module specification

SM5068 - Researching Media Audiences (2019/20)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2019/20
Module title Researching Media Audiences
Module level Intermediate (05)
Credit rating for module 15
School School of Computing and Digital Media
Total study hours 150
111 hours Guided independent study
39 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Coursework 40%   Essay
Coursework 60%   Report based on fieldwork
Running in 2019/20
Period Campus Day Time Module Leader
Spring semester North Thursday Afternoon

Module summary

This module critically examines the history of media audience research focusing on theoretical, methodological and ethical questions. Students study different ways of conceptualising and researching the relationship between media and audiences. They learn to evaluate and apply key concepts, theories and methods in designing and conducting their own piece of audience research.

Prior learning requirements

Successful completion of Level 4

Module aims

The module aims to equip students to:

  • develop a critically understanding of different approaches to conceptualising media audiences and available research strategies
  • examine and evaluate existing audience research, its history and context, and the methods that have informed it
  • conduct a short piece of audience research


Typically, the module will cover the following:

Changing concepts of the audience
Research and research paradigms
Quantitative and qualitative approaches to research
Media effects
Screen theory
Uses and gratifications
Audience reception theories
Participatory culture
Content analysis
Textual analysis
Survey methods
Research ethics

Learning and teaching

Teaching methods include lectures, seminars/discussion groups, audio-visual presentations, field trips, and guest presentations. Students will be expected to attend lectures and take notes; attend organised trips and arrange independent trips to film festivals or other events; students will be expected to read from primary and secondary sources and to use seminars and tutorials to raise issues and seek feedback.

A blended learning strategy will be employed to enhance the learning experience, facilitate communication between students and tutors and develop collaboration among students. The Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) will be used as a platform to support online activities including on-line discussions, evaluation of online resources, and access to electronic reading packs. The VLE will also be used to facilitate formative assessment and related feedback, as well as a tool to integrate useful online learning materials provided by research institutions, academic publications, professional organisations and other relevant sources.

Learning outcomes

On completion of this module students will be able to:

  1. Compare different ways of conceptualising the relationship between media and audiences
  2. Critically evaluate concrete examples of audience research and the theories, paradigms and methods which inform it
  3. Apply some of the paradigms and methods of audience research in short piece of fieldwork

Assessment strategy

The module will be assessed via two items of coursework:

  1. 2,000-word essay (40%): the essay will test the student’s ability to compare and critically appraise different approaches to audience research, including the theories, paradigms and methods they employ (LO1, LO2)
  2. 2,000-word written report based on a piece of fieldwork (60%): the fieldwork will require the student to apply some of the paradigms and methods of audience research. The critical report will test the student’s ability to analyse his/her research findings and to evaluate the paradigms and methods used (LO 1, LO2, LO3)


Alasuutari, P. 1999. Rethinking the Media Audience, London: Sage.
Barker, M. and Petley, J. (eds). 1997. Ill effects: the media/violence debate. London and New York: Routledge.
Berger, A. A. 2013. Media and Communication Research Methods: An Introduction to Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches. Third Edition. London: Sage
Bryman, A. 2012. Social Research Methods. Fourth Edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press
Burgess, J. and Green, J. 2009. YouTube: Online Video and Participatory Culture. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Gauntlett, D. 2007. Creative Explorations: New approaches to identities and audiences, London: Routledge.
Gillespie, M. 2005. Media Audiences, Maidenhead: Open University Press
Gorton, K. 2009. Media Audiences: Television, Meaning and Emotion. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
Hall, S. et al (eds). 1980. Culture, Media Language, London: Routledge.
Livingstone, S. 2009. Children and the Internet. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Morley, D. 1992. Television, Audiences and Cultural Studies, London: Routledge.
Moores, S. 1993. Interpreting Audiences, London: Sage.
Stokes, J. 2013. How to do Media and Cultural Studies. Second Edition. London: Sage
Sullivan, J. L. 2013. Media Audiences, Effects, Users, Institutions and Power. Los Angeles/London: Sage.
Tulloch, J. 2000. Watching Television Audiences: Cultural Theories and Methods, London: Arnold

Online journal: Participations: Journal of Audience & Reception Studies.