BTMM 339/588: Advanced Topics-Institution  
   Politics and Mass Media  

Zizi Papacharissi, PhD  

Course Syllabus  


Tomlinson 221

Office hours

TueThu 1-4, by appt.

Office phone



Course description

This course provides an overview of the complex relationship between politics and the mass media and serves  as an introduction to how communication scholars study political communication. We address this relationship of mutual influence as it affects the media, people, political intermediaries, political processes and political alternatives. In doing so, we cover relevant political communication theories and practices, analyzing communication scholarship and media texts. 

Course Objectives

Reading materials

Perloff, R. M. (1998). Political communication: Politics, press and public in America. Mahwah, NJ: LEA.

Recommended:  Paletz, D. (2002). The media and American Politics: Contents and consequences. New York: Longman.

Readings on reserve: Several required readings have been placed on reserve. You are to obtain those and make copies for your own use. All readings on reserve are required and should be completed as scheduled. 


Research critique


Select a journal article (better to select a study, qualitative or quantitative) on some aspect of political communication and critique it. The article should be no more than a couple of years old. Do not waste time summarizing the article in detail Ė the article summary should be no longer than a paragraph or two. Critique the theoretical soundness of the study, its contribution to the field and significance, the methodology, interpretation of results, writing, and organization. 5 pages, double-spaced. Be prepared to summarize your paper in class on the day this assignment is due. Worth 15% of total grade.


Book Report


Select a book on political communication from the list provided or on your own (if you are doing the latter, you need to get the book approved by me).     Produce a critique of the book chosen, focusing less on summarizing and more on analyzing the authorís approach, the book content, and whether the goals of the author were met. I expect you to address the validity of the authorís approach, the significance of the topic, the soundness of organization and the arguments presented, whether the material is interesting, worthy of attention and relevant, quality of writing and style, where this books fits within the relevant body of literature, and whether it needs to be updated and how. Summarizing the book should constitute about a third of this paper. 7 pages, double-spaced. Be prepared to summarize your paper in class on the day this assignment is due. Worth 15% of your total grade.

Media Analysis

For this assignment, select media content focusing on politics. You may choose between TV, newspaper, radio or Internet and you can focus on any type of programming (news show, news cast, editorial, new report, talk radio, candidate web site). Apply one (or more) of the theories covered in the class and critically analyze the structure, content and purpose of this show. Discuss how this format influences media coverage, public reaction, and political process (i.e., the media, the people, and political institutions). 5 pages, double-spaced. Be prepared to summarize your paper in class on the day this assignment is due. Worth 15% of total grade.

Research Paper

This is your final paper for the course, for which you can produce either a paper summarizing research you conducted over the semester, or a research prospectus, or a critical analysis. Undergraduate students may produce reviews of literature on a topic of their choice. The research proposal for this is due April 8. This needs to be written formally, following the research paper guidelines of the discipline. Use APA or MLA, depending on the conference/publication this is directed to. Approximately 20 pages for graduate students, 15 for undergraduates. 40% of grade.


Your attendance and participation to class discussions is essential and expected. This is a graduate seminar, meant to inform you on this topic but to also teach you to articulate your own opinions with confidence. All readings should be completed before the assigned date, and you should come to class prepared to talk. You will also prepare discussion questions for a specific topic, to be determined later. Worth 15% of your grade.

Special Needs

It is our desire that all students participate fully in the curriculum of our department. If you have a disability or special condition that compromises your ability to successfully participate in this class, please notify me as soon as possible and make sure you register with the appropriate University office. All efforts will be made to accommodate your needs.

Honor Code

All students are expected to read and observe Temple Universityís Honor Code Policy concerning academic integrity.


When facts or other material are obtained from an outside source, that source should be cited properly in the text and the bibliography/references section of your work. Plagiarism is defined as taking the words or ideas of another person and presenting them as one's own without proper credit. Plagiarizing is considered cheating, and a student who plagiarizes will receive a zero for that assignment and/or a failing grade for the course.  If you are not certain that you are citing materials properly, feel free to double check your citations with me.

Grading scale:

A = 100-93            A- = 92-90

B+ = 89-87            B = 86-83              B- = 82-80

C+ = 79-77            C = 76-73              C- = 72-70

D+ = 69-67            D = 66-63              D- = 62-60             59 and below = F

Book List for Report