Writing Project 2: Cultural and New Media Writing

5-6 pages

First Draft Due (for Peer Review): March 31 Second Draft Due (Emailed to me): April 4 Final Portfolio Due (In Class): April 11


For Project 2, you will develop an informative, self-driven researched article that addresses the ways in which new media alters our perception. You will connect the research you do in sequence 2 with the work you do in sequence 3 by offering UW students a thoughtful way to make sense of a wide array of information and perspectives related to the question/issue you have chosen. Thus, work you do in sequence 2 will directly relate to the work you accomplish in sequence 3, so choose a topic that is worth arguing, as well as one in which you feel invested.

Your paper should introduce a question concerning new media communication, show or suggest why your question is relevant/significant/timely, and finally, amalgamate different sources who have debated your topic. You should try to understand a particular issue in as much depth as possible, meaning that you will do both extensive fact-finding and seek to understand multiple perspectives. Throughout the assignment, you will support your thesis (main argument) through your summary, analysis, and synthesis of your sources’ perspectives on your issue. Inevitably, you will be making a research supported argument bolstered by a wide array of information. However, it is only until you understand your topic deeply through a number of sources can you begin to affirm a stance. The goal of this assignment is to gather all the voices you can find who are tapping into the conversation in an effort to synthesize those thoughts in a way that allows you to make an argument.

The paper should draw from at least FOUR strong sources, at least TWO of which should be scholarly. The rest may come from in-depth local news articles, interviews, or websites, provided these sources are substantive and informed.

  • Gain experience in selecting, narrowing, and focusing a topic or question for a specific purpose and audience.
  • Learn to locate, evaluate, and use source materials useful to your intellectual project.
  • Become familiar with library resources at UW-Madison.
  • Build on your skills in summary, analysis, and argument.
  • Learn strategies for critiquing, evaluating, and interpreting assigned readings.
  • Apply rhetorical concepts to the analysis of texts and to your own drafts.
  • Gain practice in drafting and revising in response to peers and your instructor.
  • Become familiar with college-level expectations for citing sources, avoiding plagiarism, and compiling an accurate bibliography.

There should be a defining argument that synthesizes your sources together. The goal of this sequence is to learn more researching a topic and about argumentative writing; use those skills in this project! Think about the steps required to develop your draft, including:

  • Find four articles, chapters, or essays that discuss the problem/question you have chosen. At least two should come from scholarly arguments (book length studies or scholarly articles)
  • Clearly articulate how you are making sense of (analyzing) what your sources have to say regarding your topic/issue.
  • Summarize and analyze key arguments, ideas, and information from your sources.
  • Include citations for your research and a bibliography.

Option One – Social Media and Friendship: Some argue that recent social media technologies, such as Facebook or Instagram, have fundamentally altered the way we imagine and interact with the communities around us. Choose a specific social media technology. How has this technology changed the way that social interaction works, and is it for better or worse? What are some benefits of these technologies, and what are their dangers? How do we communicate in these technologies that alters our relationships in ways that other modes do not?

Option Two – Media and Body Image: Media has a profound impact on the way we perceive beauty. Many argue that Hollywood and fashion industries perpetuate unhealthy images of beauty and severely limited notions of both masculinity and femininity. So called “reality” television and weight-loss shows, in this view, further sustain or encourage these unhealthy images. Are these critics justified in blaming the media, and why? If this is the case, what can we do to change this situation?

Option Three – Media and Revolution: Throughout 2010 the “Arab Spring,” or revolutionary wave of demonstrations and uprisings across the Middle East to protest the illegitimate or ineffective rule of local dictatorships and rulers, marked an important moment in the role of internet technology and political struggle. Many of these protests used Facebook, smartphone messaging, or other new media technologies to organize quickly, in ways not possible before these technologies were invented. What was the role of new media in making the Arab Spring possible? Could the Arab Spring have occurred without these technologies, and why or why not? (While you can use the Arab Spring Revolution, you do not have to use this example of media revolution. In fact, I urge you to choose a topic of your specific interest.)

Option Four – Media and Surveillance: In May 2013, Edward Snowden, an American computer scientist who worked for the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), released details of several top-secret information files related to U.S. surveillance of its citizens, particularly those related to cell-phone records. In his interview with The Guardian, the British paper to whom he released the information, he says “I don’t want to live in a society that does these sort of things [surveillance on its citizens]… I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded… My sole motive is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them.” Some have called Snowden a hero and a patriot for making the public aware of these programs, and others have called him a terrorist and a traitor. What are arguments both for and against Snowden’s actions? Was Snowden justified in releasing this information? Since Snowden knew he was breaking the law, should he—if he ever is extradited to American soil—be tried as a terrorist or traitor? (While you can use the Snowden case, you do not have to use this example of media surveillance. In fact, I urge you to choose a topic of your specific interest.)

NOTE: You will all review your research question with both your peers and me before embarking on the actual writing.


The point of an research paper is to teach, analyze, and engage. Like the personal essays we wrote in Sequence One, your essay should offer your readers better understanding the nature of a problem, issue, concept, or question. Unlike personal essays, however, the kind of informative article we will be writing does not rely heavily on the writer’s firsthand experience or thoughts. Instead, they gather information and perspectives about the issue/question from a variety of published sources, then creatively offer readers a way to better understand it through the writer’s analysis of the information/multiple perspectives it summarizes. With that said, I encourage you to pick a topic and question that you find value in.

Keep in mind too, that our research papers, like all informative writing that uses sources, require thoughtful analysis of the information you gather all throughout your research and writing process. For example, as you research, you will need to decide who needs to know about this issue or problem, why, which information and perspectives deserve attention, how to organize what you find, and how to present it in a way that both teaches your readers something new while offering them ways to think more critically about the problem/question at hand.

Include a Writer’s Memo. Write a “Writer’s Memo” as a coversheet to your project. The memo should be at least 250 words, but no more than 500 words. Consider the following: What was difficult about this assignment? How did you begin your essay, and why? What kind of audience were you imagining for this piece? What did you want your audience to take away from the piece? What challenges did you face in the revision process? What insights did you gain about the research process? How do you view yourself as a researcher?

PORTFOLIO TWO INCLUDES (in this order): 
  1. Writer’s Memo
  2. Final Version of Writing Project #2 
  3. Revised Short-Writing Assignment #3 
  4. Short-Writing Assignment #4 
  5. All notes, questions, drafts, pre-writes, outlines, etc.

*Many of the ideas in this assignment were borrowed from Chris McVey with permission.

See Unit 3: Proposal.