13 weeks later and the research project is complete!
My research question began out of a sense of CURIOSITY about the way that young people are accessing and analysing news sources in the continuously expanding world of technological advances, the internet and social media. Curiosity is the start of all good research, as being genuinely curious about a topic will allow for not only greater interest in the outcomes but also in the process. My research project developed with the topic of CRITICAL JUDGEMENT, where a particular reading intrigued me to understand more about credibility of the online news world: “…with the rationale that in pre-internet times publishers and librarians did the filtering work for you, and thus what appeared in print was trustworthy and authoritative” (Lupton, 2016).
It was essential to my research project that I produced a SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE RESEARCH DESIGN, acknowledging the effects of my research project on participants and the greater community. The risk matrix that I produced early in the project allowed me to consider what potential limitations and risks could occur and gave me the opportunity to explore how to prevent them. For example, a risk that I identified was that there may be a lack of responses to my survey. I tried to prevent this risk by publicising my survey on Twitter and on BCMS Facebook pages, as well as on the BCM212 spreadsheet and encouraging my class to participate. This was effective to an extent, as I received 25 responses which was enough to complete the project although more would have been desirable. The success of acknowledging this risk, though, was that without identifying it, I wouldn’t have put in as much effort to receive responses and would have been left with far less participants than received.
The Gantt chart that I utilised to keep on track and manage my time was also a massive help in the process. In hindsight, I would have liked to have included my other commitments from other subjects, to avoid being overwhelmed. Overall though, the Gantt chart ensured that I completed the project as required within the time frame given.
To be socially responsible, I made sure that I communicated my research and that my survey participants had access to my blog where updates would be. This was done by giving them a link to the blog before they could start the survey.
In addition to a socially responsible research design, the element of ETHICAL ACCOUNTABILITY was integral to my overall research project. In Week 5, we were introduced to the Media Alliance Code of Ethics which highlighted the fundamental principles of journalism and how journalists hold a very special role in society where they research, interpret and produce information to give to the public. My research needed to be honest, fair and independent, whilst respecting the participants of my survey and the information received by reporting it accurately, and not allowing any personal bias to be involved.
I also considered the Lean Research Principles: Rigor, Respect, Relevance and Right size, when creating and evaluating the survey. I focused on the respect aspect as this was most relevant. I did this by creating a ‘clear, intelligible informed consent process’ for survey participants before the survey began, acknowledging that their answers were anonymous yet will be used in a research project by a University of Wollongong student. This meant that the ‘research subjects feel truly free to reject participation without fearing negative consequences’.
In reflecting on the overall achievement of the research project, the results answered my research question that I established in Week 2. I have gained insight into what platforms are being used by the participants for their news consumption: predominantly being Facebook at 68%. More specifically however, I have discovered that analysing news credibility on social media is difficult, as a majority only ‘sometimes’ question the credibility of the news content, however 60% find that it is harder to find true and honest news. This means that even though the participants recognised the difficulty of discovering true news in the online world, most only sometimes questioned what they were reading. In hindsight of these results, I would have liked to have asked further questions about the process of reading a news story – whether they read it and then make a judgement or whether they make initial credibility judgements before reading the content. The survey also produced a significant finding: that the publisher of the news has immense power over whether they will believe content is reliable. Many participants expressed how already established news corporations are assumed to be true, whereas the unknown, independent or unrecognised sources are met with large scepticism. This leaves open the question of what process millennials go through to decide an unrecognised source’s authenticity. In hindsight, I would have liked to have explored this notion some more, as many participants held the same view that sources they did not immediately identify weren’t trusted.
This research project taught me a lot about research conception, design, management and evaluation, as well as the ethical framework in which are essential to promoting honest and reliable information. It gave me a greater understanding of news consumption and credibility, and has taught me skills to utilise in further research endeavours.
Mandy Lupton, 2016. Critical Evaluation of Information; Credibility Crisis. [ONLINE]. Available at: https://inquirylearningblog.wordpress.com/2016/03/07/critical-evaluation-of-information-credibility-crisis/ [Accessed 26 May 2017].
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (2015). The Lean Research Framework. [Online]. Available at: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B36nNXj12OvSMmJhZHRpOHZBMmM/view [Accessed 1 Jun. 2017].
Media Entertainment & Arts Alliance (1944). MEAA Journalist Code of Ethics. [Online]. Available at: https://www.meaa.org/meaa-media/code-of-ethics/ [Accessed 26 May 2017].