Iterative Research Paper

Individual Essay

For your longer form final paper (7-10 pages), you will choose a case study of audience engagement (this could be a historical audience moment or a contemporary audience/fandom experience, or a particular audience or fan practice). I encourage you not to choose too broad a topic; better to dive deep into a narrower topic. Some examples, just to give you a sense of scope: 

  • reception of a particular film, tv series, music group etc. in a particular historical/cultural moment
  • a particular fandom in a particular moment of interest – say Harry Potter in the face of JK Rowling’s recent Twitter comments
  • a particular YouTube culture within a bounded time frame, such as comment cultures on cult “bad” movies 
  •  the recent development of a podcast audience communities, such as creator-audience interactions surrounding “My Favorite Murder”

Once you’ve identified your focus, you will engage in primary and secondary research:

Primary research: dive into your case study, learn everything you can about it, understand its logics and tensions, track patterns and divergences and developments over time

Secondary research: read academic literature (and popular press too if you find it useful) related to your case study’s focus. You don’t need to limit yourself to secondary literature specifically on say, the given small fandom you’ve decided to study, but instead could look for parallels and connections with other potentially parallel research topics.

Your essay itself will connect your primary and secondary research, bringing the two together to offer new insights into the ongoing conversations in the field of fan studies. This multi-part project will require research into the audience contexts and fandoms, modes of fan work, art forms, and genres at play, as well as issues that arise in your analysis and that inform your larger argument, issues such as tensions between industry and fandom, the politics of racebending in fan art, depictions of gendered bodies in fan art, vidding norms and deviations, religious iconography in fantexts, themes of adolescence in fan fiction, fan work as social action. These are just examples of the type of issues that might run through your work and inform your thesis questions and conclusions.

In order to be sure you ground your essay in specific, situated analysis, it should analyze analyze at least two to three relevant media texts (eg. a discussion board thread, a piece of fan art or fan fiction, a movie or TV advertisement that you analyze to consider how it hails its imagined spectators), linking these close analyses with the larger histories and practices of spectatorship, audience, and fandom that we’ve been studying in class.

Your final project will include an introduction, methodological statement, review of literature (3-4 sources), close analysis and interpretation, and conclusion. For a section by section explanation this structure, click here. You will write short form drafts of many of these section over the last third of semester. The due dates for each section are listed in the Think/Write Cycles, in Assignment Quick Links, and on Canvas.