What is media research?

What is media research? This is a hard question to answer. Media scholars and researchers who specialise in this field conduct media research on many different topics from a large pool of areas. Some of these areas can be:

  • Literary fiction
  • Comics
  • Genres of music
  • Art film
  • Reality TV
  • Politics
  • Etc.

The topics that media scholars and researchers examine are also broad and can include topics such as: Katie Ellis’s study into how Australian broadband-based TV is moving to the internet and how people with disabilities are having trouble accessing it; and Alan McKee, Anthony Walsh, and Anne-Frances Watson’s research into how young men can be informed about healthy sexual development through the use of vulgar comedy. The vast difference between the topics mentioned above indicate that media research can be about nearly anything.

Arthur Berger (Berger 2014) looks at what research is in his book Media and Communication Research Methods: An Introduction to Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches and says that media and communication research can be split into either ‘qualitative’ or ‘quantitative’ research (pg. 26). Berger (2014) compares both research types and says qualitative research is theoretical which looks at and interprets the aesthetics of media texts which then leads to an evaluation (pg. 27). Berger (2014) says quantitative research is more about collecting data that can be counted and measured, it is more statistical, and it leads to the formation of a theory or hypothesis (pp. 26-27).

There are criticism that come with each method. Qualitative researchers are “…accused of ‘reading into’ texts things that are not there…” (Berger 2014, pg. 26) and that some opinions or interpretations can be “…excessive or even idiosyncratic” (pg. 27). Quantitative researchers are criticised for “…being too narrow, basing their research on what they can count, measure, and observe and neglecting other matters” (Berger 2014, pg. 26).

Katie Ellis’s Television’s Transition to the Internet: Disability Accessibility and Broadband-Based TV in Australia and Alan McKee, Anthony Walsh, and Anne-Frances Watson’s Using Digitally Distributed Vulgar Comedy to Reach Young Men with Information about Healthy Sexual Development are both hybrid examples of qualitative and quantitative research. These types of reports are more effective because they take their data and interpret it or make interpretations and use data to back up their positions.

For example, Ellis (2014) looks at how television accessibility is covered by the Broadcasting Services Act and the Disability Discrimination Act which says “…people with disability must have access to goods and services unless provision of this access causes an unjustifiable hardship” (pg. 56). Ellis looks at how TV services are applying for exemptions for providing captioning to those who are disabled and backs this up with a list of services and channels that are exempt from doing so. This research is more qualitative but uses some quantitative research to make it stronger.

McKee et al in comparison are more quantitative than qualitative. Mckee’s et al (2014) “…conducted 20 focus groups with 89 young people between the ages of fourteen and sixteen from five Brisbane schools…” (pg. 129) to collect data. This data was then analysed to draw conclusions about how vulgar comedy can be used as a form of entertainment education to teach teenage boys about healthy sexual development. This is a strong text because the data they have allows them to draw informed conclusions that are more credible than just purely qualitative research articles.

Overall, media research can be split into two categories, qualitative, and quantitative. Each category has its pros and cons but together can create research that is informed, strong, and credible.


Berger, A.A. 2014, ‘What is research?’, in Media and communication research methods : an introduction to qualitative and quantitative approaches, 3rd ed., SAGE, Los Angeles, pp. 13-32

Bonnybbx 2014, Mystic Library, image, Pixabay, viewed 13 March 2015, http://pixabay.com/p-425730/?no_redirect

Ellis, K 2014, ‘Television’s transition to the internet: disability accessibility and broadband-based TV in Australia’, Media international Australia, Vol. 153, No. November, pp. 53-63

McKee, A, Walsh, A & Watson, A.F. 2014, ‘Using digitally distributed vulgar comedy to reach young men with information about healthy sexual development’, Media International Australia, Vol. 153, No. November, pp. 128-137


2 thoughts on “What is media research?

  1. Great Blog. Katie Ellis’s research report made great use of qualitative and quantitative research to highlight the implications, for people with disabilities, of the digital innovation occurring in television. The quote, in the report, by Lauren Henley also really moved me. ‘ I lost many things when I lost my sight, but one of the things that I lost was social inclusion ‘.

    1. That line really moved me as well. It had never really occurred to me before that those with disabilities not having access to television were being socially excluded. This report really put into perspective how broadcasting companies are disadvantaging and treating people with disabilities as second rate citizens.

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