Research Project Design
Sociology 385: Methods of Social Inquiry
My main research questions for this assignment are: What are the sociocultural factors that affect the degree to which women participate in negative body talk? To what extent does media consumption contribute to the frequency of negative body talk? This could be subsumed under the first RQ. I’m also interested in the following question: Can the practice of negative body talk be alleviated through awareness and education on the topic? I think it would be wise to conduct research on the first two questions to begin, and then approach the third question. I agree. The first two are good RQs; the 3rd can be addressed in your conclusions at the end of your project
Terms and Variables
The most important term that will need to be explicitly defined for this research is “negative body talk,” as understanding this term is an important foundation for understanding the research. I will also have to define what I mean by “media consumption,” and create categories for different types of media usage. In addition, I will add definitions for these terms that have repeatedly come up while reviewing the literature on this topic: body dissatisfaction, disordered eating, social comparison, fat talk, and body image. Good
The first question I will be researching will use descriptive research, so the frequency of negative body talk would be the dependent variable. For the second question, the independent variable would be media consumption, with the dependent variable being negative body talk. For the third question, negative body talk would be the dependent variable, and education about body image and critical media consumption would be the independent variable. If you include the language I inserted in RQ1, you will also look at age, race/ethnicity, media and other forms of socialization, education, income, etc.
One of the main theoretical schools of thought that I will use to help guide my research is Feminist Theory, particularly Feminist theories of embodiment. These theories propose that “attention to the body plays a central role in social and political thought,” so they will be useful in describing effects of negative body talk, (Lennon, 2010). In addition, I will be using Cultivation Theory, defined by George Gerbner as “the independent contributions television viewing makes to viewer conceptions of social reality,” to understand the connection, if any, between media consumption and negative body talk, (Vonderen & Kinnally, 2012). Lastly, I think that Social Comparison Theory will work well as a framework for my research, because it proposes that people evaluate themselves through comparison to others, which might provide a mechanism to explain an association between media use and negative body talk. Very good. For your project, you will need a paragraph for each theory describing the major elements, and then a second paragraph for each theory that explains how those elements related to your RQ
Ideally, I would like to tie all of these questions into one longitudinal research study. The first step of this study would be to use cluster sampling of colleges to construct a sampling frame from which to start. Within that framework, I would want to select a group of elements from female incoming freshmen who would be willing to participate for an elongated period of time, because my research will use repeated measures and panel design. To begin the study, I would survey the participants using questionnaires about their media consumption, especially the types of media they engage with and the frequency with which they engage. I would then use the Negative Body Talk scale, as designed by Engeln-Maddox, Salk, and Miller (2010), to assess the respondents’ use of negative body talk. The responses to these surveys could then be coded and input into a resource such as the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences, and could be analyzed to find correlations between frequency of negative body talk and exposure to media. From there, I would like to find a way to provide periodical educational instruction (perhaps once a year over the span of the participant’s four year education) to the participants related to body image issues, especially regarding critically assessing media and any correlations it may have to negative body talk. I would then re-test the participants to assess how their frequency of negative body talk changes over time when exposed to body image information. Very good plan! Maybe for your master’s thesis! For this project, using previously published research will work fine and be much faster and less expensive!
Literature Review Outline
I. Mass Media Portrayal of Beauty
A. Fashion models are used as examples of ideal female appearance
B. A majority of females shown through media share common physical attributes
1. Thinness – body size of women portrayed in media is steadily getting smaller
2. Unblemished skin
3. Thick, silky hair
C. Media emphasize achieving the characteristics of the “ideal” they perpetuate
1. “Makeover” television shows and magazine articles
2. Instructional information for achieving ideals
3. Advertisements for products that aid in achieving the “ideal”
D. Media often portrays those that do not fit with beauty ideals in a negative way
1. Overweight individuals are not shown in media with the same frequency with which they exist in the general population
2. Overweight individuals on television rarely have romantic partners, express physical affection, or play the leading role when compared to their slimmer counterparts
II. Prevalence of Negative Body Image Among Girls and Women
A. A majority of women and girls report feeling unhappy with their appearance, to the point where body dissatisfaction has become normative in society
III. Negative Body Talk (NBT) or Fat Talk
A. Body ideals and body dissatisfaction are manifested and perpetuated through interpersonal communications
1. discussion of eating and exercise habits
2. fears of becoming overweight
3. comparing eating and exercise habits with those of others
4. the appearance and weight of others
5. one’s own weight or diet
6. strategies for achieving the ideal body or appearance
B. Effects of NBT or Fat Talk
1. Eating irregularities or disordered eating
2. Lowered self esteem
3. Lowered Confidence
5. Mental Health Issues
OK – but I would start with II, then III, then I. I would start I with a summary of sociocultural or personal factors that affect NBT, ending with the media, and then move into your larger view of media
1. Arroyo, A. & Harwood, J. (2012). Exploring the causes and consequences of engaging in fat talk. Journal of Applied Communication Research, 40(2), 167-187.
“Fat talk” is a component of negative body talk, and this article delves into the reasons why fat talk occurs and the effects it has on women who participate in it (and, also, those who don’t). The authors propose that body dissatisfaction has become normative in our society, and by discussing it with other women in the form of fat talk women are actively reinforcing the normalcy of being unhappy with their bodies. The Researchers found that fat talk was a predictor of depression and increased desire to be thin. This article has a wealth of useful information for me, especially the scales used by the researchers to measure the degree of fat talk, depression, self esteem and body satisfaction.
2. Clark, L. & Tiggermann, M. (2008). Sociocultural and individual psychological predictors of body image in young girls: A prospective study. Developmental Psychology, 44(4), 1124-1134.
This article details a study preformed on girls aged 9-12, investigating the possible predictors of their body images. The authors measured media and peer influences, individual psychological variables, and body image, concluding that biological and psychological variables play the largest role in determining body image. The methods for this research and the questionnaires used will be helpful to me in designing my research.
3. Dohnt, H. & Tiggermann, M. (2006). The contribution of peer and media influences to the development of body satisfaction and self-esteem in young girls: A prospective study. Developmental Psychology, 42(5), 929-936.
This study focuses on the construction of body image for young girls, aged 5-8. The study found that even at such young ages, the girls were already being negatively affected by the “thin ideal” found in much media and perpetuated by peers. This study shows how early in development negative body images begin to form, and how detrimental it can be to overall self esteem later in life.
4. Engeln-Maddox, R., Salk, R.H. & Miller, S.A. (2012). Assessing women’s negative commentary on their own bodies: A psychometric investigation of the negative body talk scale. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 36(2), 162-178. Stopped editing here – there hasn’t been any! At least, stopped looking for errors. When you do your References section, you will not use numbers and you will indent the second line using the margin spacing (like this example)
This article discusses the development of the Negative Body Talk scale (NBT), providing the framework I will use for testing negative body talk in my research. The scale measures frequency with which women engage negative talk about the weight, shape, and appearance of their bodies and their tendency to compare their bodies to the bodies of others’ in a negative way. The authors created this scale specifically to aid in research focused on the prevalence of NBT, and how it both reflects and perpetuates negative body attitudes in women.
5. Grabe, S., Ward, L.M., & Hyde, J.S. (2008). The role of the media in body image concerns among women: A meta-analysis of experimental and correlational studies. Psychological Bulletin, 134(3), 460-476.
This research project studied tested the correlations between media exposure and body dissatisfaction, internalization of the “thin ideal,” and eating behaviors. The researchers concluded that there was a correlation between these variables. This research provides more foundational information about the effects of media on body image, and also provides possible measurement procedures for media usage among women I will be studying.
6. Greenberg, B. S., Eastin, M., Hofschire, L., Lachlan, K., & Brownell, K.D. (2003). Portrayals of overweight and obese individuals on commercial television. Research and Practice, 93(8), 1342-1348.
This article explores the depiction of overweight individuals on commercial television, assessing that the percentage of overweight individuals appearing on television is less than half of the percentage of the general population that is overweight. The study also discussed the ways in which these individuals were portrayed – often finding that these characters did not have romantic interests, did not talk about relationships, were less likely to partake in physical affection, and were seen eating more often than their average weight counterparts. These negative characteristics attached to extra weight are important in assessing the messages that television provides about body image.
7. Lennon, K. (2010). Feminist perspectives on the body. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved from
This author provides a very useful source for exploring Feminist ideas about the body, but of specific interest to me is the explanation of the Feminist theory of embodiment relating to body image. This theory explores the tie between body image and political and social behaviors, involvement, or thought. The author explains that associations that women often make between their own body and the body of another woman can “reflect oppressive power differences in society and inhibit the well-being of those so imagined.” This type of discussion can help me to explain the usefulness of my research in terms of sociological importance.
8. Manwaring, A. (2011). Reality television and its impact on women’s body image. Online Theses and Dissertations, paper 50.
The author of this study researched the possibility of a correlation between viewing reality television and having a negative body image. Surveys given to college-aged women assessed reality television viewing habits and body image. Unlike many of my sources, this study found no correlation between the viewing of reality television and negative body image, but the author also discusses the limitations of the research and the implications of the results.
9.Martijn, C., Vanderlinden, M. & Roefs, A. (2010). Increasing body satisfaction of body concerned women through evaluative conditioning using social stimuli. Health Psychology, 29(5), 514-520.
This article explores a study in which women with all levels of body concern (as defined by the researchers) were exposed to conditioning procedures which used pictures of the participants’ bodies selectively linked to pictures of positive stimuli. The authors conclude that this procedure increased body satisfaction overall for participants. This is an interesting idea to use for my third question, which addresses the possibility of introducing educational tools as a means to lessen negative body talk in women.
10. O’Brien Hallstein, L. (2011). She gives birth, she’s wearing a bikini: mobilizing the postpregnant celebrity mom body to manage the post-secondary wave crisis in femininity. Women’s Studies in Communication, 34(2), 111.
This article details the new media obsession with the post baby body. Using a feminist framework, the author proposes that the prevalence of discussion about the post-baby body serves to solidify mothering and beauty as the most important aspects of being feminine, which reinforces the domestic division of labor. The author also addresses the way in which this issue affects the body image of women who consume such media, and how it reinforces an objectification of the female body.
11. Ogden, J., Smith, L., Nolan, H., Moroney, R. & Lynch, H. (2011). The impact of an educational intervention to protect women against the influence of media images. Health Education, 111(5), 412-424.
This research study provides a great foundation for what I would hope to accomplish with my third research question. The researchers provided a onetime educational intervention for women, discussing with them how to be critical of media images and giving them information about the effects of media images on body satisfaction. The study found that on the long-term, the women who participated in the class had an overall improvement in confidence, believed attractiveness, and
12. Royal, S., MacDonald, D.E., & Dionne, M.M. (2013). Development and validation of the fat talk questionnaire. Body Image, 10, 62-69.
This article discusses the use of qualitative data to construct a quantitative measure of fat talk. To assess temporal stability of the questionnaire, over 3,000 participants answered the questions on two different occasions. Results show that the questionnaire is valid and reliable. This questionnaire might be useful in conjunction with the NBT scale for my research questions.
13. Rudiger, J.A. & Winstead, B.A. (2013). Body talk and body-related co-rumination: Associations with body image, eating attitudes, and psychological adjustment. Body Image, 10, 462-471.
This article explores the practice of all different types of body talk (negative, positive, accepting, and co-ruminative) and how the way women talk about their bodies relates body image, perceived body distortion, eating disorders, psychological adjustment and quality of friendships. The authors found, overall, that negative body talk holds no advantages for the categories listed above, positive body talk and self acceptance produce positive advantages, and co-rumination results in mixed outcomes. These findings are important to my research because they discuss the negative effects of negative body talk while also providing the positive effects of self-acceptance and positive body talk.
14. Sides-Moore, L. & Tochkov, K. (2011). The thinner the better? Competitiveness, depression and body image among college student women. College Student Journal, 45(2).
The authors of this study conducted research in which college women were presented with a picture of a model, and then asked to describe feelings about their own body. Compared to control groups who were not shown the picture, women exposed to the picture were significantly more dissatisfied with their own bodies. The authors discuss the how the concepts of competitiveness and depression are important factors in constructing body image.
15. Slevec, J. & Tiggermann, M. (2011). Media exposure, body dissatisfaction, and disordered eating in middle-aged women: A test of the sociocultural model of disordered eating. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 35(4), 617-627.
This article discusses a research study examining the influence of media exposure on body image, and how this influence may increase disordered eating. The questionnaire designed to research these correlations, especially the categories the author constructed for media exposure and body dissastisfaction, would be useful to help guide my research.
16. Swami, V. & Coles, R. (2010). Oppressive beliefs at play: Associations among beauty ideals and practices and individual differences in sexism, objectification of others, and media exposure. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 35, 365-379.
This article uses Feminist theory to analyze the association between sexist attitudes and body image. The authors found that there was an association between these two variables, and believe that programs focused on altering sexist attitudes to promote a more egalitarian mentality may result in beauty ideals and practices that are, in general, healthier. This article will provide me with more information about constructing my research using a Feminist framework, and ideas for creating educational programs that improve body image.
17. Van Vonderen, K. E. & Kinnaly, W. (2012). Media effects on body image: Examining media exposure in the broader context of internal and other social factors. American Communication Journal, 14(2), 41-57.
This article discusses research as to not only the correlation between media use and body attitudes, but also takes into account other factors influential on body attitudes such as peers, parents, or environmental factors. The author found that media use was associated with internalization of the “thin ideal,” but not as strongly as the association of peers and parents to body attitudes in general. The author also discusses and uses cultivation theory and social comparison theory, which I will also be using in my research.
18. Wolszon, L. R. (1998). Women’s body image theory and research: A hermeneutic critique. American Behavioral Scientist, 41(4), 542.
This article takes on the concept of body image and body image research from a hermeneutic perspective. The author argues that current theory and research on the topic mostly comes from an individualist perspective that divert from the social, ethical and political components of the issue. This article will be useful as it is very much based in sociological concepts and ideas, where much of the research I have found comes from a foundation of psychology. It also discusses possible resolutions to body image issues, which would help with my third question.
19. Xiaowei, H. (2013). A critical study of the contradictory role of women’s magazines. Canadian Social Science, 9(4), 184-205.
The author of this article studies the role of contemporary women’s magazines in the construction of readers’ body images. The author also explores the question of how the notion of beauty is correlated to the global market, which brings in a new factor that I have not found in any other research up to this point. It also discusses analyses of notions of beauty, influence of advertising, and fantasy images, which will help to create definitions and categories in my research.
Very good start! Since you will keep this topic for your senior project you should do well. You will need to revise your RQ a little, adjust your literature review a bit, but you have good sources. You should try to identify – if you have not already – at least three studies that include data that you can use to answer your RQ.
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