Three steps to guarantee distinction in your communications masters degree: Pick good topics

For some people, completing a masters degree in corporate communications, public relations or marketing is its own reward. You get the letters after your name and future employers are never going to ask what marks you got – so why bother aiming to get more than a pass?

But if you’re reading this and taking the time to learn about communications then you probably want to aim a little higher. And if you’re anything like me you want to be the best there ever was! So here’s what I’ve learned so far from my own experiences studying MSc corporate communications:

Step 1: Pick good topics

Start as you mean to go on! The most important consideration if you’re aiming to get a distinction in MSc corporate communications, marketing or public relations is to choose good topics for your assignments. This means:

Something you’re interested in

You’re going to be writing and reading about this topic for weeks, and some of the theories you learn are going to be challenging. The best way to set yourself up for success is to apply these tricky theories to something personally interesting to you, making the whole experience a lot more enjoyable.

For example, I wrote about internet fads and competitive computer game tournaments for my masters degree – as long as it relates to the question you’ve been set and your tutor is happy with it then don’t be afraid to go a little wild.

And a topic that’s interesting to research is going to be interesting to read. Think of the poor person marking dozens of boring essays!

Something that relates to your career ambitions

Chances are you’re doing a masters degree to give you an edge when applying for communications jobs. If that’s the case then think how your choice of topic can be relevant to your future career plans – whether this be a change of industry or a change of role.

For instance, if you dream of working in the leisure industry, or in internal communications, then it makes sense to focus on these topics as much as possible in your academic work. It shows employers that you’re passionate about the area, and it will give you something to talk about in cover letters and interviews. And above all you’ll be at the cutting edge of academic theory in your field – ready to roll your sleeves up from day one and put everything you’ve learned into practice.

An area where there’s a gap in the research

This is what will really make your work stand out – if you can show that your topic has never been written about before. But surely there’s no such thing as a completely original idea? And how on earth can you know if your idea is original without literally reading everything that’s ever been written?

Worry not, you’re not expected to come up with a wildly groundbreaking, paradigm-shifting theory that completely revolutionises the face of communications as we know it. Your contribution can be a bit more modest.

It could be as simple as combining two existing models, or applying an old theory in a new situation. For example, a piece of research may have been conducted with Asian consumers, but will the same results occur in a UK context? If not, why not? Make sure you explore the models and theories that you’re basing your work on in your literature review.

Stay tuned for part two where I’ll discuss the next step to getting a distinction in your MSc corporate communications, marketing or public relations: Questioning everything.

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