Asbury Communication Researchers Present Award-Winning Paper at National Conference – Asbury University
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Asbury Communication Researchers Present Award-Winning Paper at National Conference

December 13, 2023

Katherine Sheets ’21 and Dr. Elizabeth Jones

Katherine Sheets ’21 and communication professor Dr. Elizabeth Jones co-authored a paper entitled, “Identifying Loss and Grief in Children’s Animated Films,” which won a Top Paper Award from the Mass Communication Division of the National Communication Association. Sheets presented the paper in November at the National Communication Association conference in National Harbor, Md.

“In the study, we examined death and non-death related loss and grief expressions in children’s animated films,” Jones and Sheets said. “This mixed-methods content analysis of the 18 top-grossing films investigated two research questions: 1) How is loss portrayed in children’s animated films across the U.S. animation industry? and 2) How are the five stages of grief depicted in children’s animated films across the U.S. animation industry?”

Jones discusses their research findings.

“We found that all of the films in the sample portrayed instances of loss,” she said. “Relationship loss was the loss type most frequently portrayed, followed by losses related to health, security, status, and death. Thus, non-death loss was portrayed much more frequently than bereavement-related loss.”

This study emerged from a research paper Sheets wrote for her M.A. in Digital Storytelling research methods course, which Jones taught. Jones and Sheets are preparing the manuscript for submission to an academic journal.

Sheets presents the paper at the National Communication Association conference.

“Katherine’s paper was so strong and on such an important research topic that I encouraged her to continue developing the piece after the conclusion of the class,” said Jones, who serves as the Director of Graduate Studies in Communication at Asbury. “She graciously allowed me to join the project as a collaborator, and it has been fun and rewarding to work with her.”

Jones and Sheets discuss the significance of their findings.

“In terms of grief expressions, we found variations in the ways the films depicted grief prevalence, grief intensity, and protagonist’s grief,” they said. “We believe these findings have important implications for how children learn about loss and grief through mass media models, and how they subsequently can enact healthy grieving strategies themselves.”

Sheets shares about the research process.

“Dr. Jones’ class was formational to my research experience – many of the studies cited as the core of our presentation are sources I found in one of our very first bibliography-building assignments!” she said. “I repeatedly found a huge gap in the research around children and films, and I discovered several viable methods to fill it. Dr. Jones encouraged me to work on the project after the course and has been instrumental in developing my knowledge of the academic research process.”

Jones received her Ph.D. in Communication from The Ohio State University. As the Director of Graduate Studies in Communication, she teaches courses in Cross-Platform Storytelling, Viral Marketing Methods, and Communication Research Methods. Sheets received her M.A. in Digital Storytelling from Asbury University and works as a content writer at Boise State University.

The Asbury University School of Communication Arts offers an M.A. in Communication, an M.A. in Digital Storytelling, an M.F.A. in Screenwriting, and an M.F.A. in Film and Television Production. These graduate programs overlap with the undergraduate Media Communication program, allowing undergraduate students to earn an M.A. in one additional year. Learn more: