Search type

School of Social Sciences

Students outside a lecture theatre at The University of Manchester
BAEcon Economics
Learn how the social sciences can help you to understand today's world.

BAEcon Economics / Course details

Year of entry: 2018

Course unit details:
Political Communication: Language and Power

Unit code POLI30842
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Politics
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


The course will introduce students to the field of political communication. It will explain key aspects of the field, including competing theories of political communication; the sociology of the public sphere; and institutions of political communication, focusing on the role of the media and relations with citizens. It will include a strong emphasis on empirical study. We will examine forms of communication including election campaigns, the role of spin doctors, media institutions and policy (including media scandals), and the rising importance of social media. We will also cover a wide range of political issues, including social policy and the representation of welfare recipients, the economy and the financial crisis, the European Union, US politics, and international politics. Ultimately, the course will focus on the question of whether contemporary political communication serves democracy or hinders it.


This course is ONLY OPEN to students from the following degree programmes: BSocSci, BA (Econ) Politics Specialists (including development studies), PMH, Phil/Pol, Law with Politics, PPE, Criminology and Social Policy and Social Policy.


The course aims to introduce students to the latest research in political communication. The primary aim will be to analyse and debate the exercise of power through political language and symbols. The course is oriented around the theory of the public sphere and whether contemporary politics and media upholds normative standards.

Students will study issues regarding regulation of the media, how audiences respond to and interpret political communication, how political issues are framed to generate popular support and exclude alternative views and debate the uses of social media in politics. They will learn about important theories of political communication and develop the methodological skills to apply them in empirical research.

Assessment includes a research-led element in the form of an empirical observation of a public political event in Manchester.

A key aim of the course will be to take a critical and holistic view of the public sphere as a field of communication essential to political life.

Learning outcomes

On completion of this unit successful students will be able to:


Understand and critically analyse theories of political communication Understand the exercise of power through political language and symbols Understand and employ several methodological approaches to the study of political language Understand the differences between political discourse, rhetoric and propaganda Analyse political communication in the public sphere Identify and debate the ideology of political language Critically analyse the role of communication for political institutions Critically analyse empirical data, including political speeches, election campaigns, and media content

Teaching and learning methods

2 x 1-hour lecture; 1 x 2-hour seminar: The course comprises a series of 20 lectures and 10 x 2-hour seminars.

Seminars will be a mixture of lectures, small group work and whole group discussion. In seminars, the emphasis will be on learning through problem-based exercises involving empirical analyses of political communication. This includes learning through creating simulated election campaigns, spin strategies for public policy, and research methodologies.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Other 35%
Written assignment (inc essay) 50%
Oral assessment/presentation 15%

3,500 word Essay 50%

2,500 word Critical reading review paper 35%

Group Research Project 15%

Feedback methods

Politics staff will provide feedback on written work within 15 working days of submission via Blackboard (if submitted through Turnitin).

Students should be aware that all marks are provisional until confirmed by the external examiner and the final examinations boards in June.

For modules that do not have examination components the marks and feedback for the final assessed component are not subject to the 15 working day rule and will be released with the examination results. This applies to Semester 2 modules only. Semester one modules with no final examination will have their feedback available within the 15 working days.

You will receive feedback on assessed essays in a standard format. This will rate your essay in terms of various aspects of the argument that you have presented your use of sources and the quality of the style and presentation of the essay. If you have any queries about the feedback that you have received you should make an appointment to see your tutor. Tutors and Course Convenors also have a dedicated office hour when you can meet with her/him to discuss course unit specific problems and questions.

On assessments submitted through Turnitin you will receive feedback via Blackboard. This will include suggestions about ways in which you could improve your work in future. You will also receive feedback on non-assessed coursework, whether this is individual or group work. This may be of a more informal kind and may include feedback from peers as well as academic staff


Recommended reading

Alastair Campbell (2014), ‘Is ‘spin’ dead in the era of social media?’ Alastair, <> 13 November 2014 (accessed 16 December 2014).

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 10
Seminars 20
Independent study hours
Independent study 170

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Nicholas Turnbull Unit coordinator

Return to course details