Research project

Students enrolled in Prof. Kovarik’s media history courses are required to perform historical research and complete a research report in order to earn a passing grade in the class.  Research is the key here. This is not a typical “term paper.”

The research begins with an historical question or area of interest and ends with a short informal paper and presentation describing your findings.

Each student researcher will find ten (10) contemporaneous and authoritative sources to examine some unique aspect of media history from before the 1980s.  Naturally, the articles should be about one topic. Also please use ProQuest newspaper archive articles, not just things you randomly come up with in Google searches.

  1. Contemporaneous — Sources that existed around the same time as your subject.  Example:  Newspaper articles about American journalist Nelly Bly’s trip around the world as it was happening in 1888 – 1889.   Example 2:  YouTube video or audio recording of original 1938 NBC radio program featuring Mae West’s “Garden of Eden” sketch, which would be used along with reactions in the press. Example 3: Not acceptable among your 10 sources — A 1990 book about Nelly Bly as a major source. We want contemporaneous sources.
  2. Authoritative —  Published media (books, newspapers, magazines) and some (but not all) digitally published media.   Example:  Wikipedia can be very helpful but it is not usually authoritative. However, the links and sources used as references on Wikipedia entries are usually authoritative.
  3. Media-related — The topics will either involve comparisons of media coverage OR an historical topic involving the media itself.   No non-media papers will be accepted.  Example 1: Acceptable —  How the US media covered Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream speech” at the time the speech was given in 1963.   Example 2:  Not acceptable – General biography of Martin Luther King.  Example 3: Acceptable – How Southern newspaper editors like Ralph McGill and James Kilpatrick disagreed about King and the civil rights movement.
  4. Before 1980 — We want to examine historical questions rather than recent questions about media and society.

Suggested  Research sources: 

 These are just a few of the many research sources usually available in university libraries:

  • ProQuest Historical Newspapers – (New York Times / Washington Post/ etc, from 1850s – 2006)
  • Niles Register – 1811 – 1844  has its own database
  •  Lexis Nexis (from 1990 forward)
  • Wikipedia articles are not themselves acceptable (because they are not contemporaneous).  However, the sources at the bottom of the articles might be helpful.
  • News.google.com can sometimes turn up interesting contemporary articles from random newspapers.
  • Be sure that you identify the source of the article —  sometimes it’s an AP or UP wire service article and not written by reporters in regional newspapers.
  • Also be sure to save each pdf of your article to turn them in along with your paper.

What the report will look like:

Your report will be an original  800 word (or more) document that compares, analyzes and contrasts your findings.

You’ll want to answer questions about each article, such as:

— “What were the main kinds of sources?” (government officials, university professors, team coaches, etc)

— “What point of view did the authors take?”  (They might be skeptical, enthusiastic, heartwarming, factual, etc).

— How was it written (objective exposition, editorial, story-telling narrative, sensationalistic bombast,  etc).

Be sure to turn in the pdf articles with your ms word report.

Please email the instructor with questions.

Good luck.