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Students in SOAN Prof Alicia Simmons’s “Media and Politics” Course Develop Content Analysis Projects

By Chris Henke on December 12, 2016

This post submitted by SOAN Professor Alicia Simmons

Students in Media & Politics (FMST/SOC 375) recently completed a two-phase project that combines the dual focus of this course: art and of science. Over the course of the semester, they generated original social scientific research and then created short video reports about their findings. Their videos are an example of public sociology, meaning that they make sociological scholarship accessible to a non-academic audience. You’ll find a link to the videos, which cover topics such as Freddie Gray’s death, the Confederate Flag controversy, the Supreme Court same-sex marriage ruling, and the San Bernardino attacks, at the end of this post.

In phase 1 of the project, students learned how to conduct a content analysis, a social science methodology that systematically examines message characteristics. Specifically, they examined how recent major events were framed by national newspapers, meaning they investigated which aspects of events were selected by journalists and highlighted for their audience members, and which aspects of events faded from view. Using MAXQDA software, students coded the presence and nature of five general types frames: attribution of responsibility, human interest, conflict, morality, and economics. In their written reports, students assessed the quantitative prevalence of each frame within their sample of news stories and the qualitative nature of each frame. In addition, they drew on course material to speculate about the potential impacts that the framing of their event might have on audience members

In phase 2, students partnered with someone who shared the same topic but conducted their content analysis using a different newspaper. Together, they learned how to make videos using Final Cut Pro software. Drawing on course material about the construction of effective media messages, students built their videos from scratch: they wrote scripts, collected and created audio/visual assets, and edited everything together into a 5-6 minute report. Special thanks to Sarah Kunze, Zlatko Grozl, and Colgate’s Media Mentors for their fantastic support throughout this phase of the project.

Project videos may be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLHpyQGsS4HzI4PMX_PWMLoiCN8vv6G16Z


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