Research Projects





What messages are communicated to women through the media? What does it mean to be 'feminine' according to magazines such as Essence, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Seventeen, or Ms. How is femininity defined similarly and differently in these magazines? What ethnic and racial differences exist in definitions of beauty? To what degree do women use these images to assess or shape their own beauty or femininity? How many women read each of these magazines on a regular basis? Who owns and produces these magazines? Does this type of media serve as an agent of socialization, or are the magazines purely entertainment? Refine your question to reflect what YOU and/or YOUR GROUP are most interested in.
Use of Supplementary Materials
I will give you a handout of a good textbook chapter that covers the media from a sociological perspective. You will also want to do a library search to find any relevant sociological research which focus on gender socialization and the media. I strongly recommend that you read the supplementary materials before you begin collecting data. You are required to use this literature in your paper to provide a sociological explanation of why you have observed specific patterns in the way that the media represents gender.
Some outside reading (in addition to your textbook chapter on gender) you may want to consider are:
Bumberg, Joan Jacobs. (1997). The Body Project: an intimate history of American girls. New York: Random House.
Wolf, Naomi (1991). The Beauty Myth: how images of beauty are used against women. New York: W. Morrow.

This will depend on the specific research question your group decides to adopt. Remember, an hypothesis is a speculative statement about the relationship between two variables. If you frame your research question as descriptive, you need not formulate formal hypotheses.

Primary Data: Gather three issues each of the five following magazines: Essence, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Seventeen, and Ms. You should have a total of fifteen magazines.
Secondary Data: You may find your background information on the organization of the magazines in any way that you feel necessary. You may want to search for the information on the Internet, you may look in various business references, or you may want to call the magazines main office.

This project requires a detailed content analysis of the magazines you have collected. You will need to start by breaking your research question down into even more specific questions that will guide your analysis. Next, you should formulate a series of categories that you will use to conceptually explore the select group of magazines you have gathered as primary data. These categories should be guided by your research questions and by your theoretical orientation (are you taking a functionalist, conflict, or interactionist perspective?). Once you have specified the categories, you will need to read your data with a meticulous eye to pull out material that speaks to your categorizations. This process is called ?ing?e data (the data being your magazines).
If you are working in a group, you will want to code the data separately, then get back together to discuss how you each coded the data - what are the similarities and differences between yourself and your colleagues? This process is called "triangulation" and increases the reliability and validity of your analysis.
If you are working alone you will need to pass through the data (at least) three separate times to ensure that you are not missing any particularities.
Next you must ascertain what your coding schema allows you to say about gender socialization and the media? How can you situate these understandings within the larger framework of the media as a social institution?

This step will depend upon the results of your analysis.

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