See our list of communication and social change research paper topics. Modern research methods for social/behavioral change reflect a tension between collecting data at the individual level while making inferences at macro-levels such as health-care systems, communities, and nations. This tension becomes more palpable when measuring the concerns of historically underserved, difficult-to-reach populations, those suffering the greatest inequalities in access to information, civic participation, and, in particular, health-care. Research questions are explored by focusing on multiple levels of analysis, ‘participatory’ and multidisciplinary approaches, and flexible measures of ‘community.’
Communication and Social Change Research Paper Topics
- Communication and Tailoring
- Communication Inequality
- Community Integration
- Community Structure Model
- Conflict Resolution
- Consumer Informatics
- Disasters and Communication
- Environmental Communication
- Impersonal Effects
- Information Scanning
- Media Literacy
- Message Discrimination
- Persuasion and Resistance
- Planned Social Change through Communication
- Prevention and Communication
- Research Dissemination
- Risk Communication
- Risk Perceptions
- Secular Social Change
- Social Conflict and Communication
- Social Marketing
- Social Movements and Communication
- Social Networks
- Social Norms
- Theory of Reasoned Action
- Uncertainty and Communication
Communication studies often rely on national samples of self-reports on personal attitudes and values, drawing conclusions at the individual level. Despite the risk of ‘ecological’ or ‘atomistic’ fallacies, creative comparisons of different levels of analysis, especially at the city level, can illuminate previously unconfirmed connections between communication and social change. For example, differences in community-level demographics or social structure have been linked to variations in major newspaper coverage of critical issues, often called a ‘community structure’ approach, sometimes revealing a ‘guard dog’ relationship, in which media perpetuate existing social and political arrangements, and more recently revealing the opposite “vulnerability pattern” (Pollock 2013), in which media mirror the interests of more vulnerable populations.
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Three research methodologies deserve attention: system-/multi-level, participatory, and multidisciplinary options. System-level analyses range from broad comparative/cross-national perspectives to neighborhood, city, county and metropolitan areas. Recent scholarship (Pollock and Storey 2012) outlines a broad social ecology of “comparative building blocks” for cross-national analysis, comparing the way different groups use universal resources (such as water) or regard universal threshold experiences in the life cycle (such as seeking prenatal and neonatal care for a first child), or promote health competence. Innovative media system categories can compare coverage of diseases/conditions in countries with different traditions of press freedom. Compared to reporting in ‘repressive autocratic’ countries, media in ‘contained democratic’ media systems in four sub-Saharan Anglophone countries are more likely to emphasize government efficacy fighting HIV/AIDS (D’Angelo, Pollock, Kiernicki, & Shaw 2013).
Participatory/interactive research designs invite deeper commitment than simply receiving information, especially in health communication. For instance, the “Entertainment-Education” (EE) activities of Tomaselli and associates in South Africa elaborate health promotion messages through traditional media such as television and radio and also community-level drama, song, dance, comic books, ‘911’ call-in systems, etc., using creative community-level engagement to address gender-based violence, poverty, and HIV/AIDS (Tomaselli & Chasi 2011). Digital games via cell phones move health promotion campaigns closer to the interpersonal interaction that historically has complemented mass communication to spur shifts toward less risky behavior.
Multidisciplinary approaches illuminate audience or population information inequalities. Dependent variables community participation, civic engagement, collective action, and social capital – community interaction and solidarity – derive from political science and sociology. Framing, drawn from sociology and psychology, describes the way journalists organize news stories providing meaning to related events, indicating the advocacy of certain ideas. Diverse approaches call for broadening the scope of research designs beyond traditional random samples of individuals to a variety of research designs and data collection tools. The effects of health disparities, communication inequalities, and the role of ‘social contextual’ factors like social class also warrant attention (Viswanath 2006).
To reduce health knowledge gaps, the ‘community’ unit of analysis is becoming elastic in seeking hard-to-reach and high-risk populations less through traditional telephone or residential interviews, more through community contexts and venues they inhabit – the workplace, meeting places, grocery stores, recreational locations or Internet sites of all kinds: blogs, bulletin boards, chatrooms, or websites themselves. To mitigate inequalities and health disparities, scholars use multiple levels of analysis, imaginative methodologies, and innovative measures and definitions of community.
- D’Angelo, P., Pollock, J. C., Kiernicki, K., & Shaw, D. (2013). Framing of AIDS in Africa: Press–state relations, HIV/AIDS news, and journalistic advocacy in four sub-Saharan Anglophone newspapers. Politics and the Life Sciences, 33(2), 90–146.
- Pollock, J. C. (ed.). (2013). Media and social inequality: Innovations in community structure research. London: Routledge.
- Pollock, J. C. & Storey, D. (2012). Comparative health communication. In F. Esser & T. Hanitzsch (eds.), Handbook of comparative communication research. London: Routledge, pp. 161–184.
- Tomaselli, K. & Chasi, C. (eds.). (2011). Development and public health communication. Cape Town: Pearson Publishing.
- Viswanath, K. (2006). Public communications and its role in reducing and eliminating health disparities. In G. E. Thomson, F. Mitchell, & M. B. Williams (eds.), Examining the health disparities research plan of the National Institutes of Health: Unfinished business. Washington, DC: Institute of Medicine, pp. 215–253.
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