Journalism & Media Studies

Journalism & Media Studies
140 7th Avenue South
St. Petersburg Florida 33701
Phone: 727-873-4850
Fax: 727-873-4034

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M.A. in Journalism and Media Studies Program

Bullett imageApply to our M.A. in Journalism and Media Studies Program

Bullett imageApply to our fully online Master of Arts in Digital Journalism and Design

Bullett imageFrequently Asked Questions

The Journalism and Media Studies Department offers two Master of Arts degrees: the traditional program in Journalism and Media Studies and the fully on-line Master of Arts in Digital Journalism and Design.

The traditional program prepares students for careers in print, electronic and digital media or for college-level teaching, and provides a foundation for those students who elect to continue their studies at the Ph.D. level. The traditional program includes a mix of face-to-face, online, and hybrid courses and normally takes two years for completion of the required 36 semester hours.

The DJD program provides students with skills and content knowledge necessary for digital mass communication production and publication. The 30 hour degree program is designed to be completed in one year, but students may also pursue the degree on a part-time basis. DJD students also receive the USFSP-Poynter Certificate of Proficiency in Digital Technology for Journalists.

Students enrolled in the traditional M.A. program may also take classes part time or full time. They may sample the program by taking courses as a non-degree seeking student. Up to 12 hours of graduate credit earned as a non-degree seeking student can count toward the degree, however, the department encourages students to apply soon after completing their first course as a non-degree seeking student. Success in a course taken as a non-degree seeking student does not guarantee admission to the graduate program. Students may choose electives, with their advisor's approval, in any department at any USF campus. Students enrolled in the traditional program may also take up to two classes from the DJD course offerings.

Graduate Handbook

Dr. Robert Dardenne in his class
Dr. Robert Dardenne in his class
Characteristics of graduate study
Poynter seminars
Culminating work
Comprehensive exam
Assistantship, fellowship and financial aid
USFSP Graduate Studies

Characteristics of Graduate Study

Graduate study differs from undergraduate work in substantial ways. Students are accepted into specific graduate programs based on their clear disciplinary focus and relevant background for study in that particular field. Students often leave their graduate studies with new educational or career goals, but the focus will usually remain in the area of mass communication or media studies. Graduate study requires that students engage in analysis, interpretation and original inquiry. These features are usually not present or not emphasized in undergraduate study.

While undergraduate courses feature lecture or skill-building formats, the staple of most graduate programs, including ours, is the seminar. The word "seminar" implies an interchange of opinion, information and ideas. Seminars encourage informed dialogue and debate. Seminars depend on active student participation.

Many undergraduate programs involve a structured, highly directed path to a degree, but graduate students receive greater latitude in developing a plan for accomplishing those goals. At this stage of academic and professional development, graduate students should have clearly defined reasons for spending additional time and money on concentrated study.

Undergraduate classes often require grade incentives for reading, study and attendance. None of this is deemed necessary in graduate classes, where students are expected to go beyond the assignments or stated expectations in exploring topics, issues and problems. For many students, undergraduate work focuses on learning the fundamentals of their craft. Graduate study calls for reflection, introspection and deeper understanding. Ideally, it is a time of satisfying, rewarding discovery for students and instructors.


The M.A. in Journalism and Media Studies requires 36 hours of academic credit. A realistic program for a full-time student involves a nine-hour load in the fall and spring terms, stretching out over two academic years. Summer courses including internships are also available.

Students in our program elect to complete either a thesis, for up to six hours of credit, or an applied research project, for up to three credit hours, which is included in the 36 hour total.

At least 16 of the 36 hours must be at the 6000 level, and 20 hours or more must be in formal, regularly scheduled course work. With permission from an advisor, USF graduate students may take one or two 4000 level courses, but graduate students are generally discouraged from taking undergraduate courses. Financial aid for graduate students usually will not cover the cost of an undergraduate course.

Required Courses:
MMC 6401 (3) - Mass Communications Theory
MMC 6612 (3) - Law and the Mass Media
MMC 6206 (3) - Mass Communication Ethics

Those who do a thesis must also take: 
MMC 6421 (3) - Research Methods in Mass Communications.

The Research Methods is also a good class for students who have limited experience reading and writing academic research.

Area of specialization:
Students may take up to 12 hours of the 36-hour requirement in an area of specialization through other departments of the university. Some of the areas of specialization available include criminology, environmental studies, ethics, Florida studies, and urban anthropology. Offerings on other campuses within the USF system present a larger range of options.

An academic advisor, chosen from among departmental faculty, helps each student decide on elective courses, taking into consideration their academic goals and professional experience.

Advising and Mentorships
Advising is an important component of the program. An adviser works with students in structuring an individualized course of study. Students continue to work with their advisers each semester to review their academic progress and plan upcoming work. An important characteristic of our department is the individualized mentorships that develop between faculty and graduate students. It is not unusual for graduate students to be invited to participate in faculty research or for faculty to assist students in turning their course work into publishable pieces.


Students may apply for a professional practicum (internship) in a mass media setting after completing 12 hours of coursework within the department. Students intern in a variety of settings, including newspapers, television stations, radio stations, magazines, non-profit organizations, corporations, and in online media environments.

The internship requires 120 hours of work performed in a single semester following departmental approval. Graduate students may receive credit for only one-semester’s 3-credit internship. Before a student's internship is approved, a faculty supervisor confirms that the practicum involves professional-level assignments and responsibilities. Students then obtain a written description of duties and work hours from the editor or manager who'll be overseeing the practicum. Students may not receive internship credit for any position that they hold prior to internship approval. However, some internships offer compensation. It is acceptable for a student to receive both credit and compensation.

Once the practicum is approved, the student will file weekly reports regarding the internship experiences. Students are also required to submit copies of work accomplished and to write a 750-1000 word essay at the end of their experience. The student’s on-site supervisor will provide a final evaluation.

Recent internship hosts have included the following: Dow Jones, The Tampa Bay Times, The Tampa Tribune, Creative Loafing, Bay News 9, The Sarasota Herald-Tribune, WUSF, WFLA-TV, WTVT-TV, WTSP-TV, WDAE Clear Channel, and USFSP Office of External Affairs.

Poynter seminars

See details in the Poynter Connection page.

Comprehensive exam

Graduate students in the Department of Journalism and Media Studies must pass a comprehensive written examination, which can be taken after completing 21 hours of course work, including all three core courses completed with a grade of C or better. Students should monitor their coursework and advise the graduate program director the semester before they plan to sit for the comprehensive exams. The graduate director will authorize the student's eligibility to sit for the exam.

Comprehensive exams will be given in the fall and spring semesters on the Friday that falls three or four weeks after the start of classes. Comps will be written from 9-1 p.m. in FCT 107. Reading and concept lists for the three core areas, theory, law and ethics, are available in the Graduate Handbook. Students are expected to prepare for comps over at least three semesters, supplementing what they've learned from their coursework with outside reading. On comps writing day, students will receive one question from each of the core areas to answer. The question is likely to include an example that students will use to demonstrate their ability to apply core content knowledge. No notes or other material is allowed for the writing of comps.

The subject exams will be graded by the particular subject instructor. Students will receive the grade of pass, low pass, defense or fail. Students who pass all three questions may register for thesis or project credits. Students who receive a "fail" for one or more exams may not attempt comps again until the following semester. Students who receive a grade of "defense" will, at the faculty member's discretion, respond to questions of clarification, either in writing or orally. Any defense must be completed before the end of the term in which the exam was written. A student may attempt a subject area comprehensive exam no more than three times. Students who do not pass comprehensive exams after sitting for each exam three times will be dismissed from the program.

Students may register for Thesis or Applied Research credits in the semester that they take comps, but must successfully complete all three exam questions before meeting committee deadlines for thesis or project completion.

Culminating work

Culminating work - Thesis

A thesis is a work of original scholarship that adheres to commonly accepted rules of academic publication. Students doing a thesis are required to take MMC 6421-Research Methods in Mass Communications.

The thesis requires academic research that uses at least one of the following six research methodologies: analytic research, historical research, legal research, clinical or ethnographic research, qualitative research, or quantitative research. Any academic research involving the study of living human beings requires review by USF’s Institutional Review Board. To review past theses generated by students in the JMS master's program, please visit the Nelson Poynter Library's Digital Archive.

Analytic research includes examination of text or visuals for themes, framing, comparisons, or other content analyses. This type of research also includes ethical analysis of cases or issues.

Historical research includes examination of media accounts or others’ perspectives of issues or past events or the close examination of the life of a notable individual.

Legal research involves the study of of legal cases or an aspect of legal theory.

Clinical or ethnographic research includes in-depth presentation of a particular case. Material may be gathered through document collection or through participant-observation.

Qualitative research involves the collection of human opinion or belief through surveys, questionnaires, or interviews.

Quantitative research includes statistical interpretation of data gathered from documents, field observation, surveys, interviews or experiments that compare test groups with control groups.

Most theses, as with most academic research, usually include a combination of methodologies. For example, the literature review, which is required of every thesis, is a form of historical research. The methodology to explore particular hypotheses or research questions will be determined by student and thesis chair.

Theses usually include an introductory chapter based on the prospectus, outlining the subject, its significance, hypotheses or research questions, and the methodology employed. The second chapter is often the literature review, which relates other research in the area to the student's research in some kind of context and at the same time shows why the study is valuable. The third chapter should explain the methodology in depth, discussing and defending the process by which the hypothesis will be explored or research questions answered. A fourth chapter should include results and may be presented visually as well as through text. The last chapter concludes with the discussion and need for further research, which provides a complete analysis of the findings and how they relate not only to the research questions but to larger issues as well.

Style manual
The standard style guide for use in the Department of Journalism and Media Studies is the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (APA).

Guidelines for theses
Students planning to do a thesis should do the following beginning no later than two semesters prior to intended graduation:

Step 1. Go to the USFSP Graduate Studies website and view the thesis and dissertation guidelines. The student is responsible for knowing and following all USF procedures and deadlines regarding the thesis.

Step 2. Work with your adviser in focusing the subject, developing research objectives, and determining methodology. Decide which JMS graduate faculty member would be best to chair the committee and get that person’s approval. With the chair, determine two other members for the committee. The two other members must include at least one other JMS faculty member, and may include a graduate faculty member from another department in the USF system, a graduate faculty member at another accredited university, or a member of Poynter Institute faculty. Adjunct faculty members may not serve on a student's thesis committee.

Step 3. Prepare a thesis prospectus to submit to the chairperson and committee members. Schedule a meeting with the committee for approval of the prospectus. Complete a Thesis Approval Form and collect committee member signatures. Register for 1-6 thesis hours (MMC 6971) Students may not register for thesis credits without an approved thesis prospectus.

Step 4. Consult with committee chairperson on deadlines, share chair-approved drafts of chapters with the committee in a timely manner, meet with committee members and schedule a public defense of the completed thesis.

Thesis prospectus
The thesis prospectus typically consists of the following: 

Statement of purpose. A concise statement explicitly stating what the proposed research aims to accomplish.

Justification of problem. What is the significance of the thesis in advancing knowledge in journalism or mass communications studies? How is it theoretically relevant?

Statement of problem. Describe the research objective (or topic) either in terms of the hypothesis (or hypotheses) or a set of research questions to be explored and answered. A hypothesis is a clear statement(s) of conjecture about a problem, expressing a relationship between or among variables. If the problem is, instead, posed as research questions, it will contain a series of connected questions that explore the full range of the issue or topic.

Methodology. Specify in detail what you will do to solve or explore the thesis problem. Explain how information or data will be collected (observation, questionnaire, survey, content analysis, etc.) and then, how the data will be analyzed and interpreted. If you will be using human participants in your study, state that you will be seeking IRB approval.

Review of literature. Put your proposed study into context by providing a general survey of relevant research.

Definition of terms. Define words or terms that have a meaning special to the thesis.

Limitations. Establish the scope of the study, explaining what will and will not be included, and why.

Outline and chapter summary. Provide chapter names (or topics) and subheads (if used), and a summary of what each chapter will accomplish.

Bibliography. Provide a substantial, although preliminary, list of sources.

Culminating Work - Applied Research Project

The project is a serious, culminating experience in journalistic production and presentation for print, electronic, or website format. The topic may be the investigation of an issue or problem related to journalism/mass communications or the piece may be itself an example of in-depth journalistic work. But, it should be intended to be published for a lay, trade, or professional audience. Applied research projects may be visual presentations, such as photography, Web design, or video or may be text-centered. The project offers a creative and professionally-oriented approach to an in-depth study. Students should plan to spend 45 or more hours completing the ARP, to fulfill the requirements of a 3-credit course of study.

The project does not require the graduate research methods course, as a project is not an academic research activity. While the project is a different mode from the thesis for illustrating developed skills and competencies, we hold our students to the same degree of rigor as that required of the thesis.

The project gives students a wide degree of latitude but requires that they put together a substantial piece of work beyond what they have done for classes.

For example, a design-oriented student might come up with a well thought-out approach to redesigning all or a section of a newspaper or a website. A student might report and write a series of articles on race relations, integrating the elderly into community life, crime and violence, or any other issue that affects the community. The project is expected to demonstrate a new and fresh approach to thinking about the topic. To review past ARPs generated by students in the JMS master's program, please visit the Nelson Poynter Library's Digital Archive.

Students planning applied research projects should do the following beginning no later than two semesters before the intended graduation:

Step 1. Consult with your adviser regarding the project content and process. Decide on a committee chair and one additional committee member. A project committee requires two faculty members, usually both from the Department of Journalism and Media Studies. Adjunct faculty within the Department of Journalism and Media Studies may serve on a project committee with committee chair approval. A regular faculty member must serve as committee chair. An additional committee member from the department, USFSP, or from outside the university may be added to provide needed expertise. The committee chair may seek opinion on the quality of an ARP from external sources if the committee lacks required expertise.

Step 2. Schedule a meeting with committee members to discuss the project, get committee approval on proposal, and complete Applied Research Project form. Get committee members’ signatures and register for 1-3 credits of Applied Research Project (MMC 6950). Students may not register for ARP without an approved ARP proposal.

Step 3. Consult with committee chairperson on deadlines, share chair-approved drafts of chapters with the committee in a timely manner, meet with committee members. When the project is approved, prepare a 10-minute presentation for the end-of-semester student presentation session.

Applied Research Project proposal
The project proposal consists of the following: 

Statement of purpose. A concise statement explicitly stating what the proposed project intends to accomplish.

Justification. What is the significance of the project in advancing knowledge or performance in journalism or mass communications studies? A formal literature review is not required, but relevant academic and journalistic sources may be used to provide context and to show the need for the project.

Approach. Specify in detail which approaches will be used to accomplish project objectives. Explain how information will be collected and how it will be analyzed or interpreted. (Every project, no matter what format, must be accompanied by a typed text explaining its purpose and significance, not only why the specific topic was chosen, but why the researcher collected and dealt with data in the particular ways chosen.)

Outline and summary. Provide an outline of the project, summarizing its contents. Describe its components, providing headings if possible.

Sources. Include intended sources including interviewees and primary documents.

References. Please include a reference list in APA style.

Assistantships, Fellowships, and Financial Aid

Graduate assistantships are available on a competitive basis. Students must be formally admitted to the M.A. in journalism program and must be full time (nine credit hours) for the term in which the assistantship is held. The duties and responsibilities of graduate assistants vary, and may include research or service support as well as assisting instructors with undergraduate journalism and media studies courses.

This year we offer tuition waiver and stipend to eligible new and current graduate students:
  • Tuition Waiver: The Department provides support at the level of one semester’s in-state tuition. This is deposited directly into the student’s university account. Graduate assistants who are classified as non-Florida residents are considered in-state for tuition purposes. Out of State Tuition benefits apply only during semesters in which an assistant is being paid for work, not necessarily during the summer semester.
  • Stipend: The Department provides support at a set amount paid out over a semester that is generally equivalent to a semester’s tuition waiver.
Assistantships are generally awarded to begin in the fall term. Deadlines for consideration for a graduate assistantship or other departmental support is November 1. Graduate assistantships that become available at mid-year are advertised to current and potential graduate students as they become available.

To apply for the assistantship, complete this form and email it to the Department of Journalism and Media Studies by the deadline.

Fellowships, grants and scholarships

The Department of Journalism and Media Studies distributes limited funds to outstanding graduate students through tuition waivers and stipends based on the student’s potential or demonstration of talent and commitment. Please complete a graduate assistantship application to be considered.

Regardless of funding or title, all students receiving departmental support are expected to perform 10 hours per week of service throughout each semester of support. All funded students will be called Graduate Assistants regardless of the source of their funding. While students are each assigned to a faculty supervisor, students may also be called on to assist in departmental duties. Graduate assistants are expected to be ambassadors for the department. They provide the first peer contact for applicants and assist visitors to the department.

Graduate assistants must recognize that they are perceived as leaders by the faculty, by their fellow graduate students, and particularly by the undergraduate students that they help mentor. Graduate assistants are expected to participate in all departmental activities to which students are invited, including lectures by visiting scholars and professionals, end of the semester gatherings, and Kappa Tau Alpha inductions. They are expected to encourage other students to attend. Graduate assistant attendance at these functions will be noted and be considered in the review process for subsequent semester awards.

Eligibility for support: Minimally, applicants for graduate assistantships and departmental-funded fellowships must have an undergraduate G.P.A. of 3.0 or above, a score on an admissions test that places them in the 75th percentile or above, and demonstration of accomplishment in previous work or academic environments. Current students must have no less than the grade of B in any of their course work and must have demonstrated their commitment to the department or the field. All support is awarded on a competitive basis. There are always more qualified candidates than supported positions. Graduate assistants are reviewed at the end of each semester and may lose funding based on academic or work performance. No student on academic probation will receive departmental funding.

Applications for support for Fall term are due no later than March 15. Applications for support for Spring term are due no later than October 15. Support funding that becomes available after these deadlines will be offered to applicants or students who previously were not offered support, but who have been wait-listed. NO support will be provided without a completed support application.

Type of support: 
Tuition Waiver – The Department provides support at the level of one semester’s in-state tuition. This is deposited directly into the student’s university account.
Stipend – The Department provides support at a set amount paid out over a semester that is generally equivalent to a semester’s tuition waiver.
Hourly pay – depending on the source of funding, the Department may pay a student a set hourly rate that is determined in consultation with HR.

Sources of funding: College of Arts & Sciences Graduate Assistant Funding – the amount that the Department receives each semester in this funding line varies and may be directed support, in that it limits student services to a particular function, such as online course support.

Poynter-Jamison Foundation Scholar – the Poynter Jamison Chair in Media Ethics and Press Policy may select a student with an outstanding academic background who has also demonstrated an interest in ethics or responsible media practices. This scholar will provide teaching and/or research assistance to the Poynter Jamison Chair.

Tampa Bay Times Fellow – the Tampa Bay Times fellowship endowment St. Petersburg Times may be used to support eligible students who bring strong interest or professional experience in media presentations of those who have traditionally been underserved by traditional media. The Tampa Bay Times St. Petersburg Times Fellows often work as teaching or editorial assistants for the departmentally-supported Neighborhood News Bureau or reach out to underserved communities in other ways.

Financial aid and loan programs
Loans, scholarships and other forms of financial aid are also available. However, graduate students are not covered under several state and federal aid programs, such as Federal Pell Grants, reserved exclusively for undergraduates. Contact the USFSP office of financial aid,



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