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When a Gut Feeling Isn’t Enough

This is an excerpt of an article written by Corinne Steinbrenner for COMtalk, the alumni magazine of the College of Communication.

15% of Americans have tried mobile banking. Frozen food sales rose 22% between 2006 and 2010. Just 1/3 of German teenage girls wear perfume.

Facts like these appear in news reports all the time—but where do the numbers come from? Such statistics are the work of marketing researchers, some of whom get their training at BU, in a little-known COM master’s concentration in applied communication research.

This uncommon program was established in the late 1990s by Prof. Michael Elasmar, who teaches the majority of its number-crunching courses. (And you thought there was no math at COM!) Elasmar says the goal of his curriculum is to prepare students to step out of the classroom and directly into high-paying jobs at research firms or in-house research divisions of large companies. His personal aim is to alter his students’ brains. “My goal,” he says, “is to actually modify their brains so much that they see the world very differently—that they see the world according to patterns that they can analyze, so that they can predict outcomes.”

Marketing research is a booming field, Elasmar says, because businesses have begun insisting on measuring their attempts to communicate with consumers. “They want very precise evidence that campaigns are indeed working,” he says, “or that campaigns are likely to work before they even launch them.” Despite the growing demand for trained marketing researchers, COM’s MS in applied communication research is one of just a few academic programs in the country with a specific focus on the field. (Most others like it are found in marketing departments of business schools.)

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Communication, Mass Communication, Michael Elasmar, Research

Communication Research

The concentration in applied communication research prepares students to assess client needs and solve client problems using polls, surveys, focus groups, and other research strategies. The skills learned in this concentration prepare the student for a position as a research analyst or research manager in such fields as advertising/marketing, public relations, political campaigning, health communication, and international communication. It combines a command of applied research designs, techniques, and writing skills with a background in one or more major professional fields. This area of occupational specialization offers many lucrative entry-level opportunities and excellent opportunities for advancement. The concentration also provides a research and theory background for those preparing for more advanced study in communication.

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