Designing Methods for Media
School of Media Studies
The New School
Course webpage is here: http://peterasaro.org/courses/2018Methods.html
Course blog is here: http://designingmethods2018.wordpress.com
This course explores the design of research methodologies for the systematic study of media--how and why media are made, distributed, used, and understood. Because media systems can be very complex, and studied from various perspectives, it is important for media researchers to be able to deploy a range of techniques, and especially to combine techniques, in ways that allow for meaningful, clear, and critical research. The course emphasizes the framing of questions, as well as the choice of best methods for research, and how the choice of methods influences the significance, meaning, and impact of the results. This includes ethical considerations of research, such as protecting subjects' privacy and anonymity. The class will give a survey of various types of empirical methods, including qualitative ones, such as ethnography, participant observation, focus groups, interviews, auto-ethnography, and rhetorical analysis; and quantitative ones, such as sampling, surveys, content analysis, audience analysis, and visual techniques. We look at different examples of how these methods can be effectively combined, and at various resources or studying media, especially on-line information and data. Assignments will consist of several small research projects involving different methods, leading up to a larger research project employing an original methodology, on a subject of your choosing.
The goal of the course is to prepare you to design your own methodologies to better answer your own research questions. As such we will focus more on the concepts and issues involved with various methods, rather than with the details and specific techniques of the various methods. That said, you will be asked to prepare research questions and employ various research methods through short assignments. It is expected that you will bring your own research interests to class to help guide your projects, as well as class discussions. The final project will be developing a complete Methods section for a potential masters thesis.
Please email me to setup an appointment.
You are expected to have thoroughly and thoughtfully read the assigned texts and to have prepared yourself to contribute meaningfully to the class discussions. For some people, that preparation requires taking copious notes on or abstracting the assigned readings; for others, it entails supplementing the assigned readings with explanatory texts found in survey textbooks or in online sources; and for others still, it involves reading the texts, ruminating on them afterwards, then discussing those readings with classmates before the class meeting. Whatever method best suits you, I hope you arrive at class with copies of the assigned reading, ready and willing to make yourself a valued contributor to the discussion, and eager to share your own relevant media experiences and interests. Your participation will be evaluated in terms of both quantity and quality.
There will also be at least two in-class presentations, which will contribute to your grade (details below). The first short presentation will count for 5 points towards class participation, with attendence each week counting for 1 point.
As this is a methods course, regular attendance is essential. You will be permitted two excused absences (you must notify me of your inability to attend before class, via email or phone). Any subsequent absences and any un-excused absences will adversely affect your grade.
You will be required to make blog entries each week. Usually this will require you to conduct a short research project or exercise, and then report on it with a brief summary on the blog. Sometimes, the weekly assignment will simply ask you to comment on the readings for the week, or answer a question. Regardless, the assignment for the week will appear on right column of the blog.
You will be required to create an account on WordPress,
and send me an email with the EMAIL ADDRESS used to creat the account, so that
you can be added as authors for the collective course blog. Everyone will be
posting to a common blog page, and this will be readable by your classmates,
but access will be limited to only other class members, and not the whole
internet. When writing and making comments, you are expected to treat other
students with the same respect and courtesy as you should in the classroom. You
are also expected to respect rules of academic integrity, research ethics, and
copyright when posting to the blog.
Blog assignments will not be graded, per se, but I will read them and occasionally comment on them myself, and they will be read by the Teaching Assistant.
Blog posts will be due before the start of each class. They are time stamped when you post them. On-time posts will receive 3 points, late posts will receive 1.5 points. With 10 blog assignments, there are 30 points possible for the blogs.
In addition to posting your own entry each week, you are require to post at least 2 comments each week on the entries of other students. Because some students wait to post their entires, these are not strictly due before class, and do not have a strict deadline. But you should get in the habit of posting two comments each week. Each comment will receive 0.5 points each with 10 points possible
Discussion questions for the next week will be posted shortly after each class.
Presentations: Weekly & October 9 (sign-up)
Length: 5 minute presentation, 10 minute discussion
Project Draft Due: October
Length: 1000 words (approx. 2-3 pages)
Final Presentations: November
27, December 4 and December 11 (sign-up)
Length: 10 minute presentation, 5 minute discussion
Paper Due: December
Length: 2500-3000 words (approx. 6-10 pages)
There will be no final exam. Instead, you will be asked to design an original research project. This will consist of motivating and framing a research question, operationalizing the question, designing and choosing a methodology, explaining how you would gather the necessary data, and how you would analyze the data and what conclusions you might reach.
Because we are concerned here with the methods, you will not be asked to actually carry out the project, or to collect and analyze the data. But it should be a project that you could reasonably carry out, such as for a masters thesis project.
This is really a semester-long project, with several parts that should evolve and come together for your final assignment. The blog assignment each week will ask you to explore a different aspect of your research project, or consider the applicability of a new methodology. You will make two short in-class presentations on your project. You will submit a written draft of the project mid-semester, for detailed comments from me. And you will submit a formal written final project at the end of the semester.
You should choose a topic and research question at the start of the semester, though you are free to change it at any time. Indeed, the question should evolve, mature, and grow more focused and refined with each assignment.
Each week, one or two students will present their research project. Dates will be assigned by a sign-up sheet passed around the first day. This will be the "short presentation" and counts as part of the class participation grade. We will discuss the project as a class, to offer ideas and suggestions. There will also be a class set aside to discuss projects, for those presentations that don't fit into the weekly format.
This next big step of the process with be to motivate, frame and operationalize your research question. This will be done in a formal written Draft. This will consist of a 2-3 page (1000 word, Times New Roman, 12pt font, double spaced) paper which must be emailed to me before class on the due date. This draft should focus on the motivation, framing and operationalization, and discuss some possible methods.
The Final project will build on the draft by elaborating on the methods to be used, and address the various issues that might arise in implimenting those methods, as well as speculate as to what conclusions might be drawn from various results.
The last three class sessions will be devoted to student presentations of their research. This will allow the class to collectively discuss each project and offer suggestions. You are encouraged to use this feedback to improve your project before submitting your Final paper. Each student will be given approximately 15 minutes, and will be expected to describe their project in 5 minutes, allowing 10 minutes for discussion. You may use visuals, including powerpoints or videos, if you choose, but are not required to.
Research topics can address any aspect of media research, including (but not limited to) documentary, oral history, audience studies, or studies of media objects/products, practices or organizations/institutions.
Your Final paper should be submitted to me in electronic form (Word Perfect, MS Word, PDF, HTML and plain TXT are all fine). The final paper should consist of a 6-10 page (2500-3000 word, Times New Roman, 12pt font, double spaced) paper which must be emailed to me by the due date. Late papers will not be accepted, as I must turn in grades shortly thereafter.
The Final paper should be roughly equivalent to the "Methods" section of a masters thesis. As such, it should start with a clear statement of the research question, motivate and frame the research question, articulate how you intend to operationalize this question, the methods you intend to use, how you will implement these methods, and what results you expect the methods to reveal. Your final paper will be graded on the basis of each of these requirements.
Again, you need not actually conduct the research, this might be better thought of as a proposal for a project, as you might submit to a potential funding agency.
All readings will be available electronically, via the web, in PDF, MS Word, HTML, or similar format.
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