Research Paper: Interdisciplinary Studies Bis Academic Disciplines Communication and Women

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Communications and Women's Studies

While academic scholarship shares a number of techniques and approaches, different disciplines, particularly in the social sciences, attempt to delineate answers to questions in sometimes divergent ways. For example, an anthropologist and a sociologist might study an indigenous tribal culture and ask many of the same questions. The anthropological approach, though, would likely focus on the manner in which the physical and social characteristics created that particular culture; while the sociological approach might look more at the functionality of that culture -- the organization, development and attributes inside the society.

This is a similar paradigm to the disciplines of communications and women's studies. First, while both can be broad disciplines, communications is certainly the grander of the two with literally hundreds of sub-disciplines. Communication studies deals with human communication, animal communication, mass media, speech communications, rhetoric, communication arts, journalism, public relations, computer-related communications and new media, and the flexibility of how messages are sent and received in any number of disciplines. Communications studies, in fact, is often popular because it is so flexible and has so many relevancies into multidisciplinary programs (Communication Studies, 2012).

Women's studies, sometimes known as feminist studies, is also an interdisciplinary field that focuses on exploring politics, society, history, and cultural from a woman's perspective. It looks at the way various societal norms of gender, race, class, and sexuality impact society and form social inequities. Within each major social science discipline, in fact, one can focus on a feminist perspective. If one was a scholar interested in the Renaissance, for instance, one could look at the ways in which women played a part in the societal and cultural blossoming or how women's roles changed with the resultant rise in the middle class (Scott, ed., 2008).

Research Questions -- Communications- as other disciplines continue to evolve, the aspect of communications, whether inter-or intra-personal, political, or social, continue to fascinate scholars in a number of disciplines. Modern communication studies integrate aspects of both the humanities and the social sciences. Within the modern rubric of social science, the discipline looks at questions dealing with sociology, psychology, political science, economics and even public policy. In the humanities, questions look at tracing rhetoric and persuasion, and even how communications might interact with engineering, architecture, mathematics and ways to integrate the hard and soft sciences. The information age has also brought new ways of looking at communications -- how electronic communications change meaning, rhetoric, and message (including texts, social networks, etc.) (P. Leung, 2006).

Research Questions -- Women's Studies - Current scholarship in Women's Studies often looks at a more micro-perspective of issues through the historical lens. Too, now that there has been such a push towards globalism, more scholarship is evolving from an international perspective. For instance, many scholars are now looking into the roles women played in areas that are not known for having a historical feminist tradition (Africa, the Middle East, Asia, etc.). There also seems to be a movement towards a post-colonial methodology in such disciplines as medicine, nursing, sports, historical geography, and more ethic studies that focus on a broader spectrum. The information age also allows women's studies to explore how technology has the potential to empower women in the developing world through access to micro-finance and education. Interestingly, communications studies and feminist studies are also often overlapping in that the quality of communication and messages is central to many of the research questions for both disciplines (Morin and Berg, 2010).

Methodologies -- Communications- Because communications studies integrates aspects of both the social sciences and humanities, and now tends to even integrate the hard sciences, the approach to research methodology may vary widely. All communications research originates with a question, and is systematic in collecting and analyzing that information. It can be qualitative or quantitative in scope, depending upon the subject matter, or even mixed method. To be scholarly, though, it must be viable across the curriculum and use established principles of data collection and analysis. In the basic outline of research, one must start with a question, design an experiment, collect data, observe or experiment, and then analyze and prove or disprove the hypothesis while providing a discussion relevant to the field (Cary, 2003). Contemporary communications theory often asks questions about the manner in which certain professions "communicate" their message to clients, and who, in turn, are expected to understand and return with input. As the demographics of the developed world age, this is particularly evident in researching communication styles within the medical field and patient-centered care models (Levinson, et.al., 2010).

Methodologies -- Women's Studies- Women's studies, too, being multidisciplinary, may take on several unique approaches to research methodology. It has many things in common with communication studies in that it must contribute to the theoretical development of the discipline, be based on empirical data, be cumulative and objective, be valid and reliable and enable at least some meaningful generalizations (McCaig and Dahlberg, 2010). Women's studies, though, tends to use more qualitative research because the questions asked are more micro in scope, or the universe of available subjects is not as large. Qualitative research is often used to form the hypothesis and narrow the question prior to studying the data quantitatively. For example, a focus group might be formed with the purpose of looking at a specific behavioral pattern based on a cultural event. The group makes judgments, remarks, and gives opinion -- all which are qualitative. The researcher then takes the qualitative data and uses it to form additional hypotheses and to develop a more quantitative approach to the problem. Typically, quantitative research uses larger samples that can be statistically analyzed and verified; while qualitative research uses smaller samples that may be used to generalize research. For women's studies, too, ethnographic methods; personal interviews or collections of stories and memories often form the basis of answering a hypothesis (Cresswell, 2003). There is also tendency to look at the way that different disciplines have evolved by the use of feminist themes and models, for instance choice feminism and various political interpretations of power (Ferguson, 2010).

Current Scholarship -- Communications Examples

Gehrke, P. (2009). The Ethics and Politics of Speech: Communications and Rhetoric in the 20th Century. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press. This book looks at how communications and speech have now an additional expectation and element -- ethical and moral issues in a media hungry world.

Norris, P. And Inglehart, R. (2009). Cosmopolitan Communications: Cultural Diversity in a Globalized World. New York: Cambridge University Press. This is cutting-edge research in that it challenges communications. Using debates from mass media globally, the authors find that there is actually very little commonality in the process of thinking about communication media

Varey, R., et.al. (2002). A Theoretical Review of Management and Information Systems Using a Critical Communications Theory. Journal of Information Technology. 17 (4): Retrieved from: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/0268396022000017725. This is a multidisciplinary article that shows that critical communications theory is required to understand political and ethical shortcomings in the modern world, particularly with the advent of global mass-communications.

Current Scholarship -- Women's Studies Examples

Hesse-Biber, S., ed. (2011). Handbook of Feminist Research: Theory and Praxis. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. This is an overview of what the authors call "cutting edge" research that focuses on distinct, but variable, feminist research practices in multidisciplinary studies.

Weiss, J. (2009). Transgender Workplace Diversity. North Charleston, SC: BookSurge. Typical of many of the new materials in feminist studies, this is multidisciplinary (business, politics, law, culture, women's studies, minority studies, gay and lesbian studies). Specifically, the material gives a broad overview of the new workforce, as well as legal and human resource techniques for working with transgender individuals.

Wolf, S. (2011). Changed for Good: A Feminist History of the Broadway Musical. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Often, histories of the theater… [END OF PREVIEW]

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