Project Proposals

Here is the assignment description for the Project proposals. The image above reflects keyword frequency of your survey responses to the question about what social issues you are interested in.

Project Proposal            20 points

Projects. We will employ the concepts from weeks 1-4 to explain a current social issue, and build collaborative projects around our analysis. We will work in groups of 4-5 students to design and implement a research project focused on the production of race, class or gender in public discourse. Each group will work in coordination with two other groups focusing on the same topic, forming a research cluster. Each research cluster will work together to present a coherent statement on the topic through a presentation to classmates and the broader community.

Proposal. The first assignment in this track will be to write a proposal for what the specific focus of your research group’s project will be. We will talk about this in class and coordinate focus between groups. One assignment per group.

Aspects of the assignment:

Topical Focus. The first thing that you will need to do is decide on a topical focus for your group. We are focusing on the ’big three’ markers of difference and inequality in our society for these projects (race, class, & gender), and three groups will work on each one of these.

Object of Study. The second thing you will need to decide on is the kind of data that you will be focusing on. There are three kinds of research projects that you can choose from.

  1. First, you may choose to focus on media content. Here, your research questions might ask about how race, class or gender is represented through media texts. If we subscribe to a social constructionist perspective on language use, than we might suggest that particular representational patterns might influence the ways we think about these markers, thus structuring material social relationships.
  2. Second, you may choose to focus on media organizations. Here, your research questions might ask about the impact that particular organizational forms have on media content or access to voice. You might contrast mainstream media corporations with community radio stations or tumbler pages. If we subscribe to the notion that organizational form matters in terms of the kind of content we have access to, and the level of access that we have to contribute our own voice to that content, than the structure of organizations become an important focus for study.
  3. Third, you may choose to focus on media policy. Here, your research questions might ask about how a particular media policy or set of policies influence the kinds of organizations that produce texts, or the kinds of content that we have available to us as citizens and consumers. How do these policies increase or decrease inequality in our society? If we subscribe to the belief that the policy-making process is a highly contested political process, than examining how those policies are developed, and then how they may impact particular communities becomes an interesting area for research.

Proposal. Once you have your topical focus and object of study pretty clear, the next step you will need to take is to think about the research process, and write a proposal that represents your plan of action. These projects will involve three stages of research work, and your proposal sets out a plan of action for what you will do for each step of the process.

  1. Dataset. First, you will need to establish what your data is that you will be working with, and how you will go about obtaining that data. We will work with Jackie Ballenger from the UWB Lib on 4/26 to go over some of the resources at our disposal for collecting media texts, organizational structures, and policy information.
  2. Analysis. Second, you will need to establish a plan for carrying out your analysis. If you are looking at media content, you might draw on strategies for text analysis like content analysis, discourse analysis, or rhetorical analysis. If you are looking at organizational structures, you might engage in an organizational analysis of organizational structure, mission statements, employee/participant hierarchy, employee demographics, cross-ownership ties, or aspects of the technologies that structure participation by looking at the affordances of a given technological platform (like twitter or tumbler). If you are looking at policy analysis, you may want to identify those aspects of communication policy that impact particular groups (i.e., along boundaries like race, class, and gender), identify who the participants in the process are by looking over lobbying records, public comments, or revisions of key legislative bills.
  3. Presentation. The third stage in your project will be the presentation of your project to the university or the public more broadly. The format for this presentation is open, and could include the production of a website, a public panel, or a video/audio/photo essay. Keep in mind that different kinds of datasets might lend themselves to different kinds of presentation formats, so thinking ahead about your presentation should benefit you along the way.

The proposal assignment should include:

  1. Group number and full names of all students in your group (one assignment per group)
  2. A clear and catchy title. Please use one colon, as in “Main title statement: more explicit title statement,” or “Taking out the laundry: Portraying domestic workers in Hollywood film.”
  3. A 100-word statement of the topical focus for your group (in the example above, this would be “portrayals of domestic workers”), and a substantive explanation for why this is an important phenomenon to examine within a focus on race, class, or gender.
  4. A 100-word statement of the object of study you are focusing on for your group (in the example above, this would be “Hollywood film”), that provides some substantive explanation for why this is an important set of data to be analyzing in light of your focus on media content, organization, or policy (i.e., is it influential, dominant, deviant, politically important, etc.).
  5. A draft of a search strategy for collecting your texts. This should include a) a date range of interest, b) a list of publications/sources for inclusion in the sample, and c) key words for establishing relevance for the texts (are they on the right topic or contain the right kind of data?). You will focus this for the Dataset assignment later.

Turn this document in no later than prior to the first day of class in Week 6 via the assignment Drop Box linked via the course website.


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