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 Measuring Organizational Communications

Quantitative & Qualitative Research

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There are numerous differences between qualitative research and quantitative measurement. Though both are valuable research methods, each has specific application in assessing and improving organizational communications effectiveness.

 Quantitative Research

By definition, measurement must be objective, quantitative and statistically valid. Simply put, it's about numbers, objective hard data. A scientifically calculated sample of people from a population is asked a set of questions on a survey to determine the frequency and percentage of their responses. For example: 240 people, 79%, of a sample population, said they are more confident of their personal future today than they were a year ago. Because the sample size is statistically valid, the 79% finding can be projected to the entire population from which the sample was selected. Simply put, this is quantitative research.

The sample size for a survey is calculated by statisticians using formulas to determine how large a sample size will be needed from a given population in order to achieve findings with an acceptable degree of accuracy. Generally, researchers seek sample sizes which will yield findings with at least a 95% confidence level (which means that if you repeated the survey 100 times, 95 times out of a hundred, you would get the same response) and a plus/minus 5 percentage points margin of error. Many survey samples are designed to produce smaller margins of error.

Survey sample and structure designs, survey question writing and testing, criteria for selecting appropriate methods and technologies for collecting information from various kinds of survey respondents, survey administration and statistical analysis and reporting are all services provided by GuideStar Communications. However, due to their technical nature, these topics are not covered in this brief.

Qualitative Research

Qualitative research, is much more subjective than quantitative research and uses very different methods of collecting information, mainly individual, in-depth interviews and focus groups. The nature of this type of research is exploratory and open-ended. Small numbers of people are interviewed in-depth and/or a relatively small number of focus groups are conducted.

Participants are asked to respond to general questions, and the interviewer or group moderator probes and explores their responses to identify and define peoples' perceptions, opinions and feelings about the topic or idea being discussed and to determine the degree of agreement that exists in the group. The quality of the findings from qualitative research is directly dependent upon the skill, experience and sensitivity of the interviewer or group moderator.

This type of research is often less costly than surveys and is extremely effective in acquiring information about peoples' communications needs and their responses to and views about specific communications. It is often the method of choice in instances where quantitative measurement is not required.


An essential key to success in organizational communications research with people is confidentiality. Survey respondents and participants in in-depth interviews and focus groups are often asked to give open, honest personal responses about sensitive issues, concerns, perceptions and opinions on a variety of topics.

To acquire the truth from people, researchers must be able to not only assure, but to absolutely guarantee, that a participant's identity will be kept confidential and fully protected. Confidentiality is one of the primary reasons, in addition to their specialized qualifications, that corporations turn to independent consultants to conduct organizational communications research and measurement.

Media, Channels and Networks

In addition to research involving people and the produced communications media, activities and management communications they interact with, there are other important aspects of organizational communications to study for a fully dimensional understanding of how an organization communicates and what is working and what isn't. These include examination of the usage patterns of electronic communications systems such as e-mail, Voice-Mail, Intranets, etc., analysis of communication flow patterns in networks, feedback systems and informal communications such as memos.

Research in these areas is often conducted by technology systems personnel and communication audit professionals like GuideStar.


Copyright 2012, GuideStar Communications. All rights reserved.

For more information, contact:
Ira Kerns
Phone:  212-426-2333 
Fax:  212-427-7514


GuideStar Communications, 451 E. 84th St., Suite 7D New York, NY 10028


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