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WRIT 110 College Writing: WRIT 110 A,C,F


Contagious Research Assignment


For this assignment, I want you to take something that is not currently popular (or mainstream) and explain how you would remarket or change this thing to make it go “viral” using the theories given in Contagious. There are many different places where these theories can be applied. To give you some ideas, you could . . .


  • Look at a cause/policy/organization/idea that’s not getting the attention or support it deserves

  • Take a movie (or other piece of entertainment) that flopped

  • Find a team struggling for publicity

  • Use a brand/product not getting recognition.

Look at what you encounter in your everyday life for inspiration. What problems would you like to see fixed or made better? You may
not use a topic or example already given in the readings.


You will complete this essay in two parts. The first part will be to prepare an online version of your research for the general public, similar to what you did for the First Person Article, where you should include multimedia (photos, videos, etc.). The second part is to take your online version and “convert” it to a scholarly article written for an academic audience in either APA or MLA format. (I’ll teach you some quick tricks; it’s easier than you think!)


Your essay should be about 1,800 words and must use Contagious plus other credible sources to provide the information needed in each of the four sections of your essay, which are:


  • Introduce your topic. Explain why your topic at the moment isn’t contagious. What is currently being done wrong? You should also give some of the history of this topic and explain why it’s not popular to begin with.
  • Introduce the theory from Contagious that you want to apply to your topic to make it “viral.” You may use more than one theory from the book as well as any of the other theories covered in the other class readings. (You don’t have to use the chapter you presented on.)
  • Show how this theory has been successfully used on a similar topic. If you want to make a public awareness campaign viral, then give an example of a public awareness campaign that you think succeeded in going viral. You may use examples from any of the readings for this section; however, you need to do more than just summarize what Berger or the other author has already said. You need to provide additional research to show how this topic became popular and applied the theory you’re discussing in Section 2.
  • Apply the theory from Contagious to your topic. Explain what needs to change about your topic to make it “viral.” How will you change it? Do you need to create a piece of marketing? Explain how your change follows the Contagious theory and will make your topic more viral. This section should be detailed and outline the changes needed. You can even do a mockup of the change, i.e. a marketing poster (just don’t get too carried away).

Contagious Theories

The following six theories provide context and understanding for why some things "catch on" and others don't, taken from:

Berger, J. (2013). Contagious: Why things catch on. New York: Simon & Schuster.

  1. We Share Things that Make Us Look Good
  2. Top of Mind, Tip of Tongue
  3. When We Care, We Share
  4. Built to Show, Built to Grow
  5. News You Can Use
  6. Information Travels Under the Guise of Idle Chatter


What Contagious theory would apply for the following examples?

  • 3D printing of human organs
  • Flat tax (rather than federal income or state income tax)
  • Why was Ben-Hur (2016) a box office failure?
  • "Tiny house" communities vs. homeless camps

Research Resources

Useful Library Resources: