Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Diary of a Mature MSc Student - Week 8

When the tutor says bring a calculator with a square root function, you know that the class is going to involve more math than you desire. This week we covered Z statistics which was more fun than it sounds. It was the first time I really had to get out my notepad to write down formulas and plug in numbers. It also made me realise I haven't written anything by hand for a long time.

The statistics class takes up my Thursday afternoons from 2pm to 6pm. By the evening my head hurts a little but I find it quite rewarding.

Week 8 has been a good week. Suddenly I feel more comfortable with everything. Until now I have been doing all the readings, worried that I know very little and that I have to cram a lot of new concepts into my brain. Whether I have become more confident, or I am simply exhausted by reading so much, I now feel I can pick and choose my readings a little more. I even missed a lecture this week to work on an essay, though I should add I did do the readings, reviewed the slides and will catch up on the lecture video recording.

I feel things are beginning to come together. I recognised many of the concepts in the readings and I understood a little more about the different schools of thought including structuralists and poststructuralists. I almost feel like an expert on the Habermasian public sphere because I have so read many articles that discuss the concept. I am just kidding of course but things feel more familiar.  At the end of last week I think I felt comfortable and confident for the first time. That may all change of course when I get my first essays marked.

I think my confidence also comes from my familiarity with the topics we are studying, if not the academic theory. My next two essays are on the branding of the People's Vote campaign and the role of political journalism. I am very happy to spend hours reading and researching these areas. I feel very privileged to have the time to study something I am passionate about. As my friends know I can bore anyone for hours about political communication.

I am still struggling on my dissertation topic and want to thank everyone who has given me feedback and thoughts over the last week. I think my dissertation topic is likely to be 'the political attitudes of working class communities in Swindon'. I still need to work up a specific research area and question but I think it has potential. I also feel it is something I can do in remembrance of my father who passed away earlier this year. He worked in Swindon throughout his life, including as a coach fitter in the railways and later in the local car factory, which became part of British Leyland. I feel working class communities are poorly represented and understood by the mainstream media. I think the BBC's recent documentary The Mighty Redcar was one of better documentaries about working class communities. Despite leaving Swindon many years ago, I still feel rooted in these communities.

We have to submit our topics next Tuesday, so I have a little more time to think about things. I should say the events of the last week did make me think about other potential topics, such as an analysis of the media coverage of the Brexit Withdrawal agreement. Or alternatively something on political brands, as I spent many years building brands for my startup companies. I need to spend a bit more time thinking about my topic this week. All thoughts welcome. Right back to my statistics!