Advancing Research in Organizational Communication Through Quantitative Methodology

Vernon D. Miller, Marshall Scott Poole, David R. Seibold, Karen K. Myers, Hee Sun Park, Peter Monge, Janet Fulk, Lauren B. Frank, Drew B. Margolin, Courtney M. Schultz, Cuihua Shen, Matthew Weber (+2 others)
2011 Management Communication Quarterly  
This article showcases current best practices in quantitative organizational communication research. We emphasize their value in exploring issues of the day and their relation to other research approaches. Materials are presented around four themes: systematic development and validation of measures, including the use of mixed methods; multiple levels of analysis; the study of change and development over time; and relationships among people, units, organizations, and meanings. Article at UNIV OF
more » ... SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA on February 16, 2011 Downloaded from Miller et al. 5 Keywords quantitative methods, organizational communication The purpose of this article is to provide a broad overview of potentials and possibilities for quantitative research in organizational communication. It will not delve in depth in any single method. That will be left for a series of articles to appear in this journal in the future. Instead, this article documents a nascent resurgence of quantitative methodologies in organizational communication research by considering the novel and powerful affordances a number of recent developments provide for scholars. It is based on our firm belief that the vitality of organizational communication scholarship depends both upon insightful and heuristic theory and upon rigorous and diverse methods. We argue, in short, that it is imperative to develop a vibrant quantitative research community for organizational communication research to continue to advance. In so doing we do not mean to reignite the "paradigm wars" between quantitative and qualitative approaches that played out in the 1970s and 1980s among organizational communication scholars. We simply believe that there should be a greater recognition of the value of quantitative methods as a complement to the interpretive, critical, and discursive approaches. Our view is that all carefully developed and rigorously applied methods afford scholars insights and understanding. We are in accord with Taylor and Trujillo (2001, p. 166), who in their review of qualitative research methods in organizational communication state that it is relatively pointless to debate the merits of each approach in a qualitative-versus-quantitative type of debate. We agree with Miles and Huberman (1994) that "the quantitative-qualitative argument is essentially unproductive" and that there is "no reason to tie the distinction to epistemological preferences." (p. 41) This does not mean, however, that qualitative and quantitative methodologies generate equivalent types of knowledge and understanding. As Taylor and Trujillo (2001) emphasize "the different methods tap into different dimensions of organizational communication and . . . no one method has more privileged access to organizational 'reality' than any other" (p. 167). This article addresses four opportunities afforded to organizational communication scholars by recent developments in quantitative methods. For at UNIV OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA on February 16, 2011 Downloaded from 6 Management Communication Quarterly 25 (1) each we describe the opportunity and then offer some details on methods for taking advantage of it. First, qualitative and critical studies have generated insightful theories, concepts, and findings that can be explored further and advanced using quantitative approaches. By this we do not mean a return to the old "prescientific function of rhetoric" (Bowers, 1968) viewpoint, which implies that qualitative studies discover phenomena that are then more definitively studied and "completed" using quantitative approaches (see Edmondson & McManus, 2007 , for one argument along this line). Rather, the traditional strengths of quantitative research, including its conscious distancing of the investigator from the object of study through systematic development and validation of measures, study design, and statistical hypothesis testing, are useful in further exploring the validity and reach of qualitative findings, contextualizing qualitative studies, and generating further questions for qualitative research through reinterpretation and critique of the quantitative results. In addition, mixed methods, here briefly introduced by Karen Myers, offer a formal approach to combining qualitative and quantitative methodologies, thus capitalizing on the strengths of both. Second, quantitative methods can enable systematic study of organizational communication phenomena across multiple levels of analysis. Miller (2001) describes the need for multilevel theory and analytics in organizational communication research across individual, work unit, organizational, and interorganizational levels. A key challenge is to determine the nature of influence across levels and which levels are the most important influences. Multilevel modeling (MLM), introduced by Hee Sun Park, offers a systematic method for sorting out the influences of levels and for testing for crosslevel influences. Third, quantitative methods can facilitate the study of change and development over time in organizational communication. Monge, Farace, Eisenberg, Miller, and White (1984) emphasize that organizational communication was first and foremost a process and should be studied over time through systems approaches. Studies of change and development have been hindered in the past by the need to use general linear model-based approaches which were not well suited for the study of change or process.
doi:10.1177/0893318910390193 fatcat:sa6bxexvhfbhnb3kdnd6qzpadm