Studying as a postgrad Journalism student at the University of Sheffield

Written Experiment IconBy Danmeng Ma, MA Journalism student

Before I started my postgraduate study, I imagined that my academic life would have simply consisted of attending various lectures, as well as struggling with the essays. But I was mistaken - my faculty definitely exceeded my expectations.

Different learning environments

Undoubtedly, attending lectures is important for all the students to absorb essential knowledge. In our faculty, we not only attend the lectures of our modules, but also have great opportunities to get involved in guest lectures every week. These guest lecturers are almost always from the best media channels from around the world, such as The Guardian, the Sky News and some others.

We also have the international week, during which several lectures focusing on different topics were held, which really broadened our global perspectives.

All our compulsory lectures are accompanied by seminars, which allows us to gain a deeper understanding of the knowledge imparted on the lectures. All of our tutors were so professional and patient and gave us lots of opportunities to ask questions about issues and topics that we found difficult.

What is more, the seminars provided good opportunities for us to discuss about the controversial issues and exchange our opinions about topics such as terrorism, the American election and infotainment. Previously, I thought that these words were only common nouns appearing on TV, but now I had the chance to discuss these global issues with others, and their opinions inspired me a lot. A year ago, it was hard to imagine that I could write essays about the coverage of Syrian war, but now, I could collaborate with my classmates to produce such a project. I have to say, I gained a strong sense of achievement from my study.

Practical v. theoretical study

I dare say most of journalism students are more interested in practice instead of the “dull” theoretical research. Most of us devoted to learning journalism dream of becoming journalists, editors, broadcasters, PR officers, etc, with the opportunity to communicate with real people rather than with academic books or numerous essays.

Considering the importance of practical skills in our subject (apart from the theoretical modules about global issues), the Faculty also arranged plenty of practical modules and workshops. I selected a module called Writing for the Media last semester, and learned many useful techniques of how to write a good piece of news.

Moreover, as I know, students who major in Print Journalism, Broadcast Journalism or Magazine Journalism have more practical modules as they have already decided the field in which they will base their future career. They have to hand in assessed work regularly, which might exhaust them, but will probably benefit them in the long run.

Combination of working individually and group work 

Before I came here, I was once a pharmacy student and even achieved a BSc. Perhaps I had some prejudice before, because I always thought that, as a science student, we had to do complex experiments, while art students only needed to come up with a research question, look up some references, analyse the question and write the essay. Because of this, I did not expect that writing essays could involved teamwork.

But, similar to the scientific experiments, in the first semester, we learned various research methods for social science, and used them to finish a long essay with a group. During the process of researching and writing, each member of our group initially thought independently, and then brought the results of our thinking together when we met up and exchanged our opinions.

It is true that we could have probably finished the essay individually, just like what we have to do with our dissertation. But what is more important is that working together in this format teaches more skills beyond simply the research methods of social science. It is a kind of comprehensive education that cultivates students’ communication abilities, especially when working in a multi-cultural environment.

All in all, the Faculty of Social Science has really provided a variety of learning content and formats. Even those students like me who have little of the former experience of the major would not feel embarrassed during study. People, no matter whether they plan to become an outgoing journalist, or just want to do the research tranquilly in the future, can find all the support and variety they need to enjoy studying here.