To write or not to write – that is the question. Students contemplating a master’s degree in communications or mass communications generally choose a thesis or no thesis program. One exception is the University of North Carolina’s online Master of Arts in Media and Communication; students have a mandatory thesis as the final project.
The Master of Science in Communication Studies at Eastern Washington University has four communication specializations: Cultural, Instructional, Organizational, and Technological. All four have two choices; you may select Option A – the thesis or research project. Alternatively, Option B, which consists of a written examination to test your knowledge of the entire program’s material. The former requires an oral exam conducted at least two weeks after submitting the research paper.
For students opting for a thesis or are in a program mandating one, your faculty advisor can help you with a topic. However, an internet search reveals numerous possibilities, many with different areas of concentration. For example, if your degree specializes in journalism, there are relevant topics from which to choose.
Why select a thesis program?
One reason is if you want to conduct research work upon graduation, the thesis is a means to gain experience researching, documenting, organization, and writing an informative paper. Your piece becomes the selection of an original subject upon which you expound using the master’s coursework knowledge. The length can vary from 20,000 to 40,000 words of a quality worthy of publishing. The finished product could be 40 to 80 pages, not including the bibliography. A seemingly daunting task, but you will be assisted early in the process by faculty.
Another reason to consider a thesis is if you plan to pursue a doctorate. Writing a thesis is excellent preparation for the research paper required in the Ph.D. program. The master’s thesis may also impress the admission panel of a doctorate program and increase your chances of acceptance.
You can start with a statement or a question. As mentioned above, the area of specialization in the master’s degree will influence your choices. The following are examples of concentrations and possible thesis subjects in question (Q) and statement (S) form.
- What are the best qualities of effective communicators in the corporate world?
- The importance of corporate Communication for the performance of the organization.
- What is the impact of public relations on local and global communities?
- The evolution of social media’s influence on the public’s perception of current events.
- Is investigative journalism important for mass communication, and how successful is it?
- The impact of technology on journalism
- What is the relationship between successful marketing and Communication?
- Marketing strategies and Communication
- How has social media changed the patterns of Communication compared to conventional mass media?
- The effects of social media on political campaigns and dissemination of political views.
- How do communication styles and personality traits affect an organization’s productivity and the public’s perception?
- Theories of Communication on leadership in the corporate world.
To reiterate, the choice of topic will coincide with your specific area of mass communication. The trend for master’s programs in this discipline is to offer multiple specializations. The Master of Arts in Communication at the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences at Johns Hopkins University has six:
- Applied Research in Communication
- Public and Media Relations
- Health Communication
- Digital Communication
- Political Communication
- Corporate and Nonprofit Communication
Bucking the trend is the online Master of Arts in Communication (non-thesis) at Arizona State University. The diverse study plan benefits human resource specialists, public relations specialists, corporate and marketing managers, sales personnel, and communication consultants.
As stated in the first paragraph, a thesis choice or not is a personal decision governed by your career and educational goals. Students set on pursuing a doctorate will benefit from the experience of researching and preparing a lengthy paper. Graduates who do not intend to do research work or earning a Ph.D. may forgo the thesis when given a choice.
Perhaps there are other projects equally challenging instead of the rigors of a thesis. The extra time may allow you to take additional courses to enhance your future resume. Before committing, talk to other students and faculty about the pros and cons of a thesis program.