Routledge Handbook of Applied Communication Research. Lawrence R. Frey and Kenneth N. Cissna, eds. New York, NY: Routledge, 2009. 670 pp.
I don’t understand what the intended market for this book is. The word “handbook” in the title suggests it might be used in an introductory graduate research methods course. A handbook usually tells you how to do something. This book doesn’t.
The editors are, respectively, professors of communication at the universities of Colorado and South Florida. They both are winners of the Gerald M. Phillips Award for Distinguished Applied Communication Scholarship presented by the National Communication Association. They have collected thirty-five co-authors of the twenty-four chapters that make up this “handbook,” mostly faculty members in communication or communication studies programs.
The handbook offers four pages on content analysis, three pages on survey research and three pages on experimental research. It offers a definition of content analysis attributed to K.A. Neuendorf in a 2002 book, a definition almost identical with Berelson’s of fifty years earlier. True, Berelson is referenced, but I don’t know why his work wasn’t quoted.
Sampling in content analysis is not discussed in specific terms. The only mention of computerized content analysis is a statement that computerized coding enables you to code a lot of material. Likewise, the book doesn’t deal with sampling in surveys. Neither is interviewing, nor the advantages and disadvantages of mail surveys, Internet surveys, telephone surveys, and personal interview surveys.
The material on experimental re-search is stronger, with good points on randomization and controls. Unfortunately, it does not go beyond this to deal with details of experimental design. Oddly enough, experimental research is not mentioned in the index.
There is one page on agenda setting, consisting largely of references and lacking an overview or statement of where we are in agenda setting. The handbook provides two references to articles from this journal; I found nineteen articles on agenda setting in the JMCQ indexes for 1984-1993 and 1994-2003.
What the book does offer is an extensive list of references. Yet the list of references about applied communication research that does not include names such as Hugh Culbertson, Wayne Danielson, Paul Deutschmann, Bruce Garrison, James Grunig, Steve Lacy, Ivan Preston, Daniel Riffe, and John Russial can hardly be considered complete.
There are about 3,900 references, and that takes up about a fourth of the book. Of those references, 439 are from The Journal of Applied Communication Research, and fewer than twenty are from Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly. That reflects the slant of this “handbook” toward interpersonal communication and away from mass communication.
Discussion of the cited articles is limited. On a given topic, there is, in most cases, a brief discussion followed by a list of citations. There is little indication of the contribution of a specific article or of which articles are most important. An annotated bibliography probably would tell you more.
The strength of the book is that it deals with a number of topics in separate chapters. These include such topics as communication as it relates to families, nonprofit organizations, aging, education, adolescents, and public health.
The chapter that JMCQ readers will probably find most interesting is the one on political communication. That topic necessarily involves mass media, and the majority of the references to this journal are in that chapter.
While the topic chapters offer a student or faculty researcher some ideas for research, the book does not provide detailed information on how to do research. That plus the emphasis on interpersonal communication makes this book of limited value either as a text or a personal reference for people in mass communication.
GUIDO H. STEMPEL III