Political Communication II.

ECTS Credits: 
Academic Year: 
Course Description: 

This MA-level course provides an overview of the main topics, approaches, and methodologies in the study of political communication. It explores the range of actors involved in political communication and how the information flows between them matter for democratic politics.

We critically examine key concepts used in lay and academic discussions to identify problems, causes and consequences in the political communication domain such as democratic performance of the media, media vs. political logic, mediatization, public sphere, media system characteristics, pluralism, polarization, fragmentation, information quality, political bias, accuracy, media effects, agenda setting, priming, framing, gatekeeping.

Each week we shall disentangle the interactions between citizens, mass media, and political actors in the production, transmission, and reception of political messages with a different analytical focus, which is indicated in the topic description for the week. We look at how these interactions depend on the characteristics of each of the three, and on contextual, societal and political differences. We will reflect on how these issues travel to the new digital environment and how the changes brought by the internet link up to the fundamental questions about how citizens can make sense of politics and relate to democratic political processes.

The course provides students with a postgraduate-level understanding of:

  • selected concepts and research methods in political communication, political marketing, and election campaign studies; 
  • current techniques used by political and social actors in traditional media as well as online political communication; and 
  • critical perspectives on and issues in political communication, political marketing, and election campaigns.

The course will alternate short lectures, students’ presentations, and applied exercises, and will link big theoretical and normative questions with real world examples. Class participation is essential as interactivity and learning from each other are at the core of what should be an enjoyable and not just useful experience. Active participation involves comments and questions based on the required literature, the lecture, and the presentations.

Learning Outcomes: 
  • Appropriate level understanding and critical review of the social science literature in the field of political communication.
  • Conceptual frames and research skills for the analysis of political communication in contemporary political systems; ability to assess a range of theories and methods
  • Foundations to compare and contrast the role and impact of media and communication in politics and political processes in different settings
  • Apply theories and methods to developments and issues not specifically covered by the course


Attendance is mandatory for this course. If you are unable to attend a class, please inform the instructor in advance via email. More than two unexcused absences results in a reduction of the participation grade and more than three unexcused absences results in failure of the course.

25 % - Presentation
Students need to give a presentation based on the required readings presentation on a topic to be covered in class based on background / recommended readings, internet searches, and the required readings. Clear guidelines for preparing and delivering these presentations will be discussed in the first class of the course. Students need to prepare handouts for the presentations. Handouts will be graded: 1/3 of the grade for the handout and 2/3 for the presentation.

15 % - Class participation
Grading will take into consideration the active and meaningful participation of students in class discussions. It is essential that you make your contributions in a constructive way, based on a careful and critical reading of all required materials, and facilitating that everyone in class gets involved in a civil and focused discussion. 15 % - Exercises Individual and group exercises will be assigned for some of the classes. The frequency and content of the exercises depends on the number of students registered. The aim of the exercises is to apply key concepts from readings and cases presented in class to similar examples and real-life problems that students should be able to critically analyze. Detailed instructions for exercises will be given prior to the tasks.

45% Final paper or closed-book final exam
Writing a final paper is particularly recommended for students whose thesis topic is closely connected to the material covered in this class. An outline of the final paper should be submitted in week 6. The outline follows the structure of a research proposal, in that it should serve to: - identify the context of the research problem 3 - present a preliminary account of the literature on the topic, including its gaps and limitations - identify the research question(s) - provide (preliminary) examples, cases, data for analysis - show the intended contribution of the paper to the existing scholarship on the topic

Following consultation with the course instructor on the outline, students can decide whether to submit a final paper or to sit for a closed-book final exam, covering the entire course material. Length of the paper: 2500 - 3000 words. The final paper is based on the submitted outline and on the feedback received on the outline. Further guidelines for the final paper will be provided in due time. The deadline for the final paper will be agreed upon in class.

Final exam, closed-book
The exam will include 1) questions that require very brief answers on definitions or basic concepts and 2) questions that refer to more than one concept. For the analytical questions the answers are supposed to be concise, well written essays (you can use examples in the essays that are not only based on the assigned readings). Your answers will have to incorporate a tight argument while evaluating different positions from the scholarly literature. The exam is a closed book test. Course-related materials, reading notes and the like will not be admitted. The final exam will take place in week 12.


Required preliminary readings
To ensure that we have a basic common ground in class, please make sure you understand well the topics and concepts in the following readings, which you can consult at your own pace:

  • Sparks, Glenn G. 2016. Media Effects Research: A Basic Overview (5th edition). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing.
  • McNair, Brian. 2017. Introduction to Political Communication (3rd edition). London: Routledge.
  • Curran, James. ed. 2010. Media and society (5th edition). London: Bloomsbury.