Interview with Dr. Bey-Ling Sha on The Research Process

By Raquel Diaz, Natalie Urrutia, Stephanie Parra, and Sophia Bravo

As students attending CSUF, we got the chance to interview Dr. Bey-Ling Sha on the Research Process and specifically on her 2005 study on “Future professionals’ perceptions of work, life, and gender issues in public relations.” In this blog, we will discuss what we found and the incredible insight of Dr. Bey-Ling Sha.

Stephanie Parra:

I opened up by asking Dr. Bey-Ling Sha about her creation of media programs to enhance student and faculty diversity, alongside the idea of the “diversity pipeline” for US media professions, and if minority leaders are important when it comes to the diversity pipeline. She stated that “Each of us in our daily lives can behave in ways that influence other people. Leadership is defined as influencing other people. I do think that having people in leadership that represent different groups of people are important. If you can’t see it then you can’t be it, having someone of a minority group in a leadership position has the power to encourage people into the pipeline”. 

Next, I asked Dr. Bey-Ling Sha what she would say is the idea of someone’s “identity” and what drove her research and funneled new ideas when conducting research methods. She went on to say, “When you grow up as an immigrant child in the US you grow up with “American culture”. Thus, when you’re a child in a family of immigrants, oftentimes children partake in cultural interpretation for their parents, and have to explain language and “normal” American culture to their parents.

Then I decided to ask Dr. Bey-Ling Sha about her work in the U.S. Census Bureau. I asked how the experience of the census changing and letting people identify as more than one thing in their paperwork, established the connection between herself and her research on new generations of students being able to choose more than one identity. She said, “The 2000 Census was the first time people could identify under more than one group, and it was important for our country because we used to put people of various diversity into one box and when you give people the opportunity to pick more than one box, it gives them more to choose from that represents them. This showed that people belong to many different groups

Sophia Bravo:

“What finding in your research has shocked you the most?”

Professor Sha mentioned in our interview that she had quite a few things come up in the research that shocked her the most. She mentioned a stand out being that “after fourth to fifty years of research women in public relations women are still paid less.” This shocked her the most out of all of her notable research in all of her years, hoping that by now women would have more equality in both treatment and pay. She wishes that she could say that now women are looked at as equal to men in both the workforce and public relations, but infuriated her that unfortunately there has not been much growth in that area, and may even have taken some steps in going back in time. 

“What was the biggest obstacle you faced when completing this study?”

Issues that she had noticed with her survey was that students were not checking their emails so they didn’t know they were being emailed. Also, some of the students that were being reached out to had already graduated; therefore were not checking their old school email, and was just overall hard to get student engagement.

“What would you do differently if you had to do this research experiment again?”

What the professor found that she would do differently in an updated version of her survey was to make it more condensed, and easier for the students to complete it. In our interview, she mentioned that the original copy was too long for them to finish. Almost two decades had passed since she condu

Raquel Diaz:

I had initially asked Dr. Sha about the method they had used for the research considering it was a low response rate. She discussed how they went with an online questionnaire because of how little the response rate was it was still higher than it would have been if they had gone with the mail-in version of this study. She said that the factored-in costs of the mail and the amount of time it would have taken just were not realistic. To calculate it statistically email came on top for the easiest.

I also asked how she had collaborated with other people doing the study with her to formulate the questionnaire. She stated that the most important thing was to look back at past research to come up with the best-rounded study. This being in 2005 it was a bit hard for her to recall the specifics.

The conclusion of the study was that there should be more focus on work-life balance and how gender issues are critical in improving the field. I asked if she could elaborate more on this statement and if she believed it still holds up to this day. She says that what we are finding now is that PR has found its name eroded over time. She believes that to some degree these problems are still very prevalent and in some cases getting worse in 2022.

Natalie Urrutia:

I began by asking Dr. Sha why she wanted to conduct this study and if a specific incident made her want to do this survey. She discussed that she cared a lot about the future of the Public Relations field. She said that there was not a specific incident, but as an educator, she wanted to know more about how the minds of the future people working in Public Relations. She believes that having insight into these college students’ think would help her how to teach her prospective students.  

Furthermore, I asked her if there were any claims she made in her study that she would disagree with today in 2022. She expressed that she wished she could add more on gender fluidity. Instead of only having girl and boy options on the survey, she would add a third option for people who do not identify as girl or boy. Having the third option would give more data to analyze. 

To end the interview, I wanted to ask her for advice for students in the Public Relations field on managing work-life balance. She explained that this generation has a good grasp of work-life balance. Most students a CSUF are good at working and going to school and still managing to make time for their friends and family. She mentioned that people criticize First-generation students for not knowing particular stuff. Still, she acknowledged that many first-generation know more about managing their work-like compared to what she learned at 20 years old.

Overall, Dr. Bey-Ling Sha was very personable and made this experience 10x more comfortable than we had thought. She has a great understanding of the PR world and it was a pleasure discussing these topics with her. We appreciate her valuing the students here at CSUF and for giving us a bit of her knowledge to help us flourish in the communications industry.

Dr. Doug Swanson’s Perception of Mindfulness and Social Media

By Gelsey Anica, Mackenzie Koch, and Lesly Ramirez

Dr. Doug Swanson is an accredited public relations practitioner and Professor of Communications at California State University, Fullerton. He came to public relations through journalism, working in radio, newspaper, and television. After receiving his doctorate, Dr. Swanson began his career in public relations as a writer, strategist, and event planner. He credits his abilities in writing to his long history in journalism. After working in public relations at a firm, he then accepted his role as a public relations professor.

Read more: Dr. Doug Swanson’s Perception of Mindfulness and Social Media

Dr. Swanson was drawn to the topic of mindfulness because of prior research that had been done in other professions as well as the benefits it can bring to people in the workplace. He says mindfulness can “greatly help reduce stress and anxiety in the workplace, and it can help people work together better.” Although it is studied and practiced in many other professions, such as the medical field, Dr. Swanson found that mindfulness is “rarely if ever, studied, discussed, or given any attention to in the communications disciplines”, even though it is a “very stressful field”. This discovery is what led him to study mindfulness in the field of communications, among both professionals and University students.

Dr. Swanson was drawn to the topic of mindfulness because of prior research that had been done in other professions as well as the benefits it can bring to people in the workplace. He says mindfulness can “greatly help reduce stress and anxiety in the workplace, and it can help people work together better.” Although it is studied and practiced in many other professions, such as the medical field, Dr. Swanson found that mindfulness is “rarely if ever, studied, discussed, or given any attention to in the communications disciplines”, even though it is a “very stressful field”. This discovery is what led him to study mindfulness in the field of communications, among both professionals and University students.

Mindfulness Defined and Workplace Relevance Explained by PR Professionals and PR Students

Data by Doug Swanson

Dr. Swanson expresses the importance of taking things one at a time and being flexible when it comes to mindfulness in order to maintain a smooth running work environment. The importance of this is because the best way rational decisions are made is when things are taken calmly and thought through. Swanson greatly emphasizes the importance of students not getting completely wrapped up in the stress their classes may bring, and reminds them that they do have a life outside of school and it is perfectly okay to take a break from school responsibilities.

Furthermore, Swanson has seen exceptional benefits and advantages when mindfulness is incorporated into his own workplace and with his own students as well. Swanson has now created his own mindfulness class, COMM 466T, Mindfulness and Media in PR. This class has the object of teaching students how to practice mindfulness as communication professionals. Swanson shares the anxiety and stress that a workplace can bring and this class helps in learning how to stay productive yet maintain peace of mind. Consuming media also requires the skill of mindfulness. Swanson highlights how easy it is to get consumed and frightened by the news we read, especially today where news can be altered in so many ways on social media. His solution is not to turn a blind eye to the news and ignore what is going on in the world but instead learn how to absorb this information and not let it affect us negatively. After taking this class, Swanson notes that students found a way to destress and become mindful on their own, which will help them in the long run professionally.

Source: The Economist

According to Dr. Swanson, the goal of social media is to make money through advertisements, and content is made purposefully alluring to draw people in and keep them continuously hooked and scrolling. This is why consumers must stay mindful of what they are seeing and how often they are seeing it. Student and professional success can be put at risk if the consumer is not mindful of how much media they are consuming on a daily basis. Consumers should not be so involved in social media that their physical and virtual worlds blur and become one. 

“I am not going to be so plugged in that this becomes my reality. I have to unplug and not be consumed by this.” 

Dr. Doug Swanson

Dr. Swanson expresses that public relations professionals have a hard time disconnecting from work. Those who are working in public relations have to stay alert to what is happening on social media, but it is important to develop a boundary between consuming media for work and for themselves. They have to know when they should know that work is done and have to set it aside. It is finding the balance between work and personal life and when to say when browsing social media is enough. 

The goal of public relations is prediction and control. Not to mention the ambiguity that comes with public relations. That is why Dr. Swanson recommends practicing mindfulness when going into any communication job, as well as setting up healthy habits as a student so that they can take these techniques into their professional careers. 

An Interview With Dr. Jasmine Meertins

By Kiana Isenberg, Lilly Carrillo, and Lauren Smith

We had the opportunity to interview Dr. Jasmine Meertins, an assistant professor in the College of Communications at Cal State Fullerton, about her most recent publication, Institutional Relational Maintenance Barriers and Perceptions of Relationship Quality Among Women With Incarcerated Partners (2022) and her experience conducting research in the field of intercultural communications. In addition, we discussed social media as a research tool, as well as the use of Tik Tok as a search engine

Prior to teaching, Dr. Meertins attended Yale University where she received her B.A. in political science and later graduated from George Washington University with an M.A. in international affairs. Realizing her passion lay in studying intercultural communications, she graduated from the University of Miami with a Ph.D. in communication and went on to develop a public health campaign to raise awareness of the HIV epidemic among youth in Santiago, Guatemala. Her research primarily focuses on health communication issues in underserved and minority communities in the U.S. and globally. She then became an assistant professor at Nevada State College where she taught numerous Public Relations courses. Dr. Meertins currently teaches Digital Foundations and upper-division level courses in Public Relations at Cal State Fullerton.

During our interview, we asked Dr. Meertins to elaborate on her study on relationships between women and their incarcerated partners and the research process. Her study used a quantitative research method to examine the relationship between several prison facilities and their impact on relationship quality from the perspective of a woman whose partner is incarcerated.

Read More…: An Interview With Dr. Jasmine Meertins

Can you walk us through the research process for your publication, Institutional Relational Maintenance Barriers and Perceptions of Relationship Quality Among Women With Incarcerated Partners, and the inspiration behind it for you and your colleagues?

In comparison to Dr. Meertins’ other studies, her publication Institutional Relational Maintenance Barriers and Perceptions of Relationship Quality Among Women With Incarcerated Partners was different in the way the data collection and research was done. Inspired by her personal background in law and communication and her colleague’s practice in criminal justice, they wanted to examine racial and ethnic differences between women and their incarcerated partners. For the study, she mentioned the data had already been collected and they did not have to design their own survey and ask questions to those affected by their incarcerated partners directly. It was common to have the data already presented to the researchers in the realm of criminal justice and it was a prevalent part of the research process. Dr. Meertins emphasized that research studies are similar, yet different in terms of the communications and criminal justice fields.

“It’s really important for the family structure for people [to] maintain romantic connections” – Dr. Jasmine Meertins

As for the process of the research, she explained that it was not conducted in the usual way for research. She described them doing the process as “backwards” since they already had the data retrieved from other sources. 

The first step was to analyze the data they obtained from their sources. From analyzing the data, they went on to determine what their research question would be and to study other data or research in that area of criminal justice and communications. After solidifying their research question, they moved on to their literature review. With their literature review, they gathered sources, data, and other publications to support their research question. Once their literature review developed, they came up with a theory or framework for their research. They named their theory the “Relational Maintenance Theory”, which is essentially the hypothesis for their research of incarcerated partners and their relationships with one another. From the data collected, they wrote about the barriers that affect the relationships of those with incarcerated partners, for example, phone calls and in-person visits. There were many methods to obtain the data that was collected, and from their own separate research, they concluded their results by using quantitative methods.

Source: LinkedIn

What problems or limitations did you run into conducting your research for this study?

Dr. Meertins shared there were several limitations her and her colleagues ran into while conducting their research. One difficulty was a lot of research is correlational, not causation which made it a challenge to prove anything during her study. An example she provided is the barrier of women not having money to visit their partners in prison and the effect being the relationship drifting apart. There is no way to prove one thing causes the other in this example, making it a correlation. Another issue was the lack of depth and answers. In her study, no interviews were conducted for Dr. Meertins to understand their feelings or answer the question, ‘why?’. The only information provided was numbered, which created a limitation for the study to include the thoughts and emotions behind the people involved. The final limitation mentioned was that the information used was old and collected over a decade ago, meaning things may have changed now.

Social media plays a prevalent role in today’s society, what are your thoughts on using social media as a research tool?

When asked if social media is a good research tool, Dr. Meertins responded, “Oh it’s really popular, that is what gets published nowadays”. The way she described it is for the first time in history, people have access to free data on social media to use and analyze for studies. From analyzing the engagement on applications to people’s responses to viral videos, Meertins described social media as a “gold mine” for studying users and their interactions with different applications. She mentioned a recent video she saw where six influencers were invited to the White House to meet President Biden and interview him. She noted an interesting study would be to analyze those six influencers’ followers and content before attending the White House versus their followers’ responses after posting their experience with the President at the White House.

Source: NoGood

When conducting a research study, do you prefer using a quantitative or qualitative method of analysis and why?

Dr. Meertins prefers conducting qualitative research studies in comparison to quantitative and other research methods. She liked qualitative methods more because she explained you can gain more information directly from people than just numbers. She really wanted to emphasize how to gain more traction in qualitative methods using different tools and outlets. She gave an example where her colleague wanted to create an app for young people to participate in clinical studies and to gain their insight directly through there. It would still be considered a qualitative method of research because she would gain direct communication on how they can influence young people to participate in a clinical trial through their application or website. It is important to note that Dr. Meertins enjoys the focus group portions of qualitative methods because she could engage with the participants and truly gain their insight instead of gaining insight through numbers and statistics. Meertins mentioned that she is not

What would your advice be for student researchers or beginners who are conducting their first research study?

Dr. Meertins’ advice for student researchers was to pick something that is interesting to you. She said, “If it’s interesting to you, don’t worry about if it’s interesting to anybody else, and don’t worry about if someone else has done it before”. She also advises not to worry too much about the research question because it will change as you continue to pull information. The way Dr. Meertins described it is to make the question ‘small’ and focus on one niche thing in the topic of your choosing.

Conversation with Dr. Miya Williams Fayne: Black Press’ role in the digital media

By Jillian Ferre, Susan Hernandez, and Lara Meneses

Dr. Miya Williams Fayne studies the Black Press in the new media age with an emphasis on entertainment and representation of Black Americans. Her respective publications give us an insight on the roles Black Americans have on the media and how she studies them. Dr. Williams Fayne has worked for Jet Magazine and Ebony Magazine, two Black Press publications, which have inspired her to focus on why entertainment content was at a rise. She was inspired to study how the traditional black press differed from the digital black press.

In the age of digital media, we’ve seen a shift in reeling in representation and voicing opinions that resonate to audiences, especially within minority groups.

We talked to Dr. Fayne about the dissertation she had done regarding advocacy in journalism and the digital migration of the Black press. Her two publications, Advocacy Journalism in the 21st century: Rethinking entertainment in digital Black press outlets and The Great Digital Migration: Exploring What Constitutes the Black Press Online, focus on how the Black press has changed in the digital age. She tackles the content of digital Black press outlets and how its created and catering to audiences.

The Digital Migration: Why is the black press so watered down?

We then discussed with Dr. Williams Fayne about another publication of hers titled The Great Digital Migration: Exploring what Constitutes the Black Press Online. One of the first things discussed regarding this article was how black press is often watered down because they are owned by white media companies. BIPOC representation in the media is crucial to creating a more diverse and inclusive community, but there is often a misunderstanding because the audience is unaware of the author or who is writing the article. When conducting interviews with journalists for this portion of her research project, Williams Fayne said that despite the journalists stating that they cared about who was writing the article, it was not going to change the fact if they read it or not. This was a particularly interesting piece of information to be received because it gives insight as to why people consume biased journalism since they are not fully aware of who is behind it and the intentions they may have. This ultimately influences how the message of the articles in the press are received. Understanding the author and their experiences while reading an article gives can give the reader a different perspective of the content within the article because they can read it through the author’s lens as opposed to just their own.  Often, owners of the media companies can control what gets written about, which is a concrete explanation as to why the black press is watered down so much. These white media company owners are influencing their journalists to write about some things but telling them not to write about others. The moral of the story is to consume content that representative and inclusive from an author and company that has good values that are reflected in their content.  

There is no doubt that media outlets can be more effective in making sure that there is more BIPOC representation. Nevertheless, many media companies are only representative of BIPOC for a monetary value. These companies can state that they are inclusive all they want, but if their internal values and structures push this narrative for a monetary benefit, it is counterproductive. Representation in the media and press are important but only if it is being done for the right reasons and truly wanting to make a change. A lot of the changes we are seeing now in the media to be more representative may not be long term because of the fact they are driven by monetary value. Dr. Williams Fayne advises that if we stop consuming content that is being representative for the wrong reasons, we will likely start to seem some permanent changes in these companies. Many people have yet to take this step, so rather than complaining and simply advocating for more representation, audiences should adjust their focus to prioritizing only consuming content that is diverse and inclusive for the proper reasons.

Matthew Guay | Unsplash 2016

Advocacy journalism: The blurred lines between hard advocacy and soft advocacy

Advocacy journalism, which includes hard and soft advocacy, is studied in Dr. Miya William Fayne’s publication Advocacy journalism in the 21st century: Rethinking entertainment in digital Black press outlets. As mainstream media has historically excluded African American stories, Dr. Williams Fayne interviews a variety of people and focus groups to study how they perceive advocacy journalism. For one, hard advocacy involves crime and political content like the coverage of the Black Lives Matter movement. While soft advocacy involves lifestyle or entertainment content. The Black Press distinguishes itself from mainstream media as they cater to Black Americans who are either excluded or negatively portrayed. Dr. Williams-Fayne discusses how the Black Press incorporates Thematic coverage by writing stories in many ways over a long period of time through in-depth interviews with activists, community members, and government officials who can offer different perspectives. However, this publication covers what consumers value as the most important type of advocacy. Dr. Williams Fayne held four focus groups with 30 participants based off region and age. She found that some believed that all the black press outlets covered and practice soft advocacy. Others believed that the Black Press should primarily focus on sociopolitical content as that’s how they defined advocacy journalism. These people had more traditional ideologies. Lastly, other groups valued soft advocacy more because it represented Black Americans in a positive matter through inclusivity. From a different standpoint, some journalists believed in the balance of entertainment and political coverage as it serves the black community through relevant information. Although entertainment content may be deemed more profitable, hard news should be prioritized. Concluding, the Black Press’ duty is to serve the Black community, as the advocates and consumers are both mispresented in the new age of digital media.

Black Americans are the most misrepresented group; therefore, Black Journalists turn to objectivity as personal bias is important when it comes to Advocacy journalism. Source: Pew Research Center. 2017

Research Methods

Dr. Fayne conducted her research through a series of interviews with Black press journalists. Essentially, she had done data collection for both research topics simultaneously. She found her participants through a snowball sampling, gathering contact information through word of mouth and connecting to other people through the people she had interviewed. In Advocacy Journalism in the 21st century: Rethinking entertainment in digital Black press outlet, she conducted four focus groups with a total of 30 participants. The participants consisted of journalists and consumers of the Black press.

“…I felt like the readers matter on this perspective. I really wanted to include readers in my research because I thought I wasn’t going to get from the journalists.”

– Dr. Fayne

Two groups were based in Los Angeles and Two groups based in Chicago. She focused her research in LA and Chicago to avoid any bias in her research. She separated these groups by age

In The Great Digital Migration: Exploring What Constitutes the Black Press Online, Dr. Fayne utilized the same 30 participants. She focused on hearing from other journalists to hear their perspectives on exploring the Black press within digital media. She interviewed several journalists who came from different regions and publications. She reached out to many journalists from a variety of black media publications. Dr. Fayne asked them questions focusing on what defines the Black press.

Advice from Dr. Williams-Fayne

Dr. Williams-Fayne was kind enough to offer some advice to new researchers as they start their journey and may not know where to begin. Researching can be somewhat intimidating but knowing these tips may make it much easier to navigate a research project in its beginning stages. One of the pieces of advice she emphasized was to the importance of starting early and always allocating for more time than necessary during the data collection portion of the project. Additionally, networking is a huge part of research than can be difficult to navigate as a new researcher. Dr. Williams-Fayne stated that finding any way to connect with those you are interviewing or surveying, such as being alumni from the same groups or having a mutual connection. This increases the chance of getting a valuable response or any response at all.

A clip of the interview with Dr. Fayne. She speaks about her research process and advice to future researchers.

A Conversation with Dr. Jess Vega-Centano

By Katelyn Meinershagen, Andrew Goh, Maiquel Gutierrez, Veena Sahithi Mokkapati

(Source: http://communications.fullerton.edu/comm/faculty/vega-centeno_jess/vega-centeno_jess.php)

California State University, Fullerton’s own professor Dr. Jess Vega-Centano allowed us to interview her on her dissertation “Turning up the Volume: on Racial Silence: A critical examination of consumption practices of Puerto Rican women Post-Hurricane Maria”.  Dr. Vega pursued a Bachelor’s in Psychology before achieving her PhD at University of Texas in Austin.  She has extensive experience in the field of advertisement and communication through both working at agencies and teaching at different universities including CSUF.  As a Puerto Rican woman herself, she sought to take this project with extreme care and passion as it was personal.  The focus of our interview was to dissect her dissertation thoroughly.  We accomplished this through gathering background information, discussing the different research methods, and analyzing the data provided by both the interviewee and the paper.

Read More: A Conversation with Dr. Jess Vega-Centano

In “Turning up the Volume: on Racial Silence: A critical examination of consumption practices of Puerto Rican women Post-Hurricane Maria”, Dr. Vega’s research focuses primarily on the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, a natural disaster which fatally impacted Puerto Rico and other islands native to the northeastern Caribbean in the fall of 2017. Dr. Vega, who is of Puerto Rican descent, was at home watching and reading the national news coverage of the natural disaster when she noticed a variety of publications reporting on the niche and personal topic of how native Puerto Rican women on the island were styling their hair and embracing its natural texture. 

Prior to observing the news coverage centered around how Puerto Rican women were styling their hair, Dr. Vega reveals that she had no real previous interest in the beauty industry. As a Puerto Rican woman Dr. Vega has had first hand experience styling and caring for her own hair. Dr. Vega mentions that she has embraced a range of styles and shares that she prefers her hair when it is in its naturally curly state, “my hair became a symbol of my ethnicity and I wear it as such”.

Although hair was an influential factor, Vega also wanted to use her research to focus on two groups she felt like aren’t typically included in research: women and those of Puerto Rican descent. Dr. Vega expresses that Latinx representation in research is typically centered around Mexicans or immigration, neither of which fully represent the range of the community. As she began preparing for her research she realized that the national conversations being held about how the women were doing their hair post-hurricane Maria was laying the groundwork for a much larger conversation centering around race.

In her research, Dr. Vega constantly references how the ways in which consumerism is linked to race and during our time speaking with Vega she expressed first hand the difficulty she experiences trying to find hair care products and ingredients to cook traditional Puerto Rican, even in a place as diverse as Orange County, California. She often resorts to ordering these items online, but she also recognizes the lack of inaccessibility women who don’t have the same resources and who may have just immigrated to the United States have in trying to acquire these items that would make them feel at home. In her paper, Dr. Vega references the Critical race theory which expresses how laws, social/political movements and the media help shape the perception of different races and the ways in which every race consumes. Dr. Vega decided early on that the theory was one she would use in order to conduct research and interview her participants. 

Dr. Vega stated she has always loved talking to people and realized that after Hurricane Maria, she realized that she loved talking to Puerto Rican women about their hair. Using purposive sampling, Dr. Vega began her search in order to find participants willing to be interviewed. She specifically searched for women that were forced to leave the island and had in depth interviews with them. Dr. Vega managed to secure interviews with 18 different women. All interviews ranged from 60-90 minutes and all participants were between the ages of 19-56.

Dr. Vega used the snowballing research method the most when interviewing her participants. A majority of the time, women would just self-disclose all their stories, struggles and personal experiences to her. It was almost as if they were just having a normal conversation about their lives and hair. Dr. Vega described women disclosing their personal stories as “diarrhea of the mouth.”, meaning that many of these women just wanted to share their personal experiences and tell her everything. During her research process, she learned a lot about these women which made her research process extremely easy.

Lastly, Dr. Vega also stated that at times during the interviews, the language barrier was a bit of a problem, but both Dr. Vega and all of the participants were still able to communicate with one another. Vega is bilingual but speaks mostly English, her level of Spanish isn’t as advanced as her participants. Most of her participants knew a little English but a majority of them were more comfortable with speaking in Spanish.

(Source: https://www.npr.org/2018/06/03/616565034/after-hurricane-maria-puerto-rican-women-embrace-their-natural-curly-hair)

Based on the results and the data collected from the interview with Dr. Vega, we discovered that there was a connection between racial features of Puerto Rican women and their lives in the United States. Interviewing and collecting data also gave us insight on knowing more about issues going on in this world especially when it comes to the negative impacts diversity had on these women. The fact that other Hispanic people besides Mexicans should be included is very important in the advertising and public relations industries in order to be more inclusive. For example, whenever someone refers to the Latinx community, the country Mexico would immediately come to mind, but what about the other Latinx native countries? Dr. Vega feels like she can add a unique perspective since there aren’t many women of color working in the field, another reason why she wanted to conduct research on this topic.   

Puerto Rican women have specific curly and dark hair, which gave racial and prejudice issues during the acculturation process. Culture and immigration play key factors in improving diversity amongst jobs and opportunities. Unfortunately however, racism still exists. Dr. Vega discusses that the problems these women encountered will most likely continue for years and hopes for a future where race plays little to no role in the path of one’s success. In our interview, Dr. Vega shared that one thing she found shocking through the interview process was the consensus of facing discrimination in public.

“My hair became a symbol of my ethnicity and I wear it as such.”

In Conclusion, Dr. Vega has demonstrated immense passion for this research project regarding Puerto Rican women and their struggles with the acculturation process.  Through her usage of qualitative research she was able to have down-to-earth conversations with her interviewees in order to gain as much data as possible.  Usage of purposive and snowball sampling also aided in grabbing a larger audience to get more concise research data.  Key topics rose up from her research and they became a focal point in her study such as curly hair, gender, and critical race theory. Dr. Vega believes that issues regarding race have profound historical context and the issues from her research will take a long time to fix.  The image discussed in the dissertation that others have of Puerto Ricans continues and will continue to have a negative connotation for a long time to come, but maybe one day race will no longer play such a heavy role in perception. Overall, we thank Dr. Vega for her time, allowing us to interview her and giving us amazing insight on the topic.

Featured above is a short highlight video from our virtual interview with Dr. Vega.

Motivations For Participating in Fantasy Sports – An Interview with Professor Meeds

By Andi Woods, Nathyn Scruggs, Adilene Bravo, Ronald Chy

Intro

We interviewed Professor Meeds about his involvement in this study and his motivations for participating in fantasy sports. This study was conducted by Lee Farquhar, assisted by Robert Meeds. Farquhar created this study for his master’s thesis at Kansas State, where Meeds was an advisor helping him. The study was conducted in 2007 and involved a unique methodology (Q Methodology) that not many social sciences would use.

ESPN Fantasy Sports Betting in 2022

Farquhar was interested in fantasy sports then, as they became increasingly popular throughout the years. Fantasy sports is a game where people would create mock drafts of NFL or MLB teams and bet on whether or not their team wins or loses. It gained a lot of followers as it was fairly new in terms of its popularity, and it was also a way people could connect with other sports fans. Fantasy sports is a user-driven form of entertainment that includes a small gathering between friends or family. This study will explore people’s motivations for participating in fantasy sports.

Interview Questions

What was your motivation behind doing this research and what question were you trying to answer?

I will speak for Lee because this was his baby, but this was a very doable study for a Master’s student who didn’t have research funding and so it was the kind of thing you could do with a reasonably small sample of people who were participating in the research. It was something that he was really kind of interested in, so it hit both of those criteria.

What was your methodology and why did you choose to apply it to this research?

One of the practical reasons was that it was a methodology that did not require the kind of sampling that you would get from a normal survey. From a normal survey, to be able to have reasonable sampling error within your responses, you’re usually talking about at least 300 people that you need to participate. With Q-methodology, you’re talking about a much smaller sample. It was the practical reason, but it was also a good fit for what he wanted to find out. We wanted to find out more about people’s motivations for participating in fantasy sports and this research is something that Q-methodology is really good at. 

Example of Q-methodology scale

Basically, you can vary people, times, or occasions. So with Q-methodology, you’re trying to make generalizations about types of people. You have to flip your brain 90° in terms of what you’re trying to make generalizations about. The purpose of Q-Methodology is to try to understand people’s motivations and group them into types of people. Q-methodology is a generalization about people and about variables.

And with factor analysis in our methodology, it seemed like we were asking the same question in 20 different ways. We ask a lot of questions that kind of sound similar, but they’re getting a slightly different aspect of an attitude Then, what we did is take that data and we threw the whole thing into a hopper in SPSS, and it simultaneously calculated the correlations among all those variables. When it was done it spit out groups that went together. Then you take Q-methodology and flip the data matrix, what we’re doing factor analyzing people. It will produce a factor analysis of people and it will tell us what people go through in certain factors based on their responses to the questions. And so people get sorted and the factors and then the researcher’s job is to identify the factors and try to interpret them. 

The study noted that members of the F5 group were still inexperienced. Which group do you think a majority of them would most likely join when they become more experienced?

I think that it would be very interesting to see which group these inexperienced people would join later in life if they do even change groups. I think it is very possible for these people to change to one of the other groups.

How different is it applying Q methodology compared to your other studies?

One study was early in my career, and that was a Q methodology study about advertising students and their opinions about advertising and why they were studying advertising. The other study involved a graduate student, and I can’t even remember the topic of this one. It was not a well-conducted study, and we didn’t get a publication out of it. Those two are the only ones that would have been the correct methods to use Q-methodology, and it depends if it is appropriate for answering the question, research question that you have. We were interested in understanding ain students chose to advertise or what the typologies of the students were, and Q methodology was good for that. Most of my other advertising research. Q would not be an appropriate methodology because I’m doing a lot of linguistic research in advertising. I’m trying to figure out how different ways that I might phrase different ways that I might construct a sentence, how that would actually impact the reader’s attitudes about it, and Q-methodology wouldn’t be, would not be very useful at all for that.

If you could conduct this study again, is there anything you would do differently? 

I think this would be an interesting study to replicate since it was done multiple years ago. The study was tidy and no major errors were made, but I think it would be a really interesting one to replicate if Lee ever wanted to do it again, and see those types of people and motivations compare in the past and present.

What factor surprised you about this whole experiment?

As I’m looking back through it, I haven’t thought about this study much for several years, but I’ve probably found the isolationists and thrill seekers kind of surprised me a little bit. People that liked doing it but didn’t really like the interaction as other people and were just about the results was surprising to me.

What was the most interesting or favorite part of your research?

There were a couple things that were really pretty interesting. One is this was a study that the people who participated in it. They just really enjoyed it. You know, they were like, this is kind of cool, to be asked about your opinion about fantasy sports. The other thing that’s always interesting to me about a Q study is applying it to the experiment, and seeing how different it is from the other methodologies.

Interview

Here is our full interview with Dr. Robert Meeds:

Interview with Dr. Yongick Jeong about Privacy Concerns on Social Media

by Cristian Flores, Margaret Babia, Reinhard Siedenburg

Dr. Yongick Jeong is a professor at Louisiana State University who specializes in advertising, news and entertainment media, and measuring advertising effectiveness. Having published several research papers and presentations for almost a decade now, Jeong is an established advertising scholar. His research covers a wide range of topics from measuring advertising effectiveness, digital and social media, health and environmental communication, to international communication.

On October 18, 2022, we had the opportunity to meet with Dr. Jeong for an interview on Zoom to ask him questions about his 2016 research study: Privacy Concerns On Social Networking Sites: Interplay Among Posting Types, Content, and Audiences. From our interview, we were able to gain a more solid comprehension of the way privacy concerns relating to social media are influenced by the different audiences found on each platform. Additionally, we were given valuable advice relating to the logistics of conducting our own research study.

Dr. Yongick Jeong is actually an alumnus of California State University, Fullerton, having received his M.A. in Communications with a concentration in Internet Advertising in 2003. Being able to connect with Dr. Jeong through our educational backgrounds was a great experience, and we had a wonderful time getting to know his friendly and supportive personality. As beginner researchers, we greatly appreciated this opportunity to learn and expand our knowledge with Dr.Jeong.

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What motivated your study?

At that time, social media was important already and many people were using social media platforms, but back then – not many people really knew about the privacy aspect of social media. In 2016, it was the beginning or earlier stages of social media and social networking sites, and we wanted to know what people were worried about regarding those social platforms. For the study, we used the uses & gratification theory (UGT) to understand why & how people actively seek out different media in order to satisfy their specific needs. We were looking to discover the different purposes or motivations there are behind people using social media and we wanted to see the relationship between those different motivations and privacy concerns.

What were some challenges and difficulties with your study, that you would say to keep a look out for? In terms of conducting the survey and getting the participants.

During the study, we experienced an external validity issue because our target for the study were college students. Even though college students are primary users of social media sites, they may be different from others in the general population who also use social media such as people are 30yr-40yr olds. That was the biggest limitation of the study.

What methods did you debate between using, and why did you end up going with an online survey? Were there any limitations in regard to other methods?

The deciding factor for your research method will be the research questions you come up with for your study. For us, an online survey was chosen specifically because it was the best fit for our research question regarding social media.

https://stock.adobe.com/search?load_type=search&native_visual_search=&similar_content_id=&is_recent_search=&search_type=usertyped&k=lock&asset_id=245814884

Why were Twitter and Facebook the chosen SNS’s for the study v.s. Instagram and Snapchat?

At the time of the study, Facebook and Twitter were the two most popular social networking sites. They had the largest user base, so we centered the study around these platforms as opposed to Snapchat and Instagram which had not reached the popularity they have now. Even today, Facebook and Twitter are very popular platforms among the general population.

If the study took place this year with the development of SNS’s like Tik Tok becoming massive in popularity, how do you anticipate the results of the study would change? Would they change?

It is important that you know the reason why people use those social media networks specifically. At the time of the study, we knew people used Facebook for everything – even for commercial purposes. In contrast, Twitter had a very different purpose and it was being used for microblogging on an even smaller scale. If the study were to take place today, the research question would need to be modified and the variables would need to be changed depending on the social media networking sites you choose to conduct the study on. In order to decide on what needs to be modified, understanding what demographics primarily use social networks like Tik Tok and for what purpose will be key. Logistically, it will be essential to decide what social media network is popular right now so that you can find enough users for the study.

https://stock.adobe.com/contributor/205363189/bakhtiarzein?load_type=author&prev_url=detail&asset_id=433867105

What are some methods you used in your study to reduce response bias? 

Actually, the survey we conducted was given as an extra-credit opportunity for our undergrad students. Research bias was pretty hard to detect in the study. Additionally, we did not include any checkpoints in the study that would check if participants were paying attention while they were taking the survey. If we were to give an example, during the survey we would have given a random question to participants where they would have to read the prompt thoroughly to find which random answer is the correct answer. If they answered that question incorrectly, then we would filter out their response. If the right answer is not chosen, then it is clear the respondents are not paying attention and the response can be eliminated.

In the discussion section of the article, you mentioned a potential limitation of your study was the skewed sample size of the study. Because a majority of participants were women, there was no balance of gender. How do you anticipate the results might change if the sample size was more balanced by gender?

In that instance, you would go with stratified sampling. If you conduct research with a general population of college students, you would need to get an accurate percentage of how many seniors, juniors, sophomores, and freshmen there are. From the proportional distribution, you are able to get your sample. The best case scenario would be that you know what percentage of Facebook users fall under each gender and category. After, you should be able to gather data that will represent the general population accurately, despite most participants being college students.

Being based around posts on social media, what is your opinion on gathering data over the span of 3 different social media platforms (Tik Tok, Snapchat, Instagram) v.s. just one platform?

Keep in mind, each social networking site is very different categorically. It is important to ensure that the networking sites you choose to focus on in the study are relevant to the research questions and will provide valuable insight for research. The complication with focusing a study around more than 2 social networking sites is the volume of questions that would need to be covered in the study. For a study of that scale, it would be difficult to have participants actively engage throughout the study without compensation.

Dr. Flores Speaks on Equity: CSUF Communications Department

By: Alexa Valdez, Alonzo Floriolli, and Alan Ruelas

On October 28th, 2022, we conducted an interview with Dr. Robert Flores, Assistant Dean for Student Affairs at California State University, Fullerton regarding his dissertation, Career Development Through An Identity-Conscious Lens: A Framework to Engage First-Generation and Underrepresented Students. Our objective in conducting this interview with Dr. Flores was to get a better understanding of his research process for his paper on first-generation and underrepresented students. We asked him ten questions regarding the way he conducted his research along with his thoughts and findings throughout the process.

Question 1: Why is this study important and how does it differ from similar studies (if there are any)?

Dr. Flores first stated that his primary concern for the study was that career development supports the first generation, and underrepresented students need to progress beyond just a focus on skill attainment. He pointed out that it is not just about talking on how you take what you learn and turn it into a job, but also about strengthening students’ inclusion of identity-based methodologies. In other words, who they are as a person, also informs their career development decisions. The other piece Dr. Flores found is that we need to help students understand the multiplicity of their identities, due to the fact that the different components of our identities form our values, and our decision-making process, and ultimately can be key factors in our career trajectory. Dr. Flores then went on to explain how it differed from similar studies by stating that this was an action research study where “we look at how we, as practitioners in higher education, can create change in our current environment, and how we, as a practitioner and an individual, are positioned in that study as well,” as opposed to an empirical study, where you have a cause and effect. He concluded his answer by pointing out that it is not just about what happens to the participants in the study, it is also about the change that occurs in you as the researcher, and what you learn about yourself. 

Question 2: What do you find to be the most efficient research/sampling methods?

Dr. Flores first pointed out that the most efficient research/sampling methods varies depending on the research type. He explained that when he first started his research project, he had both quantitative and qualitative data collection. As he got further into his research, he learned that when reporting it out in later chapters, the qualitative data had the most impact and connection to his research question. The quantitative data had some importance but was not needed as much as the qualitative. He went on to explain that in his experience with this research, he found that focus groups were most useful and was where he got most of the “heart and soul” of his dissertation. 

Question 3: How do you start your research process when looking for articles?

Dr. Flores explained that he started his research process very broadly. He understood his main focus as examining career development practices, therefore analyzing career development theory. After all, theory informs practice, and that he was also looking at identity development. With that, he then selected a few keywords that were part of his research question that helped guide him along the way. As was deeper into his research, he then realized he was also examining underrepresented first-gen students, and added “Underrepresented” and “First-Gen” to his word search. After taking what he had already identified and combining words and mixing them up a bit, he was able to find a lot of great material. Something that Dr. Flores pointed out that really was a big takeaway when he was talking about “gaps” in research. He stated that “I also found that when there was a lack of information on a certain component, that to me, as a researcher, helped me understand that there’s a gap in the research, right, and so I’m onto something really great. So instead of being frustrated, it tells me, I’m looking for something that no one else has probably done yet or hasn’t published. So this is a great position to be in because you’re being a contributor to the literature that’s out there to support the groups that you’re working with.”

Question 4: What are the most important factors to consider when conducting research?

Dr. Flores immediately answered this question by flagging the importance of research guided by individual passion because of the countless and arduous hours spent looking into a topic. He pointed out that the topic should really resonate with a part of who you are as a person and something you are deeply passionate about if you are doing real in-depth research. Flores also went on to point out that another factor to consider is the amount of access you have and your current position– whether it is a student, practitioner, employer, employee, etc. “Think about your circle of influence, and connection, and how you can maybe utilize some of that in your research. Because that will help you so you’re not just starting from scratch, in some cases.” By considering these things, you can understand if what you are researching is as attainable as you would hope it would be. 

Question 5: How do you brainstorm for your research topics?

Dr. Flores mentioned that you can document your thoughts in whatever way you prefer– whether it is journaling, drawings, blogs, etc.  He went on to explain that for this research process, he would use audio recordings. For example, after class, he would record himself on his phone during his hour-long car ride home. During this time, he would debrief the day, talk about themes that had impacted him, times that made him stop and think, or even ask himself questions. By doing this he was able to go back and listen to those recordings to remember what exactly was really striking him at that moment and point out some key things that he could use.

Question 6: What are some experiences that have led you to this topic of research? Was there a moment that inspired your research?

Dr. Flores explained that his research initially started with him examining his own journey to his career. He realized that there were certain things that happened in his life that contributed to the decisions made by him. He then took this and then looked at how other students with similar identities were embarking on that journey and how they can create a structure that supports them to understand their identity, values, and strengths in order to put that together and form a career roadmap. 

Question 7: Do you have any advice when it comes to choosing a topic that interests you?

Dr. Flores answered this question by first pointing out that it is not always the best idea to pick the “hot” topic at the moment, even though it might be tempting. This can be because a lot of people might be drawn to that topic as well. He says it is best to push yourself out of your comfort zone to try and get the most out of what it is that you want to research. He explains this is because if we choose things that are a little too close to home, we have a tendency to be comfortable and be blinded by our own biases and own experiences. With this, do not be afraid to tackle something that is new and remind yourself that you are not an expert (yet) and give yourself grace for not knowing the answer at that moment, but be determined to figure it out. 

Question 8: What was the most challenging part of this research study? 

Dr. Flores pointed out that the launch of his study was set to be in August 2020, which happened to be a few months after COVID-19 had hit. With this, it made it difficult to continue with his research because they were supposed to be in-person workshops. Along with the switch to Zoom, came uncertainty if students were still interested in being a part of the study. Although there were lots of changes that had to be made on short notice, Dr. Flores pointed out that something positive came out of this challenge. He explained that since the pandemic brought such isolation to everyone, students missed being together in person and connecting with one another. So in the study, students reported that they enjoyed coming together every other week with their group of people to talk about something so personal in a space where they felt safe.

Question 9: In other research studies what is usually the most challenging part of the research process for you?

Another challenging thing, aside from the answer to the last question, Dr. Flores pointed out that getting access to subjects or participants. It can be difficult finding people who are willing to participate, and also endure the duration of the study. He explained that doing more in-depth research is most difficult because it requires multiple time commitments, which is often the biggest challenge, because “you are going to see some, you’re going to see a little bit of a melt, you might start with a really high number of participants, and then that’s going to kind of fade off and you will need to account for that and your finding.” So it is always important to consider the number that you started with, and then any attrition that happened over time, and how that might have an impact on what it is that you’re reporting.

Question 10: What was the most shocking part of this study and how did you find it?

The most surprising part for Dr. Flores was the level of advocacy that the students reported having gained as a result of this study and that came from the exit interviews. During their interviews, participants went over goals based on career plans they had developed, and a high percentage of the students were able to articulate that they had learned certain advocacy skills for themselves and for others as a result of this. Dr. Flores had not expected this because he was really focused on this being about career development and your identity and its understanding, he did not think at the time that this advocacy awareness would come into play. 

Conclusion:

After interviewing Dr. Flores, we have a better and more complete understanding of his research process for his paper on first-generation and underrepresented students. We learned about the easy and complex parts of conducting a rigorous research project on equity within education. The biggest takeaway from our interview with Dr. Flores is understanding the reward of conducting a research study in any field will ultimately be contingent on the discoveries made that can exponentially grow our understanding. 

Professor Elise Assaf on the Fundamentals of Research: Enthusiasm, Engagement, Execution

By: Vanessa Vuong, Maddy Monroy, and Niko Morales 

Professor Assaf works in the department of Communications at California State University of Fullerton. We asked her questions regarding her writing process behind her dissertation, Hidden Power: Journalistic Representations of Mental Health Labels.

Elise Anguizola Assaf | Department of Communications | Cal State Fullerton  - Department of Communications | CSUF

Professor Assaf explained that a big catalyst that inspired her research was her brother and his schizophrenia diagnosis. While it isn’t a mental health diagnosis like depression or anxiety, schizophrenia still came with similar negative stereotypes. Assaf explains,

“There were a lot of stereotypes that were communicated to me. People would question, ‘Oh is he dangerous?’, ’Is he violent?’ … In my mind, it was like, ‘Where are these [stereotypes] coming from?’ And why do people have these assumptions, because they are very far from the truth.”

Professor Elise Assaf

Assaf was also inspired personally by the increase of mental health becoming a more prevalent problem in the college setting. She recalled a specific article from the Daily Titan about test anxiety and witnessing it herself through her students. 

Assaf mentions that she wishes she had included more of this information about what inspired her in the positionality statement of her publication. A positionality statement is a part of qualitative studies where you explain what inspired your research, your perspective, and any other biases you may have related to the research. However, with this particular study, Assaf had an advising team that helped her decide what she should include. During the time of the publication Assaf was working towards tenure and Assaf and her advisors decided that including too much information about her personal mental health diagnoses could potentially harm her chances of getting a tenure (especially based on what the research was studying).

Because of her career in public relations, education in mass communications, and disability studies, as well as personal experiences with mental health stereotypes— she demonstrates the importance of picking a topic that interests you. However, she also warns that a challenging part of choosing a topic you like is ensuring it is not only interesting, but that it also provides an opportunity for advancing the field with your own studies, or,  “growing the research that is already out there” as Assaf puts it.

Professor Assaf’s Rules of Thumb

Assaf explained narrowing down her publications proved to be one of the most challenging parts behind her research process. A personal rule of thumb Assaf follows is finding publications that are similar in their consistency, size, and importance to the subject being discussed. One might find difficulty comparing a short publication to a longer one as short ones are more condensed. Assaf found the top ten articles in the U.S. surrounding her subject of research and picked her sources from those based on their relevance, importance, and length. The importance of staying neutral and being aware of any conflicts of interest is crucial as well. Assaf explained that a woman from her dissertation committee had a husband who worked for the L.A. Times, and it prevented her from using them as a source. She recommended that it is important to go into the writing process knowing what your research goal is and having an idea on what topics you will compare, as doing such is the key to writing an in-depth, intellectual piece.

The 5 Step Writing Process Every Writer Should Know | thinkwritten.com

Her Own Work

We asked Professor Assaf about her personal thoughts on her dissertation and whether or not she wished to condense it or hoped to expand upon it. Assaf explained that her dissertation is more of a broad publication that she has been able to submit fragments of to various areas. She recalled being told to write something that she could pull about two to three sources from. The dissertation she wrote had to be a bit longer as she explained that proving her knowledge on the subject itself was the most important part, as there was not a lot of current or past research on the topic. Her goal was to get at least a conference paper or journal article out of the dissertation; after publication, her dissertation was picked for a conference discussion, and a piece of it was submitted for a chapter of a book being written by a professor. 

Free Editable Graphic Organizer for Writing Examples | EdrawMax Online

Bridging the Gap

In building the foundations for forming productive conversation on research, Professor Assaf illuminates the importance of providing context for the intended audience, explaining that “it was something I specifically worked on” in regards to her own dissertation on mental health. Pertaining to the research that she conducts, Professor Asssaf mentions that it is targeted towards those that produce content, such as reporters, and therefore it is her responsibility to ensure that the content she writes can be reproduced in an easily digestible form by the general public. Essentially, because reporters are communicating her research on widely discussed topics like mental health in mass media channels, it is necessary to make the information as accessible as possible so that societal changes and perceptions can be positively affected. 

Paramount to research as a whole, Professor Assaf further highlights the process of disseminating content and always holding in consideration to whom the information will be received by: at a conference, for publication, to journalists, and above all, “knowing who my target audience is” so that she can present it “in a format that makes sense for the group I’m reaching out to.” For Professor Assaf, she aims to address groups such as advocates for mental health, and focuses upon adjusting the language to make the biggest impact within communities. 

Reinventing Research

Because research is a saturated field of varying perspectives and analyses, we brought up our concerns for “double-dipping” or being repetitive in putting together our own research. Responding to these inquiries, Professor Assaf stated that in this industry, you must be “cognizant” of becoming “pigeon-holed…or in your echo chamber of what you expect to find within research.” To do so, researchers should always consider alternate perspectives, and avoid leaning into established biases and expectations for the subject areas that they explore. Assaf advises us to stay current and aware of the information circulating on our topic, so that we can consider all points of discussion.

Moreover, when working with sources, Professor Assaf states it is imperative to, “look at other research as the building blocks to your study.”

Professor Elise Assaf

In doing so, one can find where there is a lack of research, and formulate their studies based on those guidelines instead of regurgitating information; essentially, we are filling in the gaps. Assaf also reassures us that it can take time to uncover where there are unsupported ideas, and to find what research hasn’t been done, while simultaneously being cautious about redundancy. A method of implementing this involves “tak[ing] a study that was done a decade ago, two decades ago, and…apply[ing] it again to see if that is still accurate or if things have changed,” and in that way, “you could potentially be looking at the same thing, but seeing if it’s still a current finding.” 

Ultimately, Professor Assaf encourages us as researchers to find topics we’re interested in, invested, and passionate about, and to be realistic about executing our research based on our timeline, the intended target audience, and within the parameters given to us.

The Politics of the Hero’s Journey: A Narratology of American Special Education Textbooks with Professor Assaf

By: Carlie Gerberick, Kassidy Sandoval, Daniel Velasquez, and Nicole Turner

Professor Elise Assaf, a California State University Alumni, continues to impact the students and staff years after graduating. Professor Assaf was born and raised in Orange County. Following her father’s wishes, she stays local when pursuing her higher education after completing her undergraduate in Communication with a concentration in Public Relations. Professor Assaf went on to complete both her master’s and doctoral. Continuing her higher education enforces her love of being in the classroom. Teaching was a way to continue this passion. Now a professor at her almatar. Professor Assaf paves the way for her students to find their love of learning. In her recent research study, The Politics of the Hero’s Journey: A Narratology of American Special Education Textbooks. Professor Assaf collaborated with Jennifer James and Scot Danfrom.

Questions

What was the influence behind your research project: The Politics of the Hero’s Journey: A Narratology of American Special Education Textbooks American Special Education Textbooks?

“It was a paper I worked on with two individuals; one of them was a professor at Chapman. I did a graduate research project with him which was the start of that paper. About a semester into it, we decided to bring on a peer of mine who was in the program at the same time. The professor teaches disabilities courses within the program at Chapman; my friend and I were both within that concentration. The reason that professor reached out to me to work on that project was because of my background in communications and looking at content analysis. Since that wasn’t in his field, we basically created a team of people that were experts in their different fields to make sense of that study. He had the idea, I brought the research methodology background, and my friend Jenny brought the English background.”

In your study, you work alongside Jennifer James and Scot Danfrom. How did you divide the work between you and your peers?

“Initially, there were just two of us, Scott and myself; he was the idea person. While he came up with the concept. I contributed to the preliminary coding and looked at all of the data. When Jenny came on, the data had been coded, but we changed the study a bit, so we went back, and all three did analysis on the data.”

What do you think is the impact your study has?

“The hope is that people see it and realize that there are some things that are problematic in special education teaching and are not inclusive in the stories they tell teachers. They don’t show that people with disabilities are able to do things for themselves and have had an impact on history and change. The impact we hope is that we need to be more inclusive in the stories we tell.”

What would you do differently knowing what you know now?

  “It was the first study where I was working with other people, being aware of team dynamics of others insights and understanding. I was fortunate to get along with my partners and that we were able to bounce ideas off of each other and work collectively as a group. They brought good ideas to the table, and I didn’t feel like I was doing most of the work. There can be beneficial team experiences, and make sure you are working with people that you respect and enjoy being around because you’re going to be working with them a lot during that time period. We went in with one idea and kind of expanded that idea and went down a slightly different path, so just the fluidity of all that.”

What brewed or inspired the research topic you chose?

Scott’s idea, he saw a need for this type of research, and there is a type of research that intrigues you where you have a question on what’s going on within your area of expertise, so you want to dig deeper. We had our meetings on how to achieve those questions and make it a study, then we went from there.

Did you run into any difficulties while conducting this study?

“It was pretty straightforward because we had a team that worked well together in which we could divide the tasks. When we did make some changes to the study and changed things from what we initially planned, it wasn’t an issue; we just realized we needed to shift a bit.”

How was data collected for the research project? 

The team analyzed five of the leading American special needs textbooks used in university teacher education programs. To find the top five textbooks, they decided to base them on the best-selling textbooks for “Introduction to Special Education” courses. Professor Assaf added, “We thought that if they are the top five, then that means the most number of people are looking at them, and they should be significant.” To gauge which five textbooks are the best-selling, they reached out to sales representatives from three of the leading publishing houses; SAGE Publishing, McGraw-Hill Education, and Pearson Education. 

(Assaf et al., 2021)

What are data coding and content analysis, and how were they used for the research?

Data coding is the process of taking information that is collected from a wide range of texts and/or observations and transforming them into a set of significant, cohesive categories. Content analysis is a research tool used to discover the presence of patterns, key terms, themes, and concepts in a given text, in this case, American special needs textbooks. Professor Assaf went into detail about how data coding and content analysis was used for her team’s research, “Our data points were history chapters within textbooks. I scanned those chapters and read through them initially, then came up with initial code words and terms to highlight. When they would talk about government change, people with disabilities, or a high-profile individual we went through and coded for all of those. We had a meeting about it and then came up with some themes we found. It changed a little bit when Jenny came on, we ended up shifting to include some English lit stuff, then went back and coded for the Hero’s Journey, then it had to apply to that.”

Reflection

In our interview with Assaf, we focused on the process a team undergoes to successfully address and uncover a research goal. Approximately three years passed between the conception of the project to the publication of the results. Her biggest tip was to be sure you work with a group you get along with and work well with. Researchers must combine knowledge and skill, and make sure things are distributed appropriately based on each individual’s abilities.

We can take Assaf’s information and advice directly into our research. The key takeaway is that working with a team who is both passionate and dedicated will lead to success of the problem you are trying to identify and the research you conduct to attempt to answer it. 

Teamwork makes the dream work! 

Interview