A professional project has two parts: the professional skills component and the analysis component. The former will require about 80 percent of your effort, the latter about 20 percent. Both should be carefully thought out before you submit your project proposal.
Professional Skills Component
The professional skills component of your project should build on your coursework and previous experience. This component is intended both to develop your skills and to demonstrate them to the faculty and prospective employers. The skills component differs from an ordinary internship in several ways. We expect the professional work to be of higher quality, reflecting the skills you have developed previously. The nature of the work and expected outcomes should be agreed on in advance and approved by your committee.
The analysis component requires you to examine in detail some aspect of professional practice. For the analysis component of your project, you may choose to do either traditional scholarly research or a journalistic professional analysis. (Note: The Radio-TV and Strategic Communication faculty require that students pursuing those models must do scholarly research.) In either case, you will be expected to devote the equivalent of one day a week for at least 14 weeks to the analysis component.
Description of Research vs. Professional Analysis
Research is a scholarly examination of one or more questions related to your professional skills component. That relationship typically takes one of these three forms:
- Providing background information so that the project can be carried out in a more sophisticated way.
- Evaluating the impact of the professional project.
- Expanding understanding of some process, organization or medium that serves as the context of the project.
The tools of research include but are not limited to such methods as surveys, interviews, focus groups, and experiments. The product of your research is a formal paper suitable for submission at a scholarly conference or for publication in a scholarly journal.
The beginning of the research section of the project should contain a discussion of the importance of the research component and a clear explanation of what it adds to the professional project. There should also be a clear rationale for use of the research method(s) that is (are) employed. You are expected to use a methodology for which you have prepared in coursework. For example, if the chosen methodology utilizes focus groups, you should have taken J8008, Qualitative Research Methods.
Use of Human Participants: If you plan to use human subjects in your research, you need comply with federal laws protecting those subjects. Legal requirements to protect human subjects apply to a much broader range of research than many investigators realize. If you plan to use human subjects in any way, you must discuss this issue with your committee chair. If it is deemed necessary for you to apply to the Institutional Review Board (IRB) for approval of your professional project proposal, a copy of that application and ultimate approval must be given to the Journalism Graduate Studies office or be submitted as part of your professional project proposal. You will also need to receive training and certification through IRB. The necessary forms and instructions for IRB certification and requests can be found through the Office of Research.
Include a copy of the application to the Institutional Review Board and, if possible, a copy of the approval by that body. A copy of the IRB application MUST accompany the professional project proposal when it is submitted to the Journalism Graduate Studies office. The IRB approval can be submitted later if necessary.
Professional analysis uses the tools of journalism rather than those of scholarship. We define journalism in terms of its purpose: “The primary purpose of journalism is to provide citizens with the information they need to be free and self-governing.” (Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel, The Elements of Journalism: What Newspeople Should Know and the Public Should Expect. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2001, p. 17).
The professional analysis examines individuals, institutions or issues relevant to the field. The topic of the professional analysis must be related to your skills component.
Students who choose the professional analysis must write a substantive analytical article suitable for a professional or trade publication such as American Journalism Review, Columbia Journalism Review, Design Journal, Folio, News Photographer, Global Journalist, The IRE Journal, Quill, or Dispute Resolution.
The methodology employed is journalistic investigation, which is not done to produce generalizable knowledge, and thus it is not subject to approval of the University’s Institutional Review Board because it is not “research” in the scholarly sense.