Rhodes>JMS>Student Resources>Journalism and Media Studies Honours

Journalism and Media Studies Honours

Priscilla  Lynette  Larry  Anthea 

Co-ordinator: Dr Priscilla Boshoff

Teacher: Prof Lynette Steenveld Teacher: Prof Larry Strelitz Teacher: Prof Anthea Garman

Email: p.a.boshoff@ru.ac.za

Room: 109

Email: l.steenveld@ru.ac.za

Room: 204

Email: l.strelitz@ru.ac.za

Room: 105

Email: a.garman@ru.ac.za

Room: 231


Term 1

Term 2

Term 3

Term 4


Representation, Identity and Social Change (RISC)
Prof Lynette Steenveld


Elective 1


Research Report

17 July: allocation of supervisors
12 October: Hand in full draft of long paper for corrections 23 November: Hand in corrected version for internal examination
30 November: Supervisor sends in internal examination report, and research papers sent to External examiner.

Elective 2


Critical Research Methods (CRM) Prof Larry Strelitz


Elective 3


Elective 4



Course overview

The Honours degree in Journalism and Media Studies is a NQF 8 level qualification. It is offered full time over one year, although accommodation can be made for exceptional students to do the degree part time over two years.

The Honours degree is structured to introduce students to selected key theoretical frameworks and the research methodologies and methods relevant to this level of study in the fields of Journalism and Media Studies. As such, the core courses are concept-driven, rather than topic-driven. Honours students are expected by the end of the year to be able to evaluate these key approaches to Media Studies and to be able to apply these understandings independently within a selected research area. Students should be able to recognise broad distinctions in the research paradigms taught, in particular between qualitative and quantitative research. But they are only expected to demonstrate competency in the application of one research method, under the guidance of the supervisor.

Students are therefore assisted to take full responsibility for their learning strategies. As part of their intellectual journey, students are encouraged to develop the ability to interrogate knowledge and to reflect critically on the complexity of knowledge creation when working with unfamiliar, complex and problematic social issues. They also learn how to respond creatively to such problems and issues and to effectively share these responses with their classmates.

Honours students will complete two compulsory papers, two elective papers and one research essay of 10-15 000 words. The two compulsory papers are Representation, Identity and Social Change (RISC) and Critical Research Methods (CRM). Any two electives can be chosen from the list of those offered below (depending on what options are offered in any one year). Students will conceptualise and write up their research papers in the third and fourth term, in consultation with their allotted supervisors.

In addition to the content seminars, a course is run over the year by Prof Anthea Garman, the aim of which is to support and develop students’ academic reading and writing skills.

The Honours course is weighted at a minimum of 120 credits, and consists of five papers altogether:

  • Representation, Identity and Social Change (RISC)
  • Critical Research Methods (CRM
  • Two electives, chosen from the options offered that year
  • Research paper

Compulsury papers

Representation, Identity and Social Change (RISC) – Prof Lynette Steenveld

The focus of the fourth year is on media for social change. The RISC course provides initial insights for thinking about what this means. The course is designed to interrogate the ways in which social representations offer different ways of understanding people, places and events, and the kinds of identities that are constructed through these representations. It does this by problematising representational practices from around the world, and uses ‘Southern Theory’ as a way of making sense of the representational practices that we are confronted with. By focusing on Africa and the framework provided by coloniality/ decoloniality theory, we are able to probe representational practices in relation to race and gender.

It is hoped that these frameworks will enable students to see the ways in which their own practices are shaped by various kinds of ‘common sense’, and in so doing offer them more critical ways of engaging in their own practice, so that they can use their media production as a means of social change. Students will be regarded as researchers whose objects of study are both commercial and other media, as well as their own work. In this way the course attempts to integrate media studies and media practice, and in so doing contribute to the education of reflective and critical media producers, as well as media literate citizens.

Critical research methods – Prof Larry Strelitz

The purpose of this course is to clarify what is required at each of the stages of the research process as well as provide an overview of the key theoretical frameworks (methodology) in social science research and the research methods associated with them. This involves the following processes:

The identification of a problem, question or issue worth researching;

»             Selecting an appropriate research design for one’s study;

»             Undertaking the actual research. This involves the collection of relevant data using appropriate research methods;

»             Being cognisant of the ethical principles that guide social science research;

»             Reflecting on and theorizing one’s research findings.

Within the context of the School’s theoretical and research orientation, this course will necessarily be framed by a consideration of discussions on what it means to ‘decolonise research’.

The Honours research report

The Higher Education Qualifications Framework describes the Honours degree and its required research component in the following way:

The Bachelor Honours Degree is a postgraduate specialisation qualification, characterised by the fact that it prepares students for research-based postgraduate study. This qualification typically follows a Bachelor's Degree, and serves to consolidate and deepen the student's expertise in a particular discipline, and to develop research capacity in the methodology and techniques of that discipline. This qualification demands a high level of theoretical engagement and intellectual independence.

Bachelor Honours Degree programmes must include conducting and reporting research under supervision, worth at least 30 credits, in a manner that is appropriate to the discipline or field of study.

In other words, you are expected to be able to produce, under supervision, a short piece of independent and discipline-specific research. This research must show that you are familiar with the methods used in that discipline.

Being a researcher: the importance of reading and writing

Doing empirical research is a process that includes a range of activities, all of which support each other. The important thing to keep in mind is that research includes both READING and WRITING: reading and writing are not “outside” of, or additional to, the research process, but are integral to it. You cannot do research without making reading and writing central to your research process. Reading the theoretical and research literature provides the intellectual context in which your research takes place; and writing is the way in which you find out what you want to say about your data in relation to this literature. Reading and writing in other words do not come before and after research has taken place: they ARE the research.

Here are some wise words about the relationship between writing and research:

Writing… is a vital part of the research process. The activity of research is one that, from the outset, involves writing. Researchers keep notes, jot down ideas, record observations, summarize readings, transcribe interviews and develop pieces of writing about specific aspects of their investigation. These writings are not simply getting things down on paper, but are making meaning and advancing understandings through these various writings. (Kamler and Thompson 2006: 3)

So, begin to read and write from the start. Don’t wait to “write up” after you finish reading and collecting your data, because you will miss important connections and insights. Make reading and writing of all kinds a regular aspect of your research journey.

Here is a generic outline of the shape a research paper generally takes. Please go through this document with your supervisor: your supervisor may wish you to modify or adapt some of these conventions for your particular study.

Use the outline below in a judicious fashion, adapting it for your own needs – it is a guide, not a prescription. The total length of your essay is about 10000 words (excluding cover pages, appendices, and reference list), so think carefully about how many words to devote to each chapter (I have given some suggestions below).

Please bear in mind that this outline is a simplified representation to help you understand what is included in an empirical research project - you cannot write a research paper by simply “filling in” these sections, like a paint-by-numbers picture. Good research has its own coherence and integrity, a “completeness” that comes from engaged thinking that works across the project as a whole.

Presentation of the research essay (adapted from Mouton, J. 2011. How to succeed in your master's and doctoral studies: A South African guide and resource book. Pretoria: Van Schaik.)

Presentation of the essay


Title page

Your title should be short, clear and to the point.


It is common practice to acknowledge the contribution of those who contributed significantly to your research process, as well as those who supported you during your studies.


A concise recapitulation of the key objectives of the study, the design and methodology followed, as well as the key findings and recommendations.

Table of contents

A page dedicated to the “table of contents” with accurate page numbers.

List of figures/tables

A separate page which lists the figures or other illustrations and tables, with accurate page numbers.


The list of references includes all those sources that you explicitly refer to (and quote) in your text.




Covering letters

Coding schedules, etc.


Chapter 1: Introduction

800 -1000 words

Present the idea for the thesis and motivation for the study

Begin by contextualising the study. Relate how you came to decide on this topic and its relevance and importance. You might want to introduce personal motivations and observations here. What are the main reasons (theoretical, empirical, practical) that led you to decide on this topic?

Set up the context

Describe the broader social context in which the research takes place: what contextual factors and background history are needed to understand the research problem and its importance? Using this context, show how your reading in the literature has led to a refinement and focusing of your initial ideas and to the construction of the research problem.

Identify and articulate the research problem, question or hypotheses;

State the overall aims and goals of the study as they crystallised during your preliminary reading and thinking about the problem. Present the specific research objectives by means of your key research questions (these need to be formulated in quite concreate ways).

General indication of the methodology and methods used

Then present the central methodology and methods that you use. Remember, as this is the introduction, you merely indicate these in outline fashion – the main “meat” of the methodology and methods will come in the methodology chapter.

Outline of the remainder of the thesis

You conclude the introduction with an outline of the rest of the thesis, showing how it unfolds and the main topics that are dealt with in each section.

Chapter 2: Literature review/theoretical framework


1800-2600 words


The chapter on the literature review in an empirical study usually also contains the theoretical framework that has informed the study. However, depending on the complexity of the material, you might want to separate the theoretical framework from the literature review.

Introduction: demarcating

the literature covered

It is helpful to start this chapter by indicating which literature you cover and how you have decided to arrange the literature that you include


Discussion of literature

that you have read

Present the literature that you have read in an organised and structured manner. Avoid

repetition or merely compiling lists of summaries without integrating your readings into a coherent text that presents an argument.

Conclude the chapter

with a summary of the

main conclusions or findings

The chapter should end with an overview of the main conclusions you have reached on the basis of your review of the literature. These conclusions are essential because they would have informed and influenced the empirical part of your study.

Chapter 3: Research

design and methodology

1000 -1500 words


This chapter documents the design and methodology followed

during your fieldwork



Set up the main approach (methodology) that you have chosen, and why it is appropriate for your study.

Sample design and methods

Discuss the sampling design, the sampling methods used to collect the sample, and the criteria used to decide on the sample size.

Data collection methods

and fieldwork practice

Describe how you went about collecting the data, including access to subjects, data collection techniques and procedures, dates and settings of data collection, etc.

Data capturing and editing

Describe how you collected, edited, transcribed, etc, your data. Include here how you avoided errors in collection, transcription, etc. in other words, address issues of reliability.

Chapter 4: Presentation of findings


4500-5500 words


Draw your reader into the chapter by indicating the direction in which you will go in the presentation of the findings.

Presentation of results

Describe and summarise the main results that you obtained, using graphs and visuals where necessary.

Discussion of results by theme

Discuss the main trends or patterns that emerge from the data. The idea is to create a coherent and persuasive narrative that develops a “picture” of the data for the reader.


Draw the discussion to a close by highlighting the main results.

Chapter 5: Conclusion

+- 800 words

Summarise and discuss the most important points of the findings from the data, and offer an interpretation of the data in terms of the theory.

In your discussion, you offer an interpretation of the main findings in the light of the literature that has framed your research.  It is essential that you show how your results and conclusions relate to the readings (theory and literature review); and also how they might develop or challenge our understanding of the phenomena you have investigated.

Discuss any anomalies/gaps/omissions

Include surprising results, or show how your data might deviate from expectations. Be honest about any ambiguities, and speculate how they might compromise/ inflect your findings and conclusions.

Highlight the larger significance of the results

Show the relevance and value of your study, and point to further research that could be done.



Hons elective courses for the third term (3 August to 11 September 2020)

The top four electives are being offered in 2020. Each elective is worth 15 NQF credits, corresponding to approximately 150 hours of work. Honours and Masters students are expected to choose two electives. Students at different levels will attend the same course but will be assessed differently.

Digital inequalities in Africa – Prof Lorenzo Dalvit

The current COVID-19 pandemic has brought into sharp focus long-standing inequalities, including digital ones. Scholarly interest on the issue of digital inequalities peaked at the turn of the century, when terms such as "digital divide" gained currency. The initial distinction between ICT haves and have-nots has gradually been replaced by a recognition of a continuum of experiences and the recognition of multiple and intersecting "divides" which transcend geographical boundaries. The Global South, in this case with reference to the digital domain, does not refer to a particular location but to a condition of marginalisation in terms of access, skills and ability to benefit from digital technology. While multiple classifications exist, these three correspond to the established levels of the "divide" in the literature. Consistent with the critical and decolonial approach informing our programme, we will also focus on the negative side. Most scholarly research on ICT in Africa, informed by a technologically determinist orientation, tends to frame ICt problems in terms of deficit (of access, skills or ability). We will explore concerns around privacy, security, dependency, cultural alienation etc, which thus far have been taken into account almost exclusively in Western contexts. The module starts with extensive engagement with a recent and relevant book edited by Mutsvairo and Ragnedda Mapping the Digital Divide in Africa. Students will then be required to contribute with an in-depth exploration of digital inequalities across domains (education, political participation, economic activity, etc) and different dimensions (gender, race, (dis)ability, etc). Particularly in the latter part, there will be ample opportunities for students to shape the course according to their own personal interests.

Economics journalism – Mr Ryan Hancocks

Economics journalism will look to introduce the topics and questions present in today’s society that deal with the role of financial markets, development, equality and policy. The course will enlighten the prospective student as to the use of core subjects and provide a basic understanding of the importance journalism plays in the economic sphere of a developing ‘global’ South Africa. Over the weeks the module will look at specific topics such as:

  • Introduction to economics and the role of media
  • Companies, markets, and banking regulation
  • Globalisation, development, and the economics of inequality
  • Economics, financial, and business news writing

Students will be taken through the key theories that govern global economies and encounter the variety of systems that governments can put into place to deal with the ever-present fight between growth, inflation, and unemployment. Through seminars, we will examine some of the central arguments present in South Africa around wealth and capital accumulation and look to develop a more informed understanding of market complexities in a global era. Specific time will be given to developing an African context of global and local economic forces while developing the student's ability to produce work that is critical and informed.

Students can feel assured that the content and work will be of a practical nature and novice or expert alike, as long as they possess a keen interest in the real forces that govern our daily lives will find benefit from the instruction provided in the module. Be you an aspiring business reporter, future economic analyst, or just a passionate public sphere economic blogger, the tools and theories to better represent yourself and your reader's interests will be provided.

Navigating the post-truth world, mapping propaganda, lies, and conspiracy theories and making sense of evidence in the digital era – Prof Anthea Garman and Dr Alette Schoon

Those who hold power get to tell the stories that come to be believed and written down as ‘history’. An African proverb says that the story of the hunt would be very different if the lion (instead of the hunter) had the historian to recount the experience. We are accustomed to considering facts as non-negotiable, proven and dependable, but all knowledge, all facts, emanate from knowledge systems and from what Foucault called “regimes of truth”. We know that belief systems and knowledge systems have close relationships, that they are deeply imbedded in cultures, that the oppressed tell very different stories from the powerful, and that the average human is very capable of all sorts of cognitive dissonance – we can hold scientific beliefs and religious beliefs in tandem even though we know that these two world views have fundamental collisions with each other.

But such cognitive dissonance has in the digital era reached a point of such extremes that we are now living in a time where people have lost faith in the mainstream media, experts and institutions. The stock in trade of media workers – the facts – have become plastic, mutable, uncertain. We now find ourselves in a social media world where sinister forces use bots to spread conspiracy theories and where trolls and influencers have become more important than facts and evidence. Or is this a totally wrong exaggeration? In this course we look at the ‘post truth’ and its features from both a media and a theoretical perspective. We will help you unpack messages and assess them for yourself. You will do so in terms of theories of epistemology grounded in the philosophical approaches of modernism, post-modernism and critical realism, You then apply these to understand journalistic methods of verification, unpack what we mean by propaganda in the digital age, and consider the spread of conspiracy theories on social media and the psychology that underpins these. We look particularly at the global rise of alt-right media and how it co-opted internet prankster culture of gamers and hackers, how global right wing movements are increasingly aligned with anti-science movements like the anti-vax movement, and finally focus on the conspiracy theories that have emerged around the corona virus pandemic. We conclude by exploring how we understand the notion of truth in visual representations such as memes, photography and documentary film.

Self representation, power and identity – Dr Priscilla Boshoff

Images and other kinds of self-representation have become a ubiquitous social phenomenon, enabled by the rapid uptake of mobile phones and social media. Self-representation is nothing new, but contemporary digital methods of self-representation are distinguished from earlier forms by the ease of creation and the ability of the resulting texts to be endlessly replicated, distributed and curated. Like other forms of self-representation, we can understand these practices and texts as ‘techniques of self’ that produce particular forms of identity within a specific social and historical context. This course approaches the practice of self-representation on social media from a critical perspective. Using a post-structuralist and Foucauldian frame, the course examines the ways in which self-representations tie us to particular forms of subjectivity within our specific social and historical locale. In so doing we can critique how self-representations participate in producing – or resisting – the power-relations that characterise digital sociality, and the implications these have for lived social relations within our current milieu.

Afrofuturism and the anthropocene – Prof Anthea Garman and Dr Alette Schoon

Email: a.garman@ru.ac.za

Room 231

Email: a.schoon@ru.ac.za

Room 111

This course will explore representations of nature, technology and the future. It will allow students to raise fundamental questions in terms of what it means to be human and a resident of the earth; and how we conceive of the future and our place in it. The course starts with an exploration of the Anthropocene and a geneology of how we’ve conceptualised nature, while simultaneously de-centring the human experience by exploring animal and cyborg consciousnesses. It then looks at the present reality of living in a high-tech ecologically damaged world. It’s a world of exported e-waste and global big data cooled by megatons of water, slums and smart cities struggling with climate change, where oppressive regimes are powered by intelligent surveillance. We trace the roots of the crisis back to the myth of progress fuelled by colonialism, where colonised people were fed broken promises of a prosperous future if they assimilated into Western modernity, and settler societies were justified as custodians of nature and scientific and technological advancement. We then turn to imagining different futures for our continent, possible transmodernities that challenge neo-colonial power. Finally, to explore the power of speculative thinking for new worlds in which science and technology serve social justice and sustainability, we turn to the artists and dreamers of the Afrofuturist tradition.

Comics and the re-imaging of Africa – Mr Brian Garman

Email: b.garman@ru.ac.za

Room 210

The superhero genre emerged from the United States in the late 1930s as an escapist fantasy that helped readers cope with the misery of the Depression and the anxiety brought about by the rise of fascism in Europe. Today, superheroes are no longer only white men, nor are they confined to America, or even the pages of comic books. Such diversity is necessary given the superhero’s increasingly important role as an “escapist fantasy, cross-generational icon, and aspirational figure” (Burke, 2016). Several short-lived black superheroes emerged between the mid 1940s and mid 1960s, but the first American black superhero that has enjoyed any longevity was the Black Panther who appeared in Marvel’s 1966 Fantastic Four. Since then he and his fictional home country, Wakanda, have become symbolic of the possibilities of a newly imagined Africa. In Southern Africa we have recently seen the emergence of our own African superheroes. Characters such as Razorman from Zimbabwe and South Africa’s first superhero Kwezi are beginning to offer readers alternatives to the standard American superhero fare. But are they that different? In this course, we will look at The latest volume of Black Panther and Kwezi through the lens of Afro-futurism and coloniality/decoloniality to unpick what a re-imagined Africa might look like.

The gangster film in South Africa – Dr Priscilla Boshoff

Email: p.a.boshoff@ru.ac.za

Room 109

This introductory film course is informed by critical cultural and postcolonial studies and film theory.  Central to this approach is a concern with identity and the politics of representation across class, race, gender and geographical lines.

Students will be introduced to the formal and stylistic features of film analysis to enable them to read and critically discuss film, specifically the gangster genre. This genre has notably engaged with the themes of class stratification and economic inequities, alongside gender relations, since its inception in Hollywood cinema in the mid twentieth century. The course focus will primarily be on South African films within this genre before and after the political transition – from Mapantsula, to Tsotsi, The Numbers Gang, Hijack Stories and Jerusalema. The intention is to probe the changing social contexts which give rise to these narratives. By studying different films as cultural constructs we are able to consider how they narrate for the audience the fault lines of social inclusion and exclusion in the context of coloniality, and to examine and how shifts in the nature of representation have occurred over recent times. The seminars will be accompanied by a screening programme of two movies a week.

The new information superpowers: are Google and Facebook taking over the world? – Ms Kayla Roux

Email: k.roux@ru.ac.za

Room 227

This course serves as an introduction to a number of key debates in critical digital and social media studies. From informational algorithms and social media surveillance to a new breed of fast-growing multinational corporations, digital and social media have completely revolutionized the way we organize our lives and access information. More specifically, they have introduced formidable and complex new paradigms of power, influence, and control in our lives. Students will examine the relationship between digital technologies and society, interrogating the power relations that characterise digital capitalism, the ways social struggles play out online, and the political economy of new informational superpowers. Students will apply theoretical concepts drawn from critical digital media studies to contemporary case studies such as the free digital labour performed by millions of Facebook users on a daily basis, or the powerful surveillance technology that makes Google products so efficient and effective. 

The pirate’s guide to the internet – Dr Alette Schoon

Email: a.schoon@ru.ac.za

Room 111

This course will help you understand the various elements that underpin the internet across the globe, particularly the material infrastructure that makes notions such as “the cloud” actually work, such as cables, routers and network protocols. Understanding such material infrastructure will provide a precise conceptual vocabulary for revisiting some of the classical literature around the notion of the digital divide. In contrast to the digital divide’s passive construct of the disconnected, the literature on pirate infrastructure considers how various digital platforms for copyright infringement become disruptive spaces for digital access for those living in marginalised postcolonial spaces. We will investigate the history of piracy on the internet, considering platforms such as Napster, torrents, etc. We will also explore how the global open source software movement and the copyleft movement have challenged notions of fair use, access and intellectual property on the internet. Finally we will explore the mobile internet and access for the less-connected. These debates will enable you to understand radical critiques around access to the internet, information and media. This will allow you to produce research around notions of digital inequality and be able to compare different notions of what is meant by “the internet” in different social spaces.

Platform power, communicative capitalism and the future of media and journalism: a Southern perspective – Prof Lorenzo Dalvit

Email: l.dalvit@ru.ac.za


Rapid advances in artificial intelligence and social media surveillance by large multinational corporations such as Google, Facebook, Samsung and Apple, pose substantial theoretical and empirical challenges to contemporary media scholarship. The growing popularity of social media is transforming the ways that some people feel and exert agency and connect and socialize in the world, empowering some while simultaneously excluding others from these digital exchanges and affordances.

Students will examine various approaches to understanding this current era of ‘communicative capitalism’ and the relationship between digital technologies and society, and will interrogate the power relations that underpin digital capitalism and the ways social struggles play out online and in society more generally. Students will apply theoretical concepts drawn from critical digital media studies to contemporary case studies such as the free digital labour performed by millions of Facebook users on a daily basis. Other theoretical perspectives, including New Institutional Economics, Evolutionary economics and Behavioral economics will also be explored.

Self-representation and mobile culture – Dr Priscilla Boshoff

Email: p.a.boshoff@ru.ac.za

Room 109

Contemporary culture is in many ways shaped by our mobile phones: what they mean to us, how we integrate them into our everyday routines, and how we use them in a range of ways to communicate with each other - and ourselves. This course looks at the ways we use the mobile phone to represent ourselves online, and what these self-representations mean, both for ourselves and others. I have conceptualised this course as a "service learning" course that looks at self-representation in relation to mobile culture in the local Makhanda setting. This means that we partner with older learners from GADRA and Nombulelo High School to conduct research that has mutual benefits for you and the learners involved. You learn how to conduct a piece of research through engaging with young people about their mobile practices, and they are given the opportunity to develop insights into their own self-representation practices in relation to the demands of contemporary mobile culture.


Last Modified: Tue, 15 Dec 2020 14:33:23 SAST