Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Semester of Degree Completion


Thesis Director

Molly Niesen


This thesis examines print advertisements in Parents, a popular parenting magazine, for a period of two years. This study uses critical discourse analysis to find meaning in these print advertisements. Through this analysis, three prominent themes were found in the two-year data collection period. The first of which is the #1 Recommended, a theme that highlights the cultural importance of using only products that have been recommended by medical professionals or hospitals, thereby emphasizing the social power of such persons or establishments. The second is comfort, care, and the good stuff, a theme that highlights a maternal desire to provide comfort, care, and the good stuff for one's child, doing so by purchasing the products that promote being able to best comfort and care for children. The third is fun and imagination, a theme that highlights a contemporary desire for children to be children, in which fun and imagination is fostered, done so by again, purchasing products that taut being able to foster this fun and imagination in children. All three themes subsequently underscore the oftentimes manipulative wording and phrasing used in advertisements. Manipulative wording and phrasing which is used specifically because it is effective to sometimes guilt viewers into becoming consumers. This thesis makes connections between the themes discovered through this analysis and the themes seen in previous analyses, while at the same time answering questions such as, what are guilt appeals really communicating, what are the larger cultural assumptions, how have advertising messages changed since the 1920s, and more. This thesis looks at advertisements and the emotional appeals within them, yet the wider suggestion this thesis makes about these advertisements is that emotional appeals, and the overall messages in advertisements as a whole are much deeper in meaning than simply using guilt as a means to get moms to buy products.