Senior Research provides interested students with the opportunity to undertake the sustained examination of events, objects, and/or processes related to the study and practice of communication. This gives you a unique opportunity for an extended, reflective process of research with the close attention, feedback and guidance of a faculty mentor. The student will plan, develop, and synthesize the project over the course of the senior year through regular interaction with their faculty advisor. Projects should draw from and participate in wider intellectual conversations within the field of Communication. Our hope is that the Senior Research Experience will culminate in students' engagement in sustained and rigorous analyses and the production of major research theses or similar cumulative intellectual expressions on topics of interest.
Past Senior Research
- Oedipus in Office: The Rhetorical Tragedy of George W. Bush in Decision Points, Thomas R.Simon, 2011
- Seasoned Writers: The Bittersweet Enactments of Women's Rhetorical Agency in Feminist Food Films, Lorrin Ostojic, 2011
- Be nobody's baby girl: liminal space in the social construction of sexual harassment, Madeleine Frankel Katz, 2009
- "Then the hair stood up on the back of my neck": Bill Monroe's 42nd Annual Bean Blossom Bluegrass Festival, Davis Bourland, 2009.
- The rhetoric of "el hogar" in the speeches of Pilar Primo de Rivera: regeneration, domestic moral action and the gender of the private sphere, Leora Hudak, 2009
- "Play Ball!" The Relation of Jackie Robenson to his Blackness, David Fiffick, 2008.
- Have a minimum 3.2 GPA in Communication (or minimum 3.0 with special permission from the department).
- Have taken at least 20 hours in communication plus Communication 280 & 290
- Have taken at least one 300-level and preferably one 400-level Communication course
The best proposals may derive in part from a paper or project conducted in a communication class, and ideally builds on coursework that you have already taken in the department. We also strongly encourage you to identify a faculty mentor to work with on the development of your proposal and to help serve as a sounding board and guide you through some of the obstacles that typically hinder a proposal's success. Faculty guidance does not insure acceptance of the proposal, which will be evaluated by the departmental committee on Senior Research. The committee will review proposals and notify students of our decision and the assignment of a research advisor before finals week. If your proposal is accepted, you will need to add senior research to your fall semester schedule.
Proposals should be between two and three double-spaced, typed pages and briefly address the following:
- Topic Area and Research Question: State your topic area and research question as specifically as you can. What question or questions will your research project attempt to answer? Please be sure to formulate your question as a question rather than as a statement of what your research will be about.
- Justification: Briefly explain why your question is worth writing about. Why is it important to you? Why should it be important to others? What will be gained by answering the question?
- Theoretical Linkages: What theoretical perspectives, ideas, and questions will your project involve? What literatures do you expect to draw upon?
- Method: Briefly describe how you will go about answering your question. What kinds of data will you gather and how will you gather it? What kind of analysis will you conduct?
- Course Preparation: What courses have prepared you to do this research? List all courses that apply. Does the project derive in part from a seminar or class paper?
A Brief Comment on Method
When thinking about your research method, be sure to consider what kind of material or interactions you wish to study in relation to the kinds of questions you want to ask. For example, will you employ rhetorical analysis, participant observation, ethnography, etc.? Any method that you select to use should be driven by its fit to the questions of interest. Of course, all methods require your search for information combined with your motivation to investigate the particular communication topic. Some examples of potential methods include:
*Qualitative Method (textual, ethnographic, etc.): Generally, this research relies on the researcher as the primary observer or data collector. For example, the researcher finds and analyzes primary sources, or for an ethnographic study is close to the context (or natural setting) for extended periods of time (e.g., days, weeks, months, etc.) in order to obtain in-depth experiences and insights of participants. Overall, inductive reasoning is utilized: familiarize oneself with research literature, determine purpose or problem, formalize the research questions (may be more broad than the quantitative), plan methods and procedures, gather data or evidence, analyze/interpret data, develop hypotheses in response to the interpreted data, develop theory, offer new questions (future research). Often research questions start with how or what (to explain, discover, seek to understand, explore a process of describe participants’ experiences).
*Rhetorical Method: Like other methods of inquiry, rhetorical analysis seeks to apply rigor to the sustained investigation of communicative phenomena. Rhetorical examinations are typically guided by specific, insightful questions about the text(s)--spoken, written, or visual-- that is the object of examination. These questions usually will suggest to the rhetorical scholar an established or original rhetorical method through which answers may be developed. Such methodological approaches may include historical, close textual, postmodern, narrative, or genre, to identify just a few. At issue for the rhetorical critic, then, is the thorough examination of the intersection of text, audience, and context, and they ways in which these threads weave together public meanings and understandings of our culture's past, present, and future. Students interested in the rhetorical investigation of communication are encouraged to meet with an instructor to discuss in more detail the applicability of the methods named here to their proposed studies. Students might produce a major body of original written work that individually or collectively addresses one or more particular audiences. Such projects would demand a body of work offering proof of experience and creative skill, along with a letter of faculty supervisory commitment to the project.
*Quantitative Method: Generally, this research relies on numerical measurement. When using observation, the researcher uses some agreed-upon coding format (or pre-existing tool) to record observations that are then quantified. Methods of data collection might include, for example, surveys, questionnaires, and/or lab experiments. Overall, deductive reasoning is utilized: familiarize oneself with research literature, determine purpose or problem, select appropriate theory(ies), formalize the research questions/hypotheses, plan methods and procedures, gather data or evidence, analyze/interpret data, report, offer new questions (future research). Research questions ask about relationships, effects, and differences. Ethnographic research may also be presented in documentary format where evidence of reflexivity and aesthetic theoretical linkages are made in the proposal and accompany the work produced. Such a project would demand a body of work offering proof of experience and creative skill, along with a letter of faculty supervisory commitment to the project.