Pop Culture Research Paper



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Jessica Mehr, Spring 2006

Pop Culture Research Paper

Rough Draft due Monday, April 17th

Final Draft due Thursday, April 27th
For this assignment, you will write an 8-10 page (2500- 3000 word) essay that explores an issue in popular culture.
You will begin by viewing an artifact of popular culture: a movie, television show, magazine, etc., paying attention to how it reflects issues such as age, race, gender, class, religion, politics (or another approved topic). You will then use this text as a jumping off point for your research. The text might play a major role in your paper, it may become one of your sources, or it may not be mentioned at all. How you use it is up to you. This is not a report! It is definitely not a movie review. The intention of this assignment is not to simply gather information, but to form an argument and provide a new understanding of the topic. The paper is not about the movie; it just stems from it.
Your paper should:


  • Not be a report, but an argument that creates a new understanding.

  • Be well-organized, with a clearly stated thesis that is threaded throughout.

  • Have a clear introduction and conclusion.

  • Have concise, focused paragraphs with meaningful transitions.

  • Be based on high-quality research from 7 outside sources. It should include a works cited page in MLA Style.

  • Represent your strongest writing: good language use, grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc.

  • Be typed and proofread with your name, date, and word count in the upper left hand corner.


For example:

I recently read an interesting article recently about the television show CSI, and how it is disseminating knowledge of forensics that has been impacting jury trials. My questions going into a paper on this topic might be: How does CSI affect jury trials? Why does it affect them? And more importantly, SO WHAT? If I stopped at how and why, I would simply be writing a report, regurgitating the information I gathered from my sources. The crux of the paper is the so what, the synthesis of this information into an argument. What are the ramifications of this for the criminal justice system? Is this something to be embraced or avoided? Is CSI affecting society, or is it actually just reflecting it? What is the result on the viewer? If this topic doesn’t appeal to me, then I could research any gender issues I notice on the show, or how politics influence what cases are given the most attention.


You might compare a sitcom from twenty years ago to one today, discussing how representations of gender, class, and race have changed and what the larger impact of this is. You might watch The Terminator and write a research paper on the ramifications of artificial intelligence. The possibilities are endless!
Due Monday, March 20th:

4 pages of Double-Entry Notes (handwritten neatly) and 1 page Proposal (typed):

View a movie, television show, magazine, etc. You might have to view several before you generate any good ideas. While watching, detail your observations, responses, and questions in double-entry style. Then write a 1-2 page Research Proposal that stems from what you observed. It should identify a topic, the value of researching it, your present understanding of it, as well as all of questions that you aim to answer. You might even want to poke around the internet to see how much information is available on the subject.


A good topic should:


  • Interest you! You’ll write a better paper if it does.

  • Have the potential to generate 8-10 pages of material.

  • Generate questions that you don’t know the answer to.

  • Not be about simply gathering information for a report.


Other Major Due Dates:

Monday, March 27th: SRA #6 “Writing an Analytical Summary”

(See Course Packet)


Thursday, March 30th: Revised Proposal and list of 7 sources
Monday, April 3rd: Annotated Bibliography Due

(See Course Packet)


Monday, April 17th: Rough Draft of Pop Culture Paper (7 pages)
Thursday, April 27th: Final Draft of Pop Culture Paper due (8-10 pages)
Monday, May 1st: Digital Portfolio Due


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