TERM PAPER — MASS COMM 72
The paper counts for 25 percent of the course grade. It will be between 8 and
10 typewritten, double-spaced pages
of text (not counting title page, endnotes and bibliography,
tables or figures, photocopied articles, etc.). It is due on Tuesday,
November 15 at the beginning of class. Any papers turned in after that
time will not be accepted and you will receive a zero on the assignment.
You will e-mail in a one-page term paper topic proposal September
earlier). This needs to be nothing more than a couple of paragraphs
about the topic you've chosen to write about, but can include any information on
sources or other details you may have in mind. The topic can change later,
but this gives you a chance to get some early feedback on your topic. There is no need to print a copy — e-mailing it to me allows me to respond
The easy way to do this is just to click
this link and then either type in your proposal or attach it as a Word
document to the message. If this doesn't work, please e-mail your proposal with the subject line
"MC72 Paper Topic Proposal" so I can easily keep them all together.
You may copy and paste that subject line into your e-mail client.
The paper should follow one of three approaches:
- Write a content analysis, examining the media coverage of a CURRENT news story from the list below
over a period of time as it
develops, comparing the content of two different media outlets — one national and one local.
Discuss the themes you find within the coverage, use examples to illustrate
them, and explore the differences between the
content of national and local media and how the outlets aim to
serve their very different audiences. You might also assess how, based on
your analysis, each of your chosen media organizations fulfilled its mission to
inform the public.
For this assignment,
you may choose from the following stories:
(1) The presidential candidates' stances on immigration (or any other major
issue -- pick one)
(2) The debate over gun control
(3) The debate over vaccinating children
(4) Any other current topic approved by Prof. Craig
- Write a content analysis, examining a PAST news story from the list below over a period of time as covered by
one national media outlet (i.e. New York Times, USA Today, Time,
or TV network news), discuss the themes and patterns within
the coverage, use examples to illustrate them, and look at the degree to which that
organization's coverage fulfilled its mission to inform the public and/or
For this assignment, you may choose from the following stories:
(1) Louisiana flooding of 2016
(2) The BP oil spill of 2010
(3) The Columbia Space Shuttle explosion
(4) The Atlanta Olympic Park bombing (and the naming of Richard Jewell as a suspect)
(5) Any other past topic approved by Prof. Craig
NOTE: I'd prefer you refrain from the Sept. 11 attacks and from the
O.J. Simpson or Michael Jackson cases. I've read waaaaay too many papers about these
subjects, and to adequately cover them requires writing a book, so unless you have
a really fresh angle, it's best to avoid them.
- Write a historical analysis of any person discussed in lecture or
the textbook as being significant in the history or development of any of
the media we discuss in this class. For this approach, the person's
major period of influence must have been more than 25 years ago -- your job
is to discuss that person's impact in the context of their own times and
their continuing influence today. This needs to be documented
thoroughly -- people aren't influential just because you say they are.
If you have an idea for a term paper that doesn't conveniently fit
into any of these formats, please feel free to check it out
The best papers are usually those that integrate both information
you gather through research with concepts and examples found in
readings and lecture. Show us you know how some of the ideas from
this class relate to the subject you've chosen. This needn't dominate
the paper, but in general the terms and concepts you learn in this
class come in very handy when analyzing the information you've found.
One more thing: This may not be a writing class, but if your writing, grammar
or spelling are so bad as to make your paper hard to understand, it will hurt
your grade. Papers that are well written and easy to understand almost
always get better grades than ones that are full of bad spelling and
G O O D L U C K !
- Papers will be double-spaced, on
8½ x 11" paper, in 12-point type or smaller with one-inch margins or
smaller. I have a very dim view of efforts to
"pad" papers by increasing type size or margins.
Please print on one side of the paper only; it's hard to read and mark up
when you print on both sides. Be sure to proofread and/or spell-check your final version. There is
no need to place your paper in a binder; a staple in the upper
left corner is fine.
- Any photos, graphics or illustrations you choose to include should be placed
at the end of the paper as appendices. You may refer to them in the text (i.e. "See Appendix 1"). These do not count toward the final number of pages.
- This is a research paper. That means that you need to go out
and find information about the topic and report your findings in the
paper. It means you look at a significant body of material — if
you're doing a content analysis, all the articles on the subject over a
period of time — and analyze what
you find. For a content analysis this can be anywhere from 25-50 articles;
for a historical analysis, maybe 8-10 books and 10-20 articles, or some combination of the
two. It does not mean you read a handful of articles and write the
paper off the top of your head. At the university library, there
are subject specialists who can help you find appropriate materials for your
topic. Papers that demonstrate the
author's hard work generally receive better grades than those that reflect minimal
- The biggest mistakes you can
(1) Jumping to conclusions without backing them up with research.
(2) Getting facts wrong — misspelling names, misstating dates
or making any other factual errors.
(3) Relying too heavily on one source — your paper ends
up replicating another author and reflecting all the same points of view
(and the same flaws).
(4) Plagiarizing — representing someone else's words as
your own. When in doubt, cite the source.
- Do not use Wikipedia as a source for your paper. It's not
that all the information there is wrong — it just contains too many user-submitted
mistakes to have true credibility for a research paper. Students also
sometimes use it as a crutch, listing multiple entries as though they are
different sources. If you can't help it, use the site to help lead you
to more credible sources. It's a great jumping-off point, but not a
credible source by itself. Also do not use any of the offshoots of Wikipedia —
many sites these days simply repost Wikipedia's material. Be wary of
any site whose name ends with "pedia."
- Use credible sources. Since anyone can publish on the
Internet, there's all kinds of unverified information (a.k.a. crap) floating
around. Please be sure you use reliable sources — ones you'd be
willing to defend as valid. Just because something appears on
someone's blog or Twitter feed doesn't mean it's true.
- I do require both a bibliography and footnoting/endnoting in my
papers. Any standard citation/footnote/endnote system is fine
(i.e. APA, Chicago Manual of Style, etc.), but
stick to the one style throughout. I will provide some guidelines on the
class home page a few weeks in advance of the due date.
- Regardless of your chosen style, please inset and single-space all
quoted material that's more than three lines in length.
Occasionally you'll want to make a point by using a lengthy excerpt from one
of your sources, and that's fine, but you need to single-space it so that
(1) it sets that material apart from your own writing, and (2) it doesn't
artificially pad the length of the paper.
- You are required to number your pages. If you can't figure
out how to make your word processor do this, number them by hand before you
turn your paper in.
- You are required to keep an electronic copy (or photocopy) of your paper. You are also required to keep all your notes,
research materials and rough drafts until the papers are returned.
Both of these are to protect you in case of any question about
plagiarism, duplication, fabrication or missing work. See the
course syllabus supplement if you are unclear on what constitutes
plagiarism and/or fabrication.
- Omitting any required element (i.e. bibliography, footnoting/endnoting,
page numbering) will cost you a letter grade.
- The paper is due when it is due, not five minutes later. Turn it
in on time. Extensions will be granted only with an extremely good and
well-documented reason (i.e. extreme emergency explained to Prof.
Craig before the due date). Any unexcused papers turned in
after class on the due date will not be
- Most importantly, if you have any questions or problems involving paper topics, research materials or methods, or anything else, please ask me before or
after class or during office hours.
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