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Research Design

In order to answer the research questions previously outlined, this researcher conducted a qualitative content analysis of posted messages discussing the Muslim culture as it was portrayed in the telenovela “El Clon” on the web site http://foro-telenovela-world.com. According to Babbie (2001) content analysis is the study of recorded human communications and posted messages are one of the forms suitable for study.

Media content analysis has been a long tradition of communication research. Content analysis has been utilized to investigate various media formats such as advertising, news, cartoons, and also issues present in the media such as violence, sex, health, and race issues.

Through a quantitative approach, content analysis was defined as a research method to analyze the manifest media content in a systematic, objective and quantifiable way (Berelson, 1952). The quantification of manifest content means that it must be coded as it appears, rather then as the coder feels it is intended (Stempel III, 1981). Critics to Berelson’s work, represented by Siegfried Krakauer (1952), argued that the quantitative strategies were inadequate. They contended that when attempting to establish the meaning of texts by breaking them down into quantifiable units (words, expression, statements, etc), analysts defeat the main objective of their study. For the fragmentary characteristic of the resultant data hampered the examination of the text as a meaningful whole (Jensen & Jankowski, 1991). Responding to the qualitative versus quantitative debate, Berelson (1952) replied:

Much “qualitative” analysis is quasi-quantitative: first we must make the obvious, though often overlooked, observation that there is no strict dichotomy between “qualitative” and “quantitative” analysis. Just as quantitative analysis assigns relative frequencies to different qualities (or categories), so qualitative analysis usually contains quantitative statements in rough form. They may be less explicit but they are nonetheless frequency statements about the incidence of general categories (p. 116).

The situation presented once more, was where this researcher faced the duality and the duel of choice between contrasting traditions. The matter of the question was not of preference for quantitative versus qualitative methodologies when posed as either/or strategies. The methodology of choice in this study was caused by the need to investigate the meaning of the text through the analysis and interpretation of the posted messages as a latent content, instead of a manifest content, in order to reflect the answers for the research questions. On the other hand, it was also a quantifiable exercise. The emphasis however, was on the interpretation of the meaning of the text as its latent content, instead of its apparent content. Nevertheless, both exercises will be presented in the results of this research.

Some of the previous research on audience response to entertainment-education programs has been conducted with the content analysis of audience letters. Law (2000) favors the study of soap opera audience letters as a unique way to obtain information and insights that would be inaccessible otherwise. He argues that audience letters could be a significant cost-effective, practical, and realistic information source for evaluating media interventions. A parallel can be traced here to the analysis of the posted messages, which are cost-effective, practical and public information with easy accessibility through the Internet. Previous studies that explored the information potential of audience letters were Sood 1999; Rogers et al, 1997; and Sood, Singhal, and Law 1997. Law (2000) praises the value of audience letters as one of the most conveniently available information sources for evaluating the impact of mass media interventions. However he also points out that letter writers are a group of highly involved individuals, and most of the times are not representative of all audience members who might have been influenced. The same applies to the participants of the forum. These are highly involved individuals; furthermore, they are self-entitled “Clonaholics”, meaning that they are “El Clon” fans, which challenges the results of the study to be correlated to the general population. However, this study might be important in providing the basis for further research, and given the sparse amount of online telenovela audience research, this study might be contributing to the enrichement of current literature.

Other positive aspect of studying audience correspondance is that they provide an unbiased self-report, since the writers are usually unaware of the research (Singhal & Rogers, 1999). The study of posted messages can be traced as a parallel to the study of audience letters; it is also a description of the audience response to the content of the telenovela, in their own words, without the researcher’s interference. The value of this methodology can also be compared to the ones specified by Law, and the same criticism applies.



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Acknowledgements / Dedication - Abstract





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