MCOM 670: Special Topics: Content Studies

Fall 2011
Communication Management Master’s Program
6:30-9:10 p.m., Wednesdays
Instructor: Prof. Beth A. Haller, Ph.D.

Contact: or
(Sometimes my Towson U emails are delayed or don’t make it through. If you don’t hear from me, use the gmail account.)
Office phone: 410-704-2442
Office location: Van Bokkelen Hall, Room 205B

Course Materials:

· The Content Analysis Guidebook by Kimberly Neuendorf (2002).

· Textual analysis, A Beginner’s Guide by Alan McKee (2003).

· Selected readings that I will provide or send to you as links.
Course Description

This course will teach students how to study patterns in media and communication content. We will look at a variety of content studies that discuss race and gender, as well as representations of sexual orientation, economic class and people with disabilities. After an overview of content and textual analysis techniques, the bulk of the course will be based on the students’ own interests. Students will select media or communication content to analyze and conduct their own content or textual analysis research project.

Assignments & Grading:

Article presentation: First, you must sign up to summarize, present and lead discussion of one research article that used content or textual analysis as its methodology. I will provide the articles, which everyone must read. This involves putting together a typed summary (approximately 1 page in length) to be distributed to your classmates and instructor. You will be responsible for offering a polished presentation 10-15 minutes in length, which should not simply restate your written summary (or narrate the reading) but rather focus on explaining how the methodology was used and what the findings and conclusions were.
Content or textual analysis research paper: You will have to write a research paper that uses content or textual analysis as its methodology. In preparation for this paper, you will submit your literature review and a research proposal. The media or communication topic you examine should be considered against the backdrop of related scholarship and your research should contribute to a larger understanding of the topic. Your research and analysis should be sufficiently innovative as to (potentially) make a contribution to the existing literature.

Article presentation & class contributions: 15%
Research proposal (with beginning draft of code sheet or theme list): 10%
Literature review (20-25 sources) 15%
Research paper & its presentation (18-24 pp.) 60%
NOTE: All assignments for this course should be in proper APA style.

Research Proposal (5-7 pp.): The proposal should explain the nature of your topic, identify your research question(s) and related theory and discuss how your research contributes to existing literature. You will also detail the content/text you will analyze and outline the relevance of that material for your project. What is in this proposal can be folded into the intro for your final paper, where applicable. Be sure to cite any sources used in the proposal. Additionally, you should attach the beginning draft of your code sheet or theme list, as well as examples of the text(s) and/or media content you plan to analyze.

Literature Review (5-8 pp): You will prepare the lit review section of your paper in advance of your final paper. The lit review should have a minimum of 20 sources. These should be primarily peer-reviewed scholarly articles, as well as related articles from industry publications. Your lit review should be concise but also comprehensive. Do not simply summarize each article but take an analytical approach to discuss how the literature/specific theory relates to your research question(s) or hypothesis. Explain any consensus or controversy about the articles. The lit review and the final paper should be cited in APA style, as well as have a full reference list in APA style. You will drop this literature review into your final paper, after you have revised it based on my feedback.

Research paper (18-24 pp.): This paper should contain:

(1) An introductory section (not longer than 2-3 pp.) that presents the reason for your research and explains how this topic will be explored through your content or textual analysis.
(2) A literature review section (5-8 pp.), which frames the questions/problems addressed by your paper within a larger scholarly discussion. This section should provide the reader with a context for the significance of your research project.
(3) Method section (2-4 pp.). For a textual analysis, discuss how you are applying the McKee book in your paper. For a content analysis, discuss how you are applying the Neuendorf book in your paper. Explain why this methodology fits best for your project. Discuss how you developed your code sheet or theme list.
(4) Findings (10-15 pp.): In this section, you should report what your analysis discovered. How do your findings answer your research questions or support your hypothesis? Give examples from the content or text you analyzed as evidence of how what you found does or doesn’t support your hypothesis/RQ. You are not required to do an SPSS analysis of your data if you decide to do a quantitative content analysis. You may put the code sheet data into Excel to obtain basic frequencies and percentages.
(5) Conclusion (about 1-2 pp): Do not simply summarize your analysis! Instead, you should draw out the significance and implications of the findings demonstrated by the research and relate your findings to the literature/specific theory you discussed in the lit review.
(6) References: Your paper should cite the 25 or more sources you included in the final paper, including any context or text examples used in the finding and conclusion sections.
(7) Final code sheet or theme list attached.

You will be expected to turn in your final research papers on the day they are due. Any delay will result in a 5% grade deduction per each day of delay. I do not allow make-ups for presentations if you are not present during the originally scheduled time for them. Exceptions are made only for the following situations: illness, jury duty, religious observances, family emergency, and participation in University activities at the request of an authority of the University. Each case must be documented accordingly. If you must miss class on a day when an assignment is due, please contact me in advance, if possible.

Final grades will be calculated on the basis of points scored in each evaluation activity. The following scale will be used:

A = 93% and above A- = 90% – 92.9%
B+ = 87% – 89.9% B = 80% – 86.9%
C = 70% – 79.9% D = 60% – 69.9%
F = below 60%

General Grading Criteria:
C = Your work is essentially accurate, follows most instructions, applies APA style correctly and provides relevant examples, but (1) lacks a clearly stated thesis or research questions/hypothesis, (2) lacks a comprehensive literature review, (3) is not unique and adds little to the existing literature, OR (4) does not follow the methodological structure discussed in class.

B = Your work is accurate, follows directions, is well-organized, applies APA style and has a clear thesis, research questions/hypothesis and analysis. However, your paper does not elaborate enough on why your analysis and findings are particularly interesting or important from a communication perspective.

A = In addition to the virtues of a B assignment, your work uses multiple examples from your content or text analysis. Your project’s analyses and your paper’s conclusions are especially compelling, insightful, and creative.

D = Your work contains many APA style, grammatical, mechanical or spelling errors; it reflects minimal effort, but there is some evidence that you have done the assigned readings.

F = Your work contains numerous APA style, grammatical, mechanical and spelling errors; it reflects minimal effort; OR there is no evidence that you have read or understood the assigned readings.

NOTE: Compliance with the guidelines of the APA style manual (6th edition) will be included in the grading of your assignments. This includes but is not limited to cover sheet, margins, formatting, in-text and reference list citations. If you are unfamiliar with these guidelines, please familiarize yourselves with them as soon as possible.

The Structure of the Course
I hope this course will be a participatory, collaborative learning experience. As it will be discussion-oriented, please come to each class with questions, comments or critiques of the assigned readings.

Some class discussions and activities will cover material not in the assigned readings, so you will need to attend all classes and be ready to discuss the readings with me and each other. Attending class and doing the readings are the BEST things you can do to master the course material. Just showing up does not count as active participation and is not enough to earn you points for class contribution. To earn points for class participation, you will have to demonstrate that you have read the assigned readings by contributing to our class conversations and voicing your ideas and opinions. If you consistently arrive late or leave early, you will receive no class participation credit at the end of the course.

Attendance Policy: Attendance and active participation are expected. You are allowed a maximum of two unexcused absences. If you accumulate more than two undocumented absences, your final score will be decreased by 5% per each additional absence. If you leave early or arrive more than 15 minutes late you will receive an absence. As per Towson policies, I will accept documents for absences only in one of the following five situations: illness, religious holidays, family emergency, jury duty, and traveling for university purposes. (Please bring supporting evidence).

 Some General Course Policies

Laptop Policy: You are welcome to take notes on your laptop while attending class. However, please use your laptop only for class purposes. Web browsing or other non-class related activities will result in a class participation deduction.

Cell Phone Policy: Please make sure to switch off your cell phone before coming to class. The vibrate mode is still too disruptive to be acceptable. If you have an emergency and must leave your cell phone on during class time, please let me know before the beginning of the course period and use vibrate mode.

Academic Dishonesty: Please familiarize yourself with the University policy on academic integrity by accessing the following link: Several types of behaviors constitute academic dishonesty and are not acceptable. Academic dishonesty includes plagiarism, which involves but is not limited to presenting other people’s words and ideas as your own, submitting essays or portions of essays written by other people as your own, improper source citation, no source citation, or using materials posted on websites without acknowledging the source. Additionally, using fictitious sources also counts as academic dishonesty. Should you behave dishonestly, you will fail the course. If you have any questions or doubts about this issue, please consult with me.
Sexual Harassment: The University specifically prohibits sexual harassment in any form. Please consult the University’s policies on this issue.

Disability Statement: If you are registered with the Office of Disability Support Services (DSS), please see me during the first two weeks of class to arrange your specific accommodations. If you believe you may need accommodation and have not registered with DSS, please do so by calling ext. 42638. To access the website for Disability Support Services, please access the following link:

Course Schedule & Readings

August 31: Overview and syllabus review

Sept. 7: Why content matters

McKee, A. (2003). Chapter 1. What is textual analysis & Chapter 2. Does it really matter how people make sense of the world?

Neuendorf, K. (2002). Chapter 1. Defining content analysis & Chapter 2. Milestones in the history of content analysis

Shoemaker, P. & Reese. S. (1996). “Analyzing media content,” in Mediating the Message. (handout)

Screening: “Glee” clip: Re/Walk

Sept. 14: Content and textual analysis of news
Assignment: 1.)Email me a few sentences about what you thinking about for your final research paper
2.) Do search of Google news or the NY Times Web site and bring in a news article focused on a topic of interest for possible analysis of media coverage

Haller, B. (2010). Representing Disability in an Ableist World: Essays on Mass Media. Chapter 2. Researching media images of disability: How content analysis provides a method for assessment. (I will send to you by email).

McKee, A. (2003). Chapter 3. What’s interpretation got to do with it?

Neuendorf, K. (2002). Chapter 3. Beyond Description

Wright, C. R. (1986). Cultural content of American mass communication. Mass Communication, A sociological perspective. NY: Random House. (handout)

Shoemaker, P.J. (1984). Media treatment of deviant groups. Journalism Quarterly. Vol. 61.:
· Student presenter________________________________________________

Greenberg, B. S., & Neuendorf, K. (1980). Black family interactions on television. In B. S. Greenberg, Life on television: Content analyses of U.S. TV drama (pp. 173-181). Norwood, NJ: Ablex.
· Student presenter________________________________________________

Code sheet example (handout)

Sept. 21: Textual Analysis examples
Haller, B. (2010). Chapter 7. Pity as oppression in the Jerry Lewis Telethon.

McKee, A. (2003). Chapter 4. How do I know what’s a likely interpretation?

Neuendorf, K. (2002). Chapter 4. Message units & sampling

Compton, J. (2006). Serious as a heart attack: Health-related content of late-night comedy television. Health Communication, Vol. 19: 2.
· Student presenter________________________________________________

Lester-Roushanzamir, E. P. (1999). The global village in Atlanta: A textual analysis of Olympic news coverage for children in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, Vol. 76: 4.

· Student presenter________________________________________________

Screening: “The Kids are All Right” (about anti-telethon protests)

Sept. 28:

McKee, A. (2003). Chapter 5 & 6. Can’t we make it a bit more scientific? & Is that it?

Neuendorf, K. (2002). Chapter 5 & 6. Variables & predictions & Measurement techniques

Fink, J. S. & Kensicki, L.J. (2002). An imperceptible difference: Visual and textual constructions of femininity in Sports Illustrated and Sports Illustrated for Women. Mass Communication & Society. Vol. 5:3.
· Student presenter________________________________________________

Lee, B., Kim, B-C, & Han, S. (2006). The portrayal of older people in television advertisements: A cross-cultural content analysis of the United States and South Korea. International Journal of Aging and Human Development, Vol. 63:4, 279-297.
· Student presenter________________________________________________

Oct. 5: What about new forms of media, i.e. social media, blogs?

Neuendorf, K. (2002). Chapter 7 & 8. Reliability & Results and reporting

Papacharissi, Z. (2006). Audiences as media producers: Content analysis of 260 blogs. Blogging, Citizenship, and the future of Media. NY: Routledge.

· Student presenter________________________________________________

Greer, C. F. & Ferguson, D. A. (2011, May). Using Twitter for promotion and branding: A content analysis of local TV Twitter sites. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media.

· Student presenter________________________________________________

Oct. 12: Library research
Presentation by librarian Joyce Garczynski. We will meet in Cook Library, Room 526. After her presentation, she will be available to assist you with the specific searches you need to do for your projects.

Neuendorf, K. (2002). Chapter 9. Contexts & Resource 2. Using NEXIS

Oct. 19:
Assignments: Research Proposal Due

Oct. 26:
Individual meetings with me about proposals in my office, VB 205B (4-5 students for half hour individual meetings)
Work on literature review/final research paper

Nov. 2:
Individual meetings with me about proposals in my office, VB 205B (4-5 students for half hour individual meetings)
Work on literature review/final research paper

Nov. 9:
Assignments: Literature Review due
Bring questions about your final project for us to discuss as a group.

Nov. 16:
Literature reviews returned

No class Nov. 23 for Thanksgiving holiday

Nov. 30:
Assignment Due: All your text/content should be analyzed by now.

Dec. 7:
Assignment Due: Research paper presentations
~Students will present their final paper topics to the class in informal 20-minute oral presentations. The final paper need not be complete and won’t be turned in until Dec. 19. You can present your findings verbally.

Dec. 14 (last class):
Assignment Due: Research paper presentations
~Students will present their final paper topics to the class in informal 20-minute oral presentations. The final paper need not be complete and won’t be turned in until Dec. 19. You can present your findings verbally.

Monday Dec. 19: Final content study research paper due to me by 6:30 this day in VB 205B. You are welcome to turn in your final papers earlier than this date, if desired.


College of Fine Arts and Communication
Department of Mass Communication and Communication Studies
Towson, MD 21252

TO: All Students in the Department Of Mass Communication and Communication Studies
FROM: Department Faculty


The Department of Mass Communication and Communication Studies adheres to the following policy regarding plagiarism:

Any words or images taken directly from another source (including the Internet) must be footnoted or cited and in quotation marks. Similarly, in oral presentations, attributions must be clear.
Any ideas derived from a source not in the public domain or of general knowledge must be clearly attributed.
Any paraphrased material must be footnoted or cited. In oral presentations, attributions must be clear.
All papers and presentations must be the student’s own work. Submission of papers or presentations authored by others, even with their consent, constitutes plagiarism.
Any student found plagiarizing in any of the above ways will receive an automatic “F” for the assignment and may receive an “F” for the course. Documented evidence of the plagiarism will be kept in the department office, and will be reported to the Office of Judicial Affairs.

Any student discovered soliciting others to write a paper, speech, test, or other assignment for that student will receive an automatic “F” for the course.

There are ambiguities in concepts of plagiarism. Faculty will be available for consultation regarding any confusion a student may have.

Most students are careful to avoid blatant plagiarism, the unacknowledged copying of exact words of the source. However, students must also be aware that the concept of plagiarism extends not only to wording but to patterns or sequences of ideas. If you paraphrase without acknowledgement, using the same sequence or structure as the original author, then you are plagiarizing.

Students have the right to appeal a charge of plagiarism. An appeal starts with the chairperson of the department.

The Department of Mass Communication and Communication Studies has adopted the following policy regarding cheating:


Revised 1-11-05


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