit within the parameters for the study. This still helped to visualize how the popularity of scientific material has drastically changed in mass media across the years. Comparatively to our following paper, it did not effectively answer the personal reason seen in the qualitative approach.

The second article to examine today is by Neneh Rowa-Dewar and Amanda Amos, titled Disadvantaged Parents’ Engagement with a National Secondhand Smoke in the Home Mass Media Campaign: A Qualitative Study. This study focused on how parents’ strategies in interacting with this campaign raise awareness of the importance of smoke-free homes. This was conducted through semi-structured interviews with 17 parents in conjunction with running the new “Right Outside” media campaign. With the setup of this interview process being two parts, both before and after the campaign’s promotion, marketers understood the actual effects of their campaign. This allowed for a proper perspective, understood the participants’ motivations from the campaign, and introduced awareness.

Although the quantitative approach is much clearer in its objective structuring, I still lean towards the qualitative approach. Mass media often comes down to the audience’s perspective and how the reach may be broadened. For these purposes, I would presume a qualitative or mixed-methods study to prove the most useful. If looking for the response and engagement of a pure number, then quantitative research is necessary.