Year 2 in Amsterdam - Media and Politics specialisation modules

Students specialising in ‘Media and Politics’ (60 ECTS) will take three substantial modules, an elective and a thesis module.

The modules focus on the production of media content, the role of journalism in society, and the question of what represents 'good' political journalism. Some of the main issues will be the European integration in the eyes of citizens, journalists and the political elites, political campaigning in European elections and referendums and new trends in political communication in-and outside Europe.

Students will also examine the recent transformations in the European and international media and journalism landscape and discuss how these transformations can be critically assessed.

  • How do the news media operate in a transnational public sphere, such as the European Union (EU)?
  • How do these media contribute to the (re)articulation of global and local politics?
  • How does the news coverage of public affairs influence citizens' perceptions, opinions, attitudes and behaviour?
  • How does this affect politics and the relationships between states, European and non-European publics, governments, and other institutions?

During the thesis module, students develop and carry out their own original research under the experienced guidance of a supervisor. Students will be prepared for performing empirical research during the preparatory course Methods and Statistics tailored to the Thesis. Besides writing an academic thesis, students develop a journalistic end product to present the findings of this empirical thesis to a wider audience, varying from a documentary to a news article, website or other media formats.

Throughout the specialisation year in Amsterdam students can take part in numerous field trips, guest lectures and activities. In the past students visited the European Committee, NGO’s, Clingendael Institute and the International Criminal Court amongst others.

Students can find the most up to date course descriptions and information about their courses in the online Course Catalogue and details in the Timetables.

Module 1 // Journalism and the Media // 12 ECTS

This module focuses on the interplay between journalism and politics in modern democratic societies. It addresses 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.

This module also deals with (non)government communication, that is, with how politicians, parties, NGOs and interest groups interact with the media and citizens.
Participants 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 to focus on issues such as globalisation and the economy.

Module Facts

Semester/term: Autumn
University of Amsterdam
Credits: 12 ECTS
Professors: Mark Boukes & Knut de Swert

Learning Outcome

  • Good knowledge of and insight into the relationships between media organisations, political journalism and politics
  • Ability to identify classic and modern theories of the media and political journalism, apply these in research, and re-evaluate them in light of the changing mature of political communication in the 21st century
  • Skills to critically analyse literature on political journalism and report the results of such analysis in an academic way
  • Abilty to translate theoretical insights into journalistic or political practice and vice versa

Assessment (subject to change)

  • Weekly class participation/prep assignments (5%)
  • Individual mid-term and final exams (35%)
  • Individual written assignment (30%)
  • Group work (15%)
  • Case Studies (15%)

Indicative Reading list (subject to change)

  • Strömbäck, J. (2005) In Search of a Standard: Four Models of Democracy and Their Normative Implications for Journalism. Journalism Studies, 6(3): 331-45
  • Voltmer, K., & Wasserman, H. (2014). Journalistic norms between universality and domestication: Journalists’ interpretations of press freedom in six new democracies. Global Media and Communication, 10(2), 177-192
  • Ryfe, D.M. (2009). Broader and deeper: A study of newsroom culture in a time of change. Journalism, 10(2), 197-216


Module 2 // Communicating Europe // 6 ECTS

Over the years, Brussels has acquired an extensive amount of competences and power in various areas of policy, year citizen engagement with and support for the European project has dwindled. The EU is often considered an elitist project, an opinion polls in various member states report increasingly critical public attitudes towards advanced integration in Europe.
This module deals with European integration and the behaviour of both the elites and the masses. A first focus of the module 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 as with regard to particular topics such as EU enlargement, the Euro, and the rise of new Eurosceptic parties. 
Finally, political campaigning in European elections and referendums is a key focus of the seminar. Throughout the module special attention will be paid to the role of the news media and how media cover European issues and what effect this has on the formation of public attitudes towards Europe. 
As part of the module students will conduct their own small-scale empirical research project. Guest speakers will offer their perspective on the topics discussed in class.

Module Facts

Semester/term: Autumn
University of Amsterdam
Credits: 6 ECTS
Professors: Claes de Vreese

Learning Outcome

  • Knowledge about key concepts, theories and developments in cutting-edge political communication and political science research on European integration
  • Ability to identify and analyse key features of various research perspectives, and improve their analytical skills and insight by scrutinising empirical studies
  • Ability to critically reflect on the various approaches, theories, and application of methodology utilised in extant empirical research 

Assessment (subject to change)

  • Individual research paper (50%)
  • Mid-term essay exam (20%)
  • Literature review (10%)
  • Class presentations and participation (20%)

Indicative reading list (subject to change)

  • Hobolt, S. B. (2005). When Europe Matters: The Impact of Political Information on Voting Behavior in EU Referendums. Journal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties, 15(1), 85- 110
  • Laursen, B. & Valentini, C. (2013). Media relations in the Council of the European Union: insights into the Council Press officers’ professional practices. Journal of Public Affairs, 13 (3), 230-238
  • Habermas, J. (2001).Why Does Europe Need a Constitution? New Left Review 11

Module 3 // Innovating Journalism// 6 ECTS

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, fueled 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 content, both of which challenge journalists to use data in ways that are creative, compelling, transparent, and innovative.

This course combines theoretical discussion of these developments and practical skills training. Next to reading and discussing relevant literature, students will be introduced to the programming language Python, which is widely used for retrieving data from the web and for analysing both textual and numerical data. Additional topics may include (time-depending): data visualisation, how to find stories in large amounts of data, and dealing with messy data.  

Module Facts

Semester/term: Autumn
University of Amsterdam
Credits: 6 ECTS
Professors: Damian TrillingPenny Sheets Thibaut

Learning Outcome

Upon completion of this course, students should...

  • be familiar with innovative forms of journalism, in particular data journalism, and how these innovations transform the field of journalism
  • have knowledge of different techniques used in data journalism, involving the acquisition of data (e.g. through scraping or APIs), their analysis, and their presentation/visualisation
  • have a basic understanding of how programming languages can be used to achieve data-journalistic goals
  • be able to apply some data-related techniques themselves

Methods of Teaching and Assessment

We tackle the learning goals in 3 units of the course: Gathering & Verifying Data (unit I); Analyzing Data (unit II); and Visualising & Presenting Data (unit III). Each unit finishes with a (small) assignment related to the skills and knowledge within that unit - these assignments are due just before class at the beginning of the next unit.

Additionally, there is a group project, where groups of students will select one of the many freely available online tutorials related to data journalism, learn from it, and prepare a short lesson & guide for their fellow students.  This assignment is designed to maximise our knowledge-sharing about this developing field during the course, as well as to familiarise you with the vast resources available to those of you who continue to pursue this sort of journalism in the future - also for the journalistic product part of your thesis. 

Indicative reading list (subject to change)

  • Boumans, J. W., & Trilling, D. (2016). Taking stock of the toolkit: An overview of relevant automated content analysis approaches and techniques for digital journalism scholars. Digital Journalism, 4(1), 8–23.
  • Boyd, D., & Crawford, K. (2012). Critical questions for Big Data. Information, Communication & Society15(5), 662–679.
  • Coddington, M. (2015). Clarifying journalism’s quantitative turn. Digital Journalism3(3), 331-348. DOI: 10.1080/21670811.2014.976400
  • Craig, D., Ketterer, S., & Yousuf, M. (2017). To Post or Not to Post: Online Discussion of Gun Permit Mapping and the Development of Ethical Standards in Data Journalism. Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, 94(1), 168–188.
  • Cushion, S., Lewis, J., & Callaghan, R. (2017) Data Journalism, Impartiality And Statistical Claims, Journalism Practice, 11(10), 1198-1215, DOI: 10.1080/17512786.2016.1256789
  • DJH = The Data Journalism Handbook, (2012). J. Gray, L. Bounegru, & L. Chambers (Eds.). Available at
  • Hensleigh, E. (2018). Peeling back the curtain. How the economist is opening the data behind our reporting. Medium.  
  • Kirk, A. (2016). Data visualization. A handbook for data driven design.  London, UK: Sage.
  • Kitchin, R. (2014). The data revolution: Big Data, open data, data infrastructures & their consequences. London, UK: SAGE.

Module 4 // Electives // 6 ECTS

In this module, students can choose from a range of thematic courses which cover different topics within the field of communication science. These include political marketing, social media and politics, media strategies, media entertainment, corporate communication, public relations and brands and organizations in social media.
A list of possible electives becomes available during the first semester. An overview of the electives of previous years can be viewed in the online Course Catalogue.

Module Facts

Semester/term: Spring
University of Amsterdam
Credits: 6 ECTS 

Dissertation Module // 30 ECTS

Module Facts

Semester/term: Fall/Spring
University: University of Amsterdam
Credits: 30 ECTS
Professors: Various

Writing a thesis is, above all, a means of increasing one's understanding and knowledge of a particular problem area relevant to communication science.

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 of the empirical thesis to society.

This implies that knowledge, insights, skills and attitudes acquired in the earlier parts of the programme are combined in the writing of the thesis.

The Master's Thesis consists of four components, totaling 30 ECTS:

Part 1: Thesis Preparation Group (0 ECTS) - Semester 3, block 1 & 2

The Thesis preparation groups meet 3 times during Block 1 & 2; and are meant to guide students to an appropriate research question. The eventual end product is the submission of an initial thesis proposal.

Part II: Methods and Statistics Tailored to Thesis (6 ECTS) - Semester 4, block 1

During Semester 3, block 3, students take the course Methods and Statistics Tailored to the Thesis. This course aims to extend students’ methodological knowledge so that they are prepared for their Master’s thesis project. 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. Most assignments throughout the course are related to the students’ individual thesis ideas.  

Part III: Thesis (18 ECTS) - Semester 4, block 1 & 2

The individual thesis research, is now being carried out through data collection, analysis and write-up under the supervision of an individual supervisor. The end-result is a thesis written in the format of an academic article.

Part IV: Journalistic Thesis (6 ECTS) - Semester 4, block 3

The Thesis preparation group meets another three times during Semester 4. Under the supervision of a senior lecturer, students find an appropriate journalistic medium (this may vary from print publishing to documentary making to web- and other digital technology) to present the findings of their empirical thesis to a wider audience. Upon completion of this final part, students deliver a journalistic item based on the research of part 3 of the module and show that they are able to journalistically communicate their thesis to society.

Learning Outcome

  • the ability to formulate and delineate a problem and independently draw up an appropriate research strategy and time plan
  • the ability to independently conduct research into communication science, whereby the methods are clearly explained and substantiated
  • the ability to make creative use of knowledge and insights that are relevant to the research
  • the ability to generate new knowledge relating to the problem studied
  • the ability to give a clear, systematic and reasoned account of the setup, execution and outcomes of the research
  • the ability to journalistically communicate the research (outcomes) to a wider audience 

Examples of thesis titles from former students:

  • ‘Brazilian Correspondents in Europe: Careers, Routines, Networks, News Coverage and Role Conceptions’
  • ‘The European Union Outsider: Framing of the European Union in Norwegian Newspapers, and its Effects on Public Opinion’
  • ‘To Bias or Not the Bias? A Comparative Study of the Reporting about the Acquittal of War Generals Gotovina and Markac in Balkan Broadcasters’