analyzing media objects
This assignment asks you to analyze a media object (e.g. commercial, music video, film, television episode, magazine cover, website, etc.) using theoretical tools inspired by class readings and discussions. In 7-8 pages you are expected to engage with course materials (readings, lectures, class discussions, screenings, etc.) by way of an original and critically engaged response to one (or more) of the themes, ideas, and concepts covered. The purpose of the assignment is not to summarize or review—you can assume your reader (i.e. your instructor) has done the same reading you have. Rather, your objective is to synthesize the material you’ve chosen to focus on and use it to critically reflect on the media object of your choice. What have you been thinking about while reading, listening, watching, and discussing in class? How can course readings, concepts, and themes help you to better understand, analyze, and critique a particular media object? Your paper might consist of a deeper reading of one or a few related themes related to globalization, media, and identity, and how they connect to larger issues raised by your media object. You might also elaborate on an idea or question you had while reading, watching, and/or listening, and use your media object to answer it. Or, you can develop from selected readings a broader argument about a topic or theme emerging in the course as it relates to your media object. You decide.
You are free to write about whatever you like so long as your paper:
(1) fits in with the course (i.e. engages with themes, concepts, and ideas central to the critical
study of international communication);
(2) is a critical response to the various materials discussed class; and
(3) is supported with evidence and an argument.
The openness of the assignment is part of the challenge. Having done the readings and actively listened and engaged in class, which key theme or idea in the course is important to you? And now, how are you now going to write about it?
You will be graded on your comprehension of the key arguments/themes/concepts from the readings/lectures that you choose to write about and on your expression of critical and analytical ideas in writing. Hand in on time an edited, correctly cited, grammatically correct, double spaced, properly margined, 12 point Times New Roman paper with your name on it. (I do not care which citation format you follow—e.g. MLA, APA, Chicago etc.—as long as it is consistent throughout).
Here are some preliminary tips for approaching the final paper:
· Please try to stick to using only course readings as theoretical evidence. This will ensure that you are adequately engaging with course concepts and themes. If you do need to draw on outside secondary research, that’s totally fine. But outside materials should only supplement your engagement with course readings.
· Do not just provide a summary of readings or discussions, and please do not parrot the lectures. If you understand the material it will show in your writing. Defining keywords and concepts is both fine and important, but your understanding of a term or concept should become apparent through your use of it, not simply by way of definition.
· Try to include all appropriate terms/concepts that apply to what you have decided to write about, and don’t be afraid to try out novel ways of combining terms and concepts that may not have been presented together in readings or lectures. “A-level” papers do not simply parrot readings and lectures; they necessarily take intellectual risks.
· All papers must make an argument. An argument is a claim that is supported with the most credible reasoning and evidence you can muster. You will likely want to state your argument right away in the first paragraph in the form of a thesis statement (e.g. “I argue that …”). You may argue whatever you like so long as you provide adequate support for your thesis.
· Be focused and specific. You are not expected to have something to say about everything that has been covered, but you are expected to have something to say about particular themes, ideas, concepts, etc. It’s fine to elaborate and even speculate, but only once you’ve clearly established your topic, your guiding question(s), and your argument(s). Remember: Every sentence counts.
· Please, please, please: Avoid using cliché and overly general statements such as “Since the beginning of time….” or “The media always…”
· Don’t just describe your media object; analyze it!
· Remember that being critical doesn’t just mean criticize. So, the point isn’t to explain why one of the authors we’ve read is a bad writer, stupid, or why s/he bored you silly. Nor is the point to explain why a particular media object is bad, stupid, or boring. Criticisms can be part of an effective critical analysis, but being critical means asking challenging questions rather than just accepting ideas and arguments on face value. The aim of this paper is for you to be analytical and to engage both our course readings and our broader media culture as a sophisticated thinker taking a Communication Studies course.