The purpose of this paper is to:
1. Increase your knowledge of how theory explains communication phenomena.
2. Challenge you to apply theoretical ideas to real life events/experiences.
3. Help you learn how theory is tested and shaped through empirical research.
4. Develop your skills for doing library and database research in the social sciences.
You will be provided several news stories about current events by your assigned TA. You need to choose one of these stories. In a 5-8 page paper, you need to identify, review, and apply a specific communication theory to the people, events, or issues that are involved in the news story.
SPECIFICS – PART I: BACKGROUND WORK
Consider which news story to focus on. You will ultimately need to choose one news story from the stories your TA assigns to you. Each TA will have a different set of stories, so you can only choose from the ones your own TA assigns to your section.
Brainstorm communication topics. You will utilize one theory to explain something that is going on in the news story. However, it’s likely the case that you don’t know all the theories yet (at least, not by name). So, in order to find a theory, first read the news stories several times and think of any topics related to communication (in general) that you see. This could include various topics, such as conflict resolution, ingroup/outgroup interaction, media effects, agenda setting, nonverbal communication, technology and interpersonal relationships, selective attention to media, emotion, and persuasion. These are just a few of the many topics you might find. If you’ve taken Comm 1, you can also think back to any topics you remember from that class. The communication topics you find can help you determine which theory to use in your paper.
Use the literature to help you find possible theories. Once you have some good communication topics/terms/concepts in mind, start thinking about which of the theories we’ve discussed might help you analyze the communication you see in happening in the article. There are several ways to find a good theory for this paper. You can look through the assigned readings posted on GauchoSpace to see if any of the theories sound promising. But be careful not to just pick the first theory you see. You can also scour the research literature for sources (e.g., journal articles, book chapters) that focus on your topic of interest. You can search for a particular theory name if you already have a theory in mind (e.g., Social Cognitive Theory, Groupthink, Elaboration Likelihood Model). This can help you explore the numerous theories that might be appropriate for the type of communication you want to analyze.
Helpful Tip: Be sure to download and save the articles you read while you’re doing your research. Save the articles as PDFs. It’s easy to forget where you found an article. Saving downloaded articles can save you a lot of time in the long run.
Focus on one particular theory. Ultimately, you need to pick one theory that you think has something valuable, insightful, or interesting to say about the issues, events or people involved in the news story. The theory you select might not a “perfect fit,” and that’s okay! Not every
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aspect of a theory will apply to the situation in your selected new articles. Likewise, the situation in your news article might be so multifaceted that many theories could potentially apply. Your goal is to apply your theory as best you can to the situation. In the end, the goal is for you to “see something new” in the news story based on your knowledge of your selected theory.
You’re also strongly encouraged to find additional sources that could help you provide depth and richness to the points you make in your paper. Such additional sources might be other articles, book chapters, or textbooks that give you helpful information about the theory.
SPECIFICS – PART II: ORGANIZING THE PAPER INTO THE FOUR MAJOR SECTIONS
Write a comprehensive introduction that informs the reader of the main ideas in the paper with a clear thesis statement and preview. Try to make your introduction both informative and engaging. Be sure to identify the communication issue/topic that arises from the people or events in the story and the theory that will help to explain it. It is possible that your introduction will require more than one paragraph.
Helpful Tip: The main ideas to be presented in your thesis statement are those you will cover in the In-Depth Application and Analysis section. Thus, you might not be able to construct your introductory paragraph(s) until after your write that section of your paper.
In this section, you need to summarize your selected theory and its main ideas. In approximately 2-3 paragraphs, you need to articulate the critical elements of your theory and how scholars have used the theory in research. This can be harder than it seems given that theories can be quite complex.
For this section, you’ll need to draw upon the course readings, but the strongest papers will also provide additional sources (e.g., journal articles, books, edited book chapters). “Peer-reviewed” sources are, by far, the best types of sources to rely on when writing this section. Avoid theory summaries you find on websites—the information on websites might be highly unreliable. We’ll discuss what “peer-reviewed” means throughout the quarter. We’ll also discuss tips for how to review theories in your paper.
3. In-Depth Application and Analysis
This section represents the heart of the paper! Across several paragraphs, you need to discuss how this theory and its terms/concepts would explain or apply to the communication you observe in the news article. Be as specific, thorough, and thoughtful as possible.
When thinking about this section, ask yourself questions such as these (you do not have to cover ALL of these):
o In what specific ways does this theory provide me with new understanding of these events,
people, or behaviors?
o What aspects of the events or behaviors does the theory explain well, and why?
o What lessons can people potentially learn from viewing the news events through the lens of
your chosen theory?
o In what ways might the theory fall short in helping to understand these events/behaviors?
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As you think through your answers to these types of questions, you should begin to see potential main ideas emerge for you to write about in your paper. One you arrive at the 3-4 main ideas you want to focus on, you should start thinking about those main ideas as arguments. That is, each main idea is a claim that you need to support with evidence. You claim is only as good as the evidence you provide to support it!
So, where can you find evidence to support your claims? The answer, once again, is your peer- reviewed sources.
Ultimately, the goal in this section is to show that you gained new and valuable insights into the events in the news story based on your newly-acquired knowledge of communication theory. In addition to the clarity of your main ideas, we’ll be assessing this section on the quality of the arguments you make in support of your main ideas.
In 1-2 paragraphs, you should review the main points you covered in the paper. Strong conclusions, when possible, provide the reader with thought-providing statements on the topics you wrote about in In-Depth Application and Analysis section.
REQUIREMENTS AND POLICIES
The paper should be 5-8 pages of text (not counting title page and references). Your title page should have your name, Perm #, course name (i.e.,, and TA Name. You do NOT need an abstract for this paper. The paper should be typed, double- spaced, page-numbered, with 1″ margins and Times New Roman 12-point font. Please use APA formatting throughout the paper. Note that Word’s default settings are usually wrong for this assignment (margins too big, font too small, extra line spaces inserted after paragraphs, etc.), so you’ll need to change these settings. If you have questions about formatting, don’t’ hesitate to ask! All papers should also have proper spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Problematic writing mechanics hinder the clarity of your ideas and the strength of the arguments, and will therefore detract from the paper score.
APA Style Citations and Plagiarism
Since this assignment requires you to make good use of the thoughts, writings, and work of others, proper citations are essential. Your paper must follow APA style (not MLA) for in-text citations and for your reference list. You will find some guidelines for APA style on GauchoSpace. We will also review key features of APA formatting.
Plagiarism will result in a failing grade in the course and further disciplinary action consistent with student conduct code (see syllabus for details). Be especially carefully not to “borrow” from another student’s paper, as this is also plagiarism (whether or not specific words have been changed). In short, do your own work.
You must also be sure to write your paper on one of the exact news stories that your TA assigns to you. If you write about a story not assigned to your section, your paper will receive a zero grade.
Turning in Papers – Submit to GauchoSpace
All papers must be submitted electronically to GauchoSpace.
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Papers must be submitted online on the specified date. Late papers are marked down 10 points per day late (see syllabus for additional details). Double check to make sure you uploaded the correct file! We can only grade what you submit. Be sure not to accidentally submit an older draft or the wrong file. Again, we can only grade what you submit. Always keep a copy of your paper on hand for your records as well. In cases of serious emergency, please notify your instructor and/or TA as soon as possible, and we will proceed from there depending on the nature of the emergency.
Your score will be based on how well your paper, compared to other students’ papers, shows: 1. depth of analysis in using course concepts and outside research, 2. effectiveness at articulating and supporting arguments, 3. accurate and thorough understanding of course material and outside research, 4. University-level writing and organization, and 5. adherence to the instructions.
Note that we do not deduct points from your paper, but rather you earn points for writing with clearer understanding and for making better, stronger, more insightful arguments than other papers do. It’s often unclear what a truly excellent paper will look like until we read the papers that are turned in. We anticipate that “average” papers will receive the equivalent of about a B-/C+ grade. The papers that tend to end up in that top range are the ones that apply the theory and discuss the research not only with accuracy, but also with depth, insight, and strong organization.