Resources for COMM 400

Final Paper Topics

  • Exploration of how on-line technology transforms personal relationships/dating.

  • Explore how television programs and movies have created companion websites.

  • Explore changing conceptions of copyright within education or music or film.

  • Explore how new technology (electronic voting, etc.) is impacting a particular political campaign or movement.

  • Explore how new technology is changing conceptions of education.

  • Explore how the digital divide affects a particular group.

  • Explore the impact of a large media conglomeration and its use of new technology and new media laws to gain power.

  • Explore the impact of globalization and technology on a specific group.

  • How is new technology depicted in popular programs for children on television?

Peer Review 1 - Research Proposal

Use this form to provide feedback on 2=two of your classmates research proposals.

A good proposal should answer the following questions:

What do you plan to accomplish, why do you want to do it and how are you going to do it?

comm400_peer_review_1.pdf40.13 KB

Literature Review

Here are some pointers and guidelines for writing a good literature review.

map the terrain:
The idea of this paper is to map out the terrain of your topic. Though you will draw some conclusions by the end, your objective here is not personal commentary, but rather to gain an understanding of what the central issues, themes and debates are in the area of research that you have selected. With this in mind, try to suspend judgement - the goal is to understand what the writers are saying and to be able to clearly articulate their ideas.

A good lit review is NOT a summary of the sources. I don't want to see a paper made up of 8 sections summarizing your 8 sources. While doing your reading try to draw connections, identify common themes and articulate central debates in the field.

At the end of the process you can start drawing some conclusions. What questions are not answered by the literature? What arguements are weak and why? By mapping the terrain you should have a clearer sense of where your own research is going and how you can contribute to the discourse.


  • refer to at least 8 sources, 2 of which may come from class readings
  • only 3 sources may come from the Internet (the rest must come from books, scholarly articles, etc)
  • at the end of the paper should be a list of works cited
  • read Johanne Blank's Evaluating Evidence [attached] about evaluating the quality of your sources


  1. A concise and provacative title.
  2. An introductory paragraph framing your paper and indicating what you will cover.
  3. Possible main body sections may include:
    • Discuss the history and background of this topic. What are the technological/media precursors? A paper about YouTube would need to address the history of television.
    • Present any relevant stats, figures, etc. that frame the issue.
    • Discuss theories of media/culture/technology that provide a foundation for your topic - postmodernism, marxism, media convergence, film theory, etc.
    • Drawing from the readings, identify common themes that come up in different writings. Use quotes and examples to discuss the different writers ideas. For example, in the area of children and the Internet, a central issue is that of parental moderation/control of where their children can surf.
    • Articulate central debates in your field. For example some educators think that games are anathema and others think of them as innovative learning tools. What's important here is to demonstrate a clear understanding of both sides of the arguement - not weigh in with your opinion (yet).
  4. Conclusion - finally, try to assess what you've learned and what it means for your final topic. You may find that those 6 questions you created for your research proposal are not relevant and need revising. Or you may realize that you could write an entire book about just one of them. Try to identify opportunities in your topic to make a new contribution either by adding evidence to one side of a debate, or introducing new issues, etc.

quotes: introduce, claim, explain

Avoid run-on quotes!!! The effective use of quotations generally involves 3 parts:

  1. The introduction -- Quotations must be introduced. This can be as simple as saying "As X argues, "..."(page #)". It usually involves a transition that will guide the topic of discussion into the quotation and also provide the reader an indication of what he or she should be looking for while reading the quotation.

- "X" contends that ...
- As "Y" writes ...
- "Z" would respond ...
2. The quotation itself -- When quoting, especially with long quotations, the author's words should be essential to your argument and analysis.
3. The analysis --This usually has two parts. Immediately after the quotation, the writer should summarize what he or she takes the quotation to mean. After that, the author should clearly and directly relate this meaning to the argument and overall thesis.

Johanne_Blank_Evaluating_Evidence.pdf87.73 KB

Peer Review 2 - Literature Review

You'll need to review two of your classmate's literature review papers. Due Monday October 23rd.

comm400_peer_review_lit_review.pdf38.19 KB

Interview Methods


  1. Identify the person you would like to interview and initiate contact with her/him.

+ It could take some time to work out the scheduling, so do this ASAP.
+ Be sure to identify who you are - a college student at Marymount Manhattan College. Mention that you are working on a research paper and indicate your topic/title.
+ Let me know immediately if you have trouble making contact and maybe I can help.
2. Develop a set of questions in advance to focus your interview. Do as much research as possible ahead of time on the person and/or topic you are working on. This is an opportunity to find out how your interviewee might respond to your 6 research questions.
3. Conduct and record ‚Äúthe interview‚Äù. I would like you to conduct your interview live and in person. Please get in touch with me if this won't be possible.

The questions:

Types of Questions

  1. Behaviors - about what a person has done or is doing
  2. Opinions/values - about what a person thinks about a topic
  3. Feelings
  4. Knowledge - to get facts about a topic
  5. Sensory - about what people have seen, touched, heard, tasted or smelled
  6. Background/demographics - standard background questions, such as age, education, job, etc.

Sequence of Questions

  1. Get the respondents involved in the interview as soon as possible.
  2. Before asking about controversial matters (such as feelings and conclusions), first ask about some facts. With this approach, respondents can more easily engage in the interview before warming up to more personal matters.
  3. Intersperse fact-based questions throughout the interview to avoid long lists of fact-based questions, which tends to leave respondents disengaged.
  4. Ask questions about the present before questions about the past or future. It's usually easier for them to talk about the present and then work into the past or future.
  5. The last questions might be to allow respondents to provide any other information they prefer to add and their impressions of the interview.

Wording of Questions

  1. Wording should be open-ended. Respondents should be able to choose their own terms when answering questions. For the most part, avoid questions that can be answered "yes" or "no."
  2. Questions should be as neutral as possible. Avoid wording that might influence answers, e.g., evocative, judgmental wording. Don't lead your subject.
  3. Questions should be asked one at a time.
  4. Questions should be worded clearly. This includes knowing any terms particular to the topic or the respondents' culture.

The interview:

Preparation for Interview

  1. Choose a setting with little distraction. Avoid loud lights or noises, ensure the interviewee is comfortable (you might ask them if they are), etc. Often, they may feel more comfortable at their own places of work or homes. Come prepared with paper and pen(cils) and a recording device.
  2. Explain the purpose of the interview.
  3. Discuss confidentiality. Ask them if it is okay to quote them directly. If not, you can offer to use a pseudonym, etc.
  4. Ask them if they have any questions before you both get started with the interview.
  5. Don't count on your memory to recall their answers. Ask for permission to record the interview and take notes or bring along someone to take notes. Be sure to ask their permission before recording.

Carrying Out Interview

  1. Some casual conversation to start with will relax both of you.
  2. Give the respondent time to answer. Be a good listener. If he or she goes on and on, it is appropriate to move on as politely as you can. You might say something such as: "Fine, but let me ask you thisÔøΩ
  3. Occasionally verify the tape recorder (if used) is working.
  4. Ask one question at a time.
  5. Attempt to remain as neutral as possible. That is, don't show strong emotional reactions to their responses.
  6. Encourage responses with occasional nods of the head, "uh huh"s, etc. Try to draw out specifics: How long, how many, when, "can you elaborate on that", etc.
  7. Provide transition between major topics, e.g., "we've been talking about (some topic) and now I'd like to move on to (another topic)."
  8. Don't lose control of the interview. This can occur when respondents stray to another topic, take so long to answer a question that times begins to run out, or even begin asking questions to the interviewer.

Immediately After Interview

  1. Verify if the tape recorder, if used, worked throughout the interview.
  2. Write down any observations made during the interview. For example, where did the interview occur and when? Were there any surprises during the interview?
  3. As soon as it's practical after the interview, find a quiet place to review your handwritten notes. In your haste while taking notes, you may have written abbreviations for words that won't mean anything to you a day or two later. Or some of your scribbling may need deciphering, and, again, it is more likely you'll be better able to understand the scribbles soon after the interview.
  4. Underline or put stars alongside quotes that seemed most compelling. It will speed the process when you get to the writing stage. One other thing to look for in your notes: the quote you wrote down might not make a lot of sense, unless you remember what specific question it was responding to. In short, fill in whatever gaps exist in your notes that will help you better understand them when writing.

Other resources:
Bill Clinton interviewd on Fox News
Silbey, S. Conversational Interviewing Techniques. - see pdf below

Susan_Silbey_Interiew_Techniques.pdf212.39 KB

Interview Analysis

A 5-7 page analysis of the interview you've conducted. This interview will serve as one of the sources for your final paper and is a piece of original research conducted by YOU.

Structure - try to include the following elements

  1. A brief description of the research focus/question, the context in which the interview was conducted; and relevant biographical information about your participant and yourself.

  2. Type up a transcript of the interview. Make a careful reading of the transcript. What themes do you notice? How do sections of the interview relate (or not) to the themes, histories, or theories of your research topic? Does your respondent corroborate or dispute information you uncovered in the literature review? What new insights or angles where brought to light? Make your interpretation being sure to clarify through your analysis what you think you learned from the interview relative to your research focus.

  3. A reflexive statement - that is, your reflections on your experience in this exercise. Summarize what you have learned about yourself as a researcher. What has this method taught you, how you felt in the ‚Äúencounter‚Äù? What would you do differently if you were to do another ‚Äúinterview‚Äù? How did your interview meet or not meet your expectations?

  4. Include a copy of your interview questions and a transcript of your interview in the APPENDICES for the paper. this does not count towards your page count