Media Studies Curriculum

In the master of arts in media studies program, you can specialize in two distinct tracks, catering to your unique interests and career aspirations.

Whether you plan to become an academic researcher contributing to the field’s scholarly knowledge or a media business researcher driving innovation and success in entertainment companies, this program gives you the tools and expertise to excel in your chosen area.

Media studies offers an academic research track and a professional research track.

Academic Research Track

The academic research track is designed for students planning to pursue a Ph.D. It focuses on the skills and knowledge you will need to excel in academic and research-oriented roles. This track dives into the core theories and concepts that drive media studies and it emphasizes the critical exploration of media’s influence on society and culture.

Professional Research Track

The professional research track is designed to prepare you for research-oriented jobs. You will delve into the world of trend spotting and market research within the entertainment media industry and learn how to identify and capitalize on emerging trends in media and entertainment.

You do not have to declare your preferred track until after the first year, although the eventual selection will impact your choice of classes.

Media Studies Master’s Degree Core Courses

Theory Courses (6 credits)

COM 755 – Communications Theory
Application of information theory to mass communications problems. Nature of the communications process in groups and between mass media and audiences. Contribution of theoretical concepts to solving specific problems.
COM 788 – Theories of Media Content
Influences on media content over five levels of analysis: individual, media routines, organizational, social institutions, and social systems. Seminar participants are responsible for leading discussions and writing a theoretical paper.

Methods Courses (6 credits)

COM 605 – Quantitative Methods for Mass Communications Research
Philosophical and practical implications of quantitative research. Application of survey research, experiments and content analysis to mass communications research. Statistical analysis and use of statistical software. Students conduct primary research.
COM 606 – Qualitative Methods for Mass Communications Research
Philosophical and practical implications of qualitative research. Application of textual analysis, in-depth interviews, and focus groups to mass communications research. Analysis of qualitative data and writing of research results. Students conduct primary research.

Media Law (Choose one, 3 credits)*

COM 697 – Advertising & Public Relations Law
Students will learn the fundamental cases and laws that apply to the advertising and public relations fields.  Topics include First Amendment, corporate speech, intellectual property, defamation and advertising regulation.
COM 698 – Media Law
Problems in media law, including libel, privacy, fair trial/free press, obscenity.
TRF 637 – Telecommunications Law & Policy
Introduction to the law and policies that influence the telecommunications industries. Covers the policy environment, historical, and current developments.

Diversity Course (3 credits)

COM 646 – Media and Diversity
Analysis of contemporary media processes as they relate to race, ethnicity, class, gender, and sexual orientation.

Research Design Course (3 credits)

COM 601 – Research Project Design
All aspects of designing academic or applied research projects. Students write proposals that include introductory, literature review, and methodology chapters. Practical matters associated with successful completion of a significant research project.


Required Non-Credit Experience (0 credits)

COM 701 – Proseminar for Graduate Study
Required for all first-year Ph.D. and Media Studies Master’s students. Topics to include academic integrity, research resources, major communication organizations and journals, and faculty research. Specific focus to vary annually.

Academic Research Track Courses

Academic research track students can choose from a variety of courses including:

ADV 645 – International Advertising
Challenges and ethical issues in international advertising. Discussions concerning comparative cultural, geo-economic, and socio-political conditions relevant to topic. “Glocalization” will be the main focus in the discussions.
COM 688 – Origins of Contemporary Media Issues
Historic origins and development of current issues in mass communications, involving the structure and function of the media.
COM 777 – Seminar in Media Effects
Course examines research and theory on media effects as well as problems associated with conducting effects research. Focus is primarily on social scientific approaches to media effects. Students are expected to conduct original research.
TRF 592 – Film Business
Economics of the film industry. Financing of films, budgets, sources of funds, contracts. Securing distribution. National and international marketing of films. Film rental. Booking films for television or theater. Exploitation of ancillary markets.
TRF 595 – Programming and Audience Analysis
Immersion in the principal programming functions of content development and acquisition, scheduling, and promotion. Survey of scheduling strategies and case studies, hits and misses. Research techniques to understand audience program preferences and choices.
TRF 636 – Critical and Historical Perspectives on Television, Radio and Film
Non-print media as art forms and social, political and cultural forces. Critical analysis of individual products of broadcasting and motion pictures in relation to the systems for which they were created.

Thesis (3 credits)

COM – 997 Masters Thesis (Required)1-6

Optional Benchmark (0 credits)**

Research Benchmark Trip0

Total credits for program: 36

Professional Research Track Courses

Professional research track students can choose from a variety of courses including:

COM 628 – Social Media Strategy and Practice
This course will examine communications theories and their professional application to social media. Students will gain hands-on experience and learn best practices and strategies for how to stay on top of the ever-changing digital landscape.
COM 634 – Trendspotting in Digital Media
Students analyze current and future technologies, searching for innovative and disruptive new media, platforms, and careers. They will learn strategies to recognize potential trends.
COM 647 – Applied Media Research
Application of communications research techniques to specific problems of broadcasting, advertising, newspapers, magazines, and public relations. Individual and group projects.
MMI 617 – The Changing Media Landscape
An intensive reading course where students explore key economic, strategic and technological forces changing media businesses.
TRF 594 – Television Business
Management principles and practices in electronic media; organizational structures, financial controls, revenue procurement, economic theory, management law, product development, and personnel administration.
TRF 696 – Research for Entertainment Media
This course focuses on research practices in relation to entertainment media questions and problems. Students become critical consumers and evaluators of qualitative- & quantitative-based reports and metrics. Students apply methodological procedures to questions of particular interest.

Capstone Course

COMM 690 – Independent Study
Exploration of a problem, or problems, in depth. Individual independent study upon a plan submitted by the student. Admission by consent of supervising instructor(s) and the department.

Required Benchmark (0 credits)

Research Benchmark Trip0

Total credits for program: 36

* Note: If students took a comparable media law class as an undergraduate and passed it with at least a B, they could waive the law requirement and take an additional elective.

** Research Benchmark trip:  This would be optional for academic-track students, and it would occur during Spring semester in New York City (and utilize the Fisher Center). Like other Newhouse benchmark trips, the purpose is to connect our students to professionals in NYC to hear firsthand what those industries are looking for from graduates.