Grad School Recap, Spring 2019

I haven’t written this much since my senior thesis.


I just wrapped up another semester of graduate school working part time towards a masters degree in mass communications. I intended to recap the semester right after classes were over, but I’ll be honest… the volume of reading, research and writing this semester (while working full time) completely exhausted me. A month-and-a-half later, I’m mostly recovered. It was a great semester and I’ve got a much better idea of where I’m heading with my thesis and plenty of ideas for future research.

This spring, I took two classes — one on the history of mass media and an introduction to content analysis.

For the mass media history class, I researched the introduction of the Linotype into weekly newspapers across South Carolina in the early 1900s. My project involved digging through newspaper archives and discovering fascinating stories about community papers at the turn of the century. I’m happy with the final paper and want to rework it a little bit before submitting it for conference consideration.

Content analysis is the process of systematically researching the patterns and content of documents and other communications materials. I performed a quantitative content analysis project looking at logo reviews on Brand New and how the content of the review affected reader reaction. The final paper was accepted by AEJMC’s Visual Communication division for presentation at the annual conference in Toronto this August. I’m really excited — and more than a little bit nervous — for my first academic conference presentation.

I enjoyed both classes, but the semester was exceptionally intense. I spent many evenings studying, reading and writing at the new Starbucks not too far from my house. I’m proud of both of my major papers and have many ideas of how to extend them into future research. A few other observations from the semester:

  • Last fall, I realized that I needed software to track all the journal articles I was reading. I was surprised that most of the faculty members I talked to were using any kind of reference management software. I eventually settled on Zotero. Don’t let the brutalist interface fool you… The service is exceptionally powerful, and I’ve barely scratched the surface of what it can do. The free level had just enough cloud storage for this semester, but I’ll be upgrading to the paid tier for more storage next semester.

  • I’m using Ulysses to write everything, but I may switch to using Scrivener for longer research papers. I’m also intrigued at the integration between Zotero and Google Docs, but I really don’t want to write everything in Google Docs.

  • The solution to all problems in grad school is “read more.” I’ve read more in the last six months than I have in my life — mostly academic journal articles. And every time I had a question or a problem, the answer always started with “Have you read…?”

Next semester, I’m taking a single class — Literature of Mass Communication — and I’m teaching a class. I’m looking forward to another semester of research and what I assume will be a significant reading load.

Bob Wertz writes about design, technology and pop culture at Sketchbook B. Bob is a Columbia, South Carolina-based designer, researcher, college instructor, husband and dad. He’s particularly obsessed with typography, the creative process and the tools we use to create. Follow Bob on Instagram.