MCM2100 Term Paper Assignment: Critical Analysis


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  • This presentation is designed to show you how to write a successful term paper for this course. I recommend that before you view this, you download the assignment file and read though it so that you will have some concept of the assignment. This presentation is meant to supplement the assignment file to help you understand what is expected for this paper.
  • The purpose of the paper is for you to begin looking at social, ethical, and other ramifications that mass communication has on our world. You will accomplish this by reviewing relevant literature and conducting a content analysis of some form (or forms) of media.
  • Ultimately this is an exercise in critical analysis and critical thinking. So what does that mean? It means that you will be arming yourself with knowledge of the topic, then making observations of real-world instances of these things (your topic) occurring within media. It requires critical thinking, which means that you’re applying reasoned, rational accounts of why the things you will be observing occur. It is important to note that we generally think of criticism as finding fault in something. This is not always the case. Critics can also recognize what is positive or good about something as well. Bear that in mind as you plan for your topic. As Barnet states, “the most valuable the most valuable criticism is not that which shakes its finger at faults, but that which calls our attention to interesting matters.”Barnet, S. (2008). A short guide to writing about art. (9th ed.) New Jersey: Pearson.
  • Critical Writing serves multiple functions. This is not an exhaustive list, but consider that your work can introduce audiences to new authors, works, or concepts. It can show why a given topic or theme is significant. It can also increase our understanding of a topic by enlightening audiences about relationships between ideas (in this case, related to Mass Communication) and their impact on life, culture(s) politics, science, and so on...
  • This type of writing includes evaluating or passing judgment on the things you will observe. In some ways, this paper is an effort to persuade your audience by setting up 1) your position, or argument about the matter 2) a reasoned account about why you take the position that you do, and 3) evidence to support your position and the rationale that you have given for your reasoning.
  • While personal opinions are part of this paper, they are considered secondary to authors and experts on your topic. As such, it is important to pick reputable sources that support your stance on given positions. But we’ll discuss that in more detail in a few more slides. When expressing your opinion in this paper, it is recommend that you avoid using the pronoun “I”; or at least, use it as sparingly as possible. The point is that your idea should not come across as something that was cooked up solely by you: that, instead, this is something that other research suggests. Your work is to either reinforce (or find evidence against) these ideas by looking at observations, critically thinking about them, then writing them in the appropriate academic form.
  • Both of these examples express the same idea. The latter example is a more appropriate way of expressing the sentiment or statement.
  • There are four basic steps to completing this paper. The first 1)is to identify what you want to write your paper about. Once you have a general idea, then you will 2) find a primary source (or sources) that supports your theme. This step is incredibly important. You do not want to pick sources that are not academic. To simplify this, I encourage you to use books, academic journals, magazine articles in reputable publications, or video content distributed via major media entities. What you want to avoid are blogs or personal web pages by authors whose statements are not able to be verified. If you base your entire theme on, for instance, the idea that Heavy Metal Music turns people into murdering psychopaths because you read it on “Jimbob’s Anti-Metal Blog,” then you need to do some serous research into the validity of this claim before you base your entire paper on it.Once you’ve done some research and established your theme and found some work that supports it, then you will 3) go out and look for real-world examples of the phenomena you are investigating. Once you’ve found examples of these phenomena, you will then 4) think critically about your findings and how they relate to the body of research you’ve based them on, and get your ideas onto paper in proper APA form.
  • So let’s look an an example topic and one way we might approach it. Your handout has a different topic and idea on it, so you might look at both of these to draw some comparisons about what is the same and what is different between the two. In this example, we want to explore common themes in viral video campaigns. Viral videos are a form of marketing where companies want to advertise their products by creating something clever that they can release to the public. If they can make something particularly catch, funny, thoughtful, provocative, etc., then their message will spread virally across the web as folks see it and mail the link to their friends; who subsequently mail it to their friends, and so on. To better understand this, the student might find and select the book “Beyond Viral” by K-M Nalty as a way to understand what experts are saying is essential to creating successful viral campaigns.
  • Once the student has read up on the issue, he or she might then go look for examples of viral videos online. The student would compare and contrast them, looking to see if the videos were considered successful or not. The student might dig further to see how the organizations that created the videos measured success; that is, did they think their campaign worked or not? And why? Upon finding this information, the student then begins to reflect critically about the findings.
  • So the process for this class (essentially what is due and when) is located at the top of the assignment. There is a key list of due dates for when I need content. Note that there are point penalties for missing these key deadlines, so mark your planners and calendars, and don’t be late turning things in! The topic proposal is the first thing that has a due date. In this, I will need to know what you plan to write about. There should be a brief, one to two paragraph description of how you intend to support your stance on it. That’s all there is to the proposal. I just need to know what you’re planning and how you’re planning it. Having a primary source for this is highly recommended, but is not a requirement for the proposal.
  • The next key due date is the completed first draft. This means that you need to have five, double-spaced pages typed and ready to turn in. At this point, you should also have received a tutoring session from UNCP’s Writing Center. (Note that in the grading rubric writing center feedback is part of your grade on this paper.) At this point I will review the work that you have to turn in.
  • The feedback you receive from me as well as the writing center will be used to write a one to two page reflection paper that describes how you revised and edited your paper. Note that this reflection paper is part of your overall grade for this project.
  • The “Deliverables” listed in this assignment are all of the items, including formatting for how to name the electronic files that you will turn in to me.
  • Please note that this paper is not intended to be a history report. While some history may be relevant to set up a particular topic, it should not be a significant portion of your papers. This is also not a journal of detailed personal experiences. Part of the reasoning behind having outside sources to back up your idea is that you are basing this on what is being said by experts. Your work should be focused on supporting your principle theme through reading, research, and observation of phenomena; not simply an account of your personal feelings on a particular matter.I won’t dwell on plagiarism other than to say that if you plagiarize it will cost points. If the offense is severe (e.g. substantial portions of your paper are copied and pasted from other sources) then I will be forced to file charges of academic dishonesty, which is not a fun process for anyone involved; including me. So please don’t plagiarize.
  • I wrap this up with a list of potential ideas. None of these are required. I offer these as food for thought for anyone drawing a blank about what to do this paper on. These are simply ‘big picture’ ideas that could be used as the basis for a paper. If you are confused or having a hard time figuring out what to do your paper on, then I encourage you to contact me to discuss.
  • That concludes this presentation. I hope that it was helpful to you in terms of thinking about how to approach your paper. I look forward to reading your work. In the meantime, happy writing!
  • MCM2100 Term Paper Assignment: Critical Analysis

    1. 1. MCM2100Term PaperCritical Analysis of Media
    2. 2. Purpose… To explore the social, cultural, ethical, and other ramifications of media on our world You will do this through reviewing relevant literature and conducting a content analysis
    3. 3. What is Critical Writing? Common meaning of criticism is to “find fault” Critics can also recognize excellence “… the most valuable criticism is not that which shakes its finger at faults, but that which calls our attention to interesting matters” (Barnet, 2008, p. 11)
    4. 4. Function of the Critic Introduce audiences to new authors, works, or concepts Show the significance of a given topic or theme Increase audience‟s understanding of the topic Enlighten the audience about the relationship between the topic and its potential impact on life, culture, politics, science, etc.
    5. 5. Critical Analysis Writing… includes evaluation or judgment about what is being observed is largely an effort to persuade us by offering: ◦ an argument ◦ a reasoned account ◦ evidence in support of the principle theme
    6. 6. Expressing Opinions Your personal opinions will be part of your argument, but they are secondary to authors and experts on your topic Do not express opinions by stating “I feel…” and “this moves me because…” Avoid the pronoun “I” Point is not to disguise your opinion, but to suggest that it is not private
    7. 7. Expressing Opinions I feel that Fox News‟s coverage of President Obama is biased because during primetime news coverage he was mentioned 25 times with negative connotations and only 4 times with positive connotations. Evidence suggests that Fox News‟s coverage of President Obama is biased. An analysis of four hours of primetime coverage revealed…
    8. 8. How do I Write This Paper?1. Identify your Principle Theme2. Find a primary source(s) (publication) that supports your theme3. Find real world examples4. Explore the issues by critically thinking about social/cultural/economic/etc. perspectives
    9. 9. Example… Example Theme: ◦ “I want to explore common themes in viral video campaigns.” Find a primary resource(s): ◦ Nalty, K. M. (2010). Beyond viral: How to attract customers, promote your brand, and make money with online video. New Jersey: Wiley.
    10. 10. Example… Once you‟ve read about it, go look for some examples of successful viral videos ◦ Do they follow the the book‟s formula for success? ◦ What is different about each one? ◦ What is the same? ◦ How much sales success was attributable to each one? Reflect critically about what you find
    11. 11. Process (What to Expect) Key due dates are at top of assignment Topic Proposal is first: ◦ Write the proposed theme ◦ Describe how you intend to support your stance on it  Already having a primary resource will be helpful here
    12. 12. Process (What to Expect) Completed first draft is the next key date ◦ This means at least five double-spaced, typed pages about your topic Writing Center tutor should have reviewed your paper by this point ◦ Have W.C. tutor email me at conclusion of your tutoring session to verify that you‟ve seen a tutor This is important for getting feedback that will be meaningful to you
    13. 13. Process (What to Expect) You will use my feedback and that from the Writing Center to create a separate „reflection paper‟ that details how you incorporated changes and made revisions based on the feedback you received This is also part of your final grade on the paper
    14. 14. Process (What to Expect) Deliverables for due date ◦ This details what you need to turn in on the day the project is due ◦ Mark your calendars/planners as necessary
    15. 15. What this is not… A history report A journal of detailed personal experiences An exercise in copying and pasting
    16. 16. Some suggestions… Public Relations crisis communication disasters Sexuality in advertising; impact on body image, promiscuity in youth, eating disorders, etc. Recurring themes in reality programs (are they similar, or different?) Frequency of stereotypes in specified media Differences in mission statements of media organizations – how it translates into their products Cultural differences between (any country)‟s media and U.S. media
    17. 17. That‟s all! Happy writing… 