media studies questions

Media Language Revision Questions


Writing responses to comprehension exercises is a great way to clarify the key concepts in media studies and prepare for examinations. You can enhance your understanding of the theories, make connections between the critical frameworks, and gain new insights into how we can analyse media texts.

The questions on this page are designed to help you revise the important semiotic and narrative theories, so you can assess your awareness of those conceptions. Most questions require a straightforward answer, and you might be expected to provide examples which will support your knowledge. Some questions will develop your critical appreciation of the concepts. Of course, you you skip questions if they are not relevant to your course and level.

If something doesn’t quite make sense, you can always scan through the guides to media language to check your answers.

Comprehension Questions

These questions test your knowledge of useful terms in media studies. Resist the temptation to scribble down quick answers and bullet points; improve the quality of your writing skills by using full sentences and words from the questions.

  1. What is the difference between an icon and a symbol in Charles Peirce’s sign classification?
  2. Briefly explain the meaning of syntagm. Give an example to illustrate your definition.
  3. Give four examples of technical codes used in television productions.
  4. What is the difference between a homage and a pastiche? Give an example from the media to illustrate each term.
  5. What is meant by the phrase dominant ideology? Give two contemporary examples to support your definition.
  6. Describe two framing strategies news channels use to emphasise the importance of a story.
  7. According to Jean Baudrillard, what is the implosion of meaning?
  8. According to Saussure, a sign consists of which two elements?
  9. Explain why anchorage is useful when communicating a message to the audience.
  10. Explain the difference between Barthes’s first and second order of signification.
  11. According to Todorov, what is the minimum requirement for a plot?
  12. What is the meaning of the term representamen?
  13. What are the two representation systems according to Stuart Hall?
  14. What is meant by the term paradigm? Identify two examples of paradigm in action.
  15. Explain the difference between genres of order and genres of integration. Give two examples from cinema.
  16. Put the following phases in order: order of maleficence; sacramental order; pure simulacra; and order of sorcery.
  17. Explain the relationship between the signifier and the signified.
  18. Briefly explain the meaning of connotation and give two examples of the term in action.
  19. Explain the function of a dispatcher in Propp’s character types.
  20. What is meant by Barthes’ concept of myth? Give two examples to illustrate the term.
  21. Why do some newspapers take a sensationalist approach to reporting a story?
  22. What are non-verbal codes? Give two examples.
  23. What is meant by the term index? Identify two examples of index in action.
  24. Explain the meaning of the phrase binary opposition in terms of semiotics. Give two examples to illustrate the concept.
  25. Which two codes construct the chronology of a narrative? Give an example of each code.

Multiple Choice Questions

Unfortunately, many students rush through these sorts of questions and miss a couple of easy marks. Read the questions carefully, look at the potential answers, and try to make informed decisions.

  1. Which three of the following terms do you most associate with Ferdinand de Saussure and his approach to understanding signs?
    • Referent
    • Signifier
    • Syntagm
    • Connotation
    • Signified
    • Object
  1. Which three of the following are terms associated with a postmodernist analysis?
    • Paradigm
    • Implosion
    • Myth
    • Pastiche
    • Simulacrum
    • Representamen
  1. Which three of the following would be considered examples of technical codes?
    • Editing Technique
    • Costume
    • Dialogue
    • Lighting
    • Camera Angle
    • Tone of Voice
  1. Identify three concepts associated with Todorov’s narrative theory.
    • Inciting Incident
    • Repair
    • Transfiguration
    • Disruption
    • Obstacle
    • Disequilibrium
  1. Which three of the following genres would be considered genres of order?
    • Western
    • Musical
    • Romantic Comedy
    • Melodrama
    • Detective
    • Gangster
  1. Which three of the following concepts are associated with moral panics
    • Exaggeration
    • Enculturation
    • Symbolisation
    • Opinion Followers
    • Moral Entrepreneurs
    • Stereotypes
  1. Identify three terms from Roland Barthes’ signification process.
    • Language
    • Myth
    • Signifier
    • Anchorage
    • Referent
    • Ideology
  1. Which three of the following terms are from Charles Peirce’s classification of signs
    • Logo
    • Index
    • Concept
    • Object
    • Icon
    • Symbol
  1. Identify three codes from Barthes’ narrative theory.
    • Symbolic Codes
    • Lexical Codes
    • Semantic Codes
    • Hermeneutic Codes
    • Highway Codes
    • Technical Codes
  1. Identify which three of the following concepts are examples of Propp’s character types?
    • Anti-hero
    • Buddy
    • Donor
    • Helper
    • Villain
    • Final Girl

Essay-style Questions

This set of questions is more challenging because your need to construct an argument. They are a stronger test of your knowledge and understanding of the key concepts in media studies.

  1. To what extent is Lévi-Strauss’ concept of mytheme useful in analysing the media?
  2. How useful are Todorov’s concepts of disequilibrium and repair to understanding narratives in contemporary advertising?
  3. Explain in detail how signs achieve meaning through their relationships with other signs.
  4. Explain why it is important to critically assess culturally important signs. Give two examples from the media.
  5. Describe in detail the difference between action and enigma codes? Give an example of each narrative code from a film you have watched.
  6. Explain why the interplay of codes is an effective framework for understanding film genre.
  7. What methods can newspapers use to frame a story and help set the agenda?
  8. To what extent are Propp’s seven character types relevant to contemporary media products?
  9. What did Stanley Cohen mean by symbolisation in his description of a moral panic? Give one example of symbolisation in action.
  10. To what extent are the meanings of signs arbitrary?

Further Reading

If you want to apply the theories to media texts, you should try our semiotics practice questions. There are also questions which focus on narrative theories and genre which will help you prepare for the unseen section of the examination.

Stuart Hall argued audiences will decode messages through their individual frameworks of knowledge. Our interpretation of a text will be influenced by our background, culture, and mode of consumption. The same is true for teaching and learning. Since you will decode these exercises from your own perspective, you could try to construct your own comprehension questions. Go through the key concepts again and write open and closed questions to test your classmates’ knowledge.

Finally, the questions on this page focus on the facts and details of the various theories. Try evaluating the concepts. For instance, what is your opinion of Saussure’s sign theory or Barthes’ signification process? Which one is better for analysing a media text?

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