Undergraduate Political Communication Research Lab

In 2018, the Undergraduate Political Communication Research Lab was formed to facilitate undergraduate research in the field of political communication. Each semester, students learn about the scholarly literature in political communication, methodologies for analysis, and develop questions which they explore through original research. Students involved receive academic credit which goes towards Elon’s Experiential Learning Requirement. If you are interested in joining contact Dr. Roselle (lroselle@elon.edu).

Previous Projects:

Accepted by National Conference on Undergraduate Research 2020
  • Borders in the Middle East in RT by Lily Bennevat-Haninovich and Tasia Theoharis
    • Abstract: This paper analyzes media coverage of Middle East events featured in the RSS feed of RT – Russia’s state-funded English media network. In a previous examination of  RT data from April, October, and November 2016 we found that a number of articles written about the Middle East mention borders. We are interested in how borders are depicted and in which specific contexts, and we use the qualitative software Quirkos to assess this. We hypothesize that RT’s coverage will create a purposeful link between borders and the military. Preliminary findings suggest that RT’s rhetoric intersects with Russia’s strategic priorities by covering borders in the context of refugees and migration, contested areas, protecting state borders, and smuggling. From these findings, we suggest that RT’s coverage of borders is designed to justify the Russian military going into these contentious border regions to “help”.
  • RT Coverage of Middle East Terrorism 2016 by Noah Kutner and Franky Storm
    • Abstract: While numerous studies and official investigations have confirmed the Russian’s interference in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election as well as other international events, the extent of this research has focused on the western world. This paper analyzes the media coverage of the Middle East in the RSS feed of RT – Russia’s state-funded english media network. This analysis includes news stories which mention Middle Eastern countries and their leaders, and focuses on narratives and framing used when covering terrorist groups and their actions. This analysis will be completed through a cross-sectional, qualitative study of articles written on the Middle East by RT that have been sampled from April, October, and November of 2016. Over 60 topic categories will be tracked in RT’s Middle East articles to assess the topics that RT wished to bring to the attention of its audience in regards to the Middle East. The initial findings suggest that coverage focused primarily on Syria and Turkey, where Russian military operations were ongoing.
  • RT Coverage of the Syrian Conflict 2016 Megan Allen and Bella Saputo
    • Since the beginning of the Syrian conflict, Russia has supported Bashar Al-Assad’s government. Russia has provided political support at the United Nations, military aid in arms to fight back against western backed rebels, and direct military support through air strikes and troops in the region. This research takes a look at the Russian State Media (RT) framing of the ongoing war in Syria and asks the questions “how do they frame their involvement in the area? What other factors do they include coverage of?” The qualitative analysis will come from coding of specific keywords that have been organized in the program Quirkos. Our preliminary findings show that RT has significant coverage regarding Syria and Turkey, and extensive mentions of military, money, ISIS, U.S., and media.
Presented at Student Undergraduate Research Forum 2019
  • RT Online Coverage of US Election 2016: Analyzing Strategic Narratives presented by Noah Kutner and Kaitlyn O’Donnell
  • Coverage of Hillary Clinton in RT during the 2016 Election presented by Annie Waddell and Louisa Sholar
Presented at International Studies Association 2019 in Toronto, Canada
  • RT Online Coverage of US Election 2016: Analyzing Strategic Narratives presented by Dr. Laura Roselle
    • Co-Authors: Emma Flaherty, Noah Kutner, Faith Leslie, Connor Meehan, Kaitlyn O’Donnell, Laura Rossi, Louisa Sholar, Franky Storm, Anastasia Theoharis, and Annie Waddell
    • Abstract: Media in authoritarian systems is often clearly guided by the strategic narratives of political elites. In the new hybrid media ecology, we need to more fully understand how different media sources are used for dissemination of strategic narratives (Miskimmon, O’Loughlin & Roselle, 2014, 2017). This paper analyzes RT’s online coverage of the US during the US presidential election in 2016. A number of scholars have identified communication strategies used by Russian bots and trolls to attempt to affect the U.S. political environment. We look specifically at RT online news stories about the United States during different time periods of the 2016 election to assess whether 1. strategies identified in bots and trolls are also found in RT; 2. there were different strategies associated with different time periods during the election; and 3. to understand Russian strategic narratives more broadly. The findings show that the strategies used by bots and trolls are similarly used in RT RSS feed stories but the strategies were weighted differently across periods. These differences reflect strategies associated with strategic narratives and these strategic narratives are found throughout the coverage – going beyond election coverage itself.
Faith Leslie’s Summer 2019 Internship at Over Zero
  • “Thanks to the Turnage Fund, this past summer I was able to intern at the research organization Over Zero in Washington D.C. Over Zero, founded by leading political communications researcher Rachel Brown, works to harness the power of communication to combat identity-based violence and other forms of group-based harm throughout the U.S and Europe through collaboration with scholars and community leaders. Their work has been featured by CBS, the Toda Peace Institute, and the Columbia Journal of International Affairs. This internship gave me amazing hands on research experience in the area of political communications and allowed for me to work with researchers active in the field. I got the opportunity to assist in not only their own research that would be published but to also continue research that started at Elon, something I would not have been able to achieve without Turnage funding”