MC4M1      Half Unit
Methods of Research in Media & Communications (including Qualitative & Quantitative Analysis)

This information is for the 2015/16 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Ellen Helsper (STC.S119c) - MIchaelmas, Lent and Summer Term


This course is compulsory on the MSc in Global Media and Communications (LSE and Fudan), MSc in Global Media and Communications (LSE and USC), MSc in Media and Communications, MSc in Media and Communications (Media and Communications Governance), MSc in Media, Communication and Development and MSc in Politics and Communication. This course is available on the MSc in Gender, Media and Culture and MSc in Media and Communications (Data and Society). This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Course content

The aims of the course are to provide students with a general training in research methods and techniques, including research design, the collection, analysis and interpretation of data, and to enable students to evaluate critically their own research and that of professional researchers.

The course has three components:

i. Principles of Research in Media and Communications: a series of lectures offered by media and communications staff in MT. The lectures will normally cover the following topics central to research design across the social sciences, with a specific emphasis on their application to media and communications contexts: the general nature of research as social inquiry, interviewing, critical discourse analysis, content analysis, visual analysis, survey design/questionnaires, case studies, ethnography and participant observation, as well as research ethics.

ii. Principles of Social Research: a series of five three-hour workshops (each comprised of two 1.5-hour sessions) offered by media and communications staff in the LT. Students are required to participate in two of the workshops.

iii. Quantitative Analysis: Students have to take the following course offered by the Methodology Department: MY451M Introduction to Quantitative Analysis. Please note that this statistics course is compulsory and automatically included when you register for the standard MC4M1 course. (Students may be permitted to substitute a more advanced Quantitative Analysis course offered by the Methodology Department in place of MY451, with the approval of the MC4M1 course convenor and subject to timetabling constraints.)


i. Principles of Research in Media and Communications: Lecture (one hour) x 10 MT; Lecture on Writing Methodological Critiques (one hour) x 1 LT.

ii. Principles of Social Research: Workshop (three hours) x 2 LT (each comprised of two separate 1.5 hour sessions).

iii. Quantitative Analysis MY451: Lecture (two hours) x 9 MT; Computer class (one hour) x 9 MT.    

iv. Methodology pilot drop in clinic: Workshop (two hours) x 1 ST.                    

Formative coursework

i. Principles of Research in Media and Communications: All students are expected to complete advance readings and submit one essay of 1,500 words to their supervisors in week 10 of MT. 

ii. Principles of Social Research: All students are expected to complete advance readings and submit workshop assignments. 

iii. Quantitative Analysis: Most statistics courses require weekly assignments

Indicative reading

Adams, R. C. (1989) Social Survey Methods for Mass Media Research, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates;

Alasuutari, P. (1995) Researching Culture, Sage;

Bryman, A. (2001) Social Research Methods. Oxford: Oxford University Press;

Bauer, M. W. & Gaskell, G. (Eds) (2000) Qualitative Researching with Text, Image and Sound: A Practical Handbook, Sage;

Bell, A. and Garrett, P. (eds.) (1998) Approaches to Media Discourse, Oxford: Blackwell;

Burton, D. (2000) Research Training for Social Scientists: A Handbook for Postgraduate Researchers, Sage;

Deacon, D. et al. (1999) Researching Communications: A Practical Guide to Methods in Media and Cultural Analysis, Oxford University Press;

Dillman, D.A., Smythe, J.D. & Christian, L.M. (2009) Internet, Mail, and Mixed-mode Surveys: The Tailored Design Method (3rd edition). John Wiley & Sons;

Flick, U. (1998) An Introduction to Qualitative Research, Sage;

Hansen, A. et al. (1998) Mass Communications Research Methods, Macmillan;

Habermas, J. (1997) Knowledge and Human Interest, Polity;

Jensen, K. B. & Jankowski, N. (Eds) (1991) A Handbook of Qualitative Methodologies for Mass Communications Research, Routledge;

Kent, R. (1994) Measuring Media Audiences, Routledge;

Krippendorf, K. (2004) Content Analysis: An introduction to Its Methodology (2nd edition), Sage;

Robson, C. (1993) Real World Research: A Resource for Social Scientists and Practitioner Researchers, Blackwell;

Rose, G. (2011) Visual Methodologies (3rd edition). Sage;

Schroeder, K., Drotner, K., Kline, S., Murray, C. (2003) Researching Audiences. London: Arnold;

Silverman, D. (Ed) (2010) Doing Qualitative Research (3rd Edition), Sage;

Vis, F. & Thelwall, M. (January, 2014) Researching Social Media, Sage;

Webster, R. P. (1985) Basic Content Analysis, Sage.

Yin, R.K. (2013) Case Study Research: Design and Methods (5th edition), Sage;

No one book covers the entire syllabus; students will be expected to read widely in appropriate journals, and a list of references will be provided at the start of the course and in advance of the workshops. In Lent Term students will be provided with examples of journal articles in which the discussed research methods are applied.


1. Coursework: One written assignment of not more than 3,000 words, relating to the combination of Principles of Research in Media and Communications and Principles of Social Research to be submitted in ST Week 2 (80%).

2. A two-hour examination in the ST relating to Quantitative Analysis (MY451M) (20%).

Students have to complete both assessments (written assignment and statistics exam) on this course.

Student performance results

(2011/12 - 2013/14 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 24.6
Merit 50.9
Pass 20.7
Fail 3.9

Teachers' comment

This course confronts you with your own biases; it shows how using different methodologies and ways of observing the world lead to asking different questions and, therefore, different answers and relates this to the ethical and moral implications of doing research.

Students' comments

"Lectures gave guidelines of how to incorporate specific methodologies into our dissertations, as well as outlining the basics of the methods themselves and this was something which I found to be invaluable."

Key facts

Department: Media & Communications

Total students 2014/15: 229

Average class size 2014/15: 13

Controlled access 2014/15: Yes

Lecture capture used 2014/15: Yes (MT)

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Application of numeracy skills
  • Specialist skills