You will write three 1000-word (four-page, double-spaced) papers, each tied to the class readings and each requiring some outside investigation. Even though these papers are short, they should still each have the three basic components of an academic essay:
  1. An introduction which clearly states a thesis (and please underline that thesis).
  2. A body which develops the thesis, with one argument per paragraph, and several points of evidence supporting each argument.
  3. A conclusion which not only restates the thesis, but leaves the reader with something more, such as speculation on the broader implications of the thesis.
TypewriterThe first draft of each essay is due by in hard copy AND AND your section's Google Drive in lecture the Friday it is due. You will receive TA and peer feedback by the following Friday, and the final paper is due in hard copy the Friday after that.

Here is the rubric you will see attached to your essay when you get it back from your TA. Please note that essays are graded holistically, so 'scores' on individual sections of the rubric do not add up in a strictly mathematical way.

Peer Reviews

For each essay, each student will write 2 or 3 reviews of classmates' papers. (Thus, each student will also receive 2 or 3 reviews of their essay.) Peer reviews should include both things the author did well and at least one substantive comment about what the author can improve. Which does the student need to work on more, writing style and grammar or argument and evidence? If the paper is light on using course or reading content, do you have suggestions for resources they might draw from?

The peer reviews should be added as comments to essays in the Google Drive. Strive for a 250-word comment, not just a brief sentence. Make an open-ended, prose response using complete sentences; do not line edit the paper. (It may be appropriate to enter a comment into the paper's text if this helps you point to a specific statement.)

Note that these peer reviews will not be anonymous, and you will be talking with your peer about their paper in section, so you should take care to offer constructive criticism (the same kind you would like to see someone offer on your paper).

Essay 1: Evaluating reporting

The Teaching Assistants will select several news stories. For each story, they will identify two news outlets that have covered the story, and one or two articles by each outlet.

Your job is to use course concepts and at least two authoritative sources (from your reader, from the further readings, from guest lectures, and/or from outside sources) to evaluate the coverage by the two outlets.

Beware: This assignment is not as simple as it seems.  A "news story" is rarely confined to a single news report. This means that there may be other articles by the news outlets that the TAs have not identified. This means that you need to do some further research to get a sense of the full coverage of the story by each outlet. You will need to read all of the articles in order to assess the outlets' coverage of the story. You should bring at least two articles from each outlet into your discussion. Attach copies of these articles to your draft essay, and reference them appropriately in your paper.

Also: pay close attention also to the kinds of news coverage you are reading.  Are these breaking news reports or later news summaries?  Are they "analysis" articles from a particular point of view, or attempts at "objective" reporting?  Are they opinion pieces?  Press releases?  Coverage purchased from other news organizations (like the Associated Press)?

Your thesis should answer the question: which outlet covered the story better?

To do this, you need to consider a number of questions. These include:
  • What is the news story?
  • How do the different outlets cover the story? What was different? What was similar?
  • Which outlet's coverage was better? (To determine this, you will need to contemplate what defines quality news coverage.) 
  • Why did the outlets cover the story differently? Why did they cover it similarly? What might this coverage indicate about the goals and constraints facing each outlet?
  • How might the coverage of these outlets matter? (This might be good material for your conclusion.)
Your paper should offer some answers to these questions, but DO NOT simply answer these questions. These are guidelines for topics you should consider. Your essay should be a logical argument in support of your thesis.

Throughout your essay, use class concepts--from lectures, guest speakers, and readings--to make your case. There is an expectation that you will use at least 2 non-lecture sources, and properly cite and reference each. These may include readings, further reading, guest lectures, or other sources. They do not include the articles you analyze in the paper.

Essay 2: Analyzing advertising

For this assignment, you need to select a print advertisement. Full-page advertisements in magazines are often interesting, but other magazine ads, or newspaper ads, can work.

Your task is to analyze the purpose and effectiveness of the advertisement, paying close attention to its context (the media product it appears in), its content, and its target market

You should make a case (probably stated in your thesis) about what the aim of the ad was, and whether it achieved that aim. You should thus consider the questions:

·        Where was it placed? Why was it placed there?
·        What was its intended function? How do you know this?
·        And how well does the ad perform that function? Again, what is your evidence for this?

One challenge of analyzing media in this way is that you must be careful of circular reasoning! Here would be an example: because an ad appeared in a certain magazine, it was targeting the kind of people who read that magazine. Because the ad was targeting those people, that magazine was an ideal medium for the ad. Be sure that you have good (non-circular) evidence to substantiate your claims!

Another challenge of advertisement analysis today is that advertising campaigns spread themselves over a variety of media. Consider looking at the broader context of the campaign of which your ad was a part; you might mention how your ad was like, or unlike, others in the campaign in your essay.

In your analysis, use at least two outside sources in the development of your argument. Outside sources include further readings, guest lectures and other authoritative articles, but not required readings or Prof. Wells’ lectures. In choosing the articles to help you analyze this ad, remember: you don't have to agree with the authors of the articles you use, but you have to show that you understand how those authors would interpret the advertisement you've chosen. 

When you turn in your paper to your TA, include a xeroxed copy of your advertisement.

Essay 3: Our responses to media

We have explored several perspectives on how media impact our experiences and perceptions of the world. In this assignment, you will conduct a small research study in which you apply those ideas to observations of media effects.

To conduct your study, find a group of 3 or 4 people to play a popular video game. Your “subjects” can be your friends, roommates, family, or people you don’t know. It is helpful if there is some diversity within your group—men and women, young and old, experienced gamers and those with little experience. You must tell them, in advance, that you will observe them playing the game, ask them questions afterwards, and write a paper based on your observations and interviews. As research subjects, it is their right to know what you intend to do with the information they provide.

Observe the subjects playing the game for at least 90 minutes, in a single physical location. If there is an online (non-physically present) component to the game, that is fine, but at least 2 subjects must be physically present. Watch closely for how the medium of the video game is impacting its audience. This means that while your subjects are focused on the action on the screen, most of your attention will be on the players. Do they follow the action on the screen intently, tuning out everything else? Are they barely interested? What happens when they win or lose? Do they speak to one another? Do any players attempt to multitask on something else? What differences do you observe between how different players interact with the game? Take careful notes.

After the observation, get your group together, and ask your subjects questions about your experiences. The questions you ask must include:
  • Two specific questions: “What about this experience was fun, and why?” and “What about this experience bothered you, and why?”
  • An additional 3 questions prepared before the event. Ask these of your respondents.
  • Follow-up questions—at least one for each respondent. Write these down, because you will want to be able to refer to them in your paper and you need to know exactly what you asked.
Your paper should present an analysis of how your subjects responded to the media experience of the video game built on class concepts. Which concepts from the perspectives on the effects of media best  explain the reactions of your subjects? Cite lecture materials and at least 2 course readings or outside sources to support your argument. To hide your subjects' identities, use a pseudonym (fake names) for each.

Recommendations for structuring your essay:
 1) Write a solid paragraph of introduction. This should include a brief (one or two sentences) description of the game you observed, and a mention of the people you observed playing, including notable characteristics (such as age, gender, major, gaming experience and any other important personal variables). It should also make a case for the purpose of the essay. And it should conclude with an underlined thesis statement.
2) In several (3-4) paragraphs of evidence supporting the thesis, draw on concepts from at least 2 of the perspectives on mass media effects we have discussed in lecture. Your analysis should provide rich and specific descriptions of the reactions you observed, and logical connections to the class concepts. Where appropriate, you can also connect what you observed to ideas from readings. Readings should be cited using APA style. Lectures can be cited in-text, for example by stating "As described in lecture..."
3) In your conclusion, restate your thesis and show how your evidence has supported it. Then go a little further: show how your essay points to bigger implications of what you have discussed.
4) Include in your paper a one page appendix describing the questions you prepared and at least 3 examples of follow up questions you asked.

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