Students to present top-ranked research paper at conference

Three students will be traveling to Arlington, Va., this weekend with Communication Department Chair Anne Zaphiris, Ph.D., to present a research paper they wrote in the fall term for Zaphiris’ Communication Theory and Research class.

Junior communication major Kelly Luoma, junior business major Lindsay Cox and sophomore communication major Alicia Cagle wrote their paper about the portrayal of Muslims in the American media, titled “Content Analysis of the Portrayal of Muslims in American Media.”

Zaphiris encouraged the group to submit their paper, and after they revised it, Cagle submitted the paper to the James C. McCroskey and Virginia P. Richmond Undergraduate Scholars Conference, and it was ranked in the top four out of 125 submitted papers.

“I’m really excited because it is a very prestigious conference. The second I got the email that said we were not only in, but in the top four, I texted Lindsay and Kelly and called everyone in my family. I’m really proud of our accomplishment—all of our hard work paid off. I am a little nervous about giving the panel but I’m sure Anne will train us well,” Cagle said.

At the conference, there will be a 15-minute presentation of their paper, in which Luoma, Cox and Cagle will each present for five minutes, followed by 15 minutes of questions from the judges.

During the fall term, the group analyzed news articles from CNN, Fox News and NPR from August 1 to September 30, searching for bias, positive or negative, toward Muslims in the media.

“Our results basically showed that while providing both positive views of Muslims, the sources all gave an overwhelming amount of negative information and negative feelings toward Muslims as opposed to positive information,” Cox said.

With the anniversary of 9/11, the proposal to build a mosque near Ground Zero and the minister in Florida who threatened to burn the Qur’an, this was a huge issue in the media.

“I can honestly say I worked on this project more than any other class thus far at Mercyhurst. We were gracious to find out that the Student Creative and Scholarly Research Fund, along with the Communication department, will aid in the funding for our trip, making exciting opportunities like this possible,” Cox said.

The group will be in Virginia from Thursday, April 14, to Sunday, April 17.