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Thematic Seminar: Science, Media, and Society 1


Admission requirements

This course is only available for students in the BA International Studies programme.
The number of participants is limited to 24.

Please note that passing a Thematic Seminar (10 EC) in the second year, second semester, is an entry requirement for starting your thesis in academic year 2022-2023. You need to have passed a minimum of 100 EC of year 1 and 2 of the International Studies programme as well in order to start your thesis.


Climate change. Genetically modified foods. Pandemics. Obesity. Post traumatic stress disorder. Science issues of global proportions affect our lives as citizens of this planet. Journalists may help us make sense of these issues, enabling us to make informed decisions about policy and about our personal lives. This course looks at the science–media–society nexus, focusing on news media as an intermediary between science and society.

The course will bring critical sociological and rhetorical perspectives to bear on current developments and controversies in this field. The way news media, policy makers, scientists and citizens deal with truth, risk and uncertainty will be a major issue. Special emphasis will be put on the challenges to traditional expertise and authority posed by the internet and social media.

The major assignments will consist of a joint content analysis assignment, and an individual final paper. Drawing on the mandatory literature and on additional literature research, the final paper addresses the way a science issue has been reported by the news media and/or discussed in social media. Next to this, there will be five minor assignments, which will be used as the basis for in-class discussions.

Course objectives

The Thematic Seminars for International Studies are designed to teach students how to deal with state-of-the-art literature and research questions. They are chosen to enhance the students’ learning experience by building on the multidisciplinary perspectives they have developed so far, and to introduce them to the art of academic research. They are characterised by an international or comparative approach.

Academic skills that are trained include:

Oral and written presentation skills:

1. To explain clear and substantiated research results.
2. To provide an answer to questions concerning (a subject) in the field covered by the course:

  • in the form of a clear and well-structured oral presentation;

  • in agreement with the appropriate disciplinary criteria;

  • using up-to-date presentation techniques;

  • using relevant illustration or multimedia techniques;

  • aimed at a specific audience.
    3. To actively participate in a discussion

Collaboration skills:

1. To provide and receive constructive criticism, and incorporate justified criticism by revising one’s own position.
2. To adhere to agreed schedules and priorities.

Basic research skills, including heuristic skills:

1. To collect and select academic literature using traditional and digital methods and techniques.
2. To analyse and assess this literature with regard to quality and reliability.
3. To formulate on this basis a sound research question.
4. To design under supervision a research plan of limited scope, and implement it using the methods and techniques that are appropriate within the discipline involved.
5. To formulate a substantiated conclusion.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction


Seminars are held every week, with the exception of the Midterm Exam week. This includes supervised research.

Assessment method

Assessment and Weighing

Partial grade Weighing
Content Analysis Assignment 40%
In-class participation + 5 minor assignments 10%
Final Research Essay - 5,000 words (between 4,500 and 5,500) 50%

End Grade

To successfully complete the course, please take note that the End Grade of the course is established by determining the weighted average of all assessment components.


Students who score an overall insufficient grade for the course, are allowed resubmit a reworked version of the Final Essay. The deadline for resubmission is 10 working days after receiving the grade for the Final Research Essay and subsequent feedback.
In case of resubmission of the Final Research Essay the final grade for the Essay will be lowered as a consequence of the longer process of completion.

Students who fail to hand in their final essay on or before the original deadline, but still within 5 working days of that deadline, will receive a grade and feedback on their essay. This will be considered a first submission of the final essay, however, the grade will be lowered as a consequence of the longer process of completion.
Students who fail to hand in their final essay on or before the original deadline, and also fail to hand in their essay within 5 working days of that deadline, get 10 working days, counting from the original deadline, to hand in the first version of their final essay. However, this first version counts as a resubmitted essay with consequential lowering of the grade, and there will be no option of handing in a reworked version based on feedback from the lecturer.

Retaking a passing grade

Retaking a passing grade is not possible for this course.
Please consult the Course and Examination Regulations 2021 – 2022.

Exam review and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organised.

Reading list

Mind: as this course aims to discuss topical events related to Science, Media and Society, this reading list is subject to change, and might include different papers. Students will be alerted in advance.

  • Burns, T. W., O'Connor, D. J., & Stocklmayer, S. M. (2003). Science communication: a contemporary definition. Public understanding of science, 12(2), 183-202

  • Trench, B. (2008). Towards an analytical framework of science communication models. In Communicating science in social contexts (pp. 119-135). Springer, Dordrecht

  • Maeseele, P. (2010). On Neo-luddites led by Ayatollahs: The Frame Matrix of the GM Food Debate in Northern Belgium.Environmental Communication 4, 277-300.

  • Trench, B. (2014). Stories of Science - a typology proposed

  • Vollstedt M., Rezat S. (2019) An Introduction to Grounded Theory with a Special Focus on Axial Coding and the Coding Paradigm. In: Kaiser G., Presmeg N. (eds) Compendium for Early Career Researchers in Mathematics Education. ICME-13 Monographs. Springer, Cham

  • Tsou, A., Thelwall, M., Mongeon, P., & Sugimoto, C. R. (2014). A community of curious souls: an analysis of commenting behavior on TED talks videos. PloS one, 9(4), e93609.

  • Welbourne, D. J., & Grant, W. J. (2016). Science communication on YouTube: Factors that affect channel and video popularity. Public understanding of science, 25(6), 706-718.

  • Boyce, T. (2006). Journalism and expertise. Journalism Studies 7, pp. 889-906.

  • Yang, Y., & Parrott, S. (2018). Schizophrenia in Chinese and US online news media: Exploring cultural influence on the mediated portrayal of Schizophrenia. Health communication, 33(5), 553-561.

  • Vasterman, P., Scholten, O., & Ruigrok, N. (2008). A model for evaluating risk reporting: The case of UMTS and fine particles. European Journal of Communication, 23(3), 319-341.

  • Carvalho, A. (2007). Ideological cultures and media discourses on scientific knowledge: re-reading news on climate change. Public understanding of science, 16(2), 223-243.

  • Hallin, D.C. & Briggs, C.L. (2015). Transcending the medical/media opposition in research on news coverage of health and medicine. Media, culture, and society 37(1), pp.85-100.

  • Declercq, J., Tulkens, S., & Van Leuven, S. (2019). The produsing expert consumer: Co-constructing, resisting and accepting health-related claims on social media in response to an infotainment show about food. Health, 23(6), 602-620.

  • Iyengar, S., & Massey, D. S. (2019). Scientific communication in a post-truth society. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 116(16), 7656-7661.

  • Kjaergaard, R. S. (2011). Stem-cell spin: Covering the Hwang affair in science and nature. Science as Culture, 20(3), 349-373

Additionally, the students will work through:

  • W.C. Booth et al., The Craft of Research, fourth edition, Chicago/London: University of Chicago Press, 2016, or;

  • W.C. Booth et al., The Craft of Research, third edition, Chicago/London: University of Chicago Press, 2008.


Registration occurs via survey only. Registration opens 17 December 2021:

  1. On 17 December 2021 you will receive a message with a link to the survey.
  2. Indicate there which are your 5 preferred Thematic Seminars, in order of preference.
  3. Based on preferences indicated by 3 January 2022 the course Coordinator will assign you to one specific Thematic Seminar by 24 January 2022.
  4. Students will then be enrolled for the specific groups by the Administration Office.

Students cannot register in uSis for the Thematic Seminar courses, or be allowed into a Thematic Seminar course in any other way.



The deadline for submission of the Final Essay is Friday 10 June 2022.