Visual World Assignment #4: Research: Interpreting Public Events

Thus far in this course you have composed arguments about the visual and verbal messages of a print advertisement; the value of comics and journalism for conveying “story truth;” and the challenges of using photography to create a record of public events. In your final project for the course, you will apply skills you have practiced in each of these preliminary assignments. Your task is to present your view of the significance of a recent public event through a 10-image slideshow and an interpretive essay. The essay and presentation will integrate images of the event and interpretations of its significance discovered through research in journalistic and scholarly sources.

Format & Deadlines:

The project will take several weeks and will involve three steps, each taking more than a week:

1)    Event Portfolio: As a first step, you will identify a public event to research, and assemble photographic images, journalistic accounts, and scholarly interpretations of the event into a portfolio that includes a 300-word (1 page) introduction to the event and a brief description (1 paragraph) of each item. Due in class on MONTH DAY.

2)    Visual Narrative: Next, you will organize the visual components of your portfolio into a 10-image sequential narrative (using Powerpoint or a web-based program) that tells the story of the event and emphasizes your view of its significance. You will compose a 600-word (2 pages) written narrative that explains why you sequenced the images the way you did. Due in class on MONTH DAY.

3)    Interpretive Essay: Finally, in the last weeks of the term, you will explain your view of the significance of the event in a 1500-word (5-6 pages) interpretive essay that integrates at least 5 outside sources and that serves as a supplement to your visual narrative. You will show your visual narrative and read your interpretive essay to the class during the last week of the semester. Draft due in class for peer review on MONTH DAY. Presentation and final draft due in class on MONTH DAY.

Audience: General public interested in the event

Advice: The best essays will make a clear argument for the significance of the public event that can be explained in a single sentence, for example, “This event is significant because . . . .” Your visual narrative and interpretive essay should be integrated but should not overlap entirely. In other words, your essay should offer original insight rather than providing a slide-by-slide summary of the visual narrative.


Type: Develop an analytical argument using original research that includes both primary and secondary research

Rationale: The purpose of this assignment is to give students an opportunity to apply their understanding of the power of images to convey messages and meaning in the context of a substantive academic research assignment.

Pre-Draft Activities:

  1. Identifying and accessing research sources, including a library session and follow-up activities in class;
  2. In-class writing and activities focused on developing and refining interpretations of photographic images and comics;
  3. In-class writing focused on developing thesis statements through structure, analysis and reflection;
  4. Peer review activities focused on clarity, sequencing, and organization.

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