Essay: Using Research to Critique the Popular Media
Assignment: Incorporating quotes and paraphrases from at least three journal, magazine, and/or newspaper articles found through the databases, write a 4 page argument taking a stance on some current issue directly related to the popular media. (By “popular media,” I mean personalities or products of the music, film, or television industry—or even famous internet trends or popular novels published within the last decade.)
Approaching the Assignment: I suggest you start by thinking about how the popular media both imitates and shapes our lives. You’re welcome to write about any current media-related issue that interests you; however, I encourage you to look beyond the obvious. Body image and the mind-boggling salaries famous athletes receive for selling shoes are great topics, but there are also plenty of others that most students don’t even think about. For example, I wouldn’t mind seeing an essay on the importance of Family Guy as a cultural sounding board in the 21st century or why Snape of Harry Potter is the quintessential hero of the post-modern age or how television producers invented reality TV as part of a conspiracy to dumb down the American public (just kidding about that last ;). The important thing is to take a stance on an issue that’s currently relevant within the popular media.
Of course, no matter what you choose to write about, I believe it is your interest and enthusiasm for your topic that will lead to the strong, nuanced arguments that I’m hoping to see in your Final Portfolio. Therefore, you should spend plenty of time brainstorming, clustering, freewriting, or whatever else you do to generate ideas. I also recommend doing some exploratory research on your topic—maybe by doing a Google search or simply talking to friends about the media-related issues that interest them. Next, formulate a few possible research questions and several search terms to help you find sources related to your topic.* Finally, read through several articles to get a general feel for what people are saying about your topic so that you can give a brief summary of the various viewpoints near the beginning of your essay. Then you can add something new to the conversation, rather than simply repeating what others have already said.
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