School of Communications publishes 20th issue of Elon Journal

In its most recent edition, the nation’s first and only undergraduate research journal in communications delves into an array of media-related topics, including how organizations use social media to engage consumers and cultivate support for causes.

The School of Communications has published the fall 2019 issue of the Elon Journal of Undergraduate Research in Communications, featuring student research on topics ranging from the media framing of African elections to the representation of women and the portrayal of adoption in film.

According to Professor Harlen Makemson, the journal’s editor, the new issue also has a “particular concentration” on how organizations use social media to engage consumers or muster support for causes.

Fletcher Rowe examined how the corporate entities of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter each make use of all three platforms. Gilbert Schultz studied how YouTube streamers present their brand on channel banners and attract an audience. Additionally, Jill Watkins investigated and compared the Instagram accounts of aid organizations that operate through donations (Peace Corps)) and aid organizations that are government-funded (Habitat for Humanity).

While not strictly a social media study, Ashlyn Sawyer utilized an online survey to explore the relationship between corporate social responsibility and organizational reputation and consumer buying behavior – looking specifically at coffee giant Starbucks.

“While much has changed since (the first issue of the Elon Journal) – the first-generation iPad had just been released that spring, and Instagram was still months away from its public debut – there are striking similarities in research streams between past and present,” Makemson said. “Young scholars in the spring of 2010 were beginning to grapple with the implications of social media, as are Elon Journal researchers nearly a decade later.”

Several student researchers explored how groups were portrayed by both journalistic and fictional means, a consistent topic during the journal’s 10-year run, Makemson noted. Molly Herman-Gallow examined how adoption is presented in visual narrative media – specifically in the films “Lion,” “Instant Family” and “Twinster.” Ian Kunsey also concentrated on cinema, delving into the representation of women in the top-five grossing live-action movies directed by men and the top-five grossing live-action movies directed by women in 2018.

Switching to news, Cammie Behnke explored news frames in presidential election coverage in Nigeria, Kenya, and Zimbabwe by CNN International, BBC World News and Al Jazeera. Kimberly Asin Wilson also analyzed presidents, albeit U.S. presidents, examining the framing of refugee status and refugees by George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump.

“Please enjoy the work of our student scholars in the fall 2019 edition,” wrote Makemson in his editor’s letter. “May the next decade of the journal be as intellectually fruitful as the past one.”

Accompanying the online articles are video introductions by the authors, who explain their research methods and their interest in the topics they chose to study.

​For this fall 2019 issue, Makemson assembled an editorial board of more than 30 communications faculty members who participated in the multiple blind-review process to select the best student work.

The Elon Journal began in spring 2010, with spring and fall editions each year. The fall 2019 journal marks the 20th edition.

The Council on Undergraduate Research catalogs more than 200 student research journals in the nation, and the Elon Journal is the only one that focuses on undergraduate student research in journalism, media and communications.