The lion’s share of humankind depends on media to see and hear what is happening in other places. Therefore, understanding how media make sense of the world around us and construct events is an essential skill. During our Summer Schools at Maastricht University (see above), students learn how they can interpret media representations with help of three qualitative research methods. They need to write a paper in which they analyse a text and/or image. This post offers our Summer School students suggestions to structure their research process to enable to write a decent paper within a short time span.
A Short Analysis of Media Representations in 10 Steps
- Read and summarise the widely appraised chapter “The Work of Representation” by Stuart Hall.
- Select a theme that is relevant for your studies or job. This could be an event (e.g. 9/11), a timely issue (e.g. conflict in Ukraine) or a long-term trend (e.g. climate change).
- Select a concept that is relevant for the context of your theme (e.g. human rights, national identity or migration).
- Select a medium that you would like to examine: newspaper, magazine, television, website or social media.
- Select a source, such as CNN TV news, RT website or the Guardian newspaper.
- Select a text, image or footage from your source. A comparison of two sources is possible as well, but requires a strategy to keep the analysis manageable.
- Formulate a research question that contains your theme, concept and a noun/verb that refers to meaning-making processes. For example: How is the conflict in the Ukraine [theme, 2] framed [refers to meaning-making processes] in terms of national identity [concept, 3] by the selected text  on the front page of the printed newspaper [medium, 4] of the Times (London) [source, 5]?
- Select a method that can help you answer your research question. During the Summer School, you can choose from semiotics, critical discourse analysis and framing analysis.
- Select six sources (or more) about your theme, your concept and your method (two for each). These could be journal articles, book chapters and work from other quality sources.
- Write your essay. This last step consists of these stages:
- Create a sound structure for the paper;
- Introduce your theme, concept and research questions;
- Explain the method;
- Contextualise the selected data;
- Describe and interpret the media representations;
- Put your research findings in perspective.
If you have questions about the research process after reading these suggestions, please do not hesitate to contact me. More suggestions about media analysis and relevant literature are of course welcome as well.
- Our Research Paper Template for Textual/Visual/Multimodal Media Analysis
- Our Template for Research into Discourses, Signs and Frames with Qualitative Research Methods
- What are the Key Questions in Visual Analysis?
- Do Our Media Reflect Reality Accurately?
- Critical Discourse Analysis [Reading List]
- Media Representations, National Identity and Foreign Policy [Reading List]
- Media Studies, Media Theory and Society [Reading List]
- Multimodal Analysis and Text-Image Relations [Reading List]
- News Framing Analysis [Reading List]
- Social Semiotics [Reading List]
- Visual Analysis, Photojournalism and News Images [Reading List]