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TCOM 353 Critical Approaches to Mass Communication -- Macey: Assignments

Proposal Paper

Due: Monday, October 9

The purpose of this paper is to situate your audience by describing and justifying a communication topic/problem you wish to study. You will need to make an argument for the research topic not only as it interests you, but also as one that should be explored by communication scholars. In other words, why is your topic worthy of study? How will it contribute/advance understanding of particular communication issues? Who will benefit from this knowledge? To accomplish this, you will need to provide an extended proposal for your topic.


1. Topic Description

         a. Describe a communication-based event, situation, or problem that intrigues you. 

Your description should explain the nature of the communication interaction/event/situation/problem, explicate its history, and/or detail the known or potential outcomes that are shaped by communication.  

i. Some possible events or situations could be: representations gender, race, class, sexuality in media images, communication of health promoting messages via mass media campaigns; political campaigns use of social media; mediated messages about Millennials; Millennials and media consumption; communicated perceptions of “real job”/family/“American dream;” media and the political system; media coverage of political protests; communication that negotiates cultural identity; sports and communication, communication technology, government controls etc.

ii. Of course there are many other possibilities and you are not limited to the preceding topic areas. The key is to focus on cited examples of a communicative/media phenomenon that in some context excites, perplexes, or challenges you. In short, this section of your paper should demonstrate why this topic is interesting, in the cultural zeitgeist, and what the cultural implications might be.


Bring 2-4 articles to class on October 18
Note: These should be scholarly articles

2. Extended Proposal Due October 25

a. Justify the selection of the topic as a research endeavor. Describe its prevalence and implications for individuals, families, organizations, and/or society at large.

Using cited evidence describe your communication phenomenon. You can use what you submitted in the Topic Description as long as you have cited evidence. Focus your discussion by indicating why the selected topic is important. Describe/explain the implications your topic has on culture.

Explicate theory-based and pragmatic benefits that may be realized if your study is conducted. In short, this section of your paper should seek to convince the audience that your topic is worthy of study and has several potential cultural, industry, and/or practical implications.

A successful paper minimally will include 3 sources. None of the sources needs to be scholarly for the proposal. Think popular press to situate your topic in the cultural zeitgeist. A quality paper will likely be about 1 page, concisely written. The paper must include reference page in APA format.

Annotated Bibliography

Due November 8 - (40 points)

A bibliography is list of sources (books, journals, periodicals, websites, etc.) used in the course of researching and/or writing about a given topic. An “annotated bibliography” includes this list plus a summary and critical evaluation of each of the sources (for this assignment, you will write 8 annotations). The annotated bibliography is designed to improve your research skills, help you clarify your ideas in writing, and support the identification and assessment of academic and non-academic sources. It will also help you build a body of knowledge about a specific area of media studies that is interesting to you. It is not just a descriptive list of the material available, or a set of summaries. An annotated bibliography analyzes what is being said in each of your sources. You will discuss the strengths and weaknesses of what is presented in each item and include a careful consideration of the applicability of each author’s argument to your own research question.


The annotated bibliography assignment is meant to:

*  Improve your research and critical media literacy skills

*  Familiarize you with APA formatting

*  Assist you in understanding the content of the article


Your annotated bibliography MUST:

*  Demonstrate the cohesiveness and relevance of the research you have conducted on a particular subject and demonstrate your ability to synthesize ideas from diverse sources.

*  Be organized around and related directly to the topic of inquiry you have selected

*  Provide a critical appraisal of each source, meaning that you have applied principles of analysis to identify and select valid and relevant sources, and to evaluate the sources as texts.


The annotations do more than summarize; they also analyze what is being said in each of your sources. You will discuss the nature of each source, including potential strengths and weaknesses. More importantly each annotation must include a careful consideration of the applicability of the source to your own research question. Each annotation should include the following:


  1. An APA style citation


  1. A brief summary of the article. It might help to diagram the article first. Focus on discussing what the author(s) did and what they found and how these findings relate to your topic and connect among the other articles in your research.
    1. As you read each article, ask yourself the following questions:
      1. What is the point of this item? Why was it written? Has the author clearly formulated the problem/issue?
      2. What methods does the author use to provide support for their argument (a poll, textual analysis, an experiment, expert opinion, etc.)?
      3. What were the author(s) findings?
      4. What are the strengths and limitations of the article?


  1. A discussion of the item’s relevance to your overall research question. In other words, what role does this article play in understanding your topic? For example does it provide theoretical/academic foundation? Is it a practical application? A historical overview? An analysis of a relevant media text? A counterpoint to the prevailing research/dominant opinion? How does it connect with other articles in this annotated bibliography? How is this article useful to your study? If not – this item should be replaced with something that fits better.

Literature Review

First Draft (50 points) Due: Wednesday, November 22

Final Draft (60 points) Due: Wednesday, December 6  


As simple as it sounds a literature review reviews the scholarly literature that has explored the issues in which you are interested. The purpose of your literature review is to describe and discuss what is currently known about your chosen topic. To accomplish this, you will need to review past research and theory. In short, your review should answer the questions:


- How does past research inform the communication event or situation for which you are interested?  

- What are the major theories, theoretical perspectives, or communication models that

inform or explain your research topic?

- What knowledge emerges from past research endeavors on your topic?

- What is still left to be learned about the topic?

- How does all of the existing literature inform your research questions/research project?


To answer these questions, you will need to briefly, but critically summarize at least 7 research/scholarly articles.  You should synthesize and discuss what your research reveals about your topic. You should organize your topic according to what emerges from your research. A literature review should build a sound foundation for an investigation. Thus, your review should provide a rationale for your study’s research questions (RQs). At the end of the literature review, you should have a summary paragraph that brings together the many pieces of your literature review and describes where your project is going and you should identify one or two RQs that follow logically from your review.

A successful paper will integrate/synthsize at least 7 research/scholarly articles. A quality paper will likely be about 4-5 pages in length. The paper must include a title page and reference page in APA format.  


Note - Popular magazines, newspapers, popular (i.e. non-academic) Internet websites, and encyclopedias are useful only as supplementary sources; do not rely on these alone.  Only scholarly sources "count" toward the 7 in the bibliography. Provide citations for ALL claims made in the paper.  Use APA style.


To facilitate your progress with this assignment, you will also complete a research proposal and annotated bibliography. A revised research proposal will eventually serve as the introduction to your final literature review. The annotated bibliography will ensure that you are finding, understanding, summarizing, and synthesizing articles in a timely manner.