The Senior Project and Presentation

The senior project involves both research and a public presentation of that research. In the process the abilities of reasoning, inquiry and communication are engaged. The senior project presentation is the student's opportunity to demonstrate how these abilities have been developed.

See sample paper topics from past Communication Studies majors here. Students may select a senior project from among several categories:


Social Science Research Paper

Research in communication as social science studies “people.” In this line of research, researchers are interested in people’s attitude, perception, or behavior through surveys, questionnaires, experiments in the controlled environment, interviews, or participant observations. Due to the involvement of other humans as subjects or participants, you are to go through Luther Human Subject Review Board (HSRB): See Tips on Completing the HSRB Application.

Introduction (1-2 pages)

a. Purpose: to explore, to describe, to explain, or to predict
b. Significance of your study: What’s something new you are adding to the subject matter?
c. Preview of the entire paper 

Literature Review (8-10 pages)

a.   Weaving the relevant previous studies: Present theories and research in scholarly journals.

You can organize your literature review in different formats. The two are most common.

1)  Topical order: reviewing major issues, e.g., definition of face > dimensions of face > cultural differences on face strategies

2)  Chronological order: reviewing previous studies over time, e.g., origin of face in China (4th Century B.C.) > Goffman’s face (1955) > Brown & Levinson’s politeness theory (1987) > Ting-Toomey’s face-negotiation theory (1988)                

b. At the end of literature review, present your research questions or research hypotheses

Method (2-3 pages)

a.   Participants: Describe the detailed characteristics of participants (e.g., gender, age, class rank, nationality, majors/minors, and other demographic information that are relevant to your research).
b.   Materials: Describe the items in questionnaires, surveys, interview, and field notes; and explain how you construct your material (e.g., if you use the already existed ones or you make up your own).
c.   Procedure: Describe the “data collection” process (e.g., when did you start collecting surveys or interview?; how did you recruit participants?; what steps did you take to collect the surveys?; and did anything unusual happen during data collection?)
d.   Analysis: Describe your method of analysis (t-Test, correlations, ANOVA using SPSS, and qualitative data analyses like emerging themes from your data)

Results (2-3 pages for quantitative research; 6-8 page for qualitative research)

a.   Report your findings: Organize your answers to your research questions or conclusions to your research hypotheses; focus on factual information, w/ a hint of interpretation.

Discussion (3-4 pages)

a. Going back to Literature Review: Provide interpretations of your findings in relation to your theoretical framework.
b.   Strengths and weaknesses of your study: Theoretical (your contribution to the theoretical issues) and practical (discussion about methods and utilities of your research) implications of your research.
c.   Suggestions for future studies based on your strengths and weaknesses.

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Rhetorical Analysis Paper

Utilizing a rhetorical theory, concept, or methodology, analyze a rhetorical artifact of your own choosing. Appropriate artifacts include, but are not limited to, political speeches, public service announcements, social movements, advertisements, television programs, films, music, architecture, clothing/attire, and personal effects. As the senior paper is a confluence of inquiry, reasoning, and communication, your finished essay should show evidence of extensive research, careful analysis, and superior writing ability. Final papers should be 20-25 pages (double-spaced) in length and adhere to the tenets of good writing (organization, syntax, punctuation, APA style).

Your paper should include each of the following sections.

  • Introduction A good introduction catches the reader’s attention, identifies the rhetorical artifact for analysis, reveals the theoretical/methodological approach, and presents a clear thesis/preview statement.
  • Theory/Method Explain the rhetorical approach you’ve chosen. This section of a paper is frequently called a literature review. The purpose of this section is to display your understanding of an area of rhetorical theory and provide a justification for why this approach is appropriate for your particular artifact. This section should display a familiarity with, and understanding of, both seminal and contemporary literature. In essence, this section of a paper delineates the theoretical frame applied during analysis.
  • Rhetorical Critique The substance of a rhetorical critique usually focuses on two major elements: background/rhetorical situation and the criticism proper.
    • Background/Rhetorical Situation. Provide the background/biography of the artifact/rhetor, the history of the situation, and/or the rhetorical context. Is the rhetorical exchange part of a broader discussion or argument? What potential audiences need addressing? What constraints or opportunities are present?
    • Criticism. Using your theory/method discussion as a critical frame, analyze your artifact. Look for patterns/themes that emerge from the text and show, very specifically, how these patterns/themes are developed. Excellent rhetorical criticism offers a unique perspective of an artifact by intertwining insightful analysis, creativity, and detailed textual reference.
  • Discussion Based on your critique, discuss the efficacy of the text; did the text produce the intended effect? How might this artifact influence the way we view our world? How does this artifact contribute to our understanding of cultural attitudes, beliefs, and values? Does your analysis offer any support or challenges to our understanding of rhetorical theory?
  • Conclusion A solid conclusion offers a brief summary of your major arguments, potential directions for future research, and a thoughtful closing.

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Career Exploration Paper

A senior paper that explores the relationship between communication theory and concepts and a career is an exercise in applied communication research as the goal of the paper is to address two practical questions. “How do the theories, concepts and skills I have learned relate to a career?” “What relevant skills and concepts do I need to address as I prepare for this career?” As an example a student recently explored corporate training and development as an organizational communication career option. Other topics of interest might include, but are not limited to, politics and political communication, health and the role of the communication professional, or communication and the law. While the career exploration option emphasizes application, the project must demonstrate thorough research, thoughtful analysis, and effective writing skills. The final paper must be 20-25 double-spaced pages and will adhere to the tenets of good writing as measured by organization, syntax, punctuation, and the appropriate use of APA style.

The paper should include the following sections:

 •    Introduction – A good introduction captures the reader’s attention, identifies the area of concern, presents a theoretical/methodological approach, and establishes the purpose and significance of the paper.

•    Review of Literature – The review of literature will introduce the profession from a communication perspective. In addition to summarizing the issues addressed in primary and secondary journals and books, study the profession’s newsletters and web sites. After synthesizing the significant concepts, introduce the specific research questions to be addressed.

•    Methodology – While the research could be conducted in a number of ways, interviews with or surveys of practitioners in the profession, and on-site visits will provide experience-based data.

•    Results – Provide a concise summary of the findings from the data collection. If interviews, surveys, and on-site visits were employed, what practical information was acquired that will provide a greater understanding of the profession?

•    Discussion – Interpret the results reported in the previous section by tying them to the concepts presented in the review of literature. The essential goal is to weave the professional’s practical experience to the theoretical or conceptual framework.

 

Public Relations Projects

Students may opt to complete a public relations project in the community in fulfillment of the Senior Project requirements. A senior PR project is not an internship. In keeping with the all-college requirement for Senior Projects, such a project must be “a culminating, independent experience of the major.” Thus, the student will be responsible for the independent design and completion of the entire project, with faculty and organizational supervisors providing only necessary logistical support, advice and consultation. This project must be arranged in consultation with both the supervising faculty member and with the appropriate officials of the organization with whom the student is working. A written contract, spelling out expectations of all parties involved, is highly recommended.

•    Scope – The project may involve the research, planning, communication, and/or evaluation phases of a public relations campaign. Projects involving all phases, or that involve significant research and planning, are preferred. In no case should a project involve a communication effort without proper evaluation. The project must be original, and should be of sufficient depth to require a significant number of hours of effort.

•    Focus – A clear connection between theory and practice must be demonstrated. Students involved in a PR project should keep a contemporaneous journal of their progress which describes each significant decision point in the course of the project and clearly indicates how application of communication theories or professional practices learned in the classroom were applied in making the final decision on how to proceed.

•    Sources – In order to document the application of theory and professional practice, a bibliography of the various source documents employed should be assembled (course texts, books, journal articles, etc.).

•    Consultation – Students are expected to meet regularly with the faculty supervisor to discuss the project and the various strategies chosen for its completion.

•    Documentation – The journal, or a summary document of at least eight standard pages, typed in accordance to current APA style guidelines, along with the bibliography, will be submitted in lieu of a senior paper.

•    Media – If communication media of any sort are produced, such as brochures or news releases, a portfolio of these should be submitted to the faculty supervisor along with the final journal or summary.

•    Presentation – A formal oral presentation concerning the project will be required, and this presentation must be made both to an appropriate audience from the client organization, as well as to the faculty of the department.

•    Evaluation – Grading will be based on the clear application of theory and professional practice, as well as on the success of the completed project.

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Media Production Projects

Students may opt to complete a media production project in fulfillment of the Senior Project requirement. Such projects may involve an audio program suitable for radio broadcast, a video, or interactive computer media. A senior media production project is not an internship. In keeping with the all-college requirement for Senior Projects, such a project must be “a culminating, independent experience of the major.” Thus, the student will be responsible for the independent design and completion of the entire project, with faculty and organizational supervisors providing only necessary logistical support, advice and consultation. This project must be arranged in consultation with both the supervising faculty member and, if the production is being created for an office of the college or an off-campus organization, with the appropriate officials of the office or organization. A written contract, spelling out expectations of all parties involved, is highly recommended.

•    Scope – The production must be original, and should be of sufficient depth to require a significant number of hours of effort. All projects are expected to demonstrate the highest level of technical production values attainable with the available equipment.

•    Focus – A clear connection between theory and practice must be demonstrated. Students involved in a production project should keep a contemporaneous journal of their progress which describes each significant decision point in the course of the project and clearly indicates how application of communication theories or professional practices learned in the classroom were applied in making the final decision on how to proceed.

•    Sources – In order to document the application of theory and professional practice, a bibliography of the various source documents employed should be assembled (course texts, books, journal articles, etc.).

•    Consultation – Students are expected to meet regularly with the faculty supervisor to discuss the project and the various strategies chosen for its completion.

•    Documentation – The journal, or a summary document of at least eight standard pages, typed in accordance to current APA style guidelines, along with the bibliography, will be submitted in lieu of a senior paper.

•    Media – In addition, a complete copy of the production on appropriate media shall be submitted to the faculty supervisor for evaluation.

•    Presentation – A formal oral presentation to the faculty of the department concerning the project will be required, in addition to a public presentation, broadcast, or demonstration of the finished production.

•    Evaluation – It is expected that productions of this type would be of high enough quality for submission to various collegiate competitions appropriate to the medium. Grading will be based on the clear application of theory and professional practice, as well as on the quality of the completed production.

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