Study programme for Politics & Communications in Amsterdam

The Politics & Communication specialisation focuses on the democratic role of political journalism. In particular, the changing nature of the discipline, and its impact on citizens, politics and society at large. In the courses, we look at the perspectives of journalists, politicians and communication professionals and explore the challenges they face interacting in a changing media landscape.

The Politics & Communication courses include key political issues such as European (dis)integration, climate change, the rise of populism and electoral polarization. Journalism is faced with a crisis of legitimacy, and we examine the rise of fake news and automated journalism in exacerbating this crisis. We also examine new, innovative forms of journalism, with a particular focus on (big) data journalism.

Please note that changes to the focus of courses and to the course content may apply.

Journalism and the Media

The critical interplay between journalism and politics in modern democratic societies is the focus of this course. We address different models and conceptions of political journalism, the role of journalism in society, ethical considerations, issues of freedom of speech, and the question of what represents "good" political journalism today. In this context, the seminar also deals with (non-)government communication, e.g. how politicians, parties, NGOs, social movements and interest groups interact with the media and citizens.

Students will read both classic and contemporary texts about news production, journalism, media, and political systems. Sessions will be reserved to discuss new developments in the organisation of news production and the changes in journalism due to globalisation and economic pressures.

Communicating Europe

Over the years, "Brussels" has acquired an extensive amount of competences and power in various areas of policy, yet citizen engagement with and support for the European project has dwindled. The EU is often considered an elitist project, and opinion polls in various member states report increasingly critical public attitudes towards advanced integration of Europe. Today, in the wake of the ongoing economic crisis and new geo-political developments, the EU has become a contested topic. This seminar deals with European integration and the behaviour of the elites, the media, and citizens. 


One of the first focusses of the seminar is the issue of European integration in the eyes of voters and the political elites. Causes and effects of support for European integration will be discussed more generally, as well with regard to particular topics such as EU enlargement, the Euro, and the crisis of the rise of new Eurosceptic parties. Another key focus is campaigning in European elections and referendums. Throughout the seminar special attention will be paid to the role of the news media, how they cover European issues, and what effect this has on the formation of public attitudes. Students will conduct their own small-scale empirical research project

Data Journalism

One of the most important recent innovations in journalism is the increasing use of data. Often referred to as data journalism (or data-driven journalism), we see a development of using computational techniques to make use of, for instance, massive sets of documents (e.g. leaks), or government data, provided via APIs or scraped from the web. In short, the increased availability of digital data, fuelled by developments such as the trend towards open governance or the use of online media, has opened new ways for journalists to discover and research interesting and relevant stories. While the use of data in journalism is not new (there are examples of tables and data visualisations in newspapers from a century ago), the amount of data and their digital nature require new skills from journalists. At the same time, audiences are demanding greater transparency from news organisations, and the news cycle is ever-more choked with traffic, both of which challenge journalists to use data in ways that are creative, compelling, transparent, and innovative.

This course combines practical skills training and theoretical discussion of these developments. As well as reading and discussing relevant literature, a major focus lies on introducing students to the programming language Python, which is widely used for retrieving data from the web and for analysing both textual and numerical data (see some examples from the Data Journalism Handbook). Students will learn how to visualise data, how to find stories in large amounts of data, and how to combine multiple datasets in order to gain new insights.

Methods and Statistics Tailored to the Thesis

To prepare for writing their master’s thesis, students first meet in "Thesis Preparation Groups" several times during the first two blocks of the third semester under the supervision of a senior researcher. In-between meetings, students draw up a brief "Initial Thesis Proposal" that can function as a kick-start for their individual master’s thesis, and an early version of the "Extended Thesis Proposal" to be written in the fourth semester.

Following the Thesis Preparation Groups, the course "Methods and Statistics Tailored to the Thesis" then aims to extend students' methodological knowledge. Throughout the course, students learn about and develop ideas for research designs, data collection and analysis that are appropriate for a master's thesis in political communication & journalism. The course involves lectures on research methodology, group work directed at developing quantitative and qualitative research instruments fit for a master’s thesis, and in-class working sessions. The course will be "tailor-made" based on initial research ideas of the participating students. This also means that most assignments throughout the course are related to the students' individual thesis ideas.

Elective

In the third semester, you can choose one elective course of 6 ECTS. The Graduate School of Communication offers approximately 12 different electives each semester. You can either broaden your knowledge and select an elective within a different field of Communication Science or specialise yourself more on Politics & Communication with e.g. the electives "Investigative Journalism" or "Psychology in Political Communication".

Investigative Journalism
The media shape how we see the world every day. What is more, on a number of occasions, journalism has had nearly earth-shattering impact on both a political and social level. For example, what would American politics be without Watergate, and how has the revelation of the Panama and Paradise Papers affected European politics? In these instances, journalists have the power to not only change the world, but to make it a better place. In this seminar, we will take a direct look at such key moments in journalism history. We will critically assess how these moments shape journalism today and tomorrow. At the same time, we will discuss how the world changes journalism, by examining how technological and social change affects the profession. The class will cover real-life cases and students will learn how to use these cases to re-evaluate well-known theories and concepts of journalism, such as framing. The seminar will have a strong orientation towards practice and problem-solving, such as through guest lectures by investigative journalists. Moreover, students will be asked to organise at least one session, in which they can bring up perspectives that are usually neglected in mainstream journalism research.

Psychology in Political Communication
Do emotions influence how we respond to new information? Does your personality underlie the tendency to consume news? Why do we search for political information, and how do we process it? These are questions that will be addressed in the master's elective “Psychology in Political Communication”. This elective provides a broad introduction to the importance of psychological research in the field of political communication. Dwelling upon a variety of theoretical perspectives, we will discuss the role of emotions, personality, physiology, hormones and neuroscience in political communication. The seminar addresses the role of psychology in the selection of political information and the processing of political information. The seminar will equip students to 1) critically assess the current state-of-the-art; 2) apply insights from psychology in the field of political communication; and 3) isolate new and exciting opportunities where psychological insights can be used to answer important questions in political communication.

Master's Thesis

Writing a thesis is, above all, a means of increasing one's understanding and knowledge of a particular problem area. It is also a test of the competency in skills that may be required later in a professional setting, including structuring, developing and writing a clear and systematic research report, and choosing an appropriate journalistic medium to present the findings to society. The insights, knowledge, skills and attitudes, acquired in the earlier parts of the programme, are therefore combined in the writing of the thesis.

Journalistic product
Under the supervision of a senior lecturer, students present the findings of their empirical thesis to a wider audience through an appropriate journalistic medium. It may vary from print publishing to documentary making to web- and other digital technology. The journalistic product show that the students are able to journalistically communicate their thesis to society at large.

Politics & Communication
University of Amsterdam
Semester 3
  • Journalism and the Media
    12 ECTS
  • Communicating Europe
    6 ECTS
  • Data Journalism
    6 ECTS
  • Methods and Statistics Tailored to the Thesis
    6 ECTS
Semester 4
  • Elective
    6 ECTS
  • Master's Thesis
    24 ECTS