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Comm 336 (Delaney)

CMN 336: Family Communication

Spring 2013

Assignment Description

Your task in this assignment is to explore an area of family communication research that interests you. You will start by examining a media portrayal of family interaction to jump start your research into family communication. Choose an approximately 2 minute clip from a television show or film that focuses on an interaction between family members. Then, think about how the theories, concepts, and behaviors we talk and read about in class can inform us about first, your particular video clip and then, about family communication in general. There are three major learning goals for this assignment:

  1. Students should acquire the ability to identify nurturing and controlling behaviors in interactions and describe those behaviors in the bigger context of family culture.
  2. Students should develop an in-depth understanding of a communication theory and its applicability to family interactions.
  3. Students should synthesize research on family communication in order to make claims about family life.

Keep in mind: the purpose of this paper is not to provide an in-depth analysis of your clip. Instead, you should use your writing to link what happens in your clip to the research you read and write about and draw conclusions about how families interact.

Research Requirements

In order to meet these learning goals, you will need to consult a minimum of eight academic sources. Your sources must meet the following requirements:

  1. All eight sources must be from the year 2000 or later. You can, and probably will need to, consult older sources, but be sure to have eight recent items.
  2. Four of your eight sources must be from communication journals.
  3. These sources can be peer-reviewed journal articles, handbook chapters, or textbooks.
  4. You are welcome to supplement your resources list with class readings, but they DO NOT count toward your total of eight.

Be sure to consult the Communication Library course resource page (link on Compass) and visit the friendly librarians in the Communication Library in Gregory Hall. They are an excellent resource for helping you hunt down useful sources.


Preliminary Due Dates 

To help you prepare your paper throughout the semester, we will have three in-class due dates that represent important steps in the writing process.

Thursday 2/14 : Summary of video clip  On this day, you’ll give your classmates a preview of the clip you’ll use to frame your paper. In an informal presentation, you’ll tell us what show/movie your clip is from, what type of communication interaction you’ll be analyzing, and why you chose this clip. This presentation will give me a chance to give you some direction on what type of resources and theories to consult as you put your paper together. Your clip MUST be available through YouTube, Netflix, or Hulu. In order to receive credit for this portion of the assignment, you MUST e-mail me a link to your clip by 5 pm. If you are using only a portion of what you send me (e.g. minutes 2-4 of a 10 minute clip), please indicate that in the e-mail!

Thursday 2/28 : Resource Abstracts  For this preliminary due date, you need to turn in a hard copy of the abstract page for 5 of your sources. This will allow me to provide feedback on your research efforts and give you ideas for ways to finish off your works cited page.

Tuesday 3/26 : Analysis Sections Outline  When you arrive back from Spring Break, you will turn in a 3-4 page outline of your two analysis sections (the behavior analysis and theory synthesis). I will provide a “skeleton” outline on Compass for you to fill in. For this assignment, you also need to provide a draft of your works cited page and include parenthetical citations for your source material. You can earn 5 points of extra credit on this preliminary due date by turning in your outline before spring break.

Paper Due Date 

Your hard copy paper is due at the beginning of class on Tuesday 4/16, 2013. There is ABSOLUTELY no late work on this assignment, and I do not accept electronic submissions. Students who have not turned in a paper at the beginning of class on Tuesday 4/16, 2013 will receive a zero for the paper portion of the assignment, although they can still receive points for preliminary due dates and presentation portion of the assignment. You are welcome to turn your paper in early.

Paper Guidelines 

Your paper should be 8 to 11 pages long and consist of the following 5 sections:

  1. Introduction: Spend approximately one page introducing the major theme of your paper. Here, you’ll want to introduce us to the behavior(s) and theory you’ll be covering and draw readers into your writing.
  2. Clip description: In one to one and a half pages, describe the clip you are analyzing. Give brief descriptions of the characters, the setting, and the interaction. In this section, it is important to focus on the communication behaviors and how they fit into the story.
  3. Behavior analysis: In two to three pages, analyze the nurturing and controlling behavior that your “participants” exhibited in their interaction. Here, you’ll want to integrate academic research to be able to make claims about not only what is going on in your clip, but some big picture claims about family in general.
  4. Theory synthesis: In three to four pages, integrate your theory into your analysis. This section is where you will first describe an important communication theory, then synthesize the premise of the theory into your analysis of your media clip. As in the previous section, you should use academic research to move beyond analysis of your clip into making claims about family interaction in general.
  5. Conclusion: Spend up to a page summarizing your clip and the ways that communication concepts and theories helped you to understand the content of the interaction. As you conclude, be sure to speak to (a) what kind of conclusions we can draw about communication based on this work, and (b) future avenues for research in this context.

Paper formatting guidelines

  • 8-11 double spaced pages
  • Stapled
  • 1-inch margins on all four sides
  • 12-point Times New Roman font
  • Include an APA style cover page, running head with page number, and section headings, along with an APA reference page.

APA Guidelines

Presentation Guidelines 

You will present your findings in class on Tuesday 4/9, Thursday 4/11, or Tuesday 4/16. Your presentation should last 5-7 minutes and you must show your clip during your presentation. As you give your talk, be sure to adhere to the following format:

  • First, give us a 1-2 sentence introduction to your topic/clip.
  • Then, show us your clip. I will have your clip cued before class.
  • Next, spend the majority of your time (appx 3 minutes) summarizing the major points of your paper. Here, you’ll point out the communication behaviors you focused on in your writing, and make a clear connection between your theory and the clip. In this presentation, I do not expect you to cover every single point you made in your paper. Instead, highlight a couple major ideas that are important and interesting for your audience.
  • Finally, give a brief 3-4 sentence conclusion that summarizes the connection between your clip and theory, the behaviors you’ve seen, and how this informs us about family dynamics.

Keep in mind, you will not have enough time to summarize your entire paper for us in class. Think of this presentation as a preview to your paper, so you should plan a talk that peaks your audience’s interest so that they want to read your paper, too!

Search for articles within the following scholarly communication journals (all available online)

Print & Online Sources

Suggested keywords for searching

  • Family, Family Relations, Father, Mother, Parenting, Parents, Adolescents, Children, College students, Young adults, Adult, Elderly, Spouse, Pregnancy, Communication, Conversation

Videos of TV Programs

  • Modern Family (Seasons 1-3)    Note: you may view these videos in the Comm Library Media Room

Citation Assistance

Can’t find what you need? Email us at: comlibrarian@library.illinois.edu. Or, visit the Communications Library

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