Research. A word most people still in school aren’t too fond of. I know that after 16 years, the word “research” is often associated with lengthy papers or science and lab classes (there’s a reason I’m not a STEM major). We’re conditioned to think of something we go through the motions of, like many of us think summer is the best simply because its a break from school (let that one sink in). But just like you start working summer jobs and realize you hate the heat, eventually we all learn that research isn’t all that bad. 

Merriam Webster defines research as “careful or diligent search” and “the collecting of information about a particular subject.” If you take these definitions literally, you will soon realize you’re conducting research every single day. Whether it be for a CAP 220 planbook or finding a local restaurant’s new COVID-19 hours, we’re constantly conducting research. Becoming comfortable with all types of research, and understanding why they’re important to communications, is the first step to getting over this stigma. 

Primary Research

This might be the most crucial type of research for a communications professional. From customer surveys to interviews for a media kit’s feature release, conducting research yourself is always important. While this can be the more pricey and time consuming option, it’s not only my favorite form of research, but in many cases the most beneficial. You’ll be able to gather exactly the information you need, and not have to sift through what you don’t.

Secondary Research

For a lot of your searching needs, secondary research will suffice. Whether it be to find the demographics within a certain target market, to finding out what topics a journalist has previously written about, it’s the most accessible form of research. Students have been programmed to automatically think of library databases when they hear this term, but it’s much more than that. The company you work for may not be able to afford them, and sometimes the data you need won’t be available there anyways. And hey- don’t dismiss a good Google search. 

Quantitative Research

Just like research can be labeled primary or secondary, research can be categorized as quantitative or qualitative. Quantitative, or statistical numbers-driven research, is becoming increasingly important for communications industries. Digital analytics such as followers, traffic, and engagement are becoming critical for companies to measure success. Media planning positions also deal with numbers all day, calculating costs and CPM’s for their company. 

Qualitative Research

One of the most influential aspects of research for communications research is qualitative research. Getting the concepts, opinions, and experiences from others to back your work is essential. Like primary research, this is often the most time consuming, but often the most meaningful. Without this more in depth data, you wouldn’t get these key insights to base your work off. 

Research is the foundation for so many of your daily tasks, and important for a job in communications. Knowing not only the different types, but how to conduct it well, will be that much more helpful for you. No matter what type of research you may be conducting, stop thinking of it as a chore, and realize how great it truly is. 

About the Author:

Kylee Reinert is a senior in the Advertising and Public Relations program, with a minor in Psychology. She serves as the Vice President of Member Services for PRSSA, works as an Account Associate for GrandPR, and is a part of the 2021 NSAC team. After graduation this April, she hopes to find *any* job in this economy, but would love to pursue a career in copywriting or branding. When she’s not in a Zoom meeting, you can find her checking out Grand Rapids’ coffee shops, watching Grey’s Anatomy, or cooking the latest TikTok-trending meal. 

Twitter: @kyleereinert