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The Penn Undergraduate Research Mentoring program provided me the opportunity to spend my summer at the Annenberg Public Policy Center as part of the Civility Project under the direction of Dr. Kathleen Hall Jamieson. Through examining various measures of civility in the House of Representatives and in news media, the project aims to track civility over time and across institutions. This research is an update of prior reports released by the Annenberg Public Policy Center, which led to congressional retreats on the topic of civility.
My research this summer focused on the news media aspect of the Civility Project. I assembled case studies of incivility and hyperbolic language as discussed and presented in cable news media. I gathered information concerning the original uncivil remark, and then searched transcripts across cable news networks CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC in order to find how these different networks covered the event. I analyzed the aftermath of these incidents – had the individual apologized, did the individual reframe his or her statement, were the individual’s colleagues in the House of Representatives accepting or opposed to the individual’s remarks, along with other questions. I worked side-by-side with the research team, and had weekly meetings with Dr. Jamieson as well as other staff. Several of my research findings include that networks can focus on different aspects of the same incident, all three cable news networks at some point acknowledged the existence of hyperbolic language in politics, there were several strong boundaries with regard to response, and that as a result of uncivil events, many boundaries of incivility are being discussed within the media.
My PURM experience taught me key elements of conducting research. I learned about the fundamentals of research, from the need for strong methodology and reliability to the value of having a research mentor and being part of a research team. PURM enabled me to not only conduct research, but also to present my findings at CURF’s Open House poster session, allowing me to share my research and interact with other researchers and interested members of the community.
This summer involvement strengthened my interest in research and has been a highlight of my time at Penn. I am continuing my participation with the Civility Project during the academic year.