Students doing research: Last semester’s theses

I am just about to finish grading the last Master thesis, so it seems a good moment to look back at the research my 10 Bachelor and 7 Master students did last semester. The quality of theses obviously always varies, but there are a lot of decent studies among them, some are even excellent. So what did they find out? (Follow the links to get a PDF of the thesis).

Let’s start with some research on political actors on Twitter.

Fleur Griffioen (BSc) conducted a content analysis of Dutch politicians’ tweets and which forms of interactivity are used by which politicians, thereby questioning the practice to lump these forms together. Next to this, Marloes IJkema (BSc) shows that politicians on Twitter deal with some specific political topics (for example,  Justice and Security) in a much less interactive way than if they are tweeting about non-political issues.

As Nathalie Franse (BSc) shows, left-wing politicians in the Netherlands tend to tweet in a less personal way than right-wing politicians, whose tweets contain a greater deel of personalization features. The same seems to be true in the UK and the US, says Thom Rietberg (BSc), who adds that right-wing politicians also use more conversational features.

Romy Beck (BSc) was interested in the question of negative campaigning by Dutch politicians on Twitter: Contrary to what sometimes is argued, her research suggests that negative campaigning takes especially place in the beginning of the campaign and is done by parties with more seats in parliament. In the US, using tweets to attack the opponent seems to be especially used by a Republican candidate; and generally speaking, such attacks are less frequent in the UK, according to Bram Theunissen (BSc). This is in line with what Loïs Schut (BSc) writes: Negative campaigning on Twitter seems to be more popular in the US than in the UK. She furthermore argues that parties do the dirty work for politicians (“dat politieke partijen het smerige werk opknappen van vooraanstaande politici”, p. 25) by using party accounts for negative campaigning, leaving politician the possibility to use his their Twitter account for positive campaigning.

Rather than investigating how politicians use Twitter, Frederic van Triel (MA) took a different approach to the analysis of tweets and looked at how others tweet about politicians. Analyzing the case of the German candidate-chancellor Peer Steinbrück, he finds a negative sentiment towards him, which is in line with Frederic’s parallel analysis of newspaper coverage.

Babette Pöll (MSc) went a step further in her analysis: She investigated how journalists actually deal with tweets in their news coverage. More often than actually triggering a news story, she writes, tweets are used as an illustration; but still, tweets by politicians are much more frequently used as a trigger rather than an illustration than this is the case for citizens.

Some research on newspapers, blogs, and the EU:

Comparing coverage of the European Union in newspapers and blogs in the Netherlands and the UK, Lola Lindhout (BSc) shows that in the UK, coverage is much more focused on domestic actors. She also finds that blogs are employing a tone that can be described as more negative, but also more personalized. But although there are some differences in the use of, e.g., a human interest frame in these media, across the board, the framing of the EU seems similar, according to Marlotte Wijk (BSc). In this context, Michelle Audiffred (BSc) tried to tackle the problem of measuring depth of coverage. She discusses methodological issues and finds a higher level of depth in Dutch media than in the UK.

More framing studies, if not already mentioned above:

Investigating the framing of the Darfur conflict, Sanne de Lorme (MSc) evaluated Galtung’s operationalization of war and peace framing. In her conclusion, she suggests that it might only be appropriate for analyzing regular wars between states. Coverage turned out to be largely about third parties, such as the UN, the NATO, or other countries, which Galtung’s instrument does not sufficiently take into account.

According to Thomas Moerman (MA), the framing of the ACTA treaty differs between Dutch online and offline media. For example, he identified a frame that portrayed EU actors as a potential risk. This frame was more often used online than offline.

Miscellaneous topics:

Sandra Kalsbeek (MSc) put a model of government website categorization to a test in the Netherlands and showed how Dutch municipalities and provinces can still improve interaction with citizens on their websites.

Using a qualitative approach, Malou Morgan (MSc) explored the potential of social media to politically engage the youth in Barbados. She finds a general lack of satisfaction with democratic culture, while interest in politics is present – which is why she calls for developing tools to make use of this interest.

Alan Ryan (MSc) compared the use of meta-coverage regarding spin-doctoring in election times in Ireland and New Zealand. He sketches the development of coverage of spin-doctoring over time and concludes that differences between the two countries are limited.

And, last but not least:

Bram, Thom and Loïs won an award for the best poster presenting their BA theses of the department.

Congratulations to all of you! 

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