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PSCI 3160 Mass Media in American Politics

Library research guide for PSCI 3160

Welcome to the Class Page for PSCI 3160

This class page is for the Research Paper in Professor Matthew Eshbaugh-Soha's Political Science 3160 course (Mass Media in American Politics); however, it has basic research steps and tools that are useful for any research you do. If you find you need more help, use the Ask Us services. Library reference staff members can be reached in person and through phone and email. You may also contact the Subject Librarian for the Political Science Department, Brea Henson.



Research Paper (from Course Sylabus)

You will analyze the political content of a particular television program through content analysis and other relevant research materials as a baseline for developing and answering a question. You can choose any program (or programs if you wish to write a paper that compares or contrasts different programs) provided that you can tell a story about why it might be politically relevant if it is not an obvious political news program. Beyond news broadcasts are other choices including: 60 Minutes, The O’Reilly Factor, The Daily Show, South Park, The Simpsons, and House of Cards, but other shows exist with subtler political overtones. The final draft is due on December 6.

In your paper, you will need to do the following:

  •  Watch a television program, and collect evidence: Since you will have to collect this evidence over the course of the semester, make sure that your research strategy is feasible. Your evidence should come from at least a four-hour sample of a show: For example, eight NBC evening news broadcasts, four episodes of The O’Reilly Factor, or two episodes of The O’Reilly Factor and four episodes of The Simpsons. You must content analyze your program, from which you will collect evidence, and provide support for your argument. Note: Analyzing other types of media is perfectly acceptable. Please consult with me so that we can determine what would be an appropriate and comparable amount of media.
  • Present a question about the show and briefly explain why we should care about the answer to this question: Your question should center on a research question that can be refuted. Make sure that your question is specific enough to answer effectively.
  • Build evidence to answer your research question: Make sure that you provide the background information necessary to understand your question and its importance. To do so, draw upon the course readings and refer to other sources (both media stories and scholarly research) that may help you construct an informed and persuasive argument. Class readings may provide a baseline for making your argument, but you will need additional research from scholarly sources to enrich it.
  • Present your conclusion and consider its limitations and implications. Tell readers why they should care about your conclusion and address potential objections.

In addition to data collection, you will need to develop your research paper within the scholarly literature. Thus, you will need to incorporate scholarly articles and books into paper. If you do not know how to conduct an effective search for scholarly materials, you should consult your librarian or professor. I also require that you include additional secondary data from at least one of the following resources. These do not count as “scholarly sources,” nevertheless.

Online Resources:

Content Analysis: Content analysis is the process of observing and cataloguing information from a form of communication into quantifiable terms. Some examples of content analysis of television programs include: counting the number of political skits on Saturday Night Live across three decades to see if SNL relies more on political humor now than it used to; defining then counting the number of conservative or liberal comments made by characters on The Simpsons to test whether or not the show has a political slant; or timing the top stories on local versus national news as a basis for arguing that national news is more thematic than local news.

Guidelines: This assignment is an 8 to 10 page paper.You must use at least SIX scholarly sources to complete this paper. (This means you must cite and incorporate them within the paper.) Scholarly sources are academic works, such as peer-reviewed books or journal articles. Your paper MUST include at least TWO journal articles from The American Journal of Political Science, American Political Science Review, Journal of Politics, Political Research Quarterly, Political Behavior, Communications Research, or Political Communication. Although quality periodicals such as the National Journal or The New York Times (and the foregoing webpages) may be useful to supplement your research, they do not count toward the six-source minimum. Most other sources, including Wikipedia, are not scholarly sources. If you are unsure as to what counts as a scholarly source, ask.


Please use APSA citation style

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