Your Comparative Project:
A Step By-Step Guide
MECO345: Social Media
Instructor: Terri Senft (Theresa. [email protected])
A note before we begin: although the steps below must all be considered while preparing your project,
there is a strong chance their order might shift as you write. For instance, you may want to introduce
your research question much quicker than indicated below. Always remember that this is your project,
and you will be tweaking any template I give you to make it fit what you are working on. This is normal
and expected. Okay? Okay.
1. Start your essay by briefly introducing TWO case studies or platforms you’ll be discussing.
• If you discovered your case or platform through a news item, tell us source and date.
You can use language like, “In an editorial for The Guardian published in March 2017…”
• If you are describing an event or phenomenon you’ve witnessed on a platform online,
tell us where on the platform you saw it on, and timeframe you encountered it as a user.
You can use language like, “In December 2018, Facebook announced on its Public Forum Page
that it was once again reworking its newsfeed.”
• Please note: the ‘quick and dirty’ description is just for the body of the essay. Your
“works cited” section should have this information in an appropriate format. If it is a
news item, provide a full citation, including author, publication, and date accessed. If it
is an event or phenomenon you’ve witnessed online, please provide publically available
URLs and dates you accessed them.
2. Provide a summary of the case study/news report. Note: your summary should allow
someone who hasn’t seen your materials to understand:
• the event/phenomenon you are referencing;
• the location(s) where event/phenomenon occurred;
• the time period/timeline(s) involved;
• who (of note) was or is involved.
3. Tell us what interested you personally and/or as a scholar about the case or story.
• Is this the sort of story/case that normally catches your eye? If so, why?
• Was there something unusual/extraordinary about this story/case that caught your
attention? If so, what was it?
4. Introduce your research question and if necessary, explain its rationale.
• Remember that your research question should touch on some concept that we’ve
already covered in class, or that could be covered if our class ran, say 30 weeks.
• Here are some ways you can phrase this:
o “In this essay, I will be comparing these cases with regard to the concept of X…”
o “Although it could be equally fruitful to compare these with regard to A or B, I chose X
as it connects more clearly to on my larger scholarly interest in Z.”
5. Explain your methodology for this project.
• We’ve touched on a range of methods in this class. You could conduct a semiotic,
discourse or performance analysis, where you examine images, language, or activities.
You could conduct a walk-through, where you work through something on your own.
You could observe others if you wanted. You can mix your methods. More import than
knowing the name for the method is that you tell us your plan, and your plan makes
sense (e.g. you can’t do a walk -through using a news story, though you could walk
through the platform it’s read on.)
6. Introduce your theoretical lens, and use it to make your comparison.
• Choose and define at least ONE term from class you feel would help you make your
• Note: Your definitions should reference a class reading, or a reader you have swapped
in with permission from Terri. The reading/lecture should also be referenced in your
• Make your comparison in light of the concept (s) , using evidence to substantiate your
• Note: Remember that your evidence will vary depending on what method you are
using. Evidence can take the form of a quote you’ve pulled from the story you read; a
screenshot that shows us something you’ve pointed out about the platform, interaction,
or individuals involved; a reference to a piece of data you located elsewhere (e.g. a chart
showing increased use of X in country Y) etc.
• Note: to help you build flow into your writing, can use terms like “for example,” or “as the
image below indicates.”
7. Write a summary that tells us what you learned from this comparative exercise.
8. Demonstrate that you understand the potential larger impact of this story/case.
• List TWO entities (with ideally one outside of Australia) that are, or could be affected by
• Note: These entities could be groups of people, institutions, industries, governments.
Try to be as clear as possible, here, so we can follow your argument, but don’t go crazy
with specifics. “The technology industry” is too general, but “companies like Apple” is
fine. “Women” is not specific enough, but “women gamers” is fine.
• Explain HOW you see this case/story impacting (or potentially impacting) each entity.
• Note: Provide reasoning to substantiate your assessment of how this case/news item
might affect the entities in question. This could be information about their history,
demographic, industry reach, local or national policies.
• Note: Here you might use the word “because,” and then tell us something about these
entities that would link them to this case or story. For evidence, you might simply link to
a citation from a credible source on Google that backs up your statement.
9. Provide a Works Cited section at the end of this essay that gives information about the
• The sources for the case study/news items you chose at the start of this essay
• The sources of the material you used to come up with your concept definitions
• Any additional sources