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Why I Teach Research Methods

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Wanting to understand ourselves and the world around us is a human impulse. We want to understand so that we can have agency over our lives. Although speculations abound about the nature and causes of human and societal behavior, many of those speculations turn out to be wrong.

Only when our instincts are evaluated using scientific methods can we distinguish illusion from reality. This is why I teach the course "Communication Research Methods." 

I want students to be able to apply social science methods to evaluate the validity of claims related to real-world phenomenon: How do we ask the right questions? How do we determine what methods and data are appropriate? How can we analyze data and make use of powerful analytical tools such as the R programming language? Over the quarter, we learn by doing, by applying these tools to real-world challenges.

Teaching Research Methods is unique because I get to share with students how to make scientific discovery and generate new knowledge. It does not matter whether you come to class with preexisting knowledge of social science methods, statistics, or programming. Everyone can use these tools. It does not matter whether you are considering a career related to research or a career completely unrelated to research. Our lives can all benefit from using social science approaches to inform critical thinking and decision-making.

Research methods enable us to understand the how and why of human and societal behavior and in doing so create powerful tools for improving the quality of life for all of us now and for future generations who follow us. I hope to see you in class.

Katrin Wheeler

Student Services Manager
Communications Department 

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