Interview with Dr. Elise Anguizola Assaf
By Kristiana Bashian, Julia Mitchell, Larissa Lamego, Garett Fisher, Max Miller

The scholar we chose to interview for this assignment is Dr. Elise Anguizola Assaf, who is a communication professor at Cal State Fullerton. Dr. Assaf is an assistant professor in the Department of Communications, primarily teaching public relations courses in the undergraduate communications program. She has completed her Ph.D. in Education at Chapman University, and holds a M.A. in Communications and a B.A. in Communications, emphasis in public relations, from Cal State Fullerton. Dr. Assaf’s research interests combine her communications and disability studies backgrounds, looking at representations of mental health in media. Her work focuses on qualitative methods, including content analysis and critical discourse analysis of texts in order to understand linguistic elements and sources of power.

We sat down with Dr. Assaf to talk about her research interests and her methods used to complete research methods. She touched upon two very different topics of research, one being a project she joined after it had already been established, which was research on student run agencies on the world wide web. She also discussed ones she has started on her own and how that differs compared to the one she joined . Each research project had very different styles of completing the research process. 

For her research on student run agencies on the world wide web, she was at the time going through her doc program and decided to reach out to two faculty members at Cal State Fullerton who she had worked with as a teacher’s assistant, Doug Swanson and Peter E. She approached them by asking if they had any research they were working on, or thinking about starting that she would be a good fit for and they invited her to join on a project that had already begun. This research project was about student run agencies and to see whether or not student run agencies actually demonstrate marketplace communication that is strategic, creative, and professionally appropriate. The study was meant to expose strengths and weaknesses of student agency work. This project was unique because Dr. Assaf did not conduct the research herself. Instead, “the research was conducted by students. It was part of the practical advantage class. The students took student run PR agencies across the nation and analyzed them for different factors, including imagery, data included, and if they were operational.”(Assaf) The results were then given to Dr. Assaf and Prof. Swanson to analyze and write up. 2 years after the project was started, they were able to present it at a conference.           

We asked her about research projects she has started on her own, specifically we asked her if she takes a specific approach to every research project she conducts, or if the approach varies depending on the topic?

Dr. Assaf explained that because she has a specific research style, she tends to appear things the same way. As I mentioned before, a majority of her research focuses on discourse analysis. Specifically critical discourse analysis. She explained that whenever she is watching TV, or reading newspapers or whatever the case may be, she is hyper focused on the language people use. A lot of her research starts in that way, it will come about from something she is already interested in, not necessarily research related. However it then sparks her interest in diving deeper and starting a research project based on specific phrases used, or things not being said a certain way, or voices being left out from the people who are actually experiencing the problem versus other sources, all across various media platforms. This is typically how her research starts. 

We then asked her how she determines what the best method for approaching her research is, whether that be using a survey, using a focus group, conducting an interview, etc.?

Dr. Assaf further explained that because a majority of her research topics are critical analysis, she uses a qualitative research method for almost every project and analyzes documents. One of the benefits to the type of research she does, is that she does not have to go through the Institutional Review Board (IBR) process, because her research does not require any human subjects. For her research, the documents she analyzes are all publicly accessible, so she can conduct the research without having to wait on someone for her to continue the process. Dr. Assaf discusses that for discourse analysis and content analysis, you could approach the research by using a survey in which you would ask yourself such questions for each document such as:

Does this article include a source, yes or no? She has used this method for various research projects. She also talks about a program called, NVivo, which she also uses often. She believes it is a great resource for qualitative researchers, where you can upload your pdf and documents and create a code for them. She expresses that the benefit to using a coding program is that you can come up with codes prior to conducting your research and then as you are conducting it, as an iterative process of coming up with codes as you are reading through it. She believes that you don’t always think of everything beforehand, so it allows you to evolve as you are conducting the research. She also suggests simply using an excel sheet when analyzing your documents and creating your own code to narrow down your findings. She has created excel sheets made up of different columns to organize her documents through headlines, date published, what publication they were in, and additional details that she was focusing on for her specific study. 

We also asked her how important it was to be interested in the research you are conducting?

Dr. Assaf could not emphasize enough how important it is to be interested in the topic you decide to further research and create a project out of. She talked about one of the recommendations she was given prior to her dissertation, “You want a research study that you are interested enough to where you can go the next couple of years working on it. The reality of it is that you are working on these projects for really long periods of time. Even when you are done with the project, you have to keep pushing, because you may have to send it to more than one journal publication” (Assaf) She explained that your project stays in front of you for a while and if you do get accepted by a journal publication, you will likely have to do revisions. So you have to remain interested enough for people to desire to hear what your research is on, which is why it is incredibly important to be interested in your topic of research.   

Lastly we asked Dr. Assaf whether she believes that research skills are something you learn directly from classes or something you learn through practice? 

Dr. Assaf believes that she developed her research skills through lots and lots of practice. While research courses such as ours, can definitely help, conducting your own research on topics you are interested in truly helps you learn. She added that she just recently joined a research assistant role unlike ones she is used to, but the fact that she is so interested in the topic, makes her eager to learn more about it and the process. She thinks it can open her mind up and help her research other topics in different ways.     

Interview with Dr. Elise Anguizola Assaf  :

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