Practice-Led Research Masters: Pros and Cons Of Undertaking A ResM

     
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As new research Masters programmes began to take off in 2014 across UK universities, departments took the opportunity to experiment with new methods of assessment. Vocational subjects in, for example, tourism schools, management faculties and heritage studies departments could take risks with what postgraduates produced and examiners assessed. Risks that they might not dare to take with a PhD. The result gives postgraduates the chance to practise their profession in a safe, academic environment. However, challenges present themselves along the way. Let’s take the example of developing your Food Writing skills in relation to pursuing a ResM in Social Media Content Production and Management.

With a practice-led or action research approach to your Masters, your supervisors will be expecting you to engage with the industry. That means having your food stories and restaurant reviews appear in the trade press or on consumer web sites in time to evaluate. In turn, this requires building strong relationships with editors. They need to trust your content and its delivery. They have no time to waste in providing training for you and will quickly move on to other content providers if you do not deliver.

Surely your own blog will be easier to manage with no editor to please?  To build a research framework around a themed blog means that you sit in the editor's chair too. You will need to design your editorial calendar to match the annual cycle of the food industry and then cover the events as they occur or create your own events for reportage. And how will you measure all that to satisfy the data collection and analysis for your research write-up? You will be working hard to build a strong following of subscribers so that you can monetise your posts and there's only 24 hours in a day.

Designing metrics for evaluating social media production and management will be useful to you, though. Emerging social media is an area on which your employer, or potential employer, needs hard evidence before they move their own communications to these new channels. Going through the complex learning process of testing research paradigms equips you with the higher level understanding to make decisions on what to write and which channels to use. Useful in industry and ultimately useful to you if you go on to doctoral research. A PhD proposal is much easier to write after a ResM. And you will have a portfolio to demonstrate your expertise.

The ResM route will always have a taught component, so you will have a structured introduction to the theory and history of your chosen area: in food writing that is Bourdieu on how distinction is constructed and Brillat-Savarin (1755-1826), famous for his line 'Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are.'  This investment in your own cultural capital will pay dividends in your content writing and will not be overlooked by the interview panel for that fully-funded PhD next year. Most importantly, though, this practice-led approach to learning is a professionalisation process. It ensures that you can design each commission you pitch for, complete it on time, deliver compelling copy, and enjoy the fieldwork and writing. To deliver successfully every time and to know what impacts that content will have on the chosen channel gives you the confidence you need for a professional career as a reflective practitioner.

Cons

  • Editors do not have the time to waste while a novice content-provider delivers – the solution is to have your own schedule and some pre-written content.
  • Too busy developing a methodological rationale and paradigm to manage their own blog
  • Even 2 years is a very short time to build a strong following, monetise and evaluate your success
  • You do have to work, study, research and write all in a 24-hour day

Pros

  • With a good industry connection, postgraduates can build a portfolio for their career. If their own employer is involved, then often an opportunity for advancement is too.
  • You will grasp the key issues of research paradigm and conceptual framework before applying for a PhD
  • An extra qualification gained part-time before entering the competition for a funded-PhD
  • Develops a professional career as a reflective practitioner

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