Date of Award

2011

Level of Access

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Communication

Advisor

John Sherblom

Second Committee Member

Nathan Stormer

Third Committee Member

Amy Fried

Abstract

This thesis project is rooted in the general objective of examining an element of the American political process that has not seen great attention. This element consists of the non-profit organizations and groups representing the interests of the Arab-American population of the United States. In the interests of scope, only one of these particular organizations was targeted for analysis: the Arab American Institute. The Arab American Institute (AAI) was founded in 1985 by its current President, Dr. James Zogby. The AAI is located in Washington D.C., and is a non-profit membership organization. Its principal goal is to increase the political activity and awareness of America's Arab American population, both at the grassroots level and in Washington. This research is fundamentally concerned with how the AAI communicates with its membership. Hence, the AAI's primary medium, a website www.aaiusa.org, is of central interest for this project. Narrowing the goals for this research further, only documents on the AAI website dealing explicitly with the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict have been selected for analysis. The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict's significance is undeniable. It is an immensely important part of America's foreign policy agenda in the Middle East, and represents one of the most intractable communicative conflicts in history. The AAI documents on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict are of two distinct types: those written by the AAI staff, often anonymously, and those displayed online by AAI that were written by external journalists for separate media outlets. The fifth version of a software program named DICTION, developed by Professor Roderick P. Hart, Dean of Communication at the University of Texas Austin, is a key analytical element in project's methodology. DICTION 5.0 tabulates word frequencies in addition to presenting possibilities for deeper analysis. This begins when DICTION 5.0 connects words found in political texts to words in its internal dictionaries, words that represent themes (or variables as they are referred to in the software) such as certainty, action, and complexity. Depending on the matches that DICTION 5.0 can make between words its own dictionaries and those in the AAI texts that have been selected, different variable scores will appear as numerical outputs. This provides insight into the text through scores that are either in or outside of ranges that the software has predetermined to be the norm. For the purposes of comparison and contrast, the AAI documents selected for analysis were divided into five separate corpuses. The first of these is the Master Corpus, which contains all of the documents chosen for this research put together. The remaining four were chosen based on specific and significant characteristics, such as the Hamas corpus, which contains only documents explicitly referencing the Palestinian political party of that name. The use of DICTION software represents the first half of a twofold approach to investigating the significance of AAI documents on the Israeli Palestinian Conflict. DICTION 5.0 outputs serve as a starting point for a reflective analysis of the specific documents that were selected for this research project. The bulk of the discussion portion of this research concerns itself with how DICTION'S quantitative outputs resonate with the foreign and domestic policy issues outlined in the literature review of this project.

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