You’ve done it! The application has been accepted, the forms filled out and you’re officially in graduate school. Congratulations! Now it’s time for your first class and you either have clear expectations or no idea what to expect. Not to worry, this week’s Ask-A-Grad post provides a glimpse into one of the first classes you will take as a graduate student in the Master of Arts in Communication program at the University of Charleston, South Carolina-College of Charleston: COMM 500: Introduction to Graduate Studies.
At first glance, you might assume this will be a semester-long “orientation” type of class. It’s true, you will learn about registering for classes, picking a program focus, finding an adviser and settling into graduate school life, but you will also be expected to read articles in various areas of the communication discipline, write papers, work on group projects and give presentations. Below is snapshot of life in COMM 500.
The History of Communication as a Discipline: Learning the history of the discipline is a great way to determine how it will further your ability to think as a Communications scholar. For example, communication draws from many different disciplines, including psychology and sociology, and understanding how the doctrines of those areas influence communication will aid in your understanding of communication scholarship. You will also learn why Communication scholars are so passionate about the work that they do, and how to defend your field to others.
How to Complete a Graduate- Level Research Project: Here is where already knowing your area of interest is beneficial at this point in your graduate school career. After learning the research design process, you are going to be expected to design and conduct a research project (surprise!). You’re going to be doing a lot of research in this class, so if you enjoy the topic, it makes life easier and more enjoyable. Although undergraduate research experience is helpful to the research process discussed in COMM 500, this is not an undergraduate class. You’ll be expected to conduct rigorous primary and secondary research, and this portion of the class acts as a wonderful guide. The page counts may be higher than you have ever written before, but the opportunity to get your work published rises as well, which is a goal of every graduate student. Below is a list of the various topics being investigated for the COMM 500 Research Prospectus due at the end of the semester:
-Developing a contraceptive uptake campaign for Latinas
-Content analysis of the methods used in the delivery of Ted Talks and why some work better than others.
-Discovering how destination images and brands influence travel decisions.
-Why a brand story for non-profit organizations within social media is so important.
-How members of law enforcement create identities as “protectors” when they’re portrayed negatively in their communities
-Investigating the experiences had by first generation college students
The Difference between Qualitative and Quantitative Research: Part of learning how to complete a graduate-level research project is understanding the methodology behind it. Methods are extremely important as they help determine the research blueprint. In essence, your methodological approach determines the entire direction of your project. COMM 500 exposes you to different methodological paradigms and assumptions and gives you the methods toolbox to carryout investigations in those different paradigms of communication scholarship.
This is just a snapshot of the major themes covered in the COMM 500 class. It’s extremely helpful to have this class first, as professor expectations for your work increase as your time in the program increases. Following the COMM 500 experience, you should truly feel prepared to create and conduct various research projects as well as the required assignments throughout your master’s program. The MCOM program loves having visitors come to class, so feel free to contact Dr. Amanda Ruth McSwain to set up a classroom visit.