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Master's Program

The Master of Science Degree in Journalism

  • Two-year program
  • 38 semester hours (except for the readings option), including 35 semester hours in classroom work, sometimes referred to as classroom credits. Three of the 38 credits will be thesis or professional project, and will not require classroom work.
  • Classes are 3 credit hours (5000 to 7000 level) and 4 credit hours (8000-level)
  • Students have the capstone option of a thesis (3 credits), professional project (3 credits), or readings option (1 credit plus additional coursework). Students choosing the readings option must take at least 36 classroom credits and must take at least two 8000-level classes beyond those in the core and in the topics and advanced research requirements.
  • Masters students who have successfully completed an undergraduate communications law or ethics class in the five years prior to starting their MS degree at OU may waive the class with the approval of the graduate director. All others must take 5100 (Communication Law) and 8130 (Ethics, Internet and Society), with those classes counting toward the credits needed for the degree.
  • A 1-credit class, 5020 Thesis Proposal, is required for all students in their second semester. It will be supervised by one professor. Successful defense of the thesis or professional project proposal is required for CR credit.

How to Apply

Include with your application to the Graduate College:

  • Graduate Record Examination (GRE) - optional. Official scores must be sent by the testing agency to the Graduate College.
  • International students must provide TOEFL or IELTS scores to the Graduate College.
  • Official transcripts from all universities previously attended.
  • Resume/CV
  • Statement of purpose
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • Writing sample

Our MS students tailor their plan of study to match their interests, whether they are new to the field or mid-career professionals seeking to update their skills in digital media.

Our professional classes include: podcasting, mobile journalism, reporting public issues, feature writing, strategic social media, radio and television producing, data journalism, nonfiction book publishing, magazine editing and production, and much more.

We also offer a range of more advanced, theoretical courses, including ethics, internet & society; race, class & gender in the media; historical research methods, advanced research methods and theory; in addition to ample opportunities to work one-on-one with individual faculty members.

Our students may also take courses in our sister schools in the Scripps College of Communication. This could include interactive web design, photojournalism, infographics and data visualization in the School of Visual Communication. In addition, our students take courses in immersive media (AR & VR) in the School of Media Arts and Studies, while grounding their work in journalism.

Typical Journalism Master's Program

Pre-CORE (for those new to journalism)

  • 6011 Writing and Reporting (3 credits). The writing and reporting requirement also might be met by another MS-level class (5000 or higher) that requires writing and reporting, such as Magazine Feature Writing, JOUR 5410, or by the Graduate Internship class, JOUR 6910, if the student is required to do writing and reporting for the internship.
  • 6010 Graphics and Editing (3 credits). The graphics and editing requirement also can be met by a variety of MS-level classes (5000 or higher) that teach graphics and editing skills. These include, but are not limited to, JOUR 5350 Advanced Editing and JOUR 5380 Graphics and Audiences.

CORE (up to 16 hours):

  • 5010 Intro to Grad Studies (1)
  • 5020 Thesis Proposal (1)
  • 8030 Seminar in Mass Communication Theory (4)
  • 8060 Research Methods (4)
  • 5100 Communication Law (3) -- may be waived if student has taken in the last five years
  • 8130 Ethics (3) -- May be waived if student has taken in the last five years
  • Advanced Research Techniques and Research Topics Seminars (3 classes, minimum of 10 hours)
  • Three 7000-level and/or 8000-level classes, but at least one class must be from advanced research techniques and at least one must be from research topics seminars. Certain 8000-level School of Media Arts and Studies (MDIA) classes may be used for advanced research techniques with approval of the graduate director.
  • Electives as needed or desired: Remaining required hours
  • Common Advanced Research Techniques:
  • Legal Research
  • Historical Research in Journalism
  • Seminar in Research Methods
  • Seminar in Content Analysis
  • Internet, Ethics, and Society (also meets ethics requirement)
  • Literature of Journalism
  • Seminar in Freedom of the Press
  • Magazine Research and Development
  • Seminar in International Mass Media
  • Public Relations Problems and Programs
  • Special Topics Seminar (Jour 8900, varies from semester to semester)

In selecting electives, you may count any graduate course (5000 level or above) at Ohio University. However, you should choose your electives carefully and select courses that you believe will further your education and help you following graduation. This, of course, requires you to consider your career goals.

Professional Project or Thesis: 3 credits (no classroom work required). All masters students must take a minimum of four courses from Ohio University’s journalism school, not including Journalism 5010 (Introduction to Graduate Study) and thesis, professional project or reading option courses. Of the four courses, not more than one may be Journalism 6940 (Research in Journalism and Communications).

Independent Study

An independent study course (J7930), which is arranged through a faculty member selected by the student, is designed to offer an opportunity to study something in depth that is not offered in a regular course. Note that you can take more than one J7930 in the course of getting your degree, and that J7930s count in your 38 hours. See the graduate director for a form to take a J7930 course.


Since most new masters students enter the program in the fall semester, a special orientation meeting is held shortly before classes begin. At that meeting, students have an opportunity to get to know each other as well as the faculty, to discuss the program, and to be advised on what courses they should take. The meeting concludes with members of the graduate committee being available to help students in planning their fall schedules as they register for classes online.

During the year, if you have scheduling questions or problems, the graduate director will help you. After you select a faculty member to chair your thesis, professional project, or readings committee, that faculty member may serve as your academic adviser until you complete your degree. By the end of fall semester, masters students usually should have tentatively identified a topic for a thesis or professional project and a faculty member to chair their committee. Until you pick a thesis adviser, the graduate director will act as your academic adviser. You are encouraged to ask for lots of advice as you plan your program.

In spring semester, you will choose a professor for the 1-credit JOUR 5020 Thesis Proposal class. You will work with that professor to research, write and defend a thesis or professional project proposal by the end of the semester.

Transfer Credits

In meeting the minimum requirement of 38 hours, you may transfer up to 8 semester hours of graduate courses (providing they are not thesis or internship hours) that were taken at another college or university. Only those courses with a grade of B or better may be transferred.

To transfer the hours, you must fill out an Authorization for Transfer of Credit form, which may be obtained from and must be returned to the graduate director (along with an original transcript from the college from which you want to transfer credits). Approval of the courses, which ultimately rests with the Dean of the College of Communication, usually is routine. For further information on transferring credit, consult the Graduate Catalog.

Lack of Equivalent Background

In addition to the required courses for all masters students, at least two courses will be required of those students who lack academic work or professional experience to cover the subject matter of undergraduate courses in newswriting/reporting and editing/graphics. If you believe that one or both of these courses should be waived because you took a similar course at Ohio University or elsewhere or have equivalent professional experience, fill out a waiver slip which will be provided when you enter the program and present it to the graduate director, who will determine if a waiver is warranted.

Time Limit for Completing the Program

You are allowed six years to complete your work toward a master’s degree. The clock begins running after you have been admitted to the program and in the semester in which you take your first graduate course at Ohio University. 

Capstone and Completion Requirements

The School of Journalism does not give comprehensive exams to masters students. In choosing your capstone option - thesis, professional project or readings option - select the one that will do the most for you rather than the one that appears the easiest. In actuality, all are rigorous exercises that require considerable time and mental effort.

Capstone Options

Professional Project: This option provides a student with an opportunity to do an in-depth mass media project that will not only hone writing and reporting skills but will possibly help in obtaining a full-time job. To connect course work with the world of media work, anyone doing a professional project must include a research section in the final version. In this way a student can demonstrate knowledge of scholarly research sources and methods. While the exact contents and the length of the research chapter will be determined by the three-member committee, it should address the question of what is important in the project. For example, a public relations media kit could include research on persuasion theory, while a series of articles could be elucidated by addressing each level of the Hierarchy of Influences model on content. The purpose of the professional project is to meld research and mass communication skills.

Thesis: This option, a traditional capstone of many masters programs, is strongly recommended for anyone considering a doctorate, even if a person plans to work before returning to graduate school. However, it also may be highly useful and rewarding for someone with no PhD aspirations. For example, a student considering law school might want to do a study of communications law, and another person considering newspaper management as a career might want to do a statistical readership survey. Finally, some students do a thesis simply because they find a subject that interests and excites them, and it fits a thesis mold better than that of a professional project.

Theses employ an important question of interest to scholars, scholarly research methods, and a scholarly written treatment of the subject. A thesis may be largely quantitative, generally qualitative, or a mixture of the two. Likewise, it may employ survey tools, content analysis, legal or historical research methods, a restructuring or testing of mass communication theories, or a combination of tools and methods. Those who choose to do a thesis will be encouraged to report their findings in a 25-page version submitted to a conference such as AEJMC.

Readings: This option centers on the students carefully reading and analyzing six books. The readings option is not strongly encouraged for those who think they might seek a Ph.D. because it might affect their admission to such a program. Like the professional project, it is designed for those who are planning a career in some area of mass communication outside of university teaching or research, and this option provides an opportunity to take more electives.

Students choosing the readings option must take at least 36 classroom credits and must take at least two 8000-level classes beyond those in the core and in the topics and advanced research requirements.

The student will meet with the committee to propose and discuss the area or areas in which the student wishes to read and be examined. At the meeting, deadlines and plans for the defense of the readings will be discussed, along with guidelines for the written summary or report the student will give to committee members in advance of the defense. To enable committee members to examine the student on all six books and their interrelationships, these analytical summaries should be provided to all members of the committee at least two weeks before the defense. Each book should be summarized and analyzed in 1,200 to 1,500 words or four-to-five pages (double-spaced) and an additional four-to-five page essay should synthesize the readings. Committee members may at the meeting or soon thereafter provide names of books for the chair, the committee, and the student.

Students may sign up for thesis (JOUR 6950) or project (JOUR 6650) or readings (JOUR 6750) hours even before their committees are formed. Only three thesis/project hours count for graduation, but students often take more than three hours for various reasons.

Three-Member Committee

Whatever the choice of capstone option, a student’s project, thesis proposal, or readings must be approved in advance by a three-person committee. The committee normally is made up of three faculty members from the School of Journalism. A faculty member from another department or school at Ohio University may be on the committee (but cannot be the chair) if there is a good reason for this, such as expertise or knowledge. In addition to full-time faculty members in journalism, those part-time faculty members who have permanent status as well as visiting faculty members can serve on a committee, although they cannot chair it.

In the process of evolving a professional project or thesis idea, or forming a readings option committee, the student should discuss it with a faculty member (or members) to find a person to chair the committee. When such a person is found and agrees to serve as chair, after consultation with the chair, two other persons should be asked to be on the committee. If a student wishes to have a part-timer, a visiting faculty member or someone from another department on the committee, this must be approved by the graduate director.

The chair of a thesis should be someone with appropriate research or professional experience, a record of scholarly and/or professional accomplishments, and effective teaching at the advanced graduate and undergraduate levels. Thus, there should be a close fit between the faculty members capability and the students research focus. Any journalism faculty member may chair a professional project or a readings option.

The Proposal

After the selection of a thesis or professional project committee, the student should present a proposal to each committee member. (See below for readings option.) The proposal will outline the study: what is to be done, how it will be done, why it is important and what others have done on the topic. After discussing a proposal with the committee chair, a student should proceed with the thesis or project only after a proposal is approved during a meeting with the three committee members. Often a thesis or project expands on work done in a class, but it may not be exactly the same as a paper already done for a seminar.

When the proposal is approved, the cover sheet should be signed by all of the committee members and given to the graduate director, who will place it in the students file. The proposal must be filed no later than 60 days before the oral defense. Furthermore, the graduate committee expects that the proposal will be signed and approved before a full-time student leaves school or in the first 13 months of taking coursework, whichever comes first. In writing the project or thesis, the student should work closely with the chair, who may require several drafts before the work is deemed to be presentable to the rest of the committee.

The Defense

When the professional project or the thesis is completed, it must be defended orally before the three-person committee. The student and chair are expected to attend the defense in person, rather than by teleconferencing, except in extraordinary circumstances.

To schedule a defense, the student - after receiving the approval of the chair - must give a copy of the thesis, project, or readings critiques to each committee member, and a date and time will be set no sooner than two weeks later when all three committee members are available. During the oral defense, which typically lasts between 60 and 90 minutes, the student will be asked to defend the thesis, project, or readings critiques by answering questions. If one member other than the chair cannot attend, s/he must present comments in writing or, better yet, through a teleconferencing call at the time of the defense. 

Final Tasks

Barring a total rejection, any changes requested will be made and approved by either the chair or the entire committee. Then, a final copy will be filed through the Thesis and Dissertation Services office. One copy must be bound and submitted to the Scripps School of Journalism. The final version will be checked by the chair and TAD services to ensure that they conform to the guidelines in Theses and Dissertations: Guidelines for Format and Presentation. You should pay careful attention to the directions, since changes and corrections may be costly and time consuming.

With a thesis, a student also must write an abstract.

Deadlines for applying for graduation are posted online by the Graduate College.


Sometimes a faculty member may co-author an article with a masters student. Co-authorship signifies that collaboration has taken place, and each of the authors has contributed significantly to the work. Chairing a thesis or professional project does not constitute collaboration and does not warrant co-authorship. Thus, a student can give a paper or publish an article from a thesis or a professional project without listing the chair as a co-author. However, if a faculty member contributes significantly to a thesis or professional project revision that is required for publication in a journal or presentation at a convention, then co-authorship may be warranted. If, however, the article or paper is the result of a joint research project and each author has done about the same amount of work, the names should be listed alphabetically.

In listing co-authors of an article or paper, the authors should discuss the order of the names.

The student should have done substantially more work on articles or papers stemming from a thesis or professional project and thus should be listed first.

Acceptable Grades and Grade Point Averages

A masters student must make no lower than a B-minus in any required graduate-level course, or it must be retaken. A second grade lower than a B-minus in the same required course will result in dismissal from the program. Furthermore, no graduate-level elective courses taken at Ohio University with a grade below B-minus will count toward the hours needed for graduation.

A student also will be dismissed from the program for the following:

Making more than two grades of C+ or below in all courses.

Making a B-minus or lower twice in the same JOUR 6011 writing and reporting course.

Being found guilty of cheating or committing plagiarism. One form of cheating is preparing a project or paper for one class and then using it in a second course without informing the teacher. Faculty members have the right to prohibit the use of projects or papers prepared for other classes.

All students are expected to maintain a minimum grade point average of 3.0 for all courses counting toward graduation (which precludes students from taking classes on a pass-fail basis).

If a student drops below 3.0, the graduate director will confer with members of journalism faculty who have had the student in class and particularly those who have given the student any grades below a B. Then, the graduate director will usually notify the student in writing of the problem, as well as sometimes have a meeting, and frequently give the student one semester to raise the GPA to at least 3.0. A dismissal will occur only with the approval of a majority of the graduate committee. In reaching such a decision, the graduate director has only one vote.

PR’s and I’s

Two types of incompletes are given at Ohio University. A PR (signifying "In Progress") stays on a students record until it is replaced with a grade. An I ("Incomplete") normally lasts until the end of the sixth week of the next regular semester (fall or spring) when a student is enrolled, although a faculty member can require that it be completed sooner than the sixth week. Any I not replaced with a grade by a faculty member in the specified amount of time automatically turns into an F.

The graduate committee feels strongly that PRs (except for thesis, professional project and readings option hours) are highly destructive because they have no automatic time limit for completion. Thus, PRs encourage a student to delay completing a course, and the accumulation of several PRs makes it difficult to finish coursework and graduate. Therefore, the graduate committee encourages all journalism faculty members to give only Is to masters students with the exception of PRs for thesis, professional project and readings option hours.

TA's/GA's and Fee Waiver Scholarships

Masters students are selected each year as graduate assistants and a few are named teaching assistants. While TAs teach a class and make their own hours, a GA is expected to work 15 hours a week if receiving a waiver and stipend; GA positions vary from working in the journalism school to working outside the school in a corporate communications capacity at the College of Medicine or College of Engineering. RAs work 15 hours a week with a specific faculty member, depending on the financial assistance they receive. Most TAs/GAs working in Scripps are assigned a desk or work area, and all have a mailbox in the building.

All TAs, GAs and RAs must take a minimum of 12 graduate hours each semester. These hours are paid for by a tuition waiver. In addition, those receiving this type of financial aid should be aware of other rules and regulations in the Graduate Catalog, as well as the following: Anyone with a TA/GA/RAship, or a scholarship (such as a Fulbright), in a spring or fall semester will likely receive a tuition waiver in the summer bordering on that semester; students must sign up for 9 hours or credit for summer. Note: Students are responsible for paying for fees.

Final Comments

The E. W. Scripps School of Journalism is highly selective in those it admits to the master’s program, and your acceptance is an indication that we think you will succeed. We are happy to have you, and we wish you the best. Good luck!

For more information or to schedule a visit to our school, contact:

Aimee Edmondson
Director of Graduate Studies
E.W. Scripps School of Journalism Ohio University Athens, OH 45701-2979
Voice: 740.597.3336