Research Literacy

cacciatoreWhat is research literacy?

Research literacy is measured through the ability to locate, analyze and apply scholarly research to a problem. In the communications discipline, Dr. McArthur (2015) specifically states that research literacy in the communications discipline is exhibited through the ability to create an inquiry project (p.1). Some ways that a communications sch0lar can demonstrate research literacy, including:


  • Pinpoint research on a particular subject and sift through the material to accumulate, aggregate and analyze the data
  • Design research questions
  • Articulate a communications problem and analyze the problem with literature from other scholars
  • Create a complete review of the literature
  • Expose a topic of inquiry
  • Develop well defined arguments, using a theoretical framework
  • Adopt an epistemological standpoint (McArthur, 2015, p.1)

How did I develop my research literacy? (So what?)

Throughout the program I honed my research literacy. I did this in many ways, but three main assignments come to mind:

boogiewoogie1. In my first course in the program, COMM 601: Communications Fluency, Dr. Pupchek assigned a scavenger hunt. This was a fun, and educational assignment. I was able to use the Queens Everett Library resource to search for scholarly articles by many of our professors here in the program. Not only did this assignment teach me to use research tools, it taught me APA style and introduced me to the works by our professors in the program.

2. Dr. Pupchek provided us with excellent input for how to create an inquiry project through applying a theoretical lens to movie watching. The assignment in which we watched Hugo’s Les Misérables was particularly eye opening, as we were able to learn how to apply theory to practice with the communication ethics problems in Les Misérables. Dr. Pupchek (2013) stated that a great inquiry project includes:

  1. Identify a communication ethics problem, either solved or unsolved. Locate the problem in a philosophical/theoretical framework within which you can analyze the problem
  2. Explain the nature of the problem according to communication theory (Literature Review)
  3. Identify an analysis tool by which to evaluate the problem (Methodology)
  4. Analyze the problem according to the methodology
  5. Propose an appropriate resolution (p. 1)

3. I also learned a tremendous amount regarding research literacy in my project on Pro-Eating Disorder Online Communities Normalize Eating Disordered Behavior. This was one of my favorite projects, but also one of the most emotionally draining. I was an overweight child, anorexic teenager, obese young adult and I have struggled with eating disorders and exercise bulimia for my entire life. This project allowed me to delve into the research on eating disorders and online communities that support and promote pro-anorexia and pro-bulimia behaviors. This project allowed me to conduct a deep-dive into the research available on computer-mediated communication (CMC), online communities, pro-eating disorder websites and body image perceptions based on media. I was able to identity a communications problem (pro-eating disorder websites promoting anorexia), explain the nature of the problem, identify an analysis tool for the problem and analyze the problem and propose an appropriate resolution. This project hit close to home, but it was eye opening to understand more about how to conduct and apply research to a communications problem.

Now What?

I am thrilled to apply theory to practice by making research literacy a part of my communications process. Just as I mentioned in my post about applying theoretical framework to my daily work, I’m excited to use research literacy in my daily work as well. I love using the Queens Everett Library resource to research topics for my coursework, but honestly, I’ve used this resource to research communication challenges I’ve had in the workplace as well. One example is we are looking to improve our communication channels to create content and channels that resonate with employees. The research literacy process allows me to research what employees really want to hear about from their workplace, when and how. By applying research literacy to my work, I can ensure I’m making data-driven decisions, not arbitrary decisions based on intuition or directives. I’ve actually changed the way in which I manage the communications for my department, as well as the discipline I give our work due to my newly honed knowledge for research literacy.

Reflections on Learning Outcomes

  1. Theoretical Literacy
  2. Research Literacy
  3. Digital and Media Literacy
  4. Writing Literacy
  5. Ethical Consideration
  6. Global Awareness
  7. Comprehensive Communications Project

Courses in my program

  1. COM 601 Communication Fluency
  2. COM 610 The Social Creation of Organizing
  3. COM 613 Constructing Messages and Audiences
  4. COM 616 Communicating Mindfully
  5. COM 624 Communication and Culture in a Networked Society
  6. COM 629 Leadership, Empowerment, and the Management of Meaning
  7. COM 638 Strategic Communication for Global Audiences
  8. COM 655 The Mediated Self and Changing Relationships
  9. COM 658 Creativity and Networks
  10. COM 664 Organizational Identity and Brand
  11. COM 680 Expanding Communication Boundaries
  12. COM 681 Launching Passion into Practice


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