All posts by kmcgarr

Short Essay #4

DUE on Thursday, May 3rd by midnight to Turnitin

Choose any political campaign TV ad from the 2016 U.S. presidential elections. You can pick from the primaries or the general election.  We recommend YouTube searches to find examples.

Write a 500-600 word essay that makes any strategic-communication-related argument about the ad that incorporates course concepts and readings. We’ve purposely left this vague: You’ll want to demonstrate that you can analyze a TV ad but more importantly, that you can come up with your own creative approach to writing an essay, which includes a thesis and supporting evidence. Think about the evidence you might draw on from all course material. Think about the judgment you’ve developed over the last five papers in terms of what makes a good essay with a strong thesis. Then trust your judgment!


  • 500-600 words
  • Times New Roman, 12pt font, double-spaced
  • A title
  • A clearly stated thesis that is underlined in your text
  • Evidence to support your thesis
  • At least two sources (readings or lectures)
  • APA style for in-text citations and reference list
  • A heading that is formatted like this at the top-left of your paper and has all the same components:

Annie McStudent
J201 – Section 307
February 22, 2018
Word Count: 565

Research Paper #2

Research Paper #2: Advertising Analysis

DESCRIPTION: For this assignment, you’ll select a print advertisement. We highly recommend full-page advertisements in print magazines, but other print ads can work as well. (Don’t use an online ad.)

Your task is to assess the effectiveness of the advertisement, paying close attention to its likely purpose, its context (the media product it appears in), its content, and its likely target market.

You should make a case about what the aim of the ad was, and whether it achieved that aim.

One challenge of advertisement analysis today is that advertising campaigns are spread over a variety of media. Consider looking at the broader context of the campaign of which your ad was a part; you might mention how your ad was like, or unlike, others in the campaign in your essay.

In your analysis, use at least two outside, authoritative sources in the development of your argument. (Apart from lectures and required readings, especially from Week 11, which you’ll also use.)  In choosing the articles to help you analyze this ad, remember: you don’t have to agree with the authors of the articles you use, but you have to show that you understand how those authors would interpret the advertisement you’ve chosen. For help finding journal articles, please see our Writing Resources page.


  • 1400-1600 words
  • Times New Roman, 12pt font, double-spaced
  • A title
  • A clearly stated thesis that is underlined in your text
  • Evidence to support your thesis
  • APA style for in-text citations and reference list
  • Include the ad you’ve selected as an appendix to your paper. You can scan it, take a photo, use an app like Turboscan to digitize it, or search for a digital version. If color plays an important part in the ad, make sure your TA has a color version.
  • At least two outside, authoritative sources (outside, meaning in addition to readings and lectures from class; authoritative, meaning scholarly, so a media kit isn’t one of your two — see our Writing Resources page for help with this)
  • A heading that is formatted like this at the top-left of your paper and has all the same components:

Annie McStudent
J201 – Section 307
February 22, 2018
Word Count: 1565

DEADLINES: First draft is due to Turnitin and to your peer reviewers by email on Thursday, April 12 by midnight. (Depending on the size of your section, these will be different peers than those you had for your first research paper. Your TA will assign them sometime before April 12.)

Final draft is due to Turnitin on Thursday, April 26 by midnight.

DETAILS: To make your case, consider these questions:

  •  What was the ad’s intended function? Why do you think this?
    • This will require a little bit of detective work: consider thinking about the nature of the product being advertised, and whom the marketers might be trying to reach.
  • How well does the ad perform that function? What is your evidence for this?
  • Where was it placed? Why was it placed there? (To learn about the magazine the ad appeared in, look for the magazine’s media kit, which will contain information about the audience of the magazine.)
  • What principles of persuasion were utilized in the ad? What might be the effects on the audience? (Be sure to use lecture content from April 6).
  • Would you say that this ad addresses some of the challenges that strategic communicators and marketing professionals are facing today? (Professor Douglas McLeod’s guest lecture on April 2 might be very relevant here)

HONORS STUDENTS: If you are taking this course for honors (you’d know if you were and you’ve already completed library training), you have a different assignment sheet that you got via email from me and that we discussed. Don’t do this assignment!

IMPT: Midterm on Wed. 3/21

Point breakdown:

  • Multiple choice: 12 questions, 0.75 point each = 9 points
  • IDs: 3 terms (out of 5 options), 2 points each = 6 points
  • Total: 15 points

Class, as we’ve discussed, the midterm is now on Wednesday, March 21st at 9:55am in Humanities 3650 — our regular lecture time and regular lecture room. This is also reflected on the corrected syllabus. (Too many of you were already going to be gone for spring break, which means also no lecture on Friday 3/23; no sections that week.)

Absolutely no makeups for unexcused absences.

I’m still hearing from people who think the midterm is on that Friday. If you think you know someone like that, please, please help them out!

We’ll have an optional review session Monday, March 19th from 6-7 p.m. in Humanities 3650. We’ve reserved the room for you until 8 p.m. if you’d like to stay and continue to study and exchange notes.

Instructions Below are only for Students with McBurney Visas

If you have a McBurney Visa that affects testing, please make sure you do the following by Tuesday, March 13th at 4 p.m.:

1. Go to this page to register for accommodated exam service (You will need to log in with your netID to register)

  1. As you register, you’ll need the following information
  • Instructor information:
    • First Name – Kathryn
    • Last Name – McGarr
    • NetID – kmcgarr
  • Exam information
    • Course: J201 Introduction to Mass Communication
    • Date: March, 21, 2018
    • Time (Please choose a start time between 9:05 – 9:55 a.m., depending on your accommodation and your schedule before and after the exam)
    • Duration: In accordance with your accommodation
  1. To have your request approved, if you haven’t given a copy of your VISA to either professor McGarr or your TA, please send it to msu26@wisc,edu.

Short Essay #3

Short Essay #3: Hostile Media Phenomenon

DUE: On Thursday, March 22nd by midnight to Turnitin (NOTE: This is a week later than it says on your syllabus. You will be able to turn in the assignment starting March 15th, the original due date, if you want to get it out of the way before the midterm. But everyone has been working so hard on their research papers, take the extra week if you want it!)


In this assignment, you’ll run your own (slightly unscientific) experiment to test the hostile media phenomenon. You will be interviewing two people–someone who is against immigration restriction and someone who is for immigration restriction–after having them read this article:DACA_NewsArticle. It’s formatted so you can send it to your subjects as a Word document with nothing to identify its source and with the British spellings eliminated. Do identify it as a published news article.

If you’d like to see the original article yourself, it’s from the BBC and is here:

The interviewees cannot be other students in 201 and should live in the U.S.


Your essay will be divided into three labeled sections that look like this:

I. Hypothesis  (100-150 words)

Before you conduct interviews, form a hypothesis. That is, based on the hostile media phenomenon, what do you think the pro-immigration restriction person will say? What do you think the anti-immigration person will say? Make sure you define hostile media phenomenon in your answer and cite the readings from Week 6 as necessary.

II. Method  (100-150 words)

For everyone, the general method will be the same:

  1. Choose subjects, having ascertained the views of your subjects on immigration restriction. (If you don’t know anyone who feels strongly about it, you can interview subjects with more moderate opinions, but the stronger they feel, the more likely your results will be interesting.)
  2. Tell them you are conducting an interview on media bias.
  3. Ask your subjects to read the article.
  4. Then ask them how they would rate the article, on a scale of 0-10, with 0 being the article shows great bias against restriction (in other words, pro-Daca); 5 is the article is perfectly neutral on immigration; and 10 shows great bias for restriction (anti-Daca). For example: if someone who is against immigration restriction thinks the article is also pro-Daca, they might rate the article 0 through 4 depending on how biased in their favor they find it; if that person thinks it’s perfectly neutral, they would rate a 5; if that person thinks the article is biased against their own views and towards immigration restriction (anti-Daca), they would pick between 6 and 10.
  5. After that, ask whatever follow-up questions might help you better understand their reasoning. You might choose to discuss hostile media phenomenon, but only after they have finished rating the article.

Because everyone has the same general method, in this Method section, state how you chose your interview subjects, their names, what their relationship is to you, and include any pertinent information on how you conducted your interviews (phone or in-person) and decided on follow-up questions.

You may record your interviews if your subjects give you permission and if you think it will help, but it’s not a requirement of the assignment.

III. Interpretation (300-350 words)

Explain the results of your experiment. Was your hypothesis correct? Include a description of important takeaways from your interviews, paraphrasing those interviews and using quotes sparingly, as you did in short essay #1.

Be creative! You could analyze your results further, suggest an area of possible future research, point out any issues with method, perhaps address your own bias.


  • See Week 6 readings and lecture notes from a review we’ll have Monday, March 12.
  • 500-650 words
  • Those 3 sections just described above, with section headings
  • Times New Roman, 12pt font, double-spaced
  • A title
  • APA style for in-text citations and reference list
  • A heading that is formatted like this at the top-left of your paper and has all the same components:

Annie McStudent
J201 – Section 307
February 22, 2018
Word Count: 539

FAQ: Research Paper #1

How do I cite a lecture handout?

Format: Professor last name, professor first initial. Second initial if known. (Year). Lecture title [Format]. Retrieved from where: URL

Example: McGarr, K.J. (2018). Political Reporting [Handout]. Retrieved from University of Wisconsin-Madison Introduction to Mass Communication Box:

How do I cite my lecture notes?

Your own notes from a lecture are considered personal communications in APA style. They are cited within the text of your assignment, but do not get an entry on the References List. This is because they are unpublished and not in a place where anyone else could go look them up. []

The in-text citation looks like this:

Format: Blah blah blah from your lecture notes (First Initial of Faculty Who Gave Lecture. Second Initial if known. Last Name, personal communication, Month Day, Year lecture took place).

Example: Political journalism is neat (K.J. McGarr, personal communication, February 19, 2018).

How do I cite a news article without an author?  

If you are referencing a news article that doesn’t have an author, cite the source by its title. For the reference page, move the title to the first position of the reference entry. For in-text citation, cite the first few words of the title and the year. Put double quotation marks around the title or abbreviated title. For more information please refer to online resources.


Reference list: All 33 Chile miners freed in flawless rescue. (2010, October 13). Retrieved from

In-text citation: Here is your sentence (“All 33 Chile Miners,” 2010).

I’ve never done an appendix. What is it/how do I it?

Appendix just refers to something you’ve tacked on (or appended) to the end of your paper. In this case, you’re tacking on PDFs of the old newspaper articles you used so that your TA can reference them in evaluating your paper. So your final document includes the following items in the following order: your paper, then your references list (APA format), then the old newspaper articles.

My TA said my thesis needs to be stronger. Could my thesis be just a summary of similarities/differences between two newspaper’s coverage? How complicated do you expect my thesis statement to be?

Comparing and contrasting the coverage by the two newspapers is an important first-step for this assignment. But your task is more than that (and hopefully more interesting than that). It should tell a coherent story, not simply report what is the same and what is different.

Two tips that help you expand your thesis beyond simple comparison. First, keep in mind that your paper should be goal-oriented. In other words, it must serve a larger purpose. It could be proposing a new way of seeing/understanding something; or, it could be arguing a point, clearing up a misunderstanding, or refuting a commonly held perception. Whatever that goal is, findings from your “compare-and-contrast” work should help you get there, while not being the goal itself.

Second, ask yourself the “so-what” question– “Yes, these are the differences and similarities. But so what?” What’s the point of making such comparison? What does the result mean for the reader? Why does your paper need to exist? These questions all help you focus on the “implications,” not pure fact comparison.

Short Essay #2

Short essay #2: Public Service versus Privacy –  Due on Thursday, March 1st by midnight to

Read Bill Keller’s New York Times article “Invasion of the Data Snatchers.” Then write a 500-600 word essay making your case for why the Journal News’ decision to publish their story about handgun permit holders was ethical or unethical.

You must support your conclusion with evidence from readings and lectures from Weeks 4 and 5. You must demonstrate that you can apply some of the concepts and examples from readings and lectures about ethics and privacy to a new issue.


  • 500-600 words
  • Times New Roman, 12pt font, double-spaced
  • A title
  • A clearly stated thesis that is underlined in your text and answers the prompt
  • Evidence from readings and lectures to support your thesis
  • APA style for in-text citations and reference list
  • A heading that is formatted like this at the top-left of your paper and has all the same components:

Annie McStudent
J201 – Section 307
February 22, 2018
Word Count: 565



Research Paper #1

J201 – Spring 2018 – Research Paper #1: Newspaper Analysis

New note: You may use first-person, as long as the paper is still academic (“I argue such-and-such…”). If it doesn’t work, your peer reviewers can let you know to change it for the next draft.

This assignment requires you to compare and contrast coverage from two different newspapers on one of the four stories listed below, having to do with campus unrest at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Your essay must critically assess the similarities and differences in coverage between the newspapers on your chosen topic, with an academic audience in mind. That means that you won’t be giving your own opinion, but you will come up with your own argument, or thesis.

1. News Topics

Focus your essay around coverage of one of these stories:

  • October 1967 – protests against Dow Chemical
  • December 1968-February 1969 – Demands by black students and boycott of classes
  • August 1970 – Sterling Hall bombing
  • April 1972 – Madison riots

2. Thesis

Your essay should have a focused argument, or thesis, with evidence to support it.

In section, you and your TAs will be discussing how to craft a good thesis. Your argument will come from the sources, rather than the other way around. (Meaning, do your research with an open mind, then decide on your argument.)

 3. Requirements for both drafts

  • 1400-1600 words
  • Times New Roman, 12pt font, double-spaced
  • A title
  • A clearly stated thesis that is underlined in your text
  • Evidence to support your thesis
  • APA style for in-text citations and reference list
  • A heading that is formatted like this at the top-left of your paper and has all the same components:

Annie McStudent
J201 – Section 307
February 22, 2018
Word Count: 1565

  • Appendix that includes copies of the newspaper articles you’re citing in your paper. Keep in mind that Turnitin only allows you to submit one document, so you’ll want to combine all your materials into one file, as a single PDF or Doc.
  • Readings and lectures, especially from Weeks 2 and 3, should inform your work and be cited in your paper. You may also consult additional outside sources (meaning, in addition to the newspaper articles) as long as you include them in your reference list and give proper citation.

4. Deadlines

First draft is due to Turnitin and to your peer reviewers by email on Thursday, February 22nd by midnight. (Your TA will assign peer reviewers during Week 4.)

Final draft is due to Turnitin on Thursday, March 8th by midnight.

5. Description

This assignment requires you to compare and contrast coverage from two different newspapers on one of the four stories listed above. Use the Library Research Guide to learn how to find articles.

It’s possible to do this assignment well with your research entirely online. Not all newspapers are digitized, though, including the UW-Madison student newspapers, so some of you may wish to visit the libraries in person to look at microfilm. Your options are detailed in the Library Guide.

Keep in mind that a news story is rarely confined to a single article. You are likely to see news articles, columns, editorials, letters, and other content about the story over a period of time. So be sure you are comparing apples to apples when comparing and contrasting two newspapers. For example, a letter to the editor in one newspaper should not be directly compared to a news article in another. You’ll want to demonstrate that you understand the different elements of a newspaper and types of coverage.

After you’ve read enough to learn the context of the event being covered, narrow down your selection to about three to five articles from each of the two newspapers you’ve selected. You’ll include copies of these articles as an appendix to your drafts. Then do close readings of your articles to come up with your specific topic and argument.

An argument typically answers a question. For example, for this essay, you might ask:

  • Was the news coverage fair?
    • Accurate? Transparent? Use your readings and lecture notes to help you determine what makes for fair coverage. Was the story put in context? What sources were used and how does this shape the coverage? Are there differences in facts between the stories?
  • What is the big picture the newspaper is conveying with their coverage?
    • In other words, are they presenting it a as a story of a riot? Of an attempt for social justice? Of a battle between police and protesters? Something else?

You will not answer all of these questions in your essay, and you can come up with your own question to answer. We encourage you to be creative and take intellectual risks with your thesis! (If the risk doesn’t work, you can always try a different approach in the next draft.) There’s no one right way to approach this essay as long as you meet those requirements listed in section 3.

6. Close Reading

A close reading means you’ll analyze, among other aspects of coverage, the language used, the quotes selected, the sources, the order of information. Drawing from two different newspapers and noting the differences and similarities should help you determine what aspect of the news coverage you’d like to focus on. For instance, maybe you want to make an argument about straight news in a conservative versus liberal paper. Maybe you’ll want to situate your paper in a question about race by looking at a white newspaper and a black newspaper. You might find you want to make an argument about specific language, or about sources, or about fairness.

To that end, you may consider some of the following questions when critically assessing the articles:

  • What is the purpose of the piece?
    • To inform the public, to offer analysis, to investigate, to create a public forum?
  • What kind of article is this?
    • Is it an editorial or a news article? Straight news or news analysis? (Keep in mind it might not be labeled.) If it’s news, is it from the AP or UPI wire services, or is it a reporter for that newspaper? If it’s AP or UPI, in what other newspapers did this article appear at the same time and in what ways was it altered? Are there differences in headlines? If so, what can you conclude about the way the editors of that paper are shaping their coverage?
  • What kind of newspaper is this?
    • Daily? Weekly? Local? National? Were its editorials generally thought to be conservative or liberal? Is it a black newspaper or a white newspaper? Is it a student newspaper and if so, do its editorials lean conservative or liberal? Are any of these factors shaping coverage?

Again, you should NOT answer all of the above questions in your essay, and instead should have a focused argument, or thesis, with tailored evidence, but these can help get you started.

Library Research Guide: