I need to write a research paper on a topic related to mass media. Where do I start?
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Wow! There seem to be few limits on your project. If you are to study mass media in general, as opposed to focusing your research on one medium (TV, newspapers, magazines, etc.), consider studying an area of interest to you in regard its relationship to media. For instance, are you interested in politics, history, sports, science, literature, or art? You would enjoy your research more if you were spending your time reading and writing about something that you really wanted to know more about. For example, if I were writing this paper, I would probably look at the manner in which mass media has impacted current American presidential politics. Since that is a very broad question, I would narrow it down to be more specific and to make sure I could cover my limited topic in the number of words required by the assignment.
If I were allowed to research one medium, instead of media in general, I might focus on current American presidential politics in relation to TV news coverage. I might also focus on the medium itself, such as examining the current state of American newspapers: Can they survive this economic climate?
Once you have your limited topic, begin by asking questions, as many as you can think of in regard to your limited topic. From these many questions, you can select the one that you most want to answer through research. When you have completed your research, you should have an answer to your question. This answer will be your thesis statement which you will then explain and support in your paper, using facts and information developed from your research sources.
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The first thing you need to do is to define the scope of your research paper more clearly than just saying "a topic related to mass media".
Here are some guidelines to help you do it.
- First decide the time effort and money you can spare for doing this research paper.
- Identify an initial short list of specific topics that you would like to work on. This can be based on your interest as well as suitability for the purpose the research paper will serve. For example, if it is a class assignment, it must meet the expectations of your teacher.
- Also determine the approximate length of the research paper that will meet its intended requirement.
- Examine the kind of information you can obtain on each of the short listed topics within your resource constraint.
- Take a final decision on the topic of research paper based on all the above information and analysis.
- Define the objective and scope of the research paper in a few sentences. It would be desirable if at this stage you discuss this objective and scope statement with the person who will use or evaluate your research paper.
Once you have finalized the topic in this way, you would be in much better to write the paper. You can start by preparing a short plan of work containing details like what data to be collected, how, and from what sources? what will be the overall content and structure of the report? What is the schedule of various data collection, analysis, and report writing activities.
What you do after this will be very much guided by the plan you make.
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