Our Research Paper Template for Textual/Visual/Multimodal Media Analysis

Interested in improving your skills in this field? Then contact me about my in-house skills training sessions or apply for this Summer School course at Maastricht University:

Objectives of this tutorial

Developing the structure of your research paper could be a complicated and long process. This is especially problematic if you don’t have much time (left) to write it. This applies for example to the students of our one-week Summer Schools on Textual/Visual Media Analysis. They actually need to write an essay in 72 hours. To enable our Summer School students to quickly decide on their research paper structure, we developed this Research Paper Template (please click on link to download Word file).

Our Essay TemplateOur Research Paper Template has been developed in line with our Summer School course objectives. Its structure reflects the way in which our students are expected to approach their data, concepts and methods. We used the Research Paper Template for the first time in 2016. It proved to be of great help to the participants in our Summer Schools in their analysis of media representations. Some of them -both students and lecturers- asked us whether they could use the template for their future work or classes.

Therefore, we now offer our Research Paper Template as a free download on the GeoMeans website. We expect that the template could be useful for other assignments as well. It is good to keep in mind, however, that the structure of an essay should always reflect its educational or analytical objectives. Therefore, we encourage you to change our Research Paper Template if that helps to bring its structure more in line with your objectives.

Structure of research paper template

The structure of our Research Paper Template looks as follows:

1. Theme, Concept and Data
a. Relevance of Theme
b. Relevance of Key Concept
c. Relevance of Data
2. Research Questions
a. Meta Question
b. Central Question
c. Operational Questions
3. Methodology
a. A Broad Perspective
b. A Narrow Perspective
4. Findings
5. Conclusions
6. Bibliography
7. Annexes

Writing the sections of the research paper template

To help you write the different sections, we developed a series of relevant questions to address in your research paper.

1. Theme, Concept and Data
1a. Relevance of Theme
Why have you chosen the theme? How does it relate to your personal/professional interests? Why does it matter to your society, to your discipline or to human kind?
[answering these questions helps you formulate the meta-question]

1b. Relevance of Key Concept
What is a key (academic) concept in your theme? How would you define this concept? Which words, grammatical structures and visual building blocks do (implicitly) refer this concept?
[answering these questions help you formulate the central research question and the operational questions]

1c. Relevance of Data
Why have you selected a particular textual, visual or multimodal representation (or two representations)? What makes it a relevant “vehicle of meaning”? How does it relate to your theme? What can it teach us about your key concept in a particular context?
[answering these questions help you formulate the central research question]

2. Research Questions
2a. Meta Question
Meta research questions make clear why your research is relevant to the world, your society or your discipline.

2b. Central Question
The central research question makes clear what your research is trying to achieve. For this course, I would recommend to refer directly to your article/image/cartoon, to include your key concept and to use a word referring explicitly or implicitly to meaning-making processes.
How does central question follow from meta question?

2c. Operational Questions
Operational research questions make clear how the central research question can be linked to your concepts and methods. By answering these ‘smaller and less abstract’ questions, you can indirectly answer the central question.
How do operational questions help to answer the central question?
Do you see the need to define sub-operational questions?

3. Methodology
3a. A Broad Perspective
Why have you selected critical discourse analysis, social semiotics, framing analysis or a combination of two of them? What are the analytical strengths and weaknesses of this approach?

3b. A Narrow Perspective
Do you follow an interpretation of the method of one particular scholar? E.g. Van Dijk, Richardson, Entman and so on.
How does this scholar define the concept that is pivotal in her/his approach? E.g. discourse, a sign/semiotic resource or a frame?
What are its key characteristics? Why is this specific approach useful to interpret your data?
How you do use your method specifically? How does your approach help you to interpret textual and/or visual elements?

4. Findings
Analyse the text(s)/image/cartoon(s) by means of your operational questions

5. Conclusions
Summary of the answers to the your operational questions
Use these answers to formulate an answer the question to your central question
Reflect on this answer in more abstract terms (on a larger scale), referring to your meta question
What are the surprising aspects of your findings?
How does your own background affect these findings?
What are other possible weaknesses of your findings?
What questions do your findings raise, suggesting a possibility for further research?

6. Bibliography
Mention all your sources here. Make sure to prevent plagiarism!

7. Annexes
Please copy the text of your article(s), your image(s) and other data to this annex.

Summary of this tutorial

Hopefully this online tutorial on our research paper template was helpful to you. Key thing is that the analysis of textual, visual and multimodal media requires a strong structure, like all academic research. This template offers you such a structure, and helps you get started with writing each section by asking valuable questions.

If you have any questions, please let us know.

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