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Choosing a Topic

I often assign class essays that are fairly open-ended. If you need help settling upon a topic, please consider the following:

  1. Review your class and reading notes (or responses) which should be a a repository of potential ideas.
  2. Brainstorm a number of (provocative) arguments you could make as you research and think about your topic.
  3. Review the class objectives from the syllabus.
  4. Write a proposal for (at least) yourself and (perhaps) share it with the instructor that identifies:
    1. what is the topic?
    2. what argument/thesis are you likely to make?
    3. what concepts/readings from class will you make use of?
    4. what external readings (if appropriate) will you make use of and are they appropriate to your topic?

Once you have your topic, read Writing Class Essays.



The following proposals (a short one for conflict management class and longer one for a digital communications class) identify a compelling topic, mention the issues/questions of interest, likely arguments/themes, and supporting sources.

Conflict in Rwanda

For Assignment 5, I thought it would be interesting, insightful, and much applicable to focus on the conflict within the country of Rwanda that lead to unfortunate massive acts of violence, the Rwandan Genocide, in 1994, which shows evidence of still existing today. This civil war, between the Hutus and the Tutsis, represents an intra-cultural problem that is influenced by implications of “ethnicity” and the unstable political power. I do not know specifics at the moment, but I will also focus on the failed attempts of reconciliation in the country and possibly propose recommendations on how to go about changing the attitudes between these two groups. I will likely make use of concepts from Kahneman and Renshon’s “Why Hawks Win” (e.g., fundamental attribution error, double down), the notion of intra-cultural norms from Reagle’s Wikipedia paper, and the challenges of reconciliation from Linfield’s “Trading Truth for Justice?”. My external source will be Chabal’s “Is Violence Inevitable in Africa?”

Chabal, P. Is Violence Inevitable in Africa?: Theories of Conflict and Approaches to Conflict Prevention. Boston, MA: Brill Academic Publishers, Inc., 2005.

Examining Narcissism in a Digital Society

(based on submission from Ally Wray)

The term narcissism originates from the Greek myth of Narcissus, who fell in love with his own reflection in a pool of water. Thousands of years later we are still obsessed with our reflection, only now it is in the screen of an iPhone. For my final paper in this course, I have chosen to further analyze the relationship between social media and narcissism and the overall implications of a more narcissistic society. In addition to the relationship between social media and narcissism, I will also discuss the relationship between narcissism and other digital activities, such as taking selfies and texting. I will begin with explaining both the popularly accepted definition of narcissism and the clinical one. I will next move on to share several studies that have been done to examine the effects of social media (Facebook and Twitter) on levels of narcissism. After sharing the findings of these studies, I will consider the relationship between other digital activities and narcissism by way of Reagle’s (2014) chapter "Shaped." Next I will argue that narcissism can be a positive personality trait, and young people gaining narcissistic traits through social media usage are not necessarily being damaged, but rather prepared for the rest of their lives in a competitive world.

The first study that I have chosen to examine is "Mirror or Megaphone?: How relationships between narcissism and social networking site use differ on Facebook and Twitter,” conducted by Panek, Nardis, and Konrath (2013). This study measured participants time spent on Facebook and Twitter, and then measured their level of narcissism using the Narcissistic Personality Inventory. Findings revealed that levels of narcissism could accurately be used to predict how often the participants would make post on Facebook and Twitter. This means that those with higher levels of narcissistic personality traits were more likely to post more frequently. The next study that I'll use is "Narcissism, extraversion and adolescents’ self-presentation on Facebook” (Ong, et al., 2010) which reported on measures of narcissism in adolescents in Singapore using the 12-item Narcissistic Personality Questionnaire for Children-Revised. Participants were given a questionnaire using Likert Scale type questions to determine how often they update different parts of their Facebook profiles. The authors concluded that higher narcissism levels indicated more frequent updates in all parts of the Facebook profile that were tested.

To conclude the paper I will return to the argument that narcissism can be a positive personality trait, including the ways in which narcissistic traits can be helpful in the workforce, as well as other aspects of life. This will be based on Burton's (2012) noting of the fact that "Narcissistic personality disorder is more common in executives than criminals." If, narcissism can be a negative and a positive, and is heightened in some cases by social media, the lasting question is if social media's relationship with narcissism will be for better or worse?


Burton, N. (2012, August 26). American psycho: can narcissism be good for you? Psychology Today. Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/hide-and-seek/201208/american-psycho-can-narcissism-be-good-you

Narcissism. (n.d.). Merriam-Webster. Retrieved from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/narcissism

Ong, E., Ang, R., Ho, J., Lim, J., Goh, D., Lee, C. S., Chua, A. (2010). Narcissism, extraversion and adolescents’ self-presentation on Facebook. Personality and Individual Differences, 50(2), 180-185. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0191886910004654

Panek, E., Nardis, Y., & Konrath, S. (2013). Mirror or megaphone?: How relationships between narcissism and social networking site use differ on Facebook and Twitter. Computers in Human Behavior, 29(5), 2004-2012. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0747563213001155

Reagle, J. (2014). Shaped. Likers, Haters, and Manipulators in the Age of the Web (pp. 1-34).

Twenge, J. (2013, September 24). Social media is a narcissism enabler. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/

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