- Masters of Science in Journalism
Welcome to the Master of Science program of the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. The following information and suggestions are based on the questions most frequently asked by master’s students and are designed to help you succeed in and graduate from the program. Additional information is contained in the Graduate Catalog; you also are well advised to become familiar with what is there. If you have questions, please see the graduate director (Mike Sweeney) or any member of the graduate committee.
The Master of Science in journalism:
* 35 semester hours (except for readings option), including 32 semester hours in classroom work. Three of the 35 credits will be thesis or professional project, and will not require classroom work.
* Financial aid available for two semesters, with limited possibilities for an extension.
* Classes will be 3 credit hours (5000 to 7000 level) and 4 credits (8000-level)
* Students must take two topics seminars and one advanced research techniques class, or one topics seminar and two advanced research techniques classes.
* Students have the capstone option of a thesis (3 credits), professional project (3 credits), or readings option (1 credit plus additional coursework). Students choosing the readings option must take at least 36 classroom credits and must take at least two 8000-level classes beyond those in the core and in the topics and advanced research requirements.
* Master’s students who have successfully completed an undergraduate law or ethics class in the five years prior to starting their MS degree at OU may waive the class. All others must take 5100 (Communication Law) and 7200 or 8130 (Ethics, Internet and Society), with those classes counting toward the credits needed for the degree.
* A new 1-credit class, 5020 Thesis Proposal, is required for all students in their second semester. It will be supervised by one professor. Successful defense of the thesis or professional project proposal is required for CR credit.
Typical MS program:
PRE-CORE (if necessary)
6011 Writing and Reporting (3 credits, fall semester)
6010 Graphics and Editing (3 credits, spring semester)
CORE (up to 16 hours)
5010 Intro to Grad Studies (1)
5020 Thesis Proposal (1)
8030 Seminar in Mass Communication Theory (4)
8060 Research Methods (4)
5100 Communication Law (3) – may be waived if student has taken in the last five years
7200 or 8130 Ethics (3) – May be waived if student has taken in the last five years
Advanced Research Techniques and Research Topics Seminars (3 classes, minimum of 10 hours)
Three 7000-level and/or 8000-level classes, but at least one class must be from advanced research techniques and at least one must be from research topics seminars. Certain 8000-level School of Media Arts and Studies (MDIA) classes may be used for advanced research techniques with approval of the graduate director.
Common Advanced Research Techniques:
Historical Research in Journalism
Seminar in Research Methods
Seminar in Content Analysis
Common Research Topics Seminar:
Internet, Ethics, and Society (also meets ethics requirement)
Literature of Journalism
Seminar in Freedom of the Press
Magazine Research and Development
Seminar in International Mass Media
Public Relations Problems and Programs
Special Topics Seminar (Jour 8900, varies from semester to semester)
Electives: Minimum of 4 credits. Any graduate-level class or classes (first number is a 5 or higher) required to get to 35 credits, including the capstone.
In selecting electives, you may count any graduate course (5000 level or above) at Ohio University. However, you should choose your electives carefully and select courses that you believe will further your education and help you following graduation. This, of course, requires you to consider your career goals.
Professional Project or Thesis: 3 credits (no classroom work required)
All master’s students must take a minimum of four courses from Ohio University’s journalism school, not including Journalism 5010 (Introduction to Graduate Study) and thesis, professional project or reading option courses. Of the four courses, not more than one may be Journalism 6940 (Research in Journalism and Communications).
An independent study course (J7930), which is arranged through a faculty member selected by the student, is usually designed to offer an opportunity to study something in depth that is not offered in a regular course. However, a student has occasionally taken a regular course in this manner because of extraordinary circumstances which made it impossible to attend class. All independent studies can only be taken on a credit-non credit basis (a student must do at least B-work in order to get credit), and no more than three hours of credit will be allowed for each such study unless it replaces a regular course (as mentioned above) of four hours. Note that you can take more than one J7930 in the course of getting your degree, and that J7930s count in your 35 hours. See the graduate director for a form to take a J7930 course.
Since most new master’s students enter the program in the fall semester, a special orientation meeting is held shortly before classes begin. At that meeting, students have an opportunity to meet each other as well as the faculty, to discuss the program, and to be advised on what courses they should take. The meeting concludes with members of the graduate committee being available to help students in planning their fall schedules as they register for classes online.
Then, during the year, if you have scheduling questions or problems, the graduate director will help you. The graduate director’s office is in 106-B Scripps Hall; the telephone number is 593-2589 the fax number is 593-2592, and the email address is email@example.com. After you select a faculty member to chair your thesis, professional project, or readings committee, that faculty member may serve as your academic adviser until you complete your degree. By the end of fall semester, master’s students usually should have identified a topic for a thesis or professional project and a faculty member to chair their committee. Until you pick a thesis adviser, the graduate director will act as your academic adviser. You are encouraged to ask Dr. Sweeney’s advice as you plan your program.
In spring semester, you will choose a professor for the 1-credit JOUR 5020 Thesis Proposal class. You will work with that professor to research, write and defend a thesis or professional project proposal by the end of the semester.
In meeting the minimum requirement of 35 hours, you may transfer up to 8 semester hours of graduate courses (providing they are not thesis or internship hours) that were taken at another college or university. Only those courses with a grade of B or better may be transferred.
To transfer the hours, you must fill out an Authorization for Transfer of Credit form, which may be obtained from and must be returned to the graduate director (along with an original transcript from the college from which you want to transfer credits). Approval of the courses, which ultimately rests with the Dean of the College of Communication, usually is routine. For further information on transferring credit, consult the Graduate Catalog.
Lack of Equivalent Background
In addition to the required courses for all master’s students, up to two courses will be required of those students who lack academic work or professional experience to cover the subject matter of undergraduate courses in newswriting/reporting and editing/graphics. If you believe that one or both of these courses should be waived because you took a similar course at Ohio University or elsewhere or have equivalent professional experience, fill out a waiver slip which will be provided when you enter the program and present it to the graduate director, who will determine if a waiver is warranted.
Time Limit for Completing the Program
You are allowed six years to complete your work toward a master’s degree. The “clock” begins running after you have been admitted to the program and in the semester in which you take your first graduate course at Ohio University. Therefore, if you take your first class at OU in the fall semester of 2012 you have until the end of the summer in 2018 to complete your degree.
Under extraordinary circumstances, you may be granted a one-term extension by the dean beyond the six years to complete your degree. The graduate committee does not encourage students to delay their work so that an extension is necessary, but it also realizes that circumstances occasionally make an extension unavoidable and therefore justifiable.
If you need an extension, you must write a letter to the graduate director before the six years expire explaining why you have not completed your work within the six-year period, how close you are to finishing, and how up to date you are in this field (in other words, describe your work experiences). Then, the graduate director will send his recommendation, along with your letter, to the dean.
Capstone Options: Overview
The School of Journalism does not give comprehensive exams to master’s students. In choosing your capstone option—thesis, professional project or readings option—select the one that will do the most for you rather than the one that appears the easiest. In actuality, all are rigorous exercises that require considerable time and mental effort.
Students may sign up for thesis (Jour 6950) or project (Jour 6650) or readings (Jour 6750) hours even before their committees are formed. Only 3 thesis/project hours count for graduation, but students often take more than 3 hours for various reasons.
Whatever the choice of capstone option, a student’s project, thesis proposal, or readings must be approved in advance by a three-person committee. The committee normally is made up of three faculty members from the School of Journalism. A faculty member from another department or school at Ohio University may be on the committee (but cannot be the chair) if there is a good reason for this, such as expertise or knowledge. In addition to full-time faculty members in journalism, those part-time faculty members who have permanent status as well as visiting faculty members can serve on a committee, although they cannot chair it.
In the process of evolving a professional project or thesis idea, or forming a readings option committee, the student should discuss it with a faculty member (or members) to find a person to chair the committee. When such a person is found and agrees to serve as chair, after consultation with the chair, two other persons should be asked to be on the committee. Then, the student should see the graduate director, who will fill out a form listing the committee members and place the form in the student’s personal file. If a student wishes to have a part-timer, a visiting faculty member or someone from another department on the committee, this must be approved by the graduate director.
The chair of a thesis should be someone with appropriate research or professional experience, a record of scholarly and/or professional accomplishments, and effective teaching at the advanced graduate and undergraduate levels. Thus, there should be a close fit between the faculty member’s capability and the student’s research focus. Any journalism faculty member may chair a professional project or a readings option.
Changes in a committee may be made at any time for valid reasons, such as a committee member leaving Ohio University to work elsewhere (a person may remain on the committee if he or she wishes). However, it behooves a student not to request a change simply because a committee member suddenly turns out to be a demanding scholar. The best advice is to select a committee carefully. If a student feels a change is necessary, the graduate director must be given the reason for the change and must approve it, and the person being dropped from the committee must be informed by the student.
After the selection of a thesis or professional project committee, the student should present a proposal to each committee member. (See below for readings option.) The proposal will outline the study: what is to be done, how it will be done, why it is important and what others have done on the topic. After discussing a proposal with the committee chair, a student should proceed with the thesis or project only after a proposal is approved during a meeting with the three committee members; in some cases, two members will attend the meeting with the student, and the third will supply written comments. Often a thesis or project expands on work done in a class, but it may not be exactly the same as a paper already done for a seminar.
When the proposal is approved, the cover sheet should be signed by all of the committee members and given to the graduate director, who will place it in the student’s file. The proposal must be filed no later than 60 days before the oral defense. Furthermore, the graduate committee expects that the proposal will be signed and approved before a full-time student leaves school or in the first 13 months of taking coursework, whichever comes first. If a student proceeds before a proposal is approved, the committee might reject what is proposed and the work done toward the thesis or project will be disregarded. In some cases, the project or thesis may change (with the committee’s approval) as unexpected material or obstacles are encountered. Any such changes are usually suggested by the student and not the committee. In writing the project or thesis, the student should work closely with the chair, who may require several drafts before the work is deemed to be presentable to the rest of the committee.
When the professional project or the thesis is completed, following the guidelines of Thesis and Dissertation Services (which is available at http://www.finearts.ohio.edu/gfx/media/pdf/thesesanddissertations0506.pdf), it must be defended orally before the three-person committee. The student and chair are expected to attend the defense in person, rather than by teleconferencing, except in extraordinary circumstances.
To schedule a defense, the student—after receiving the approval of the chair—must give a copy of the thesis, project, or readings critiques to each committee member, and a date and time will be set no sooner than a week later when all three committee members are available. If one of the committee members cannot be present at the defense because of extraordinary circumstances (such as being away from Athens for a long period of time), the defense may take place before only two committee members. The third committee member may submit written comments. It may never take place, however, with only one committee member.
During the oral defense, which typically lasts between 60 and 90 minutes, the student will be asked to defend the thesis, project, or readings critiques by answering questions. If one member other than the chair cannot attend, s/he must present comments in writing or, better yet, through a teleconferencing call at the time of the defense. Then, the student will be asked to leave the room, and the committee will vote to take one of three actions: accept, accept with major or minor changes, or reject and require another oral after major revisions or additions have been made. The student will be recalled and told of the committee’s decision.
Barring a total rejection, any changes requested will be made and approved by either the chair or the entire committee. Then, a final copy will be filed through the Thesis and Dissertation Services office. One copy must be bound and submitted to the Scripps School of Journalism. The final version will be checked by the chair and TAD services to ensure that they conform to the guidelines in “Theses and Dissertations: Guidelines for Format and Presentation.” You should pay careful attention to the directions, since changes and corrections may be costly and time consuming.
With a thesis, a student also must write an abstract.
Deadlines for applying for graduation are posted online by the Graduate College.
Professional Project: This option provides a student with an opportunity to do an in-depth mass media project that will not only hone writing and reporting skills but will possibly help in obtaining a full-time job. To connect course work with the world of media work, anyone doing a professional project must include a research section in the final version. In this way a student can demonstrate knowledge of scholarly research sources and methods. Such knowledge strengthens the point that seeking a master’s in journalism is simply not attendance at a trade school. While the exact contents and the length of the research chapter will be determined by the three-member committee, it should address the question of what is important in the project. For example, a public relations media kit could include research on persuasion theory, while a series of articles could be elucidated by addressing each level of the Hierarchy of Influences model on content. The purpose of the professional project is to meld research and mass communication skills.
Thesis: This option, a traditional capstone of many master’s programs, is strongly recommended fur anyone considering a doctorate, even if a person plans to work before returning to graduate school. However, it also may be highly useful and rewarding for someone with no Ph.D aspirations. For example, a student considering law school might want to do a study of communications law, and another person considering newspaper management as a career might want to do a statistical readership survey. Finally, some students do a thesis simply because they find a subject that interests and excites them, and it fits a thesis mold better than that of a professional project.
Theses employ an important question of interest to scholars, scholarly research methods, and a scholarly written treatment of the subject. A thesis may be largely quantitative, generally qualitative, or a mixture of the two. Likewise, it may employ survey tools, content analysis, legal or historical research methods, a restructuring or testing of mass communication theories, or a combination of tools and methods. Those who choose to do a thesis will be encouraged to report their findings in a 25-page version submitted to a conference such as AEJMC.
Readings: This option centers on the student’s carefully reading and analyzing six books. The readings option is not strongly encouraged for those who think they might seek a Ph.D. because it might affect their admission to such a program. Like the professional project, it is designed for
those who are planning a career in some area of mass communication outside of university teaching or research, and this option provides an opportunity to take more electives.
Students choosing the readings option must take at least 36 classroom credits and must take at least two 8000-level classes beyond those in the core and in the topics and advanced research requirements.
The student will meet with the committee to propose and discuss the area or areas in which the student wishes to read and be examined. At the meeting, deadlines and plans for the defense of the readings will be discussed, along with guidelines for the written summary or report the student will give to committee members in advance of the defense. To enable committee members to examine the student on all six books and their interrelationships, these analytical summaries should be provided to all members of the committee at least two weeks before the defense. Each book should be summarized and analyzed in 1,200 to 1,500 words or four-to-five pages (double-spaced) and an additional four-to-five page essay should synthesize the readings. Committee members may at the meeting or soon thereafter provide names of books for the chair, the committee, and the student.
Thesis, Professional Project and Readings Option Hours
While only 3 thesis or professional project hours may count toward the 35 hours needed for graduation, and only 1 readings hour will count toward the 36 classroom hours needed to complete the readings option, more hours may be taken for several reasons. First, you must register for a minimum of one hour of thesis, professional project or readings option credit during the semester in which you graduate. Therefore, many students end up taking an extra hour to meet this requirement, frequently because they graduate later than expected. Second, students who have TA/GA/RAships or fee waivers must take a minimum of 15 hours per semester to qualify for their scholarships. Thus, they sometimes take extra thesis, professional project or readings option hours to reach the required minimum for a semester. The bottom line is that this school does not encourage taking more than the necessary thesis, professional project or readings option hours, but it may be done for justifiable reasons. Students don’t need a committee to sign up for thesis hours.
Sometimes a faculty member may co-author an article with a master’s student. Co-authorship signifies that collaboration has taken place, and each of the authors has contributed significantly to the work. Chairing a thesis or professional project does not constitute collaboration and does not warrant co-authorship. Thus, a student can give a paper or publish an article from a thesis or a professional project without listing the chair as a co-author. However, if a faculty member contributes significantly to a thesis or professional project revision that is required for publication in a journal or presentation at a convention, then co-authorship may be warranted. If, however, the article or paper is the result of a joint research project and each author has done about the same amount of work, the names should be listed alphabetically.
In listing co-authors of an article or paper, the authors should discuss the order of the names.
The student should have done substantially more work on articles or papers stemming from a thesis or professional project and thus should be listed first.
Acceptable Grades and Grade-Point Average
A master’s student must make no lower than a B-minus in any required graduate-level course, or it must be retaken. A second grade lower than a B-minus in the same required course will result in dismissal from the program. Furthermore, no graduate-level elective courses taken at Ohio University with a grade below B-minus will count toward the hours needed for graduation.
A student also will be dismissed from the program for the following:
Making more than two grades of C+ or below in all courses.
Making a B-minus or lower twice in the same 6011 writing and reporting course.
Being found guilty of cheating or committing plagiarism. One form of cheating is preparing a project or paper for one class and then using it in a second course without informing the teacher. Faculty members have the right to prohibit the use of projects or papers prepared for other classes.
All students are expected to maintain a minimum grade point average of 3.0 for all courses counting toward graduation (which precludes students from taking classes on a pass-fail basis).
If a student drops below 3.0, the graduate director will confer with members of journalism faculty who have had the student in class and particularly those who have given the student any grades below a B. Then, the graduate director will usually notify the student in writing of the problem, as well as sometimes have a meeting, and frequently give the student one semester to raise the GPA to at least 3.0. A dismissal will occur only with the approval of a majority of the graduate committee. In reaching such a decision, the graduate director has only one vote.
PR’s and I’s
Two types of incompletes are given at Ohio University. A PR (signifying In Progress) stays on a student’s record until it is replaced with a grade. An I (Incomplete) normally lasts until the end of the sixth week of the next regular semester (fall or spring) when a student is enrolled, although a faculty member can require that it be completed sooner than the sixth week. Any I not replaced with a grade by a faculty member in the specified amount of time automatically turns into an F.
The graduate committee feels strongly that PR’s (except for thesis, professional project and readings option hours) are highly destructive because they have no automatic time limit for completion. Thus, PR’s encourage a student to delay completing a course, and the accumulation of several PR’s makes it difficult to finish coursework and graduate. Therefore, the graduate committee encourages all journalism faculty members to give only I’s to master’s students with the exception of PR’s for thesis, professional project and readings option hours.
TA’s/GA’s and Fee Waiver Scholarships
A small number of master’s students are selected each year as graduate associates and a few are named teaching associates. While TAs teach a class and make their own hours, a GA is expected to work 6 hours per week if receiving a tuition waiver only, or 10 to 12 hours a week if receiving a waiver and stipend; GA positions vary from working in the graduate director’s office to working outside the School of Journalism at the College of Medicine or College of Engineering. RAs work 6 or 10 to 12 hours a week with a specific faculty member, depending on the financial assistance they receive. Most TAs/GAs working in Scripps are assigned a desk or work area, and all have a mail box in the building.
All TAs and GAs must take a minimum of 15 unaudited graduate hours each semester. These hours are paid for by a fee waiver. In addition, those receiving this type of financial aid should be aware of other rules and regulations in the Graduate Catalog, as well as the following: Anyone with a TA/GA/RAship, or a scholarship (such as a Fulbright), in a spring or fall semester will likely receive a fee waiver in the summer bordering on that semester; students must sign up for 9 hours or credit for summer.
Those with financial aid are expected to maintain a minimum grade point average of 3.0.
Anyone not doing so is likely to have his or her aid rescinded.
Financial aid from the School of Journalism is rarely extended beyond one year. Therefore, if you are given a TA/GA/RAship when you enter the school, do not count on that continuing beyond the length of the initial contract.
If you desire financial aid from the school for the following academic year, you must notify the graduate director no later than April 1, but school resources for study beyond one year are extremely limited.
Since you can complete your course work in one calendar year, a common pattern is to work on your capstone on your own; your out-of-pocket at the most would amount to paying for 1 credit in the semester in which you graduate.
The E. W. Scripps School of Journalism is highly selective in those it admits to the master’s program, and your acceptance is an indication that we think you will succeed. We are happy to have you, and we wish you the best. Good luck!