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Lecturer's expectations

Cathi Lewis, Lecturer

In this section, one of your lecturers - Cathi Lewis - sets out what she expects from student assignments on this topic.

Essay topic:

Examine the ways in which the mass media construct and reinforce social stereotypes around gender, ethnicity, and age.

Examining the topic:

  1. Mass media as social institution
    • identify what is meant by the term 'mass media'
    • explore the role the media has in a society's social, cultural, and political life - as a social institution and influential socialising agent
    • discuss the implications of the media as the major constructors of symbolic products - ideological, cultural, and political
  2. Social and cultural implications of commercialised mass media
    • the significance of the commercialised nature of the mass media
    • commodification of content
    • ratings
    • use of stereotypes - their construction and reinforcement, the interaction between audience and producers, audience and message
    • ideological implications
  3. Exploration of prevailing stereotypes around gender, ethnicity, and age (students need only focus on one or two of these areas)
    • discuss prevailing social/cultural expectations, values, attitudes, and beliefs around gender, ethnicity, and age
    • examine examples from the media that demonstrate stereotypical portrayals or representations of these
    • discuss the way the media communicates/naturalises the stereotypical values, norms, attitudes, expectations, etc. in relation to gender, ethnicity, and/or age.

The better essays will demonstrate an ability to explore:

  1. whether the media create stereotypes or whether they simply reinforce prevailing stereotypes that the majority subscribe to
  2. whether we can discuss the media as an undifferentiated homogeneous institution

Writing a sociology essay

You need to begin at least four weeks before the due date to give yourself time to go through the processes and reflection required.

  1. Write the topic/question on the top of a page, and start physically and mentally to engage with it.
  2. Underline the key words and think about what each means - even if they are common everyday words.
  3. Try rewriting the question in your own words, keeping strictly to the meaning of the question.
  4. Refer back to your lecture notes, prescribed weekly reading, and suggested reading on the topic area as a starting point. Make notes or concept maps of what ideas or issues you could explore. These will expand or change as you develop your ideas and read more specifically.
  5. Go back to your introductory sociology texts and read the sections on gender, ethnicity, and age. Include Australian texts in this list. Using references cited in these texts and the library catalogues, search out books and journal articles dealing specifically with gender/ethnicity/age, representations and stereotyping. Also search for references on the sociology of the media, checking though contents pages for material on stereotyping, ideological issues, commercial imperatives/commodification, etc.
  6. Always take notes on your reading, including short pithy statements that you may cite in the essay. Note also your thoughts, criticisms, ideas, questions in these notes as they occur to you.
  7. Reflect on how you will argue in the discussion, and use a concept map or a linear plan to work out the points or ideas you will include.
  8. Expect to write at least three drafts, preferably four!
  9. WAIT (a week is good!) before doing your final edit. Read the essay out loud just as it is written. See if you're convinced.
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