Exemplary Writing in Communications

First Prize
Danielle Renda, Print Journalism/Sociology
"American Youth's Establishment of Romantic Relationships via Text Messaging"
ICM 501 Theories of Interactive Media
Josh Braun, assistant professor of interactive media
Read the essay (PDF)

From Josh Braun: ICM 501 Theories of Interactive Media is the introductory course in the ICM graduate program, although it is also open to seniors. The final project for the course is to complete a research paper related to the subject matter of the class, approximately 15 pages in length, for which students must assemble their own sources through library research.

The final paper is handed in at the end of the semester and worth 20% of the course grade. Students are allowed to propose their own topic for the paper, though it must fall generally within the subject area of the course. The assignment is intended to do three things: (1) allow students to dig further into some unique aspect of a subject they found interesting over the course of the semester, (2) give students a first experience with graduate research and writing, and (3) demonstrate students' understanding of how their area of interest intersects with scholarly research on-and approaches to-the study of interactive media.

Students final papers/projects are evaluated based on (1) their original library research-meaning their use of credible sources located through their own investigation, (2) how well and how closely they base the claims they make in their paper on the empirical evidence they found through their research, and (3) how well they synthesize the various claims made in their paper into an interesting and logical narrative that draws credible and informed conclusions along the way.

For students who propose topics with which I already have some familiarity, I will often recommend a source or two to get them started in their library research. Danielle chose a topic with which I had little familiarity: teens' use of text messaging to start and sustain romantic relationships. She deserves all the credit for the research that went into her paper and she did a truly wonderful job, finding an excellent mix of scholarly and popular sources that made her paper both contemporary and empirically grounded. A common flaw in research papers from undergraduates and new graduate students is to over-extrapolate based on limited sources. Danielle, though, does a beautiful job of weaving together her sources into a fascinating narrative that rests firmly on her research, using her references to draw conclusions that are both significant and warranted. She deserves high praise for her work.

Honorable Mention
Jacklyn Izzo, Film, Video and Interactive Media/Sports Studies
"Social Media and Crisis Situations"
ICM 501 Theories of Interactive Media
Josh Braun, assistant professor of interactive media
Read the article (PDF)

From Josh Braun: Jackie's topic for the final concerned how people use social media during natural disasters and other crisis situations. She was one of the students in this class who requested the opportunity to put her work into a form other than a traditional research paper. She has an interest in journalism and at the same time is involved in the community of Breezy Point, which was hit particularly hard by Hurricane Sandy. For her project she wanted to conduct original interviews with friends and acquaintances in that community who were affected by the storm, and she also wanted to put her project on the web. I readily agreed, with the stipulation that her original reporting for the project would not absolve her of doing the still-requisite library research for the assignment. She came through and produced a unique project that contains both firsthand accounts--some of them particularly riveting--from her interviews concerning how people affected by Sandy used social media during the hurricane, as well as scholarly sources that demonstrate how the experiences of Sandy victims are generalizable to larger trends concerning the use of social networks during emergencies and natural disasters. The result is a website (copied here as a Word document) that is both highly engaging to read, as well as quite an advanced term paper for an undergraduate taking her first graduate course.

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