Limitations of Interpersonal Communciation Research

When taking a limit of an equation in Calculus, a limit does
not always exist. However, in the real word there are
always limitations to what people can accomplish no matter
how hard they work or try. These limitations are evident in
interpersonal commuciation research as well. In the article,
"Commucication Apprehension Among Secretarial
Students," the authors, Melanie Booth-Butterfield and
Carol C. Thomas, research and examine the levels of trait
communication apprehension among students enrolled in
college level office administration programs. In the
following paragraphs I will discuss the process and two
limitations of the research.

In the article, the authors seek to investigate communication
apprehension among secretarial students. Communication
apprehension is an individual’s level of fear or anxiety
associated with communicationg with others
(Booth-Butterfield & Thomas, 1995, pp. 39). The
methodological framework utilitized by the authors was to
administer questionnaires during regular class time in four
different sections. This survey included a measure of trait
communication apprehension and anxiety across four
different areas of interpersonal, small group, meeting and
public speaking. In addition, the questionnaire asked for the
age and whether the participants have had experience in a
co-op role or as a secretary for a regular business. The
participants of the questionaire were 117 random students
enrolled at a four-year, technical business-oriented college.
Of these students, 58 were female students enrolled
full-time in office administration courses. The remaining
students were not secretarial students but were enrolled in
business administration, management, and communication
courses. The results of the survey clearly showed a higher
communication apprehension among secretarial students
than non-secretarial students rergardless of age or job
experience. Furthermore, secretarial students showed
anxiety in all four areas of communication especially in
public speaking. In conlusion to the research, the authors
say that the anxiety experienced by many office
adminstration students should be observable and will
substatntively influence their performance in classes and on
the job (Booth-Butterfield & Thomas, 1995, pp. 39).

Although this communication apprehension research seems
reasonable, limitations include the type of data used and the
relationships or generalizations that are drawn between
certain variables. To begin with, the methodological
framework utilized by the author is in the form of a
questionairre. A questionairre is basically a test to see how
one thinks of his or herself and is not necessarily accurate.
For example, an individual may think he or she is
apprehensive to communication but when actually
confronted with the scenerio may perform rather well and
without any fear or anxiety. Perhaps a better
methodological approach in gathering data is to setup an
actual communication setting and have the participants
perform to the communication task. The data should be
based on the performance as well as feedback from the
participant to see if the communication apprehension was

Another limitation to the research is the relationships or
generalizations that are drawn between certain variables.
First, of the secretarial participants that took the
questionairre, all were females. Differences in trait
communication apprehension between males and females in
the non-secretarial group were examined and showed no
significant differences (Booth-Butterfield & Thomas, 1995,
pp. 42). The authors use this data and draw a relationship
between the secretarial and non-secretarial gender to say
that in general there are no gender differences. However,
accurate as it may sound, this is another limitation because
secretarial students in general may think differently. Perhaps
females with communication apprehension follow office
administrative fields because they think that all they need to
do is sit all day and type with little talk or interaction while
males in the same field do not. Secondly, the authors come
to the immediate generalization that these secretarial
students with communication apprehension will be less
successful once in a working environment others
(Booth-Butterfield & Thomas, 1995, pp. 43). This parallels
the first limitation where I stated that these individuals might
perform rather well when the spotlight is on them. Although
they may be apprehensive to communication does not
necessarily mean that they cannot perform under actual

In this paper I have discussed the authors’ research on
communication apprehension among secretarial students as
well as the limitations of the research. Booth-Butterfield
and Thomas give us their interpretations of their findings
and feel that secretarial students have greater anxiety when
it comes to communication scenerios. They even conclude
that this apprehension will make these students less capable
of success in future work environments. However, these
statements are based on generalizations and interpretations
from research with various limitations. In conclusion, there
are always limitations of interpersonal communication
research because it not like Mathematics where one can
just measure communication levels with a ruler.

Category: Miscellaneous