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Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne Department of Communication
COM 557 – Legal Communication – Spring Semester 2011
Instructor: Irwin Mallin

Research Paper Assignment
Topic proposal due at the start of class on Tuesday, March 1
First draft due at the start of class on Tuesday, April 5
Final draft due at the start of class on Tuesday, April 26

Whether you are working toward a bachelors degree or a masters degree, your education shouldn't be merely another set of hoops to jump through. Instead, this education ought to actually be of service to you in your professional life.  Toward that end, this assignment gives you the opportunity to explore the extent to which communication study may enhance the practice of law.

Choose a topic related to communication and law that you are interested in.  Find two articles related to this topic in legal trade periodicals or scholarly legal journals in Lexis/Nexis Academic.  Analyze these two articles in terms of things you have learned in this and other communication classes and/or other communication research.  To what extent are the articles consistent with communication theory and research?  To what extent are they inconsistent with communication theory and research?  How could knowledge of this theory and research enhance the practice of law?  What limitations to this do you see (for example, ways in which use of this theory and research could be detrimental to the practice of law, or reasons to question the validity of the theory or research?)

Just as examples, you may look at things such as some aspect of trial practice in terms of the narrative paradigm, jury instructions in terms of the processual nature of communication or attribution error, some aspect of interviewing in terms of what you learned in COM 325, some aspect of conflict research in terms of what you learned in an interpersonal or organizational class, some aspect of jury deliberation in terms of what you learned in COM 320 or 520, or some aspect of persuasion in trial practice in terms of what you learned in COM 318 or 518, or some media aspect of law practice in terms of what you learned in one of your media classes.  Other potential topics will occur to you in this class and in other classes.

Your topic proposal, due on March 1, should be a one page statement of the question you are seeking to answer and what makes it so problematic followed by an annotated bibliography.  You will provide a citation in APA style and a one paragraph annotation for each of

- at least two or three references, in APA style, for potential sources for the law articles to be analyzed, and
- at least two or three references, in APA style, for potential sources for the communication theory/research to compare it to.

The annotation for each source will be a detailed paragraph in which you describe what the article/book/etc. is about, how you might use it, and display that you’ve actually read it.  Please note that you’re not yet writing a literature review, but rather an annotated bibliography with brief abstract entries as described on pages 25 and 26 of Bourhis, et al. (2009). There is a sample annotated bibliography on pages 82-87 of  Bourhis, et al. (2009).   Abstracts should be of articles you have actually read and in your own words.  Copying an abstract from a database or article is plagiarism and will result in an F for the course

Your paper should begin with a paragraph or two in which you introduce the topic you are considering, identifying the law articles you are analyzing, the communication theory/research you are using to analyze them, and the source(s) of that theory/research.  Your introduction should also have a thesis statement in which you "make the call" on the extent to which the law articles are consistent with communication theory/research.  The body of your paper will consider the questions in paragraph two above.  Of course, you will conclude with a paragraph that summarizes and gracefully ends the essay.

The best papers will also be grammatically correct, free of spelling and punctuation errors, and will follow APA style (5th ed, 2001 or 6th ed, 2009).  You will find Bourhis, et al. (2009) useful for its easy-to use treatment of APA as well as for its research advice.

Upon approval of your proposal, graduate students will produce a 10-12 page paper and undergraduate students will produce a 5-7 page paper.  All of your work for this project should be typed (double spaced, margins of 1" all around, font no larger than 12). It should also be stapled. Be sure and keep a copy of all your work for this project.

Denise Buhr is the subject librarian at Helmke Library assigned to the Communication Department.  You will find her helpful if you run into challenges doing your research. To make an appointment, e-mail her at buhrd "at" ipfw.edu or phone her at 481-5759

You will make a brief (3-4 minute) informal presentation of your research on Tuesday, April 26.

Hints for success for this paper:

•Make sure you do everything called for in these directions.
Start now, take your time, and use the services of the Writing Center in Kettler G19 if you need to.
•You are invited to show me a draft or discuss potential paper topics in office hours or by appointment.

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Last Updated: 7 February 2011

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