Communication Institute for Online Scholarship
Communication Institute for Online Scholarship

 
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Additional information about the ComVista database

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Click a question (or just scroll down the page)

1. What institutions are included in ComVista?
2. What institutions are not included in ComVista?
3. How are faculty identified for department rosters?
4. What difference does it make who is included in a faculty listing?
5. What circumstances can result in a faculty member's publications being omitted or being inaccurately attributed in an institutional research strengths or Top Ten designation?
6. What is the basis for the "Institution Type" designation in the institutional profile?
7. What is the basis for the "Faculty Publishing History" data in the institutional profile?
8. How are Top Ten designations derived?
9. Under what circumstances can a ComAbstracts search for a faculty member's publications result in unexpected data?
10. How is ComVista different from other guides?
11. What is the basis for the research topics listed in the leading research institutions search?

1. What institutions are included in ComVista?

The ComVista database is based on a comprehensive web-based survey of four year North American institutions of higher education and by data supplied directly by departments of communication and journalism. To be included, the institution must have departments with a primary focus relevant to communication.

2. What institutions are not included in ComVista?

Some institutions may offer communication or journalism courses within a department that is not primarily devoted to the communication field. For example, a school in which the only communication courses are taught in a humanities department might not be included. Also, an institution must offer four year degree programs to be included in ComVista.
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3. How are faculty identified for department rosters?

In cases in which the data are based on web surveys, faculty listings may contain both regular full time faculty as well as part time, adjunct, graduate student teachers, and visiting faculty. Staffing at any college or university department is subject to regular change. Although the data for ComVista is refreshed regularly, it is wise to contact a department directly to verify faculty listings. Faculty listings may be as much as one year old but will rarely be older; however, it is the responsibility of the user of this service to verify all ComVista data with departments directly.

4. What difference does it make who is included in a faculty listing?

Departmental strengths result from the joint strengths of individuals who work in them. If a faculty member with a strong research profile in an area of study accepts a position at a new university, the department loses that person's record of experience and the new university gains it. For this reason it is especially important to obtain direct knowledge about faculty at an institution from the institution itself, to discover who is leaving, who is coming on board, who is only available temporarily, etc.
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5. What circumstances can result in a faculty member's publications being omitted or being inaccurately attributed in an institutional research strengths or Top Ten designation?

Although this rarely occurs, it is possible for a faculty member's publications to be omitted or misattributed if his or her name can't be resolved uniquely. For example, if there are people in the ComVista data with the same last name and initials but who work at separate institutions, the system will omit these individuals from counts of research strenghs since their publications cannot be differentiated accurately. Faculty publications may be omitted as well if a faculty member has changed his or her name. Although the ComVista system has very high accuracy, mistakes are possible and occur. It is important to verify all information through direct contact with scholars or departments.

6. What is the basis for the "Institution Type" designation in the institutional profile?

US institutions are described using an adaptation of the Carnegie Foundation system of institutional designations (doctoral degree granting institution, masters degree granting institution, etc.). If an institution is designated as one that grants advanced degrees, it is possible such degrees are available only in certain fields and may or may not be available in communication or journalism departments. Departments should be contacted directly to verify information about degrees offered.
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7. What is the basis for the "Faculty Publishing History" data in the institutional profile?

Faculty research strengths are derived by examining the publication history of each faculty member in communication or journalism as represented in ComAbstracts. ComAbstracts is a deep and broad database but it does not include all faculty publications. ComAbstracts is limited to publications in important academic communication journals and many faculty publish in books, book chapters, in popular sources, or in scholarly journals of other fields. For a department to have a faculty research strength in a topical specialty (e.g., "technology"), it must have credited to it at least three publications catalogued in ComAbstracts that have been tagged with that specialty as a metaterm. CIOS metaterms are a controlled set of high-level keywords derived from statistical studies of the communication discipline's literature. Thus the metaterm "reticence" is assigned to all studies that focus on shyness, communication apprehension, speech anxiety, and similar constructs. A faculty publishing history in reticence means that across all the faculty of an institution, throughout their careers, they have conjointly published at least three articles marked with this metaterm by CIOS coders. Note that in the case of multi-authored articles, each author of the article who works at an institution is credited for the article. If more than one of the co-authors are at the same institution, the institution is credited once for each author regardless that they are authors of the same article.

8. How are Top Ten designations derived?

A Top Ten designation is awarded when an institution has faculty who have collectively published at least 3 articles on a subject and when the collective record of publication places the institution in the top ten, allowing for tied ranks.

A department may lose a top ten designation due to changes in faculty. When a faculty member leaves, his or her record of research is no longer attributed to the institution. Although faculty listings in ComVista are refreshed regularly, it is always possible for a key scholar to have changed jobs or retired. It is important to contact institutions directly for current information.
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9. Under what circumstances can a ComAbstracts search for a faculty member's publications result in unexpected data?

It is possible when clicking a faculty name in a ComVista departmental roster that the resulting ComAbstracts search may fail, produce an incomplete publication list, or a list with other authors' work mixed in. In particular, this can happen if a faculty member has changed names, if a faculty member has been inconsistent in the way in which his or her name has appeared on publications, or if a faculty member is listed in the roster with an initial in the position of the first name (e.g., "L. Edna Rogers"). The criteria for attributing publications to departments in ComVista is much stricter and more exact than the criteria used for author searches in ComAbstracts. The CIOS strongly encourages scholars to publish articles under their complete names so that their contributions may be accurately attributed in digital information systems.

10. How is ComVista different from other guides?

Commercial guides to programs of study in higher education do not provide detail that allows for comparison of communication programs on the basis of their contribution to the field's research literature. Reputational surveys undertaken by communication professional societies have not looked at institutions comprehensively, rely heavily on perceptual data, and are infrequently updated. Both sources can be helpful, but are limited in the types of information they provide. Recent statistical studies have shown that ComVista rankings are significantly and strongly predictive of reputational rankings produced by the National Communication Associations's 2004 survey of doctoral programs in communication. Even so it is always a good idea to evaluate programs based on all available data, and from data supplied through direct contact with the institution, not only the data in ComVista.

11. What is the basis for the research topics listed in the leading research institutions search?

The CIOS has conducted extensive statistical studies of the frequencies of concepts appearing in the academic literature of the communication and journalism field. Concepts appearing with high frequency were identified and grouped, creating a master categorization of the field's research interests. Some geographic terms were added to the set. This classification has been applied to the literature covered in the ComAbstracts database as "Metaterms". This is a controlled vocabulary of master keywords.
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