Literature Review Reflection

I already knew a fair amount about the serial podcast series before going into this project, so I focused most of my research on the implications that this podcast had on the criminal justice system. I found a lot of news articles on the subject, but it took some digging to find any meaningful academic articles. This is primarily due to the fact that this podcast, along with the ‘Making a Murderer’ series are very recent developments, that are still unresolved today. I based the summaries of my articles off of the abstracts that were included in almost every piece of research I found. All of the research I did fell into place when I took a step back to look at my project as a whole. Also, the Serial Podcast, and the Making a Murder documentary are both polarizing issues of debate. This is due to the fact that they both answer one simple question: Does this person deserve to be in jail for this alleged crime? The most challenging part of this paper was finding peer reviewed sources, and scholarly articles on an issue that is still developing, and ongoing. The most rewarding part of this paper was the opportunity to take a deeper look at the podcast and the documentary. There is so much beneath the surface that I was able to uncover. I think I did a good job finding similarities between two contemporary pieces of investigative journalism, and then synthesizing the implications that they both have on our judicial system. If I had more time I would like to come back to this project in a few years, after everything has settled, to take another look at these two cases. There is constantly new information coming out, and it is hard to keep your opinion for very long without it changing due to new information.

Structuring Your Paper

To begin her essay, Mitchell gives some background on the Food Network: pointing out how successful it is, and the audience it reaches. She goes on to talk specifically about cookbooks, and how most successful cookbooks are written by celebrity chefs. Mitchell then differentiates a professionally trained celebrity chef, from someone who has no professional training. She outlines the different people she will be talking about in the essay and talks about their background. Then, Mitchell poses the major question that is at the crux of her essay. She then goes into the literature itself and breaks down the rhetoric used by several different celebrity chefs in their cookbooks. Mitchell addresses many things including the tone, audience, and reputation of the chefs. She does a really good job simplifying these complex people into easily-digestible characters. By the end of the essay, I have a solid sense of the character of the celebrity chefs, as well as the audience they are trying to reach through their cookbooks.

There are several things that Mitchell does that I appreciate. First, she is very clear when presenting the topic of her paper. I go into the essay knowing the question that she is going to answer. Second, I think the way she structures her body paragraphs is really interesting. Instead of addressing each chef in their own paragraph or section, she addresses them all together. This makes the chefs stand out all the more from one another. Unfortunately, this can also make her style seem scattered, and disorganized. I also would have appreciated a more concise conclusion, as the ending felt rather abrupt.

I hope to bring Mitchell’s strong sense of clarity, and storytelling to my next paper.


Research Question: in what way has the podcast ‘Serial’ impacted the re-trial of Adnan Syed?

So much has happened since this podcast’s initial release: a re-trial for Adnan Syed, books published by star witnesses, and an incredible amount of online speculation. I want to examine the ways in which this podcast has had a positive, and negative affect on the way justice is served. Did this podcast create a bias among witnesses, create perverse incentives for them to lie? These are all concepts I want to examine in my research paper.

There are a plethora of sources on this topic. There is the podcast itself, which is 12+ hours of interviews, analysis, and facts. But there are also plenty of secondary sources from a wide range of authors. There are books written by key witnesses, Articles by journalists, and opinion pieces written on blogs. The biggest challenge with this project will be to select reputable sources. Although the podcast is over, this case is still ongoing, and with that comes a constant stream of news articles, and opinions online. This means information is constantly changing, and constantly being updated.

The goal of the Serial Podcast was to uncover the truth. Something that in the end, it was never able to do. When listening to the series, your opinion of Adnan changes time and time again. There is no definitive truth –yet– to this topic. That makes assessing the accuracy of sources incredibly difficult because there is no one right answer.

I believe that by carefully sorting through the interviews, books, and statements made by the State of Maryland and those involved in the case, I can put together a solid answer to my research question.

Reflecting on your Analysis

  1. What did you discover about the rhetorical situation and the modes of communication?

I never realized how instinctively we use modes of communication. No matter how much we analyze them, To some extent, they are present in our day to day lives. I also find it interesting how intertwined they all are–an argument needs all of them together to be successful.

  1. How did you think about the rhetorical situation when you were writing your paper? Did you consider your audience, your context, your genre, your purpose, your stance, or your medium?

I definitely did consider these points while I was writing my paper. It is always important to know your audience, for example, when deciding how much detail to include in your paper. For example, I would write this paper much differently if I was writing for a younger audience vs. my professor.

I also noticed how difficult it is to describe the visual sequences of the movie through writing. It can be hard to describe them in a clear and concise manner without actually showing the clips.

  1. Did discussing each element of the rhetorical situation and the modes of communication help you understand how they work together? If so, how?

It definitely enhanced my understanding of the way in which they work together. In my perspective, the elements of the rhetorical situation are the ‘goal’ and the modes of communication are the way to achieve that goal.

  1. What did you learn about your writing process through this experience?

I really can’t tell if I am a terrible writer or not. It takes me a lot longer to formulate sentences than it used to. I am not sure if this due to the fact that I am writing at a higher caliber than I was before, or whether I have genuinely gotten worse at writing.

  1. What did you do particularly well in this piece? (You might point to a particular paragraph or even a particular sentence.) What makes this part noteworthy?

I think I did a good job formulating my thesis statement in a way that is easy to prove. It is split into three parts, which correlate to my three body paragraphs.

  1. If you had more time, which part would you continue to work on? Why?

I would want to explore the other modes of communication besides the linguistic mode. I feel that all of them play an important role in the film, and I would like to explore the ways that they work together.