Advanced Research & Study Skills: Study & Research Guide

This page is designed to outline and support you with various aspects of your academic journey on the IMMJMA. This page does not cover your module guide, assignment brief or guidelines and you will need to consult those separately. It is largely intended to help you to develop effective research and study skills and importantly, helps you to understand where you can find relevant sources independently from academic journals, books, websites, research reports, or sources of statistical information etc. This guide will also guide you to the resources available to you via the online UoB library.

Summary Overview of Module

Your Term 1 Theory Module is Advanced Research & Study Skills. This module provides two core functions; 1) to prepare students to acquire the necessary study, research and writing skills for postgraduate study and put them into practice; and 2) to introduce students to key critical discourses within the field of Visual and Multimedia Journalism.

Student Requirements for Independent, Self-directed Study

The IMMJMA is a UK Masters level program which requires students to independently manage and spend independent study time in private study and research, steadily building up your knowledge and relevant skills. Your Term 1 Theory Module Advanced Research & Study Skills includes 28 schedule contact hours (seminars/tutorials). Independent study amounts to 174 hours. That’s around 12 hours each week. If you are not putting in around 12 hours each week you will not achieve a successful level of progress. As non-native English speakers, you need to spend sufficient time with both set and independently selected readings. The readings cannot simply be ‘crammed’ into reading weeks, they must be done at a steady pace so that you can read and digest what you learn. To do this, you will need to responsibly manage your own time well each week and dedicate a number of hours to theory module readings. There are 3 types of readings:

  • Readings delivered to you to prepare for weekly seminars. These are given online in the seminar notes and delivered via email.
  • The module required reading list (INSERT LINK)
  • Student’s self-selected and self-directed readings relevant to their individual assignment topics. (This research guide serves as a starter guide to help you to find your own sources)

*In addition, there is a regular flow of current readings available on the Facebook Group Page, students should follow and can search for multimedia industry news via the hashtag #IndustryNewsIMJ

What is Independent Study?

You module leaders and tutors will guide students through research and assignments but you will need to read and study the resources that are delivered to you. You will also need to stick to scheduled deadlines. Finally, you will need to turn in work with a suitable level of English. If work is handed in with a level of English that is poor or that hinders reading comprehension (forcing tutors to interpret your meaning before they can even begin to grade the quality of the assignment) your work will not be marked and you will need to resubmit it with a suitable level of comprehensible English. Resubmitting often means you lose time and valuable, timely feedback. If you know that writing in English is a challenge, you will need to find your own sustainable solution. Your tutor can give you some advice for strategizing for this. You will have already discovered that your IMMJMA tutors are extremely responsive and willing to support students in their learning. However, you should also respect the fact that we are very busy, so when you request a tutorial or write to a professor, you need to make sure that you are not wasting their time with things you should be doing independently. Including:

  • Completing the set readings and re-reading session notes as required
  • Don’t ask questions that are easily searchable within the IMMJMA site
  • Reading assignment briefs and guidelines thoroughly, including extra resources you are directed to, such as this page to become familiar with sources you can use for your Theory Module assignments
  • When you do request help please write a clear and concise email outlining what you need support with and CC the Course Leader. Please use threaded email.

Where do I begin with my self-selected and self-directed readings relevant to my individual assignment?

Even before you have chosen and defined your draft thesis statement you will need to consider and consult a variety of sources to help you to contextualize and find a focus for your thesis statement. Once you have found focus you should search further and select a handful of the most interesting, relevant and credible sources of data, evidence, information and opinions to form the basis of your own academic knowledge and writing. You should include some of the sources you intend to use in your paper along with your draft thesis statement for Yan to briefly evaluate. Once you have had your thesis statement approved you will proceed to in-depth reading and integration of your selected written and online sources. This is essential for you to be able to think and write critically, you may also find additional sources along the journey of your deeper reading. Or you may want to find other sources to contrast, compare or corroborate the information in your original sources.

STEP 1: Before defining and writing your thesis statement, do some preliminary broad reading around the general topic area to gain an overview of your topic. You can list some keywords for more focused searches. (e.g. people, issues, ideas) and do some more reading to help you arrive at a focused thesis statement.

Step 2: Write down an idea or two for the subject of your statement. Locate and evaluate sources, by searching various resources using your list of keywords. Try using synonyms (different words that mean the same) in your searches and be sure to explore a variety of resources. See the resources below, which include books, journals, article databases and the internet too. Skim read and review your resources, check for – Authority (author’s expertise, reputable organization). Accuracy (verify the facts). Dates (how current is it? does currency matter?). Relevance (does the information address your topic?). Finally, write your draft thesis statement and deliver it to Yan Cong along with some of the sources you intend to use in your literature review.

*Be sure to document and organize your sources in a logical manner and record: Author, Title, Place of publication, Name of publisher, Page numbers or URL etc. This way you can easily find them again.

Step 3: Once you have had your thesis statement and some sources approved it’s time to start reading them carefully and critically. The literature sources you find will never be perfect or unbiased. Think and read critically. For everything you read, consider: Has the author clearly defined the topic and question? Is it an effective analysis and account of the subject? Is there any bias evident (political, ideological?) How scholarly is the piece of work? Trade and professional journal articles and websites are often current but not always necessarily scholarly. Is the argument coherent, or does the piece contradict itself? Are there references to the sources the author consulted? Have any sources or theories been ignored or omitted? Is the item as relevant to the topic which you are investigating as it initially appeared? Make notes as you read. You will use these readings to form your literature review and then go on to use your literature review as the basis of knowledge for your critical essay

Sources You Can & Should Use

Set Seminar & Required Reading Lists – One of your first places to find sources is to go back to the readings for the topic that your thesis sits within given by the module leader and re-read. You can use these given sources and by re-reading them you may find that they may cite and direct you to other relevant readings. Aside from this, you will need to make searches in a variety of places: Note, your first literature review should include a minimum of three English Language sources. Simply use relevant keyword searches, as demonstrated in class, relevant to your topic in any of the sources we’ve listed below.

Discover@Bolton – Discover@Bolton is a service that allows you to search multiple databases at once via a single interface. As well as searching the databases, you will be able to access full-text content from these databases where that full-text is available.


Websites – Here are some quality websites that write about journalism, :

  • Columbia Journalism Review: – “CJR’s mission is to be the intellectual leader in the rapidly changing world of journalism… Through its fast-turn analysis and deep reporting, CJR is an essential venue not just for journalists, but also for the thousands of professionals in communications, technology, academia, and other fields reliant on solid media industry knowledge.”
  • Poynter: “The Poynter Institute is a global leader in journalism”. Like many of the websites listed here, Poynter is a large and multidimensional resource covering areas of both and practice relating to journalism, With a good search through you are likely to find some good sources for your Theory module assignments.
  • Nieman Journalism Lab:“The Nieman Journalism Lab is an attempt to help journalism figure out its future in an Internet age. The Internet has brought forth an unprecedented flowering of news and information. But it has also destabilized the old business models that have supported quality journalism for decades… We want to highlight attempts at innovation and figure out what makes them succeed or fail… we want to help traditional news organizations find a way to survive; we want to help the new crop of startups that will complement — or supplant — them.”
  • NYU’s Studio20’s News Literacy project: – An online publication of a program, directed by professor Jay Rosen. The yearly News Literacy projects, summarize topics that students had to master before plunging into their project work. Much like IMMJMA students need to do in Terms 2 & 3. Each page provides a brief introduction to a key topic, with recommended readings, people to follow, and charts and graphs that show trends.
  • 1)
  • 2)
  • 3)
  • MediaShift: – is a website delivering insight and analysis at the intersection of media and technology. “MediaShift tells stories of how the shifting media landscape is changing the way we get our news and information. MediaShift correspondents explain how traditional media such as newspapers, magazines, radio, TV, music, and movies are dealing with digital disruption and adapting their business models for a more mobile, networked world”.
  • – a website with news and advertorial content for journalists based in the UK
  • Journalism Research News:  – “A news site about the latest academic knowledge in journalism. It improves the quality of scholarly communication about ongoing research”.
  • Online Journalism Review“Focusing on the future of digital journalism”.

Sources of data and research reports – Here are some reports that may help your research and essay:

Websites by relevant thinkers, academics, and researchers – Some scholars’ and researchers’ blogs or websites can also provide good sources for your research:

Google, google scholar, and Google alerts

Books – Yes, those old things that you can touch, smell and feel! We have plenty of good books in the library – here are a selection of some of the most useful:

  • The Principles of Multimedia Journalism: Packaging Digital News, by Richard Koci Hernandez and Jeremy Rue
  • Bending the Frame, by Fred Ritchin
  • After Photography, by Fred Ritchin
  • You might like to take a look here too – Photography theory: a beginner’s guide
  • Don’t forget, you can always make new requests for us to purchase! Please do this via the Library monitor

Chinese sources – We need your help – please make suggestions to Cong Yan

Other Notes

A guide to evaluating websites – You should consider the following evaluation criteria when deciding whether to use information found on websites for your research:

  • Purpose: Websites can have a variety of purposes. They can be educational, commercial, personal, etc. Check the ending of the URL, as that may indicate who is publishing it, and what its purpose is (i.e. .edu, .gov, .org).
  • Authority & Accountability: Is the author’s name given (Authors can be individuals or organizations)? What are his or her credentials? Are the authors clear about their intent and purpose? Is there an identifiable institution or organization listed? Can they be contacted if you have more questions? Is there a bibliography or a list of citations given? A reliable website will cite its’ sources.
  • Objectivity: Does the website reflect a bias? Does it take into account one side of an argument only or one point of view? Is the language used fair and balanced, or is it extreme and onesided? Does the site list sources to back up its’ argument?
  • Currency: Is the information provided up-to-date? When was it last updated?
  • A note on Wikipedia and other wikis: A wiki is a kind of website that can be edited, modified or deleted by anyone at any time, from anywhere in the world, with little or no restrictions placed upon them. With Wikipedia in particular, the author of an article can remain anonymous and does not have to give any credentials or provide supporting evidence to back up their claims. This means that a person with no credentials can post anything they like, whether it’s accurate or not. While it’s entirely possible that an entry in Wikipedia is factually correct, there’s no real way of knowing for certain. Wikipedia and other wikis are not acceptable websites to use for your work. You can, however, use Wiki’s as a starting point and to find other sources.

What if I find too many or too few sources for my thesis?Finding too much Sometimes you will find that there is just too much information. This might be because: Lots has been written on your main topic, Your topic has links with many other subject areas, or your Thesis statement is too broad. In this case – Returning to your research question and re-focusing may solve this problem by giving you a clearer idea of what you really want to find out. If your research question is already specific, you may need to revise your search plan. Things to try include: Using more precise terms in Keyword searches, Adding in limits to your searches, Concentrating on key authors. If in doubt Cong Yan could help to strim things down a little. Finding too little Sometimes you will struggle to find much relevant material. You may need to think of ways of broadening the scope of your thesis. Try: Making the project (or just your keywords) more general, Searching for comparative or related information, e.g. looking at all online video platforms, rather than those in a specific country. Your tutor is a good source of advice: they can often tell you if a topic is very new, or little-studied, and they may be able to suggest related areas of research to investigate. Finding materials which are not ‘academic’ enough If your tutor tells you that the materials you’ve found are not appropriate to your level of study, or that you need to make your work more academic. This just means you need to be more selective in your use of sources. Two helpful ways of accessing scholarly material are: Limiting your search to the academic (or scholarly or peer-reviewed) journal search options available on many of the databases and making sure you are using academic rather than trade journals. Limiting your Internet search to suggested sites or sites which end in .ac or .edu. Continue reviewing and revising your search plan and recording and evaluating your results until you are happy with the materials you have found. It is a good idea to start this process early. Students rarely receive copious support when they leave things to the last moment. The earlier you can get your tutor a draft or ask a question the better supported you will be.