Dr. Marlene Neill’s Presentation on Research

By Ben Murray

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Last Tuesday, Dr. Marlene Neill, an assistant professor of Journalism, Public Relations and New Media at Baylor University, visited our Mass Communication Theory class to share her ideas on scholarly research.  Dr. Neill studies Public Relations and its influence on the ethics and functionality of the workplace.  She highlighted papers she wrote titled, “Beyond the C Suite” and “PR Professionals as Organizational Conscience,” which were published last year.

Dr. Neill also provided the class with useful and interesting information regarding the research and writing of an academic research article.  She addressed one of the most difficult parts of writing a paper: choosing a topic.   Her first piece of advice was to read journal articles that interest you. Most importantly, focus on the conclusion of the articles.  It is in the conclusion section, that authors will offer suggestions for future research and list other areas within the subject matter that need further study.

“If anything, reading other journal articles could spark a new idea and take your research in a completely different direction,” Neill said.

Once a topic has been chosen, Dr. Neill stressed the importance of conferring with other researchers in order to make sure the topic is of good quality.  Talking with others about your paper can also provide a different angle on how to observe your subject.  Neill also brought up the importance of having a good teaser so that people will be enticed to read and cite your article.

“Even if your paper is filled with good research and exciting information, it could go undiscovered if you’re unable to grab your audience,” she said.

For me, one of the most interesting parts of Dr. Neill’s talk was hearing about her research methods.  She specializes in qualitative research, meaning she uses in-depth interviews and focus groups to obtain her information.  According to Neill, she prefers qualitative research because it allows you to come across responses and opinions that would usually go unheard with quantitative methods such as surveys or questionnaires that employ pre-designed, closed-ended questions.

Because Public Relations is an interpersonal business, it only makes sense that qualitative methods can often be more useful.  Although quantitative research also has an important place in the world of academia, simply bubbling in “yes” or “no” cannot solve some issues. Individuals, who answer questions that are personally tailored to their situation, can provide responses that are often unexpected and that can lead to new discoveries in the field of study.

In “Beyond the C-Suite,” Dr. Neill interviewed thirty individuals from four different businesses.  Once the interviews were completed, she painstakingly transcribed every word and compiled them into a folder that she showed to us.  The transcripts were then coded by theme in order to distinguish which information was most pertinent as well as establish a framework for the paper.  Dr. Neill told us that it is often useful to get outside help for the job of coding.  By using another person to help select content for the paper, you can lessen your own bias and have a more complete and all-encompassing product.

One of the biggest things that I took away from the talk was the necessity of persistence.  Writers will often run into issues of approval from academic journal boards.  They may disagree with some of the methods used or simply not care for the subject of the study.  When this happens, it is important to stay confident in your paper and never give up.

I think the ability to stay persistent in the publication process really goes back to the choosing of your topic.  It is vitally important to choose a topic you’re passionate about so that you’re able to stay persistent when you face rejection.  As Dr. Mia Moody told us, “some works may take years to get approved but it is important to remember why you started your research in the first place and to truly believe your message should be heard.”

Neill’s talk was very enlightening and I hope to employ some of her methods in future papers.  It was interesting to learn about the thoroughness that goes into a research paper and hear her personal conclusions in regards to public relations.  It is a field that requires excellent communicators to tactfully deliver messages from the sender to the audience.  Reading her two papers showed me how useful it is for a businesses to have a third party that can do the research and ensure that the right message is delivered at the ideal time in the most effective way.

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