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Observing «and» Analyzing Communication Behavior

John A. Courtright

This is a book about communication behavior: how we conceptualize it, observe it, measure it, and analyze it.
The 1970s and 1980s were times when communication behavior was a primary interest of many communication scholars. The aim of this book is to reignite some interest in and passion about how human communication behavior should be studied. It presents the best advice, techniques, cautions, and controversies from the 1970s and 1980s and then updates them. Several chapters also introduce statistical methods and procedures to allow readers to analyze behavioral data.
This book is a useful resource for communication scholars and graduate students to guide their study of communication behavior.
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2 Unitizing Communication Behavior

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Chapter 2

Unitizing Communication Behavior

The analysis of communication behavior can be used successfully to answer many different types of theoretical questions via numerous analytic procedures. Whether, for example, a researcher employs content analysis to study online postings of political opinion or interaction analysis to discover crucial segments of hostage negotiations, communication behavior is at the forefront. Despite the numerous different examples one could present to demonstrate the utility of communication behavior, all such examples have one fundamental element in common. Before any sampling, observing, labeling, or analysis can begin, the investigator must be able to determine reliably what constitutes a single instance of that behavior. For the particular research endeavor at hand, what is one unit of communication behavior? Bakeman and Casey (1995, p. 131) have emphasized this issue:

The coding unit—the entity that is assigned a code from the investigator’s list—is a foundational aspect of any observational study, and exactly what constitutes a unit and how one is segregated from the ongoing stream of behavior need to be defined clearly.

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