My professor gives the inside scoop on social science writing

Pencil & Notebook

I choose mass communications as my major because I enjoy stories. I’ve always enjoyed reading and writing and that’s what I want to continue doing in the future. I feel in this major I get to study the work of others and see how their work affects the masses before I get to venture off and do the same. I believe journalist serve as the voice of the people who can’t always get their story out there and I’m ready to go be the voice for those people. With the journalism world working to ground itself in the world going online there’s plenty of room for fresh blood with new ideas. For my interview I’ve done the newest member of the mass communications teachers, Dr.Ngozi Akinro to get a newer perspective. Dr.Ngozi Akinro gained her doctorates degree in Mass Communications and Media Arts from Southern Illinois University. She also has a master’s in Mass Communication-Radio-TV and a bachelor’s in Theatre Arts from other universities. She’s originally from Nigeria and teaches Digital Production, Mass Media and Society, and Audio and Video Production at Wesleyan. She has also produced and hosted Cultural Perspectives and the Zee Show, radio shows. She has published several articles in professional and peer reviewed research journals.

Hannah: What kinds of writing do scholars in your field do?

Akinro: Mass communications is part of the social sciences. What kind of research you do in mass communications depends on your field. In mass communications there’s some communications we do that has to do with the mass, the audience for research or understanding media platforms. For me I do research that has to do with understanding how media functions and how do you use it the platforms to communicate in times of crisis. Conflicts, that’s what my research is generally based on. In writing I use APA style which is a format, you know how we have different formats in writing. You have MLA, APA, Chicago all of those different styles. Depending on the journal, what your meaning is, your timing, your tone, how your writing style should be is the format you should use. That’s style and you write like that. So basically the way we write research is we have an introduction, a literature review, method, findings, and your discussion and conclusion. Then of course you have your reference section where you write all the works that you used. So basically research takes the pattern. When you’re doing research it takes the form of an inverted pyramid. It’s more general at the top and then it begins to stream line things down to findings which are strictly related to literature like this is what is out there, then your streamlining it to the consumer and relating it to what you’re doing exactly. Then you draw conclusions based on that work on that research. So that’s how mass communications research is.

Hannah: What writing conventions are specific to and important to your field? How did you learn these conventions?

Akinro: You learn from looking at how other people write and what they use. There are books out there on how to write research and how to comprehend research. You can also learn when you go to grad school they teach you how to pattern and shape your research work when you’re writing it. So you know how to rely your findings from research. In your report you want to have literature which is basically this is what’s out there, this is what people have done before and then you put the method this is what style I used to get my information, my data, and depending on what you’re wanting to show it could be qualitative, quantitative, or it could be a combination, it could be experimental. It could be different methods. You have to describe the kind of method you’re using and then you have to write your findings. What did you find from this data set and draw a conclusion so you can learn. You can learn this from books. You can learn it in grad school or learn from other people who have done research before. It’s always great to have a mentor, someone who can help you grow in your writing style and tell you where to work harder and to develop. OK when you write you should send it to someone else to read and help you get a sense of what you’ve written. It usually makes sense to you because you wrote it but it doesn’t to somebody else. Ok I don’t get the idea you portrayed here; you need to work on this area some and things like that. In academic research you go to conferences to present and you know how good your article is doing from feedback from people and questions and how to improve on it. Then you’re maybe aiming to publish then you sent it to a journal. You would go through and sent it for peer review. So people who do research in that field or are knowledgeable in that area you send their research to them. You don’t even know the researcher and they don’t know you and they send feedback and tell whether it’s publishable. Then you need to revise and all of that. So you also learn from them as well. I need to improve in so and so area given the study is missing this and that. This is just some ways that you learn.

Hannah: What was your first experience of writing a scholarly article like? What did you learn through that experience?

Akinro: My very first attempt, I remember I thought I had this really great paper. It was about social media. I had this paper and I went to a conference and presented it. Then I turned it in to a publisher afterwards. The feedback I got was reject and that is really demoralizing, but the good thing about that is getting feedback on where to improve on. If you want, you can resubmit it or they can accept it somewhere else. It was devastating when I got that feedback but I didn’t give up. Since then I’ve published like five articles after that and I’m still hoping to publish more. It doesn’t stop you still need to publish yourself and do research. What I learned from that is that your rejection doesn’t mean you’re not good enough. It means that you need to work harder. It means that there is room to grow. That’s what I learned and I think I’m much better now compared to where I was back then.

Hannah: What kinds of writing do you do most often in your work?

Akinro: My research is related to different types of media, organizations, and media content especially how the media relays events in times of crisis. My work is related to conflict management and peace and war journalism studies that’s what I do. I look at war and how the media covers it through different organizations. I look a certain newspapers and TV broadcast stations and analyze them. I also do research related to race and gender and I also do research about social media. Though all of this I look at how conflict as it relates to all of these different issues so basically it’s actual representation of all of this in the news.

Hannah: What expectations do you have for students who are learning to write in your field?

Akinro: First of all, research is never limited there’s still a lot out there that needs to be covered and needs to be done. So having that fresh idea is always a great thing it’s good to sometimes also repeat what people have done before. It is great also to have fresh research. For students who are learning to write research I would like them to delve into different areas and people so it’s not so crowded. There’s a lot more diversity in their research and I like to see things like that. Students know when they do research they can have this broad idea and by the end of it they want to narrow it down to something really manageable that they can finish in a certain period of time. I want them to always have that focus when they write and in the way they conduct research.


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