What are the links between English Language and Media Studies?

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Do you study English Language at A Level? If so, current Lancaster student Emily Cockbain suggests that Media and Cultural Studies might be the degree for you.

Choosing a degree can feel difficult and stressful. You may have worries such as: what if I don’t enjoy my degree? What if I find it too hard? Do I have the right knowledge and skills for the course? If this is the case, a good place to start can be thinking about what you enjoy learning about now. For me, studying English Language at A-level alongside Media Studies and Art and Design helped me to explore my interests in research, creative writing, and a range of reading and theories, which I’ve taken with me and built on in my current degree in Media and Cultural Studies here at Lancaster.

So, what have I learnt along the way about how to make the most of the links between English Language and Media and Cultural Studies? Many of the skills I used in my English Language A-Level are very similar to those I use on my degree. Assessments for both subjects often focus on analysing a text for its meanings and representations whilst exploring the effectiveness of a text and comparing it to others. Actually, I found that many of the revision strategies I used at A-Level could be built on in my degree – flash cards never fail to let me down when revising quotes or short facts for exams whilst it is also helpful to practice analysing a range of texts and having a go at past paper questions.

It goes without saying that reading is an integral part of English Language and the same goes for Media and Cultural Studies. Our course focuses on theoretical perspectives around topics such as gender, race, postmodernism, class, and surveillance culture, to name just a few. Similar to studying how aspects such as class and race shape the English language, we analyse the ways in which they shape our interactions with different types of media. One foundational theory that is essential in Media and Cultural Studies is Stuart Hall’s (1997) work on the role of ‘representation’, which I first came across in my English Language A-Level studies. So, you are very likely to already have some base knowledge about key concepts in media that you can build upon in a Media and Cultural Studies degree.

Another key part of English Language, aside from reading, exploring theories, and analysing existing texts, is crafting your own creative writing. As someone who has a passion for journalism, this was possibly my favourite aspect of the A-Level course. It was around this time that I realised my love for creative writing as it allowed me to look at a range of different style models and begin developing my own unique style.

Now, over two years after finishing my A-Levels, I still thoroughly enjoy creative writing and have had many opportunities to put it into practice – within my course I have had several creative assessments such as writing TV show reviews and building a website. I am also involved in activities outside of my degree such as writing for our student newspaper SCAN (Student Comment and News) and creating content for the Sociology Department as part of my role as a student ambassador. At Lancaster we also have the Take2 Cinema, TV station LA1TV, and radio station Bailrigg FM alongside many other groups and societies that allow you to explore your creative interests further. You also get to meet new people and it looks great on your CV!

Our Media and Cultural Studies degree is run by the Sociology department, which was placed third in the UK for world-class research in the most recent Research Excellence Framework (REF 2014), which from a student perspective is reflected in how we are actively encouraged to engage with real-world problems throughout our degree. Even though English Language is often focused on texts, I found some of the work at A-Level helpful in preparing me for the more research-focused aspects of my degree. At A-level I had to complete a non-exam assessment consisting of an investigation, piece of original writing and commentary. In many ways, this assessment is similar to the pilot research project that I engaged in as part of my SOCL201 (Skills for Researching Social and Cultural Life) module in second year – the project involved choosing a specific topic, using research methods to gather data, and finally analysing this data to write up a report. Having already practiced skills of analysis, reading and referencing at A-Level really helped me feel confident in undertaking my first research-based project at Lancaster. I also expect to be able to apply much of this knowledge further in my final year dissertation.

Over the course of my degree so far, I’ve learnt that studying English and social sciences can go hand in hand. If you enjoy studying English Language or Literature at A-Level, have a look at our Media and Cultural Studies degree – we study not only written texts but a range of media forms from magazines to video games, as well as having lots of freedom to focus on your specific topics of interest in the second and final years. We would love to have you here at Lancaster!

Please note that the examples of course modules discussed in this post are subject to change year on year.

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