Clarity, Historical Evidence Two Keys to a Successful Conference Paper

18 Apr 2022 3:29 PM | Erika Pribanic-Smith (Administrator)

AJHA Scholars Offer Advice to Graduate Students and Faculty on Media History Projects

by Mike Conway (First Vice-President), Indiana University

American Journalism Historians Association (AJHA) Research Chair Gerry Lanosga (Indiana University) said the project abstract is a good place to start to judge the clarity of your manuscript.

"If you have trouble distilling your idea into an abstract,” said Lanosga, “if your abstract is muddled, your paper is going to be muddled.”

Lanosga was one of the panelists for an online conference paper workshop AJHA offered to help graduate students and faculty who would like to submit manuscripts to the 41st annual AJHA Conference, which will be in Memphis, TN, Sept. 27 to Oct. 1. The submission deadline is June 1.

Graduate Student Committee Chair Claire Rounkles (Missouri) produced and moderated the hour-long Zoom session on April 15.

Previous Research Chair Erin Coyle (Temple University) told the workshop participants that AJHA seeks research that goes beyond what the organization's name might imply. Even though American Journalism is in the name, AJHA encourages international research.

Coyle added, “We say AJHA defines journalism ‘broadly,’” meaning that your project could involve newspapers, magazines, broadcasting, cable, satellite and online platforms. AJHA also includes advertising and public relations under its overall attention to media.

Panelist Michael Fuhlhage (Wayne State University), past AJHA research chair, said you want to think about your historical evidence and arguments. Fuhlhage said, “It’s a combination of what you’ve gathered and the ways you interpret that evidence.”

He also said he tells his students that the purpose of a research project can easily get lost. “I’m not shy about telling them ‘I want you to hit the reviewer over the head with a statement of what your topic is.’”

For students looking for examples of great historical research writing, the panelists mentioned five journalism history scholars with different, but effective, writing styles:  Jinx Broussard (LSU), Elisabeth Fondren (St. John’s), Patrick Washburn (Ohio), the late Michael S. Sweeney (Ohio), and Tom Mascaro (Bowling Green State University). They were encouraged to look for those scholars’ articles in American Journalism or Journalism History to see how they crafted their projects.

The panelists told the workshop participants to pay attention to the specific rules for any conference paper competition because you don’t want to have your work rejected on a technicality. AJHA is unique among conferences because it allows up to 25 manuscript pages, not counting the endnotes.

AJHA President Aimee Edmondson (Ohio) encouraged the students--and faculty--to submit research for our conference in Memphis, where she worked for almost a decade at the Memphis Commercial-Appeal. She said the workshop is “just one example of the spirit of AJHA that attracted me to it.” Edmondson recalled her first AJHA conference: “I really found my people because they were so kind and helpful.”

Edmondson listed many historical and culinary reasons to attend the AJHA Memphis Conference in a recent Intelligencer article.

This is the first year that students will be eligible for the Michael S. Sweeney Graduate Student Travel Stipend if their work selected for the AJHA Conference. The Sweeney Stipend for 2022 is $400.

AJHA is also reviving the popular auction of media history items. We’ll have more details on that in the coming months.


If you missed the AJHA Graduate Student Workshop, AJHA recorded the session.

If you have a question about the conference paper competition, contact Gerry Lanosga (

If you would like to get involved in the AJHA Graduate Student Committee, contact Claire Rounkles (

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