COM 372: Intercultural Communication


John R. Baldwin

Department of Communication

Illinois State University

Doing Intercultural Research

Updated 20 May 2013


[There is a PowerPoint presentation on the same topic. In most cases, start with the PPt and clarify with the more detailed notes.]



We have already begun to see that there is not a single, simple definition of culture and that, in fact, different writers define culture in quite different ways (as variable, as function, as process, as power). In fact, how one sees and studies culture, some writers say, has ethical implications—some people see the way others study and research culture as actually unethical.


Depending on your academic background, these may be familiar (some of us teach them in COM 111 at ISU, or you may have learned them in an introductory graduate course, like ISU’s “Proseminar in Communication.” They respond to these three perspectives of the world:

  • Interpretive
  • Critical
  • Scientific


Like most of our concepts, these perspectives should not be considered as “either or” but as “tendencies.” They represent ways of thinking (what some call “paradigms”) that can be seen in the way we research, the way we talk about culture, and through the historical trends of our field. You should familiar enough with each of these perspectives enough to describe it in a paragraph: What is its view of knowledge, reality, values? What types of methods might it “prefer”? What are some strengths and limitations of the perspective? This webpage, along with the website, will cover these details.


History of Intercultural Communication [Review of notes from Day 1]

We have already addressed briefly the history of IC as a research field. Pardon me for the repeat information, but here I want to show how the history of how we have thought about culture and IC research is influenced by different disciplines and includes totally different ways of looking at the social world.


  • 1950s: Decade of beginnings: The “discipline” of intercultural communication began largely with the work of E.T. Hall (the scholar who should have “phoned home”). Edward T. Hall worked for an institution called the Foreign Service Institute (an organization created after WWII to help better train U.S. diplomats to further American interests both abroad and with our Native American populations). Hall, an anthropologist, borrowed heavily from anthropology and linguistics to build a model for studying culture. Hall worked with several others—Trager and Birdwhistell among them[Note—this group also began our modern study of nonverbal communication]. Wendy Leeds-Hurwitz (1990) attributes Hall with several key things that brought birth to intercultural communication as a discipline. Among these are:
    • A change in focus from all culture to communication specifically
    • A change in focus from “macro” to “microcultural” (focus on the specific behaviors, protocol that diplomats needed to survive)
    • The use of applied linguistics (the most “scientific” of disciplines, seeking universal truths through systematic scientific method)
    • A model of culture based on language (patterned, predictable)
    • Methods of training that are still used today
  • 1960s: Decade of Silence: While Hall continued writing, for the most part, the 1960s (a culturally turbulent time in the U.S., with Viet Nam protests, the Civil Rights movement, and the “Hippie” movement) saw little action in the area of intercultural communication. It had become too focused for anthropology, and no one else had really picked it up.
  • 1970s: Decade of Research: Suddenly, in the 1970s, the communication discipline saw intercultural as a worthwhile area of research. Many writers started the first editions of their textbooks, including Prosser (currently teaching in China), Dodd (my thesis advisor at Abilene Christian University—still there), Samovar and Porter (in the first edition of the reader we are using in the 10th edition), and others. Also, the major communication organizations (National Communication Association, International Communication Association) began intercultural units within their organizations. The NCA began the International and Intercultural Communication Annual (IICA, still in publication). There were lots of studies, especially on cultural adaptation, nonverbal differences across cultures, and other areas, with culture conceived largely in “international” terms. The studies tended to be largely—almost exclusively “scientific” (experiments, systematic and quantitative observation, survey research), but were largely atheoretical—that is, there was no theory to guide them.
  • 1980s: Decade of Theory: William Gudykunst edited the 1983 edition of the IICA and called for essays on theory. This, then, became the first book that focused exclusively on intercultural theories. Young Young Kim and Gudykunst later edited a second theory volume of the IICA (1988), and Gudykunst and Asante drafted the first Handbook for International and Intercultural Communication. Most of the theories in these books were scientific in nature, though there were some writers through the 1980s who focused on rhetoric (e.g., Starosta)—which refers here to the interpretive analysis of texts, and to interpreting “rules” that people follow (e.g., Cronen, Pearce, & colleagues).
  • 1990s: Decade of Debate: In the 1990s, the focus of intercultural communication changed in two (or three) directions:
    • The focus broadened to include domestic communication between co-cultural groups, at first only ethnic, but increasingly other groups as well.
    • Ethnography of communication—an approach that interprets the speech and action of specific groups gained a large following, begun by Gerry Philipsen at the University of Washington (and still teaching there, I believe!). Some of the students of this group studied things like American terms and metaphors for “communication” as used on the Phil Donahue show (Carbaugh), direct communication styles among Israelis (Katriel), the culture of the concert followers of the Grateful Dead (Dollar), and others. Notably, B.J. Hall, our textbook writer, is trained in this tradition. This research tended to be interpretive—analyzing the behavior or perspective of a small group of people within its context, and seeking NO GENERALIZATION, but instead, in-depth holistic and contextual description.
    • Critical theory also gained power. Here a series of scholars, initially looking at representation of minorities and women in the media brought critical theory into intercultural communication. Feminists became interested in media representations of women (both of Americans and of those in other countries). This area only expanded through the 2000s with new focus on areas such as Whiteness (how White culture is centered and made to appear “invisible” in communication research and everyday culture), Postcolonialism (power differences between groups as established through colonization of some countries by others throughout history), and Critical Race Theory (a view that began in law studies that claims that racism is not merely behavioral, but is embedded into the very social and legal structures of America). Some of this research uses surveys or experiments, though much of it interprets texts and communication behaviors, looking for how these reproduce and pass on ideas that give some groups social or economic power while working against other groups.


  • 2000s: The Decade of Conciliation?

While many of us in the field still do not read each others work or hang out at conferences together, I believe we are in an age of conciliation, of working together. If you were to go to a communication conference today, you would see many panels from each of the paradigms—scientific (which held sway in ICC from 1950s to 1980s), interpretive and critical (which emerged more in the 1990s). Two interesting illustrations:

    • Gudykunst edited a 3rd (or 4th, or 5th—depending on how you count them) volume on theory in 2005. This volume, containing theories by several prominent intercultural writers, contains theories that are clearly scientific, humanistic, and critical.
    • At a recent national convention, the chair of the division came up and asked me if I would review papers. I said they already had some reviewers, but he said he didn’t think any of them would understand a statistical article.

Today, the intercultural divisions of the national organizations are huge. The NCAs division has several hundred members from all over the world. They produce scholarship using surveys, experiments, observation, textual and media analysis, and other methods.

Want to know more? Here’s an essay on the history of intercultural communication as a discipline. I have recently been in touch with Steven Kulich, in Shanghai, who is working with Michael Prosser, one of the founders of the current field of intercultural communication. Together, they are working to outline the history of IC Comm.


Types of Research:

FOCUS OF RESEARCH (What are you looking at?)

  • Cultural communication: Communication within a given culture (such as among coal miners in Pennsylvania)
  • Cross-cultural communication: Communication comparison between one or more cultures, such as how Japanese and Hawaiians perceive conflict (but without actually looking at what happens when one person talks to someone from another culture
  • Intercultural communication: When people from two different cultures communicate with each other
  • Co-cultural communication: When people from two groups within a single dominant culture communicate (these groups were formerly known as “subcultures,” but many scholars have moved to “co-“ instead of “sub-“ to reflect that all cultures within the dominant culture live side-by-side and not in subornation to one another.
  • Intergroup communication: Communication where group identity (perceived difference, stereotypes, prejudice) is the issue, and not any real differences in “culture.”
  • International communication: At least in our department, this refers to media systems used around the world.

While scholars might use these terms in different and overlapping ways, for this course, we will use them as above, to be as precise as possible.



1. Emic and Etic

Many authors have chosen to break communication research into two main types, roughly similar to “Emic” and “Etic”. (See power point). Basically:

  • Emic: Research that looks at a culture from that culture’s own perspective, usually implying the use of observation, qualitative, or other open-ended research to determine that perspective.
  • Etic: Research that uses an external (a priori—or “before the fact”) pattern, theory, or framework to interpret behavior, world view, etc., in a particular culture (e.g., Hofstede’s dimensions).

Note that Hall (2005) disagrees with this common distinction, feeling it is simplistic. He sees “etic” as anything that might be culturally universal or applicable, with “emic” representing the local representation of that phenomenon. For this class, I would like you to know the former definition, as I have seen it used more broadly in intercultural communication.


Example (using former definition): Reynold’s study (1984) of German values uses Rokeach’s value framework—18 “instrumental” values and 18 “terminal” values. The value instrument is translated and backtranslated from German, with the same survey given to both groups (this same instrument has been given to people in several other cultures as well). The assumption is that the same value framework should apply in some way across all cultures. This study allows for comparison between American and German values (see notes on tomorrow’s Webpage), with specific strengths and limitations to the interpretation. An “emic” approach, however, can be seen in Friday’s (2003) study of German and American managers. Friday does in-depth interviews with managers from both cultures, but each interview set produces its own set of categories (in some cases, there is not even a parallel category for the other culture). Like the first, this type of research has its strengths and limitations. Note that, since neither addresses what happens or is expected when Germans and Americans communicate with each other, we will call both studies cross-cultural.


2. Three Paradigms

Most communication scholars recognize the existence of 3 paradigms of doing research (at least that is how we’ve decided to divide them!). Elsewhere (Baldwin, 2004), I explain how these 3 paradigms relate to each other. Here I will be brief. I see the three paradigms existing on 2 dimensions.

  • Ontology/Epistemology: The first dimension is one of ontology and epistemology. Basically, these are:
    • Ontology: Assumptions about the nature of reality, the world, human nature [NOT studies of one’s parent’s sister—that is Aunt-ology!]
    • Epistemology: Assumptions about the nature of knowledge—how we know what we know, how knowledge is accumulated, etc. [NOT studies of diseases of the urinary tract, that is…um…never mind J]

Most scholars recognize these distinctions. You will see on Slide 5 (if you download and save PPt to operate it more easily) some primary distinctions. I want you to have a general idea of these—you do not need to know the technical words on the left and right!   Here’s a brief summary, reorganized to show “human nature” as part of ontology.





Things are real only to the extent that we name them to be so.


Reality is unique to individuals (or, perhaps to groups of people)


One cannot really separate the observed from the observer (“beauty is in the eye of the beholder)—thus all knowledge relies on the observer’s (subject’s) viewpoint (subjective)

Humans behave based on choice—they choose, even if not aware of the choices—to do certain things because they are beneficial to them in some way.


There is a “real” reality, external to any observers. There are real “laws of interaction” that don’t depend on any group or individual perception.


The observer (subject) and the observed (object) are distinct—and truth is in the object (that is, it is objective





Humans behave based on stimulus-response—that is, in response to internal (psychological) and external causes (think: cause-effect!)

We cannot “know” anything for certain. Prediction is really not possible, as each group or person is unique.


Some feel that the most we can know is people’s perspectives and that any other “knowledge” is not really valuable.


If we remove biases (for example, by using scientific method), we can observe patterns and realities


Some believe that reality must be observable and measurable for us to really know something.

The purpose of research, then, is to uncover the meaning within a text or for an individual or group of individuals, or to find the rules that people choose to follow—but not to try to generalize or apply that meaning to any others. Thus, the researcher is “interpreting”—not predicting.

Purpose of theory, research

The purpose is to find the universal laws of human behavior—the causes that affect our behavior (even beyond our awareness).


Another way of thinking about it is that humanistic research has tended to look at how humans are unique, distinct, and so on. Thus, the research tends to be:

  • Interpretive: interpreting and providing in-depth reality, often to small groups or individual texts (ex: rhetorical analysis of a music video)
  • Holistic: considering behavior in larger contexts. Since behavior is highly contextual, one would not try to predict it
  • Tends to prefer methods that allow interpretation of everyday life (observation/ethnography), perceptions of the world and of mediated texts (focus groups, in-depth interviews, open-ended questionnaires), or analysis of texts themselves (rhetorical analysis).


Objective/scientific research seeks to predict relationships between variables (constructs that exist at a higher abstraction than any single person, group, or text), that is, to see how humans are alike.  This research tends to be:

  • Mechanistic (treating people and events as parts of a “machine” of cause and effect)
  • Analytic/Reductionistic (focusing in a given study on particular variables and their relationship, apart from the “whole picture”
  • Tends to prefer methods that allow the determination of relationships that can be established by other researchers (that is, neutral, unbiased, measurable), such as systematic (and countable) natural observations (à la Darwin), closed-end surveys, experiments (where some variables can be “controlled” and others “manipulated” to determine “causality”), media content analysis (with frequency counts of categories) or open-ended questionnaires where the open-ended responses can be turned into categories and counted.



§  We should not think of research or theory as “either/or,” though that is the language we use. Actually, research/theory tend to be “more or less” objective or subjective. Pure subjectivity suggests the only thing that is real is what we perceive—we would have no sense of community or ability to communicate (would you even exist if I did not perceive you to?) Pure objectivity would assume there is no such thing as mind, self-esteem, or friendship unless they can be measured with external stimuli like heart rate. Most communication scholars sit between these extremes!

§  While most humanistic research is qualitative and much scientific research is quantitative, the real “paradigm” of the researcher depends on her or his view of the world. Some qualitative researchers still look for reality external to the observer (“realism”), so really write in a bit more of an “objective” frame, even though, perhaps, doing observation.

§  There is another dimension! Some scholars treat only the subjective-objective divide. We must also consider the role of values in research.


  • Axiology: The role of values in research.


Burrell and Morgan (1979) add a second dimension—the role of values. Thus, many researchers feel that values should be left out of research, as they may taint what the researcher may find (they are value neutral). B&M call this the “sociology of regulation”—sociology because they are sociologists! “Regulation” because this sort of research simply either observes and interprets (humanistic) or predicts and controls (scientific), but does not seek to change. Some researchers (for example, feminists, anti-racists) seek to “politicize” their research, to bring their values in. They believe that research should fight to empower, bring social justice, resist dominant ideology and structure, and so on. We will call this type of research, generally, critical theory.




  • Critical theory can be either scientific or humanistic, despite what many in our field say! The earliest critical theory in America was very scientific in focus (as we will see later in the semester). You can do a (scientific) content analysis of music videos to uncover unequal representation of women and men or survey research to determine if exposure to media affects (a scientific sort of word) women’s body image and self-esteem in an effort to change the world and help women resist cultural notions of beauty. The method could be scientific; you could believe that oppression is “real” and external to any one person—you are a realist, though a critical researcher. Because of this, it is difficult to say what type of methods critical researches prefer (though in communication, until recently critical research has existed mostly in media studies).
  • Critical ßà Regulation is also a continuum. Some sit in the middle, suggesting that values are part of the researcher and cannot be totally separated from research, but we should do what we can to limit their influence on our interpretation of findings.


In summary, there are primarily three “paradigms” in communication studies, including intercultural communication. The discipline began very scientifically, doing research to predict what would make someone a better communicator, adjust to a culture more easily, and so on. Around the late 1980s and especially in the 1990s, many turned to more interpretive methods like ethnography, interviews, and open-ended questionnaires for research. In the late 1990s to the present, many IC researchers are looking more at oppression, racism, and so on.


Some focus their research within a given culture. Some compare how communication differs across cultures, and some (but not many!) actually look at what happens when people from one culture interact with another.


Why is this relevant to you? Well, for this course, because you have to write a research paper. This just demonstrates that there is a broad variety of what you can look at, from “cultures” within a country (like Rave culture, Deaf culture, etc.) to cross-cultural differences, to predicting what might happen in intercultural conflict or relationships. You can look at “race,” ability, age, or other microcultures. You can look scientifically, humanistically, or critically.


Welcome to America—the land of choices…


Doing Intercultural Communication Research



As we have seen, there have been a lot of different influences and ways of thought that have impacted how researchers have thought about intercultural communication (and, as we will see in future notes, about culture itself). The ways we think about social reality (ontology, epistemology, axiology), intercultural communication, and culture are all related.

Especially since 2000, a growing diversity of methods and approaches characterizes the intercultural communication field. presence of an increasing number of media scholars. Thus, the field of “intercultural communication,” originally the (social scientific, structural) study of face-to-face messages between people of different (national) cultures now can be:

·         Scientific, humanistic, or critical (or somewhere in between these perspectives)

·         Focused on face-to-face or mediated messages (including much research on new media, social networking sites, and so on)

·         Focused on national cultures—but also regional, urban/rural, organizational (e.g., a sports team, a church), co-cultural (a gang, Tae Kwon Do parents and children, Grateful Dead followers)

·         Intercultural (on communication between people of different “cultures”), Cross-cultural (comparing two or more groups on some type of communication), co-cultural (focusing on ethnic, sexual identity, age, or other groups within a dominant culture), or cultural (uncovering some aspect of the communication of a single culture).

·         And because of these wide focus areas, “intercultural communication” research (or, more precisely, research dealing with communication and culture) can use any one of a wide variety of methods, including, but not limited to:

o   Surveys (closed- or open-ended)

o   Experiments

o   Observational research

o   Open-ended interviews or focus groups

o   Media (quantitative) content analysis

o   Media or rhetorical thematic (textual) analysis

o   Conversation or discourse analysis (only ex-370 students will probably know what I’m talking about here!)


Choosing a Research Method

So…how do you choose!?!  A lot of this depends upon your approach to the world and the type of claim you want to make:

·         Are you trying to make a statement about differences between groups, such as women and men, or within texts, such as representation of African American and White women in pop versus rap music videos?

·         Are you trying to establish a connection between variables, such as self-esteem and intercultural effectiveness?

·         Are you trying to uncover the details of a communicative practice, such as trash-talk between strangers in sports bars or use of humor to diffuse tension in high-stress work environments?

·         Are you trying to uncover cultural (and possibly “ideological” or “hegemonic”) meanings in a text, such as Dancing with the Stars or Inception?


Rather than repeat everything (a 3rd time! Much of this information appears on the Paradigms Website, as approaches to research are tightly connected to our view of the world), I will not detail everything here, but will draw your attention to this Powerpoint:

What you should take notes on and know  for the Exam:

·         The main differences between Emic and Etic research

·         Ontology and Epistemology, and two main dimensions (objective/subjective): Remember, these are not dichotomies! Something can be more objective, or objective in some aspects. But for shorthand (and quizzes) we will use the sloppy shorthand: “Objective” and “Subjective

·         Axiology and two main dimensions (observation or “regulation” and radical social change). Again, this is really a continuum.

·         For our class, we will use a very sloppy shorthand, but one very common across the communication discipline, between three (so-called) paradigms:

o   Scientific: Objective views of ontology and epistemology, with some commitment to being value-neutral in research

o   Humanistic: More subjective in terms of ontology and epistemology, also with a commitment to being value-neutral

o   Critical: Main thing that makes this approach different is that it wants to address social inequalities. That is, it clearly brings values into the research. But in terms of ontology and epistemology, it can be either more objective or more subjective.

·         Most of slides 16 to the end are about primary research projects (so these will be most appropriate to graduate students in summer 372, or any undergrads who choose a primary research project). But you do want to be aware of what types of methods might best fit sci/hum/crit perspectives. Specifically:

o   Social scientific tends to look for methods that can establish, without bias of researcher, either group differences or connections between variables. So it tends to prefer methods that can be quantified—like closed-ended surveys, media content analysis (with a lot of texts, such as many magazine ads or music videos), or experiments. Experiments are the epitome of SS research, as they allow researchers to control some variables while holding other variables constant. They are really the best method for determining if one thing causes another.

o   Humanistic (often called Interpretive) tends to use open-ended methods that either allow/encourage the researcher to make her own interpretation (rhetorical analysis, media textual analysis) or in which the researcher “interprets” (often with themes) the perceptions of participants (interviews, focus groups, open-ended questionnaires), or their actual behavior (ethnography, conversation/discourse analysis)

o   Critical research, as it is focused on changing perceptions or social structure, can use any of the above. The question here is not what method one is using, but why one is doing the research.

o   A caveat! The above is only a generalization. Really, while humanists do tend to use the methods indicated above, some who use these methods (e.g., ethnography, open-ended questionnaires, etc.) might be very objective in focus. Ask me if you want to know more (it’s usually grad-school stuff). For 372, if you keep the above three points straight, you should be fine!


Doing Effective Intercultural Research

It is really beyond the scope even of 372 to give you all of the details of how to do intercultural research. You will learn the best by applying what you learn(ed) in your (Quantitative) Research Methods Course at ISU (297/497) or in your qualitative research class (THAT’S RIGHT! WE DON’T OFFER ONE FOR UNDERGRADUATES L), but with intercultural sensitivity. Throughout the course, we will make some points and look at different methods.


At this point, I offer only one optional reading—an essay by Deborah Cai on doing cross-cultural survey research:  Save this for your files (especially grad students). If you are ever doing cross-cultural survey research, Cai summarizes types of equivalence issues in international work. For example, can we assume that back-translation of the survey is enough?


Why Does It Matter?

Just like in your research methods course, you are probably thinking, “I took this course to learn about intercultural concepts,” or asking, “Why does it even matter how I do research?”  But we offer the basic concepts in other courses (272)—remember, this is a “theory and research” course J.  But more importantly, many of you already are or will be working out in the corporate world. You will be working either with domestic or international diversity. You may actually want to be able to do research (e.g., a survey to understand Indian and American communication difficulties at State Farm, or research on how to strengthen corporate culture in a small organization). I’m hoping 372 will give you some tools (yeah, you learned them in your research methods course, but you only really learn them when you use them). I’ve had 372 students say that they learned more about doing research in 372 by actually doing a project than in other courses. But even if you don’t do research, any intercultural work (consulting or otherwise) will be stronger and more ethical if you read intercultural research….and are able to understand it!


Comparing Two Studies of Values

Rather than expound on all the different methods, we will take a look at two studies, and use this to ease into our unit on values. These studies each look at value differences between Germans and Americans. For each, we are concerned only with the most brief details of how the research was done, the main nature of the findings, and the strengths and limitations of each.


1. Reynolds (1984): German and American values: Notes based on my memory!

  • Reynolds starts with a prior notion of values based on Rokeach. Rokeach defines values as beliefs about the desired end-state of existence and characteristics of individuals. Rokeach (and, following him, Reynolds), calls the first terminal values (desired end-state) and the later instrumental values (how to get there).

·         Rokeach develops a survey with 18 of each terminal and instrumental values. Reynolds translates (and backtranslates) the survey and distributes it to about 10 locations each, covering the nation of Germany and of the United States, all among college students. (For a discussion of problems and difficulties of doing intercultural research, especially survey research, that is beyond the scope of this class, please see Deborah Cai’s on-line reading for this course.) Participants in each culture rank-order (1 = most important, and so on) the two lists of values.

·         The results consist of a comparison between the values of the two countries. For example, in terminal values, Germans rank self-respect as #7, but Americans as #1; in instrumental values, Germans rank broadmindedness as #1, but Americans rank it as #7. Interestingly, in 1984, Americans ranked “a world at peace” as #9 (Germans as #1)—I wonder if that would change today? There are also similarities. Both countries rank “freedom” as #2, and are within one point of each other on “true friendship” and “happiness.” The design is to make predictions about Germans and Americans, but also to explain the value differences in terms of social context (wars, closeness of neighbors) etc., showing the “dialectic” between reduction and holism mentioned above.



(in descending order, with “1” as top value)

[Reynolds, 1984]





1)  Self-respect

2)  Freedom

3)  Family security

4)  True friendship

5)  Happiness

6)  A sense of accomplishment

7)  Mature love

8)  Inner harmony

9)  A world a peace

10) Wisdom

11) A comfortable life

12) Salvation

13) An exciting life

14) Equality

15) Pleasure

16) A world of beauty

17) National security

18) Social recognition

1) A world at peace

2) Freedom

3) True friendship

4) Happiness

5) Inner harmony

6) Mature love

7) Self respect

8) Sense of accomplishment

9) Equality

10) Wisdom

11) Family security

12) An exciting life

13) A world of beauty

14) Social recognition

15) National security

16) Pleasure

17) A comfortable life

18) Salvation

Some notes:

1.    There are both differences and similarities. For example, the rankings for freedom and true friendship are pretty close. But self-respect is 1 for Americans and 7 for Germans, and a world at peace is 1 for Germans and 9 for Americans (in 1984! Would it be different today?).

2.    The author concludes that history and global situations (e.g., Germany surrounded by immediate neighbors and involved in several wars on its own territory) influence values and that, overall, Germany is more socially oriented (// collectivistic) and the U.S. more individually oriented (// more individualistic).

3.    Still, we are left wondering, despite the “back translation” method, if things like “freedom” and “friendship” mean the same thing to Germans and Americans! For example, it is likely that, while true friendship is important to both, Germans and Americans have different expectations of whom they would call friends and what the expectations for friendship are—and this “etic” study cannot get at those differences.


2. Friday (1991): German and American managers:  


In this article, Friday does open-ended interviews with about 10 managers each from Germany and from the United States. He presents his findings in terms of themes of difference and similarity with discussion, but with no numbers of frequency of how often each theme occurs. The point is an in-depth, more philosophical discussion of cultural themes. For example, Friday goes into depth about American pragmatism—that American English is a very practical language that reflects our notion that “every problem has a solution” and tends to work quickly and efficiently for goals (as opposed to other cultures, where buffering of relationships is highly important). Friday finds that Germans (like many European international students in American universities!) often use Besprechung as a form of conversation—deep, philosophical, contextual, historical, political, even religious. Americans tend to say to avoid politics and religion in discussion, as these divide people in a “tolerant” society. In conversations, the Germans often feel that the American managers are undereducated and unable to discuss things at a holistic, philosophical level. So also, many international students tend to find discussion with other international students more rewarding than the so-called shallow topics (practical, everyday life) of Americans. One drawback of this study, however, is we cannot know if the differences are “generalizable” to all German and American managers—it remains simply a description of a single group of participants.



He comes up with the following set of differences:



[Friday, 1991]

American Managers

German Managers

·         Business is impersonal

·         Need to be liked

·         Assertiveness, direct confrontation, fair play

·         Discussion

·         Informal Culture


·         Business is not as impersonal

·         Need to be credible

·         Assertiveness, direct confrontation, sophistication

·         Besprechung (Formal meeting)

·         Formal Culture


He discusses his differences using prior literature, with some quotations from the interviews (but not as many as we would expect if this were a modern journal article). He does not try to predict behavior, but merely explain the differences, with “in-depth” detail. Finally, he ends with some recommendations for workers from each country.


Thought Box: Which of the two approaches initially appeals the most to you between Friday and Reynolds? What do you think the comparative strengths and limitations are of each approach?


What we see from these is two different approaches to the same question: value differences between Germans and Americans! The first is quantitative, predicts differences more, and uses statistics. It has a larger sample, seeks different research goals, and provides data that can make generalizable claims (e.g., large sample, many regions of data collection). The second has a small sample, is interpretive and not really “predictive,” but provides in-depth description of categories in the words of the people studied.



Journal Article Abstracts

One of the best ways to understand how research is done is by reading it. So one of our optional portfolio assignments is the journal article abstract. This is a (roughly) 2 single-spaced page summary of a journal article following a particular model. There are several on the Abstract website that you can choose from, or you can also (with instructor approval) choose one that fits your own research portfolio project or final research project.



Baldwin, J. R. (2004). Assumptions behind communication theories: Reality, knowledge, and values. In J. R. Baldwin, S. D. Perry, & M. A. Moffitt (Eds.), Communication theories for everyday life (pp. 21-34). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Burrel, G., & Morgan, G. (1979). Sociological paradigms & organisational analysis. London: Heinemann.

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