Editing University of Oregon students’ post on violent video games (Tang, 2008)

For the past few days, Google alerts e-mailed links to first-year students blog posts on violent video games and I’ve spent late at night reading them and giving them my feedback. I feel like a salary-free teaching assistant. Anyways, these students all came from Tiffany Gallicano‘s class of Mass Media and Society.

From what I can tell, they all need to realize how much of an iceberg the psychology of video games is. Also, I am pretty upset on their selection of journal articles and how they dissect it. Of course, they’re only first-years, non-psych students and maybe my own judgment on what is considered a good academic article may have an influence. But still, I want to bang a harisen on something.

So here’s the list of blogs so far: JAZ Post, JNTThe Truth.

update 16/11/08: Here’s a list of blogs that google alert failed to inform me: the way the cookie crumbled…, Leora’s the Explora’s weblog, cici’s weblog, Hsorensen’s weblog, agidaro’s blog, blingmar’s blog, Agarside10’s blog, a blog called quest, life in the suburbs, Rego’s blog.


8 thoughts on “Editing University of Oregon students’ post on violent video games (Tang, 2008)

  1. Dear Wai Yen Tang,

    Thank you so much for sharing feedback with my students! I am grateful for your help and expertise, and I imagine that they are as well.

    To provide some context, I teach a Mass Media and Society class of about 150 students who are mostly freshmen. It is a survey course designed to cover a wide range of media topics in 10 weeks. We spend one week talking about general theories about media effects.

    The assignment that accompanies the lesson is to select a controversial piece of media and conduct research by identifying three academic journal articles about the topic. Students then formulate an argument about media effects based on their secondary research and post their argument to their blog.

    I like this assignment because it positions students as active learners who set out to investigate the literature and look for answers to their questions. The assignment gives them initial experience in conducting research, and I hope it sparks their intellectual curiosity as well by giving them the opportunity to examine a form of media that interests them.

    Your post suggests that you have important insight to share about how students select journal articles and dissect them. You have already been so generous with your time, and if you provide me with suggestions about these topics, I would integrate them into my lecture and assignment handout for future classes.

    Also, if you would be interested in recording a video discussion or if you would be interested in writing about your feedback in general terms, I would be more than happy to share it with my current class. I’m guessing you do not live near Oregon, but if you do or find yourself in the area, please let me know if you would like to be a guest speaker.

    I am grateful that you have generously helped my students, and I look forward to learning from you as well.

    Warm wishes,


  2. @ Tiffany Gallicano

    No problem. I live on the north side of your national border. The problem I have with newspapers or tv news on scientific research is that they give the impression to readers that the study they are reading is very important, impressive, and reported no or few flaws in the report (see Jensen, 2008 in Human Communication Research). In reality, all studies have different qualities. For example, getting published in highly respected academic journals is very competitive (e.g. Nature) and getting published means that the research has to be of the highest quality and being published also means high recognition of your work.

    Since not all research studies get published in highly respected journals. Most studies contain flaws that are normally complemented and supported through additional studies. Most students reseach on their three academic journals look at specific variables in mind. Ivory’s study look at technological advancement, but lacks generalibility to other gaming genres. Other studies are one of a kind studies that needs additional support, some are replications, or some addresse flaws in previous studies. Sometimes, the journal authors themselves might write implications that are far-reaching, but still needs additional research to support their claim, so everything has to be taken with grains of salt.

    If students wished to write a paper to describe the GENERAL STATUS of video game research or any other research fields. Individual papers are not generally the way to go because they lack of representativeness of other studies who may have done similar research. You can use them as examples in support for or against whatever position you are in. But if you wish to express the general consensus of video game research, research called meta-analysis do a study of studies to see what the general direction of video game effects might be heading, causal or non-causal relationship. Although, meta-analysis is not easy to do. Some authors who may have done some meta-analytical studies: Craig A. Anderson, Brad Bushman, L.R. Huesmann, Christopher Ferguson, and more. But this is all from the field of psychology, other fields such as communication studies, sociology or media studies may have differing opinions or methodologies in studying video game effects (i.e. Henry Jenkins).

    (all technical terms can be found in wikipedia to give you a general idea, but not complete)

  3. @Tiffany Gallicano

    I forgot another important consideration is how journalists comprehend academic research. The articles are written for individuals who have a general knowledge or are experts in their own field. Those outside of said field would have a partial understanding on the results and implications of a study. Such partial knowledge can lead to misinterpretation and at times, gross exaggerations, of a research study.

    I can imagine the first-years would have only read the intro, parts of the method section and the discussion section. However, the results section can be important if one were to critically assess a study.

    Actually, my own blog posts are based on my own understanding and my own way of filtering information that is readable to an average individual. Nevertheless, potential and important details can be lost due to this filtering and biased due to my opinionated input on some aspects of a study (e.g sample is too small, confusing operational definition of aggression).

  4. About the dissection part, when reading the students’ post I was not satisfied on the level of detail or how they came about the conclusion in support of their argument.

    In my case, I would talk about the correlation does not equate causation, the plausibility of aggression in labs correspondance to real life aggression, the degree of what is considered aggression (e.g. assholeness to full-blown violent crime) personality factors, methodological limitations, robustness of general brain studies, interaction effects with other known risk factors of aggression, the socio-cultural context surrounding video games, the sensitvity of aggression measures in studies, etc.

  5. Wai Yen Tang,

    Your feedback is very helpful. Thank you so much. I greatly appreciate your help, and I will share your insight with my class. In addition, I will talk with future classes about correlation versus causation, degree of violence, quality of journal, flawed studies, and meta-analysis studies. Many students had trouble just finding three studies on the topics they chose, so I don’t think I’ll require that they locate meta-studies, but I will strongly encourage them to find and use meta-studies if possible. For students who do not find meta-studies, I will ask them to qualify their argument by acknowledging the potential weaknesses of just looking at three studies. There still might be cases of students not completing the assignment correctly, which tends to happen in large lecture classes, but at least the majority will write with an attempt at the nuances that you have so well described. Thank you so much.

  6. Really, they’re having trouble finding video game studies? Well I’m guessing is which database they’re using. PSYCINFO is usually what I use. Google scholar is also a good starting point for non-specialized researchers. I’m also guessing is a matter of terms they use. I agree that locating meta-studies is not required, once found it’s only a matter of understanding the article and the conclusion. hmm… I guess they should stick with studies and not meta-analysis for the moment.

    Besides meta-analytical studies, I believe there are psychology journals that are oriented toward an audience with a general knowledge of psychology or those that are easy to read and comprehend. If you have a psychology librarian, that person might help.

    I agree that writing studies’ limitations (which should be written in the discussion section of the article) would make a strong case for students’ paper in support or against whatever position they are going for. Conversely, they can write the strengths of their article, if the journal author wrote something about it. Say, their experimental study convincingly make the case that “this” causes “that”.

    I would also talk about the operational definition of “violence”. That is how do we define violence in an experimental context versus the real life world. What makes the difference between “aggression” and “violence”. Like a square is rectangle, but a rectangle is not a square.

  7. If you look at my recent post, there’s a study just published in Pediatrics (get it while it’s free, go to their website, just google the journal title and look for Craig Anderson). I’m sure it would be an interesting read on recent research.

  8. Thank you so much. I don’t think the students who chose video games as a topic had problems with locating journal articles; locating research was just a hurdle for some of the students who chose less-researched topics about media effects. Still, I would like to encourage the use of meta-studies when possible. Also, thanks for the recommendation about PSYCHINFO. I will also ask future classes to look for the limitations discussion and note these limitations (and any others the students identify) in their blog posts. I’m talking with my class about how science is covered in the mainstream media on Thursday, so it is the perfect opportunity to talk about the feedback you have provided throughout this online conversation. I will cover all of the points you have made. Thank you again for your help. Please let me know if there is any way that I can be of help as well, whether it’s now or down the road. You can reach me at derville(at)uoregon(dot)edu.

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