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An artifact is an object of study commonly used in critical and qualitative or interpretive communication research. Artifacts are made by humans rather than the result of natural phenomenon; therefore, they are symbolic, purposeful, and intentional things. Understanding the meaning of an artifact is central to conducting this form of inquiry, as selecting a useful artifact for study is often one of the first steps performed when using critical and qualitative research methods. This entry illustrates the various dimensions, uses, and characteristics of an artifact. It offers examples of artifacts, explains how to select an appropriate artifact and justify its importance for study, and provides a context for understanding the artifact in relation to the overall critical and qualitative or interpretive research paradigms.

Defining the Artifact

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