Guidance on writing your assignments
• Essays should be clearly written in good English and typed. Where your tutor judges that your writing is ungrammatical or inaccessible to the extent that this significantly impairs the possibility of understanding what has been written, marks will be deducted and, in severe cases, the essay will not be marked.
• You must answer one of the questions listed on the following pages for each Option Module you have chosen by the deadline given on your course timetable. Please note, for these Option Module assignments, your essays should be approximately 3000 – 4000 words. You may wish to attach appendices (e.g. supporting data) but tutors will not necessarily read appended material in detail. Please refer to the Course Handbook for general guidance on assignments.
• Please remember that this is a course at MA level. In addition to showing good understanding of the course materials, it is expected that you will also be able to engage critically with the arguments examined in them. It is generally advisable to avoid expressions of personal opinion or anecdote unsupported by course-related evidence. Arguments should draw substantially on theories and research, themes and issues which are addressed in the course materials, quoting references where appropriate.
• The use of citations is common practice in western scholarship – they protect the author from charges of plagiarism when the author is drawing on the research of others in order to develop an argument, they indicate sources of further or relevant reading for the benefit of readers and they help tutors to judge how skilfully students have used their study materials. Please refer to the Course Handbook for guidance on the method you should use for referencing. You should avoid extensive quotations from the course materials or slavish repetition of the structure of evidence and arguments presented in them.
• While it is expected that you will build on the research of sources and authorities drawn from the course materials, the assignments are also an opportunity for you to develop original arguments and insights. You should show strong sensitivity to the nature and controversies of media research and to issues of theory and methodology in research. Students who work in the communications industries should feel encouraged to reflect on aspects of everyday professional practice from a variety of different theoretical perspectives and, without necessarily criticizing their effectiveness within particular work contexts, look at professional practices as social phenomena or data which can help to illustrate theories about communications, media and society.
• You must answer one question relating to each option module you have chosen to study.
?MS7520 – ADVERTISING AS COMMUNICATION
Critically examine the reasoning behind Raymond Williams’ description of advertising as a ‘Magic System’. Drawing on current advertising examples where possible, how far do you agree or disagree with this description, and why?
Advice to Students
This question is inviting you to outline the essence of Williams’ arguments concerning the ‘magic’ nature of advertising and to reflect on how far you accept it. The obvious starting point for the assignment is the set of readings provided in Unit 103 but information and insights from other units in the Module will also be relevant. What evidence can you point to that might support or undermine Williams’ arguments about the ‘magic’ of advertising? Is it possible to arrive at a firm and unequivocal conclusion as to the validity of his position? Williams’ arguments were first made in the 1960s, so is his view out of date now or is it still a relevant and useful way of thinking about advertising in the early 21st century? How well does his view fit with other perspectives on advertising such as those outlined by Hackley in Unit 104, for instance?
With reference to two significant social issues, identify and discuss what you believe to be the key factors shaping how these issues are represented in contemporary advertising texts. Illustrate your answer with discussion of examples from a specific country or society in each case.
Advice to Students
In selecting issues to examine for this question, you should not feel compelled to restrict yourself to topics which have been covered in the readings in Unit 105b. You can of course discuss the same topics if you wish to (ideally using different examples, in different contexts) but you should also consider other topics not discussed in this unit and reflect on the variety of factors that may be involved in influencing the representation of those issues. What evidence can you provide to suggest that the representations involved have been shaped by cultural and/or historical factors, or organisational structures, or even by the supposed ‘science’ of advertising? What other factors might be at work here? Clearly, the readings in Unit 105b will be highly relevant here, but so too may Units 105a, 107 and 108. Given the breadth of the question, you may find it preferable to focus your discussion upon a single medium.