True Crime Research Project
Your objective is to research a criminal murder case concerning an infamous crime committed in the past 50 years. You are expected to use proper research protocol in every way, including writing style and MLA annotation of sources. This project asks you to trace the narrative of a true-crime case through four levels of media coverage.
1. a local newspaper or television report
2. a newspaper with national circulation (for example, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los-Angeles Times)
3. a printed or online magazine with national circulation, online blog, or true-crime novel
4. a national television news broadcast (for example, The CBS Evening News, 360 with Anderson Cooper, CNN), news magazine ―documentary‖ program (such as Dateline:
NBC, ABC‘s Primetime, CBS‘ 48 Hours Mystery, A&E‘s American Justice), or made-for-TV docudrama.
Retrace the presentation of your case through these four outlets. Concentrate your analysis on how specific evidence is found, discussed, analyzed, and displayed as the case shifts representational venues.
Your goal as a writer is not to categorize one source as true and the others as false; treat all with equal suspicion regarding their subjectivity. Your paper should present an analysis of how the “story” of murder influences the presentation of “evidence” and how that narrative may change over time as a case progresses through the stages of prosecution and against the backdrop of the court of public opinion.
You may choose different points in a case‘s timeline and connect those with different avenues of coverage. You could choose one point in the case (initial report, indictment, trial date, or verdict) and explore that moment‘s reportage across the four venues.
Follow this format when preparing your written report:
• Discuss all relevant details/collected evidence of the crime
• Explain how the media played a role in the criminal case
• Clearly describe the eventual outcome of the case (if it is unsolved, discuss where it is currently).
• Use MLA citation format for all resources
You should find a minimum of 10 sources and integrate at least seven of those into your final paper. You should include at least one book source. All sources must be credible.
Since your job in this essay is to analyze the subtle and substantial changes in coverage as a story moves from venue to venue and through its timeline of the investigation, I encourage you to look beyond the HTML version of coverage especially when dealing with local, national newspapers and news magazines. This demand is not to make your research process more difficult; it is an effort to help you recapture the specifics of layout and design from print that are often edited, reduced, or drastically reformatted in an online version. This may mean calling the local paper or local library in the area the crime occurred to request photocopies of the newspaper coverage during the week(s) following the crime.
You are welcome to use Wikipedia as a starting point for your crime; however, it cannot be a source in the essay. It is my advice that you begin with national searches first so you can see how far the coverage of the case reached. Then start searching back to the more local level. Optimally, you want to find a case that gives you a mix of published print, online, and television texts to analyze. The final paper should be 6-8 pages in length (this does not include the Works Cited page.) As a part of your grade, you will also prepare a PowerPoint presentation for the class concerning your crime, the pursuant investigation, and the case’s eventual outcome. This should include an effective visual device of your choosing. (The murder JonBenét Ramsey )
I will be commenting on specific errors as I grade your research checks over the next two days, but here are some general errors I tend to find at this stage every semester. Many students veer off course on what the assignment is actually asking them to do. I would like to offer a few suggestions to help you stay on track.
Read the assignment sheet several times to be sure you fully understand what is being asked of you. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask. Make sure you are focusing on the media coverage of the case and not the details of the case. Imagine that you are a lawyer, and your job is to convince the jury that the media coverage across the four levels of coverage had X effect on the narrative of the murder. You should provide 1-2 specific media examples from each level and fully analyze each of those to support your thesis. For each media example, you need to introduce the title of the source, the author, the date published, and any other contextual information needed. Then, you should quote that source extensively while pointing out the places where that source contained details that support your thesis. For print sources you might consider the diction used, the details included vs the details left out, the use of humor or images, and the comparison of that source with other sources published earlier or later. For TV broadcasts, talk shows, and documentaries, you can also consider the body language of the speaker, voice inflection, facial expressions, etc… Your entire focus on this paper should be an analysis of the media coverage to prove that the media coverage as it moved through the four levels of coverage had X effect on the narrative of the murder. Make sure you are finding appropriate sources. Your sources should come from the four levels of coverage, and you will be analyzing these sources, so they may not necessarily be scholarly and certainly not peer-reviewed. These are media sources, not scholarly journals. You will need one scholarly, peer-reviewed source quoted in the introduction that helps set up the context of your argument. This source should examine the effect of media coverage on crime. The rest of the paper should be an examination of the media sources at each level of coverage. You will not be citing sources like Murderpedia and the Crime Library. Those sources simply give the details of the case. This paper is not about the details of the case; it is about the media coverage of the case. You can assume that any reader who is interested in reading about the media coverage of a case is already familiar with the details of the murder. Make sure you are citing the source material correctly in the text and on the WC page. Your essay can be extremely well written and fail due to poorly cited sources. Failure to cite correctly destroys your credibility and quickly causes even the most well-written papers to unravel.
Additionally, a strong thesis statement is crucial. If your thesis is off track, the entire paper will also veer off track. Here are some past student thesis statements that worked very well. Obviously, your thesis must be unique, but these provide a good guide to follow.