Trash Talk: A Review of the Research on Communications for Municipal Hygiene

Project #: 23
Name: Lawrence Souder (; 215-571-4634)
Department: Culture and Communication
Academic Area: Political Science, Psychology, Criminal Justice, Sociology, Environmental Policy, and Urban Environmental Studies

Title: Trash Talk: A Review of the Research on Communications for Municipal Hygiene

During the 2013 annual Philly Spring Cleanup 13,198 volunteers collected 1,014,540 pounds of trash from Philadelphia's streets. Some of those volunteers were Drexel students, faculty, and staff. This government initiative and the citizens who contributed to it are important to the quality of life in the city, but given that every American creates about 4.5 pounds of trash every day, cities like Philadelphia need daily, not just annual, attention to their municipal hygiene. A community's relationship to trash will determine how it responds to it. This relationship is reflected in the ways a community communicates its thoughts about trash. The ways communities communicate about trash have been the object of much scientific research. This Humanities Fellowship project is a community-based research effort that combines the interests and resources of Drexel Edits, the University's center for support of nonprofit communications, with those of a community partner, ACHIEVEability, a nonprofit in West Philadelphia, whose mission is to help break the generational cycle of poverty in families and communities. The goal of this project is to collect and assimilate the published research into the various efforts to communicate about the concerns around trash. This research spans such topics as consumer attitudes towards envelope characteristics of direct mail, the cultures of urban scavenging communities, the effectiveness of anti-littering campaigns, the tobacco industry's stance on cigarette butt waste, and citizens' preferences for household solid waste collection.. . Writing reviews of research is a fundamental skill for all scholars and researchers. Reviews are an integral part of larger documents like published research reports and submitted research grant proposals, but they also appear as stand-alone articles in research journals. Such articles constitute a synthesis of a range of research papers on a given topic. As such, they indicate the state-on-the-art in a specific research discipline and suggest directions for future research. Reviews are also important outside of their research communities: they often suggest real-world applications of laboratory discoveries and inform policy deliberations. A review of the research on communications for municipal hygiene would be helpful to policy makers and community leaders who care about the problem of trash in public spaces.. . Good research reviews are distinguished by being recent and comprehensive. Thus, writers of reviews must thoroughly search the literature in their field and read deeply and widely among its publications. Writers must effectively interpret what they read by finding trends, patterns, and relationships among the published research papers. Finally, writers must have a sense as to how the research they are reviewing relates to the concerns of the wider society. Students who are considering this proposed fellowship should have a strong interest in the scientific research process and a commitment to civic engagement.

Associated Independent Study:
The independent study is a course that will explore the conventions of the various genres of science writing. In particular it will provide the means for determining what features distinguish one genre from another, how each of these genres is composed, and why they are so designed. Once these conventions have been defined generically, they will be applied to a specific scientific discipline of interest in order to develop the skills to communicate effectively and responsibly in that discipline. Among the genres of scientific writing to be considered are: research reports, research reviews, research proposals, and writing for lay audiences.

Gained Experience:
Describe the relevance of communication research to public policy and civic engagement. Explain the structure of typical social science research papers. Describe the role of the review of literature in scientific research

Review of research for submission for publication

Searching research databases for scholarly research papers. Mining bibliographies of research papers for additional citations to other scholarly research papers. Reading and organizing research papers by topic. Writing summaries of research papers. Consulting with community partner

Hagerty Library at Drexel. Office of Drexel Edits. Office of community partner ACHIEVEability

One face-to-face two- or three-hour meeting per week

Interview Availability: April 18, 2014; April 21, 2014; April 22, 2014