Which structure has to be based on all essays

How normative is communication science?


Research in communication studies is shaped by the structural framework under which it arises - for example, the science system, social expectations of science and the media system of the respective country. In a comparison between Germany and the USA, the quantitative content analysis examines the extent to which such framework conditions affect the normative ideas that authors from these countries express in their journal articles. To this end, we use a three-stage procedure for the identification, systematisation and categorization of “should-be concepts” and, for the first time, propose a methodical procedure with which the normativity of specialist journal articles can be measured without having to specify the values ​​and norms to be recorded in advance. Indicators of the normativity of the essays are the should ideas articulated in them and concrete recommendations for action, which can be addressed to different groups. The findings show no difference in the degree of normativity, but they do show a difference in the priorities that are set: should ideas and recommendations for action in the German articles focus more on media and journalism than on direct research subjects in the subject. The American essays, on the other hand, focus more on successful social coexistence, pointing beyond the subject and more often appeal to the responsibility of individual actors. The results make it clear that structural differences - also conveyed through the research subjects - shape the normative ideas that guide women scientists and are expressed by them. The study thus calls attention to the normative character of communication science and provides new insights into the subject's self-image.


Research in communication studies is shaped by the structural conditions under which it is conducted — for example, the science system, societal expectations of science, and the media system of the respective country. The USA are often seen as a reference frame for the development of the German Communication Studies, but differ structurally from Germany in terms of its science, society, and media system. Therefore, the study at hand compares Germany with the USA and examines the extent to which such structures affect the normative ideas that authors from these countries express in their journal articles. The normativity of the articles is measured by the normative claims and concrete calls for action articulated in them towards different groups of addressees. Normative claims exist in two variants: they can evaluate a current condition or articulate a desirable condition for the future.

To answer our research question “Does the normativity of communication studies, articulated in journal articles, differ between Germany and the USA?”, We conducted a quantitative content analysis of communication studies articles published between 1970 and 2014 in scientific journals of our subject. The period under study thus encompasses a period of older and more recent intensive upheavals in society, science, and media systems (eg, changing values, dualization of European broadcasting systems, digitalization), which challenge the working conditions and research subjects of communication scholars and are therefore likely to evoke normative claims. Given our interest in the normative statements of German and US-American communication scholars, we selected articles with at least one author with German affiliation from three German journals (German sample) and articles with at least one author with US affiliation from the 20 international journals (US sample). This results in a sample of 326 articles (nGerman = 61, nUS = 265), in which 3233 normative claims (nGerman = 691, nUS = 2542) were identified. For each normative claim, the content, the addressed subject and object as well as calls of action, the type of normative claim and the mentioned research field were coded by 12 communication researchers.

The results confirm the strong normative influence of both German and US-American communication studies: almost nine out of ten articles contain normative claims. Regarding further formal indicators the two countries hardly differ: In both German and US-American articles desirable conditions for the future outweigh evaluations of current conditions. The majority of the authors themselves take a normative position instead of citing statements by other authors. Only about every third normative claim in the articles of both countries names a subject that is supposed to create the desirable state, every fifth claim addresses an object that is supposed to profit from this state, and every third claim is connected with a recommendation for action .

These findings do not point to a different degree of normativity, but clearly indicate different foci of normativity: The normative claims and calls for action in the German articles focus strongly on media and journalism as main research subjects of the discipline. The US-American articles, on the other hand, focus strongly on successful social coexistence, thus pointing more beyond the discipline’s main subject, and appeal more often to the responsibility of individual actors. The results indicate that structural differences — also conveyed through the subjects of research — decisively shape the normative ideas that guide communication scholars and are expressed by them. The study thus raises awareness of the normative character of communication studies and contributes to a better self-understanding of the discipline.

The present study extends preliminary work on the normativity of communication studies in several respects: Firstly, the proposed instrument of normative claims and call for action provides an opportunity to make normativity visible independently from the concrete use of the terms “norms” and “values” —In scientific publications and beyond. Secondly, the methodological design developed for the present study enables not only systematic comparisons across individual scientific sub-areas or research subjects, but also between different academic cultures. Thirdly, the concept of manifestations of normativity makes an important contribution, which can serve the self-reflection of communication studies and its normativity: The comparison elucidates how strongly one’s scientific work is shaped by the surrounding structures. Which research topics are perceived as relevant and which normative positions are represented strongly depends on the national and cultural context in which communication scholars are scientifically socialized and work.


Scientific action is consciously or unconsciously based on norms and values ​​(cf. Anderson et al. 2010, p. 366). They determine rules of action and ethical limits for women scientistsFootnote 1 (cf. Braxton 2010, p. 243; Bruhn 2008, p. 19), are reflected in routines and social practices as well as in ethical codes of professional societies and influence how Women scientists teach and research. In the research process, numerous decisions are normatively shaped - from the choice of research questions via theories and methods to the interpretation of the results (cf. Althaus 2012, pp. 99–100; Scherer 2013, pp. 254–261; Zillich et al. 2016, p . 395). Norms and values ​​guide women scientists to examine issues that they perceive to be socially relevant and topical, and influence when and on which topics they bring their research results into the public discourse (cf. Bruhn 2008, p. 20; Peters 2019, p . 209; for examples see Public Communication Studies 2019) and thus secure the social legitimation of their subject (cf. Eberwein and Fengler 2012, p. 12).

In addition to internalized norms and values ​​that are shared by the majority of women scientists regardless of their professional background (cf. Merton 1973, p. 269), specific framework conditions inside and outside the scientific system influence how women scientists can and should work (cf. Löblich 2010a , P. 39). For example, at the beginning of an academic career, subject and country-specific “tacit knowledge” (Gerholm 1990, p. 268) is acquired through interactions with female colleagues. The structural and financial conditions of the respective academic system (cf. Vogler and Post 2019, p. 320), social and political expectations of female scientists and - in the case of communication studies - the national media system (cf. Löblich 2010a, pp. 549-550) influence the work of women scientists. These framework conditions influence your research subjects and thus presumably also your normative statements in scientific publications. Investigations of the structural influences on the normativity of scientific publications can thus contribute to the self-image of communication science, but so far have largely been lacking.

The following study examines which norms and values ​​German and US researchers articulated in scientific publications from 1970 to 2014.Footnote 2 The USA is often seen as a frame of reference for local specialist development (cf. Beck 2020, p. 169; Löblich 2010a, p. 129), but differs from Germany in terms of the scientific, social and media systems. The study therefore compares normative statements by authors from Germany and the USA with which they themselves or with reference to other sources assess current conditions or describe them as desirable conditions. The study proposes a novel operationalization of the normativity of scientific texts with ideas about what should be done and recommendations for action. Your results can serve as a starting point to reflect the normative understanding of the subject.

The essay begins with a comparison of relevant framework conditions in German and US communication studies. We then describe how normativity can manifest itself in scientific publications, present the method and findings of our study and discuss their implications for communication science and its self-image.

Influences on and measurement of normativity in communication science

Scientific norms and values

Norms are shared ideas of a social group about expected or desirable behavior in a certain situation (cf. Braxton 2010, p. 243). Values ​​include “ideas of what is desirable” (Schäfers 2016, p. 39), which are based on cultural, religious, ethical and social models: “Values ​​are not presupposed, but derived.” (Summer 2016, p. 16) Both concepts are closely related interconnected and difficult to separate analytically: ideally, values ​​provide overarching standards of orientation for thinking and acting. Norms provide the corresponding context-dependent rules of action (cf. Schäfers 2016, p. 39) and act as a link between the desirable and the practical (cf. Schicha 2010, p. 23). Both norms and values ​​have an “intersubjective validity for a certain period within a certain culture” (Schicha 2010, p. 22). In contrast to this, principles represent overarching rules that are assumed to be generally valid and thus have a universalist claim (cf. Rath 2010, p. 137; Schicha 2010, p. 22). Examples of such principles are autonomy, non-harm, benevolence and justice (cf. Beauchamp and Childress 2013, p. 13). In the interplay of principles, values ​​and norms, normativity emerges as a consensus, which, according to Kuhn, is considered a paradigm of science: “Everything in which scientists in a discipline agree or can agree” forms a paradigm (Kuhn 1962, p. 37). Only women scientists who follow a paradigm can shape science and generate new findings (see Lang 2013, p. 10). A consensus on norms and values ​​shared by women scientists can therefore guide their scientific action.

Analyzes of this normative action have recently become increasingly important in communication science (cf. Blumler and Cushion 2014; Christians et al. 2009; Heesen 2016; Kepplinger 2014; Neuberger 2017a). They illustrate that normative statements by women scientists as an expression of action can refer to different levels of justification, depending on whether it is about universalistic principles of the ideal level, socio-cultural values ​​and norms of the practical level or individual interests (cf. Schicha 2010, p. 33-34). For example, numerous public theories are based on the principles of political rationality and justice (cf. Kepplinger 2014, pp. 25–31), and normative justifications for the social mandate of mass media often address the principle of the common good (cf. Serong 2011, pp. 107–112 ). Analyzes of the quality of public communication, on the other hand, often relate to values ​​such as freedom, equality, diversity or integration (cf. McQuail 1992, pp. 65–80; Neuberger 2017a, pp. 51–52) and considerations on journalistic objectivity to the value of truth ( see Neuberger 2017b, p. 407). It can be determined empirically to what extent mass media offers achieve this value for society or individuals (cf. Hasebrink 2016, pp. 27–31).

At the same time, it is important to note the logical contradiction between empirical premises and normative conclusions, which refers to the fundamental difference between being and ought (cf. Rath 2010, pp. 136-138). From empirical statements that can be found in HisExpressing sentences does not follow logically Shouldsentences, i.e. normative statements. “If a statement is understood descriptively or empirically that is not descriptive or empirical” (Rath 2010, p. 137), then there is a naturalistic fallacy. While it is consequently unproblematic that women scientists allow themselves to be guided by norms and values ​​in the choice of topics and the formation of theories (context of discovery), make them the subject of their research (cf. Albert 1993, p. 204) and reflect on the social and ethical consequences of their scientific work (Utilization context), it is not the task of science to "pass out practical value judgments as scientific assumptions" (Dahrendorf 1968, p. 84). The required freedom from value judgments in science therefore does not mean that women scientists cannot make recommendations on how the desired goal can be achieved. Rather, it aims to avoid value judgments as a justification for research, to subject scientific statements to intersubjective criticism and to leave the implementation of the recommendations made to practitioners, politicians and lawyers (cf. Albert 1993, p. 205; Dahrendorf 1968, p. 86; Joas 1997, p. 14).

Framework conditions of scientific norms and values

Norms and values ​​are culture and time-specific (cf. Schicha 2010, p. 22). It is therefore to be expected that communication scientists of different origins will hold different normative positions and that this will also be reflected in their publications. In the following, relevant differences between the science systems, the social expectations of science and the media systems in Germany and the USA are described as framework conditions (cf. Löblich and Scheu 2011, p. 7) that are likely to influence such normative positions.

Framework conditions in the science system

Relevant in the science system are individual and structural factors (cf. Post 2013, pp. 28-49.) That influence each other: At the individual level, women scientists formulate demands on their own actions that they internalize in the course of their scientific socialization (cf. Anderson et al. 2010, p. 390; Gerholm 1990, p. 263). In this way, they define how they want to contribute to scientific knowledge (cf. Peters 2019, p. 211). The fact that many women scientists do this equally assures society of “lasting knowledge and reliable knowledge of exploitation” (Post 2013, p. 47) and justifies the social status of science. Internalized demands on one's own scientific action are z. B. in the different technical understanding in Germany and the USA clearly. A technical understanding "always has a normative function" (Löblich 2010b, p. 545). Expertise in the USA was shaped by interdisciplinary approaches and specialist cultures; The "heavy hitters" (autumn 2008, p. 604) of communication science came from sociology, political science and economics, which in the beginning devoted themselves to current social communication phenomena with the aim of better understanding them - such as questions of media impact research or the sociological, political and psychological role of propaganda (cf. Soffer and Geifman 2020, p. 4; Waisbord 2016, p. 875). In addition, cultural studies approaches (e.g. by the emigrated scholars from the Frankfurt School) as well as “interpersonal relations, speech rhetoric studies, and a focus on communication organizations” shaped the beginnings of the US-American subject (Soffer and Geifman 2020, p. 4). This diversity of content characterizes the subject to this day, which according to Waisbord (2016, p.868) meanwhile shows tendencies of a fragmented, content-specific communication science.

The empirical-social science understanding of German communication science (cf. DGPuK 2008, p. 2), however, prevailed in the middle of the 20th century as a reaction to various changes in the subject's environment (cf. Löblich 2010a, 2010b). New media structures, which resulted from the introduction of television, the concentration on the press market and the increasing need for unencumbered journalists after the end of the Second World War, on the one hand changed the research subjects of journalism and newspaper studies at the time. On the other hand, the growing importance of the mass media for political and entrepreneurial decisions on issues such as diversity and the power of opinion increased the demand for quantitative, directly usable data. In order to be considered as a contractor for the requested empirical studies and to be included in advisory committees, the subject oriented itself more towards empirical-social science research objects and methods (cf. Löblich 2010b, pp. 549-550). As a result, historical and literary studies gradually lost their importance (cf. Beck 2020, p. 169). The "empirical-social-scientific turnaround" (cf. Löblich, 2010a, 2010b) also contributed to the growing orientation towards the neighboring disciplines of sociology and political science and the pioneering role of US mass communication research, which was primarily based on analytical theories of science and quantitative methods ( see Löblich 2010b, p. 550). At German institutes with a social science orientation, this orientation towards US communication research also influenced the teaching and normative understanding of science of subsequent generations of German communication scientists (cf. Löblich, 2010b, pp. 553–554).

Since communication science is characterized by a large number of specialist historical approaches and content orientations, it is reasonable to assume that these structural framework conditions are reflected in the individual norms and values ​​of female scientists and may differ from nation to nation (cf.Averbeck-Lietz 2012 , Pp. 6-7). Individual norms and values ​​are also influenced by internal scientific quality assurance mechanisms. For example, the peer review process of publications and conferences on quality assurance is now established in communication science in both the USA and Germany (cf. Gehrau et al. 2013, p. 323; Post 2013, pp. 28-49), although this mechanism has a longer tradition in the USA. In addition, the time and financial resources involved in scientific work influence the individual norms and values ​​of researchers. For example, the majority of universities in Germany are publicly funded and can largely decide autonomously on their issues (see Post 2013, p. 32). In addition to this funding, the most important donors are public institutions such as the German Research Foundation or ministries that also promote basic research. In the USA, on the other hand, privately financed universities are very widespread - and with them a “market-like instrumentalization of education” (Lenhardt 2005, p. 16). US universities are “oriented towards economic premises” (Harnischmacher 2010, p. 94) and compete for resources among one another. As relevant stakeholders, the donors have a much stronger say in the research topics (cf. Vogler and Post 2019, p. 334).

Social expectations of science

Society, too, has general expectations of “good science” and, through public discourse, defines relevant topics on which women scientists should work (currently e.g. climate change, corona crisis). The scientifically sound answers and prognoses that social stakeholders expect can determine the scientific topics (cf. Kepplinger and Post 2008, p. 25) and even the establishment of entire research fields. Health communication emerged as a research field in the USA at the end of the 1980s, while in Germany it was still in the early stages until the 2000s (cf. Schulz and Hartung 2010, p. 548). In addition, application-related research projects that “legitimize or perhaps even influence political and economic decisions” (Meyen 2013, p. 130) and thus ensure a gain in reputation are particularly successful in the US specialist tradition.

Framework conditions in the media system

While the science system and society exert an interdisciplinary influence, communication science is also normatively shaped by the media system. According to the typology of Hallin and Mancini (2004, p. 67), the media systems of the two countries considered here differ significantly. Germany has a democratic-corporatist media system, the USA a liberal one. The structural differences of the media systems can influence in many ways which research subjects communication scientists find relevant and which normative ideas they express in this context:

  1. 1.

    In the Newspaper industry Both countries developed a mass press early on, although newspaper circulation in the USA is still significantly lower than in Germany (cf. Hallin and Mancini 2004, p. 67). This structural difference could e.g. B. reflected in the importance of newspapers as an object of research and the normative evaluation of their social status.

  2. 2.

    The political parallelism - the extent to which the media system reflects the ideological structures of the political system - was historically strong in Germany because the development of newspapers was closely linked to the development of political parties. In the course of our study period it decreased significantly, but is still considerably stronger than in the USA, where all media markets were heavily commercialized from the start (see Magin in press). This difference plays normatively z. B. for studies that deal with journalistic partisanship or the (originally Anglo-American) requirement to separate news and opinion.

  3. 3.

    The journalistic professionalization has a longer tradition in the USA than in Germany. For example, the earlier establishment of journalistic self-regulatory bodies (cf. Redelfs 1996, pp. 190–191) and the increased academization of the journalistic profession (cf. Harnischmacher 2010, p. 270) in the USA. Normatively, this affects z. B. Investigations into journalistic ethics, journalistic failures, training of journalists or the understanding of the role of journalists.

  4. 4.

    Also the Role of the state in the media system differs: Compared to the USA, German media policy is more interventionist and aims in particular at securing freedom of the press, media diversity and journalistic autonomy. One of the most important instruments for this is public broadcasting. In the USA, on the other hand, media policy is based on the self-regulation of the media markets and is accordingly cautious. Public broadcasting hardly plays a role (see Brüggemann et al. 2014, p. 1041). That should z. B. lead to a greater significance of the normative expectations directed towards public broadcasting in German communication science research.

Concepts of ought to be and recommendations for action as indicators of normativity

The extent to which these different framework conditions actually shape the normative positions of German and American authors can be clarified in addition to surveys of women scientists (cf. Anderson et al. 2010) and systematic content analyzes of publications on communication studies. However, there have hardly been any corresponding studies to date. If norms and values ​​are examined through content analysis, then mostly in relation to individual topics (cf. Boudana 2011; Singer et al. 2011), media content (cf. Chesebro 2003; Foss 2008) or sub-areas of the subject (cf. Fink and Gantz 1996), not but in a comparison of different specialist cultures. It is therefore important to first develop suitable indicators for the (comparative) measurement of normativity. The obvious possibility of capturing the norms and values ​​explicitly mentioned in the texts (see e.g. Fink and Gantz 1996) is difficult due to the lack of distinction between the two concepts (Chapter 2.1) and is due to a different understanding of the terms in different disciplines reinforced (cf. Zillich et al. 2016, pp. 398–399).

The analytical concept of the Should conceptions (cf. Boventer 1984, p. 279; Thomaß 2016, p. 33), which encompasses norms and values ​​equally and is used for the present empirical analysis of the normativity of scientific publications. Here, based on Esser (2000), ideas about what should be done are understood as normative statements in which an expectation of an action is merged into claims. Expectations can, for example, contain incentives for an action or the consequences (including possible sanctions) of an action. Claims are expectations that are evaluated and are therefore associated with “evaluations, wishes, demands” (Esser 2000, p. 75). According to Esser (2000, pp. 51–55), an idea of ​​ought consists of three elements: (1) The content is the expectation that is expressed in the concept of ought (What should happen / be done?). (2) That subject is the addressee who is made responsible for the realization of this expectation (who should take the initiative?). (3) That object is the "beneficiary" who is affected by the realization of the expectation (for whom / what is the subject responsible?). The should-do concept “parents should control the media consumption of their children” consists of the content “control the media consumption”, the subject “parents” and the object “their children”.

With this threefold division, the construct of the should concept offers the decisive advantage that it can be operationalized better in terms of content analysis than the constructs of norms and values. The content is the central element of every concept of what should be. It has to be present so that there is an idea of ​​what should be, while a subject and / or an object can, but does not have to, be present. The should-do concept "the urgent demand for a diverse media landscape" (content: diverse media landscape) contains z. B. Neither subject nor object (for further examples, see the key plans in the additional appendix to the online version of this article). Should ideas can come in two forms: (1) They can be current state explicitly evaluate and describe that something is positive / good or negative / bad. This evaluation expresses a current aspiration. (2) You can get one future state Describe it as worth striving for and express a future claim as to how something should (not) be (cf. Esser 2000, pp. 74–75).

Scientists go one step further when they explicitly set out what should be Recommendations for action derive. This means specific instructions or advice on how certain addressees - such as politics, media, companies or users - should act under certain conditions or in general. They are aimed at at least one clearly identifiable, explicitly named addressee and name specific future activities of the addressees in order to create a desirable situation.

Visibility of normativity in scientific texts

The normativity of scientific publications can be measured on the basis of the should conceptions and their various manifestations. In the following, we describe the indicators that we use to compare the specialist cultures in Germany and the USA, and derive our research questions from them. Fig. 1 illustrates how these indicators express an ever stronger or more explicit manifestation of normativity. We operationalize manifestations of normativity as should-do concepts in scientific journal articles whose target group is primarily researchers from the same discipline or from neighboring disciplines. The overriding issue Our study aims to clarify how strongly the structural influences described above on communication science shape its normativity:

Does the normativity of journal articles differ in Germany and the USA?

The first level of manifestation of normativity are should-do ideas, with which researchers - consciously or unconsciously - express normative ideas. According to this understanding, the more shoulds a publication contains, the more normative it is. We only take into account ideas of should that relate to social conditions or developments. Research-related should notions (e.g. demands for “replication with a larger sample”) are not included in the further analysis.


How many should ideas are mentioned on average in the essays?

In the next step, we determine whether an should-do concept evaluates a current state or describes a desirable future state. We interpret the latter as a stronger manifestation of normativity, because the claim to achieve something or to bring about change is more prerequisite and requires more activity on the part of those responsible than the evaluation of an already existing condition or its maintenance.


How often do ideas about shoulds describe desirable current and how often future states?

In order to find out what the normative ideas expressed relate to, we analyze the three elements of an idea of ​​what should be: content, subject, and object. From this z. For example, you can read about which social phenomena the authors express themselves normatively and who they see as responsible.


Which contents, subjects and objects of ought-conceptions are addressed?

We then examine whether the authors themselves formulate should-be ideas or merely reproduce should-ideas from other sources (e.g. people, institutions). We see the former as a stronger manifestation of normativity due to self-positioning.


Who are the originators of the should conceptions?

Normativity manifests itself most strongly when a should-do concept is linked to a recommendation for action for addressees, because then a transfer into the public discourse is sought. This can be an important step towards the development of "forms of communication and cooperation between science and practice", "which will break down the communication barriers that have grown and redefine the relationship between social distance and the ability to connect to social practice" (Howaldt 2005, p . 192) contribute.


How often are recommendations for action made and who are they aimed at?

The extent to which recommendations for action are accepted and implemented remains open in the present study.



A quantitative content analysis of communications science journal articles published between 1970 and 2014 is used to answer these research questions. The study period thus covers a time of older and more recent intensive upheavals in society, science and media systems (e.g. change in values, dualization of European broadcasting systems, digitization), which challenge the working conditions and research subjects of communication scientists and are therefore likely to give rise to normative statements. Journal articles do not depict communication science in its entirety. However, they are currently considered the most visible form of publication with the highest reputation and provide information on central issues that the subject deals with.

The trade journal sample (Table A1 in the additional appendix to the online version of this article) contains the three most important German-language trade journals (Journalism, Media & Communication Studies (M&K; formerly Radio and television), Studies in Communication and Media (SCM)) as well as 20 international English-language specialist journals. We identified the latter in the Web of Science as follows: From the 74 journals listed there as “communication science”, non-English-language journals and journals from related disciplines such as economics or linguistics were excluded as irrelevant. Of the remaining 43 journals, the 20 with the highest impact factor (without self-citations) were included in the sample.

On the basis of pretests, we set a target size of approx. 3000 should notions in order to ensure sufficient case numbers for detailed analyzes despite the expected diversity. In order to achieve this, we selected 80 issues (23%) from all 346 issues of the German-language journals that were published in the study period, and in each of these we randomly selected one article.From all 2616 issues of the international journals that were published in the study period, we randomly pulled 400 issues (15%) and in each of them an article. We excluded book reviews, reports, and obituaries. The different rates (23 vs. 15%) take into account the significantly lower total number of German-language magazines and ensure that there is a sufficient number of should-do's in the German-language sample. In this way we identified a total of 5,496 should-be concepts.

Since our research interest is the comparison of German and US American journal articles, only articles with at least one author with German affiliation from the three German journals (German sample) and articles with at least one author with US affiliation from the 20 international were included in the analysis Trade journals (US sample).Footnote 3 157 articles to which this criterion does not apply, and the 2263 ought-ideas contained therein, were excluded from the analysis. This results in a sample of 326 articles (aftGerman = 61, nus = 265), in which 3233 should notions (nGerman = 691, nus = 2542) were identified.

Coding of should conceptions

Coding should-be conceptions in a standardized way in journal articles is a complex task that demands a high degree of theoretical and semantic sensitivity from the coders: because researchers rarely explicitly refer to normative statements as such (see Althaus 2012, p. 99), one is suitable Keyword search for should notions (e.g. using search terms such as “Wert *”, “norm *”, which then also lead to hits such as “the value of money”). In addition, the variety of norms and values ​​referred to in an interdisciplinary subject such as communication science is hardly manageable, intercultural different and possibly subject to change over time. Defining certain norms and values ​​in advance in a code plan would inevitably lead to blind spots: only those that were searched for could be found. Therefore, in this study, we applied a three-stage procedure for the identification, systematisation and categorization of should conceptions (Fig. 2), which is based on the combination of theory- and empirically-based category formation described by Früh (2001, pp. 72–74). What is innovative about it is that we link this with Esser's (2000) concept of the should-do concept. For the first time, we are proposing a methodical procedure with which the normativity of the test material can be measured without having to write down the values ​​and norms to be recorded in advance in lists and thus limit the gain in knowledge.

Step 1: identification

In the first step, we identified all of the should (n = 5496) theory-guided according to the definition mentioned.

In order to ensure the best possible reliability, we limited ourselves to explicitly formulated (manifest) concepts of ought and excluded implicit conceptions of ought (e.g. conditional forms such as “could”, stylistic devices such as irony). Signal words such as “should”, “require”, “important” or “negative” are an indication of what should be, but did not necessarily have to be present in order for a statement to be coded as an should. We recorded both the should-do concept in its entirety and its three elements content, subject and object in their original formulation as free text. In addition, we collected standardized information on the type and origin of the conceptions of should and - if available - recommendations for action and their addressees.

Step 2: systematization