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In this capstone seminar, you will complete an intensive research and writing project focused on a topic related to the field of strategic communication. Possible research topics can span business, politics, advocacy, entertainment, public health, the environment, and other societal sectors (see list of examples at end of course page). Building on previous course work, you will gain a deeper scholarly and professional understanding of strategic communication, forge professional and academic contacts, and demonstrate a mastery of relevant theoretical concepts, professional principles, research methods, and writing approaches. You will be encouraged to share and translate your findings for relevant academic and professional communities.

With guidance from me, you will conduct a review of the relevant scholarly and professional literature, carry out research on the topic using selected methodological approaches, and write a substantial research paper that articulates and supports a thesis. It is a unique chance for you to become an expert in an aspect of strategic communication, deepening your understanding of an area that you are passionate about and that aligns with their career goals.

 The majority of the work for this class will be conducted independently by each student and in regular consultation with me. The course is also designed as a research seminar that enables you to develop your ideas through active engagement with your classmates and via peer feedback.


The course is structured as a mix of collaborative class sessions and individual meetings with the instructor.

Collaborative Classes

Class sessions are organized as a research workshop. In these classes, the following activities will take place:

  • The instructor will cover the fundamentals of research design and project conceptualization and execution, discussing key challenges, strategies, and milestones and providing individual and general feedback to students
  • Students present — twice during the semester — portions of their work to the entire class for feedback
  • The classes are also a time and place for students to receive detailed peer critiques of work from classmates who are pursuing similar avenues of research.

Individual Meetings

The instructor will also meet individually with students at scheduled times. These meetings will focus on and be tailored to a specific research or writing stage relative to the student’s capstone.

Compiling an Annotated Bibliography

An annotated bibliography is a list of citations to scholarly books, book chapters, journal articles, and reports.  Each citation formatted in APA style – usually around 300 words — is followed by a brief descriptive and evaluative paragraph called “the annotation.”  For your annotated bibliography, you should be able to find and describe in your own words relevant journal articles, book chapters, and books on your topic.  The journals, edited volumes, authors, and fields referenced in this course are good places to start to search for relevant sources.

Primer on Getting Started with Your Research

Example of a Professional Annotated Bibliography

Primer on Using APA Style in Your Writing


Students who successfully complete this course will be able to:

  • choose an independent research topic;
  • evaluate published research in the area of their chosen topic;
  • design a research project;
  • apply concepts, theories, ideas and frameworks to the design of their research projects;
  • apply appropriately one or more quantitative or qualitative approaches, or mixed methods approaches, in conducting their research;
  • undertake original data collection using a selected research method or methods;
  • produce a substantial, independent academic research paper;
  • criticize constructively peer work.


  • Class Participation, Research Presentations & Peer Feedback (10%)
  • Annotated Bibliography (20%)
  • Literature Review (20%)
  • Research Design (10%)
  • Final Capstone (40%)

*For the literature review and final capstone, students will have the opportunity to revise initial drafts based on instructor feedback and for a higher grade.


Sept 12-26  Students learn about defining an original research question, and conducting a search of the literature. In consultation with the instructor, they define a preliminary research topic, set of related questions and expectations, and a strategy to guide their literature search.

Sept 30-Oct 7 Students in consultation with the instructor identify 25 or more peer-reviewed and scholarly sources specific to their topic and compile/write an annotated bibliography.

Oct 14-Nov4  Based on their annotated bibliography, students write a detailed outline for their literature review, gain instructor and peer feedback, and complete a draft of their literature review and proposed set of research questions/expectations. Students also present to the class for feedback.

Nov 3 – 6  Students develop, propose, and write a research design and gain approval from instructor.

Nov 7 -27  Students conduct research and analysis, preparing a draft of the findings and conclusion section of their capstone for comment by the instructor, and for presentation to class.

Dec 1 – Dec 6  Students complete a full draft of the capstone project for comment by instructor and peers.

Dec 14 Final version of capstone project completed and turned in.

Topics Studied by Previous Students Taking a Similar Course


  • New media portrayals of the Israeli-Palestine Conflict
  • Reality TV portrayals of Romantic Relationships
  • Sports Marketing Strategies of Bruins and Red Sox
  • Masculinity, Culture, and Stress Coping Mechanisms
  • Advertising, Gender Portrayals, and Body Image
  • Media Violence and Its Effects
  • Online Video and Social Engagement.
  • Defining Radical: Analysis of Activist Groups and Tactics.
  • Framing Sexual Violence in the Media.
  • Comparative Look at American & French Coverage of Protest.
  • Communicating about Gender Bias and Female Stereotypes.
  • The Virginia Tech Massacre: Framing and Crisis Communication.
  • Communicating about Parental Involvement in Public Schools.
  • California Proposition Campaigns: A Framing Analysis.
  • Opinion Leaders and Social Impact of Documentaries.
  • Framing and Priming in Canadian Parliamentary Debates.
  • Opinion Leaders and Fashion Marketing.
  • Analysis of News Aggregator and Social Media Habits.
  • New Technology and the Agenda-Building Process.
  • Communicating about New Energy Technologies.
  • Framing Education Policy: The Case of Delaware.
  • Analysis of George Lakoff in the Context of the 2008 Election.
  • Higher Education Branding and University Athletics.
  • Examining Dominant Political Narratives in U.S History.
  • Analysis of the “Vote or Die” Campaign.
  • Analysis of Barack Obama Campaign Speeches.
  • Corporate Social Responsibility and the Red Campaign.
  • Place-based Branding: The Case of Ithaca, NY.
  • Emotional Branding: Three Case Studies.
  • Communication Campaigns about Animal Welfare.
  • Political Communication and Young Voter Engagement.
  • Visual Persuasion in Campaign Advertising.
  • Microtargeting in Political Campaigns.
  • Analysis of Destination Branding Campaigns.
  • The Truth Campaign and Social Marketing Research.
  • Corporate Social Responsibility: Priming and Framing.
  • Entertainment Communication and the Environment.
  • Apple Inc and Research on Branding Campaigns.
  • Crisis Management and the Future of Consumerism.
  • Higher Education and Student Marketing.
  • The Truth about Entertainment Communication.
  • Taking Control of Science Communication.
  • Coverage of Latin America in the U.S. press.
  • Mass Media, Society, and Celebrity Journalism.
  • Communication Strategies and Mental Health Stigma.
  • Worse Case Scenarios: When Scandals Come to Light.
  • Media and Social Norms on Campuses.
  • Framing Art: Artists, Non-Profits, and Social Change.
  • Naming Rights Campaigns in Sports marketing.
  • Why do People Play the Lottery?
  • Branded Entertainment: The Case of Bud TV.
  • Gay Advertising Messages and Straight consumers.
  • Nation Branding and the News Media.
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