Communication Science Master & Research Master

Graduate School of Communication

Writing a Master’s Thesis on the 2016 US Presidential Election

28 November 2016 - By Emilie Westerouen van Meeteren, Master's student Political Communication: 'My design was not dependent on the outcome of the election, thank heavens for that.'

Emilie Westerouen van Meeteren

Writing a Master’s thesis can be quite tricky. In my opinion, a thesis is not so much a test of skill or intelligence, but rather of discipline. Trying to plan efficiently, set yourself deadlines and actually keep them. It’s easy to get distracted by other things. And this was especially true for my thesis subject.

I chose to study the 2016 US Presidential Election for my Master’s thesis, as I figured it would be an interesting case with Hillary Clinton as the first-ever woman to become the Democratic nominee for president – with a good chance of winning too. Specifically I am looking at the role of gender in this election, hypothesizing that society is moving towards a more woman-friendly political climate. With full force and motivation I went into writing it, doing the required reading, designing my codebook and of course following the election closely. 

So a few weeks ago I was sitting in a movie theatre, watching CNN on the big screen, seeing Donald Trump surpass the required 270 electoral votes and becoming the next President of the United States. There was confusion, disbelief and even some anger in the room as we watched with wide eyes. A lot of readings, analyses and discussions had formed what I thought was a reasonably sound expectation of what was going to happen this election, but the predictions turned out to be wrong. That feeling of ‘what, did that really just happen’ lingered on for the next few days, as the media tried to make sense of it all with their expert analyses and result breakdowns.  

And simultaneously I was trying to get back into writing my thesis, trying to work the unexpected result into my study somehow. Now, my design was not dependent on the outcome of the election, thank heavens for that, but it’s still a challenge to draw any sort of conclusion about the current political climate for women in the United States with this result hanging over my head. And so it all came down to discipline. Forget the outcome for a moment, work systematically through all of the steps, try not to spend too much time reading conspiracy theories about voting machine hacks and Russia.

My Master’s thesis will nearly be finished by the time Trump gets inaugurated as President. I am hoping to still find some significant results as there may have been somewhat of a positive development for women in politics leading up to election day. But while it is still unclear what will happen with Trump at the helm, it is clear that I have to graduate soon. Better muster up some extra discipline and get going.

Emilie Westerouen van Meeteren (23) is currently enrolled in the Master’s programme in Communication Science (track Political Communication). Her expected year of graduation is 2017.

Published by  GSC

28 November 2016