By Janet Chavarria, Joanne Dao, Zoey Nguyen, Daniella Perez
Currently working as a Communications professor at California State University, Fullerton, Dr. Mark Guohua Wu is an expert in the field of Advertising and Online Consumer Behavior. With his 22 years of teaching experiences, he gave us insights into the field of Communication research.
Dr. Wu received his academic degrees in Advertising from the Top 50 world-renowned universities, such as a Ph.D. from The University of Texas at Austin, an M.Sc. from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and a B.A from Beijing’s Tsinghua University. He is most well-known for his invention of the construct of “perceived interactivity of websites”. According to the Journal of Current Issues and Research, Dr. Wu was named the Top Cited Advertising Scholar.
We met with Dr. Wu for an interview where he shared with us his personal experiences with quantitative data collection and his thoughts on social media as a research tool. Below, we share the main points of our discussion with him.
Managing a large pool of data when conducting quantitative research
With his research expertise, Dr. Wu tends to focus more on quantitative data. One difficulty that comes along with conducting this type of research is the size of the pool of data that is drawn. However, Dr. Wu is not intimidated by these larger quantities ––– he emphasizes that the larger the pool, the better the data will turn out to be. He takes a headstrong approach and told us right away that he would likely utilize SPSS softwares when dealing with larger data base. ” [It] allows me to do a lot of complicated statical analysis, from descriptive statistics to inferential statistics.” said Dr. Wu, explaining his reasoning behind using this software. He went on to explain that he leans towards structural equation modeling. The exploration of the relationships between all of the different variables allows the most conclusive research to be done.
Bias & Errors within quantitative data
The key to any quantitative research is measurement. When using quantitative methods like survey research, we are trying to measure variables and we make sure those variables are accurately scaled using measurement scales. Dr. Wu explains that the most important part of survey research is survey design and that is where lots of errors are made.
Potential bias can stem from many types of errors within the design phase. “Survey design has lots of errors. We have all kinds of errors,” said Dr. Wu. “ We have sampling errors, and the non-sampling errors which are pretty much the measurement errors.” Measurement errors comes from many different sources, be it the sample, the researchers, the respondents, and even the survey instruments itself. To reduce sampling errors, Dr. Wu suggests that we increase sample size; however, researchers need to trade-off between the costs and the sample size. For other measurement errors, he expressed the importance of making sure that researchers, research assistants, and even those who may participate in the survey should be properly trained.
” There are no true [ways] to eliminate all biases. We just do the best we can to make sure the design is solid, and the measurement skills are valid. “
– Dr. Mark Wu
Suggestions for beginners when dealing with potential challenges
First and foremost, to be able to deal with a large data base, data errors, and research methodologies, students need to pay attention to the foundation of research, which is the knowledge that is commonly taught in college classes. Dr. Wu recommends students to conduct their own research and be detail-oriented when it comes to data collecting and its concepts. “If you’re doing quantitative research, be as objective as possible…Underline the assumptions of quantitative research, try to find the truth, and you don’t want your personal opinions get into the process,” said Dr. Wu.
Social media as a research tool
When asked to share his thoughts on social media as a research tool, Dr. Wu shared that platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc. are “ the new forms of communication and [is] definitely where lots of research have been done to address social issues.” He further explained that social media research deals a lot with analytics, where you can track data and visualize it. Data visualization is definitely helpful with research as you can track and see how people respond to certain things they see online.
Is social media an advantage when it comes to research?
Social media is definitely advancing and it will continue to grow in the future, but the fundamentals of research will always stay the same. Dr. Wu shares that there is not much of an advantage per se as research are still done the same way today as it was done back in his days. However, social media has definitely helped with accelerating the speed of data gathering and there are a lot more data available today. Essentially, old tools are now being put to use in the domain of social media.
Advice for student researcher
Before ending the interview, Dr. Wu left us with a piece of much-appreciated advice for beginners in research: finding patterns is crucial when you go through a tremendous amount of data. “Students need to cast through the noise,…and find insights,” said Dr. Wu. When dealing with a pool of information, finding the right one is tricky. Hence, methods taught in research classes will utterly become a helpful assistant in helping you select the information that you need for further analysis along the journey of data research and collecting.