Nancy Signorielli, Ph.D.
Professor & Director of Graduate Program
Since my first publication in the Winter 1972-73 issue of the Journal of Broadcasting, I have published 4 sole-authored books, an edited book, two annotated bibliographies (one with a co-author), as well as numerous sole-authored articles, and multi-authored pieces, as well as made numerous presentations at our disciplines major conferences . I also prepared 16 final reports for funded research projects.
My area of focus continues to be the mass media and I believe its study must focus on finding the answers to three basic questions. First, what are the institutions that produce media images, how do they operate, and what kinds of constraints do they face? Second, what kinds of images are reflected in media content? And third, how do these images impact upon people? The second and third of these questions are very much interconnected; one cannot answer the third question without first answering the second.
My major research interest has been and continues to be finding answers to the second and third of the above questions. The theoretical focus of my research is that of cultivation theory. Specifically, this theory examines mass media images and how these images impact upon people's conceptions, beliefs, and behaviors. The basic underpinning for this research is that, for most people, the media, especially television, play an enormous role in day-to-day existence. The television set is "on" in the average home for more than 7 hours each day and the average person watches television for about 3 hours each day; in addition, most people say that they read a newspaper and/or magazines on a weekly, if not daily basis.
A significant portion of my research is very much focused upon what people see when they watch television over time. This is examined by conducting content analyses of samples of television programs. These analyses yield, not what any one of us might see on a particular evening of viewing, but rather the enduring images and patterns that we see week after week and year after year -- a bird's-eye view of the world of television.
But this is not enough; as noted above, the study of the media must also focus on media effects, particularly relationships between viewing and people's perceptions about the world. While people acquire some of their perceptions and conceptions about the world from personal experience, there is also a large body of information that cannot be experienced first-hand. Consequently, people, some more than others, rely upon outside sources, such as the mass media, to learn about and form conceptions relating to any number of issues. The research I pursue searches for patterns of relationships between viewing (and exposure to other media) and views about the world that reflect the images that are seen on television (as uncovered in the content analyses of samples of television programs). This research is guided by a basic theoretical principle that viewing is related to people's conceptions about the world. It is also guided by a number of other theoretical principles such as a notion my colleagues and I call "mainstreaming" (the expression, among those who watch more television, of a commonality or homogenization of views by those demographic subgroups who would ordinarily hold divergent views about the world). Essentially the research seeks to explain some of the roles that television plays in society. Today with an expanded media environment, our research is also exploring the role of the new media in the cultivation process.
Over the years I have used data from a number of different sources. A substantial portion of my research has used data collected as part of the Cultural Indicators project at The Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, where I served as the Research Administrator (overseeing this project and assisting faculty and students) for more than 15 years. I have also collected over 10 years of recent television content data as part of class projects. In my studies of cultivation, I use well-known national data sets such as the General Social Survey conducted by the National Opinion Research Corporation. This research has examined images relating to gender roles, aging, drugs, alcohol and drinking, health, sex, and violence.
I typically teach between 4 and 6 courses each year, including a required MA course (Comm 603 -methods-procedures) and courses in both winter and summer sessions. I enjoy teaching and strive to be a rigorous but fair teacher. I enjoy teaching all the courses I teach and cannot say that any one course is a particular favorite – my favorite course is typically the one I’m currently teaching. I am interested in my students and in my teaching I try to impart my enthusiasm for the subject matter, some first hand knowledge of the area, and practical experience. As a teacher of mass media and mass communication, one of my major goals is to give students the tools to be able to evaluate the media. For example, in regard to television, I want my students to understand the types of images to which they are exposed and to be able to make judicious use of the media in their lives. A favorite assignment is to have students "live with" a specific television program during the course of a semester and to write a critical evaluation of what they see, focusing upon specific areas such as violence, gender roles, science, etc.
I am also a strong proponent of a liberal arts education. As a graduate of a small women's liberal arts college, I very firmly believe that a strong grounding in the liberal arts will be of utmost importance to students at many different stages in their lives. Consequently, I try to advise students to go beyond the minimum requirements in meeting distributional requirements.
I serve as the director of the department’s MA program in Communication and as such serve as the initial advisor for all of our first year students. In addition, I have overseen numerous theses and also served on the numerous thesis committees. In addition, I have served on many comprehensive exam committees for our graduate students.
On the national level I am on the editorial board of several journals (Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, Journal of Communication, Health Communication, and Communication Research Reports) and occasionally review manuscripts for other journals in the field.
I belong to four professional organizations:
International Communication Association
Broadcast Education Association
National Communication Association
Association for Education in Journalism & Mass Communication
Dr. Signorielli's Curriculum Vitae
Recent Publications and Presentations:
Signorielli, N. (2007). How are children and adolescents portrayed on prime time television. In S. Mazarella (Ed), Kid Styff: 20 Questions about Youth and the Media (pp. 167-178). New York: Peter Lang
Nelson, D., & Signorielli, N. (2007). Reporter Sex and Newspaper coverage of the adverse health effects of hormone therapy. Women and Health, 45(1), 1-16.
(With recent MA program graduate)
Signorielli, N., & Morgan, M. (In press). Cultivation Analysis-Research and Practice. In, M. B. Salwen & D. W. Stacks, Jr. An Integrated Approach to Communication Theory and Research , 2nd edition. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Morgan, M., Shanahan, J, & Signorielli, N. (In press). Growing up with television: Cultivation processes. In J. Bryant & M. B. Oliver (eds). Media Effects: Advances in Theory and Research (3rd ed.). Hillsdale, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.
Signorielli, N. (In press). Research ethics in content analysis. In D. Kunkel, A. Jordan, J. Manganello, & M. Fishbein (eds), Media messages and public health: A decisions approach to content analysis. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Signorielli, N. (2007, August). Prime time characters and violence in the 21st century: Involvement, race, sex and age. Paper presented at the annual conference of rhe Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, Washington, DC.
Shanahan, J., Signorielli, N., & Morgan, M. (2008, May). Television and sex roles 30 hence: A retrospective and current look from a cultural indicators perspective. Paper presented at the annual convention of the International Communication Association, Montreal.
Signorielli, N. (2008, November). Children’s programs in 2007: basic demography and violence. Paper to be presented at the annual conference of the National Communication Association, San Diego.
University of Delaware
250 Pearson Hall
Newark, DE 19716
Department office phone
Courses Regularly Taught
COMM424: Media Message Analysis
COMM450: Mass Communication Effects
COMM454: Children and the Mass Media
COMM603: Communication Research Methods: Procedures