Postgraduate Study - Modules

Sales, marketing and consumer insight

Module Leader(s) / Tutors: Dr Miriam J Johnson,

This module takes place during Semester 1

Marketing plays an increasingly central role in contemporary publishing, with decisions being made at every level and within every department in consultation with expertise from marketing teams, and the roles within these teams becoming increasingly diverse. Marketing teams identify consumer needs and potential gaps in the market, analyse the competition and devising products and services to fill these gaps. They bring to bear their understanding and execution of the precise mix of sales, marketing and PR techniques required in order to profitably meet these customer needs. Through a combination of field trips, taught theory, guest lecturers from the cutting edge of contemporary publishing and student-led case study analysis, this module will equip you with a systematic examination of the key concepts and disciplines of sales, marketing and PR and their relationships throughout publishing.

What previous students have said about the module:

'Diverse & thorough, interesting, very useful, relevant, comprehensive, varied, enjoyable.'

'Having a background in business studies, I was amazed how much content was squeezed into 12 weeks.'

'Guest speakers were excellent, interesting, helpful, and combined theory & practice.'

'Can use applied skills not only for publishing, marketing is useful in any business. I was able to apply module content to my work experience.'

Editorial management and content development

Module Leader(s) / Tutors: Beverley Tarquini,

This module takes place during Semester 1

This module introduces you to the work of the editor in contemporary publishing. Through lectures, workshops and presentations from industry speakers, you will explore the strategic role of the editor within the publishing process and the knowledge and skills required for the development of new projects for publishers on a range of platforms. It covers the editorial function in the company, the relationship between editors and authors, content development and editorial project management. Synergies with other publishing functions such as marketing, sales and rights are examined and financial and commercial considerations analysed in depth. Workshops and seminars enable students to relate theory into practice whilst the assessment requires them to work both individually and as part of a small group. Examples of seminar activities include conducting research into a range of markets and competing products, recognising the unique selling points of products and an examination of a publisher’s contract.

Visiting speakers have included Simon Winder (Penguin) on the editor's relationship with the author, Stephen Mesquita (former General Manager of AA Publishing) on the market for travel books, Liz Ferguson (Blackwell Publishing) on journals publishing, and Brenda Stones (former Director of Home Learning in the Education Division at HarperCollins) on the editor in educational publishing.

Feedback from students:

'I really enjoyed this module. The interrelationship between the editorial and other departments was well reflected in the relationship with this and other modules.'

'It has widened my horizons and has given me the ability to look at a global picture of the publishing world.'

'Excellent module, very useful, good aims and interesting content.'

'The assessment was fun and caused everyone to get involved.'

Design and production

Module Leader(s) / Tutors: Chris Jennings,

This module takes place during Semester 1

The creative endeavour that makes up the process of designing and producing a book for print is covered in detail. The aims of the module are to explore the form of the book from its constituent parts; the cover, the page layout and the text and image on the page using a professional workflow and project management.

The way that a book is replicated through the printing and binding processes is covered and the choices that are faced by publishers are addressed when considering the diversity of markets. Publishing workflows with XML and metadata are covered as are a detailed knowledge of typography. and graphics as it applies to page layout and cover design for books. Industry standard software is used to bring together text and image for appropriate reader experience with typographic choices as part of this process.

The IT suite with more than 40 iMacs is used for workshop style software teaching. Sessions cover Adobe InDesign, Photoshop and Acrobat, and encourage students already experienced with this software to take their skills further, while supporting students who are starting their knowledge of the standard software in the publishing industry. We use Adobe Creative Cloud software throughout the course.

See some samples of recent student work in this self running sequence.

Assessment is by individual and group project work and involves aspects of design, typography, costing, project management and technical production exercises.

The history and culture of publishing

Module Leader(s) / Tutors:

This module takes place during Semester 2

In this module, you will engage with and contribute to current intellectual discussions and debates about culture, print culture, and the role of the publisher. Examining the culture and ideology of publishing in terms of its development throughout the 20th century and its contemporary practice, you will consider the major challenges that have occurred in publishing culture as a result of social, political, economic and technological developments. You will analyse theories of print culture and critiques of the role of the publisher in society and you will explore a variety of methodological approaches to the study of authorship, textual production, print dissemination and reception.

The module is taught by means of lectures, seminars, and presentations by historians and industry speakers.  Past guest lecturers have included

  • Professor Juliet Gardiner, author of Wartime: Britain 1939-1945
  • Miha Kovac, Associate Professor, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, and editor-in-chief of the Slovene edition of National Geographic Magazine
  • Antonia Hodgson, publisher, Little, Brown (Hachette Livre Group)
  • Steve Hare, author of Penguin Portrait: Allen Lane and the Penguin Editors 1935-1970

You will be assessed through seminar contribution and an extended essay which allows for an in-depth, individual investigation into an aspect of 20th/21st century publishing history and culture. 

Comments from students:

‘It was a great opportunity to think about publishing in a wider context.'

‘It is interesting to see the historical and cultural significance of publishing history - how the industry is what it is today.'

‘The topics were very interesting and got me thinking.'

‘The module fitted in well with the contexts of my other modules and my dissertation.'

The Craft of Storytelling

Module Leader(s) / Tutors: Sarah Franklin,

This module takes place during Semester 2

Crafting and telling a story are central to all forms of publishing, and increasingly key in all industries worldwide.

Within this module, you will examine and practise the techniques involved in writing and shaping narratives across all forms of fiction and non-fiction, as well as for promotional and brand purposes. Through a range of guest lectures, taught presentations, and workshops, you will learn to identify and implement methods which optimise the potential of narratives across a range of genres and platforms, and for multiple purposes.

The module will build on and synthesise knowledge from your compulsory modules in order to examine in more depth the methods and reasons behind what makes a story work.. Students will have the opportunity to construct assessments according to their key interests and will undertake case studies which will reiterate their understanding of the key tenets of narrative.

Multi-Platform Publishing

Module Leader(s) / Tutors: Chris Jennings,

This module takes place during Semester 2

This module examines the range of options available to publishers when considering alternative digital forms for publishing device independent content.

During semester 1 (P65021) students will have been introduced to the standards of the mark-up language used by publishers to store and exchange content. This introduction to XML is further explored with particular reference to eBook formats. Expertise in the use of page layout software (InDesign) is expanded with an understanding of forms of delivery beyond print. Once this knowledge is garnered then strategies for enhancing content are covered with a view to adding value to publications beyond the printed page.

Industry standards in markup and eBook formats are covered in detail with particular focus on differences between platforms and methods of distribution. Expertise grows through the use of more sophisticated enhancements to the content with multimedia, animation and interactivity. 

Since text and image will be enhanced with multimedia, techniques for editing audio and video are covered. In the final assignment more sophisticated methods are explored to provide opportunities for adding interactivity and rich immersive reader experience.

The module takes place on a Wednesday afternoon in the publishing IT suite. Each student creates interactive content for using standard tools such as Photoshop and InDesign, however, emphasis will be placed on delivering content to modern standards and all content will be validated according to industry standards.

The assignment involves taking a Shakespeare Play and delivering as a 're-flowable' eBook, a 'fixed-layout' eBook and an enhanced eBook or APP.

Through these 3 alternative methods, students will learn the challenges, limitations and potentials for creating compelling interactive products for portable devices such as the Apple iPad. These assignments build on coursework undertaken during the Semester 1 module - Design and Production.

International rights management

Module Leader(s) / Tutors: Dr Miriam J Johnson,

This module takes place during Semester 2

Through lectures, workshops, and presentations from industry speakers, this module introduces you to the management of rights in the fast moving world of global publishing. As well as looking at the range of intellectual property rights, the module covers the rights function within the publishing house and its responsibility for licensing a range of revenue streams.

Topics include copyright, translations, co-editions, international conventions and agreements, digital media, and trade events such as the Frankfurt, Bologna and London Book Fairs.

A major attraction of the module is the contribution of a wide range of guest speakers from industry which, has included publishing consultant Richard Balkwill, Catherine Clarke ( Felicity Bryan Literary Agency) Clare Hodder (Palgrave Macmillan Publishers), Miha Kovac (University of Ljubljana, Slovenia),  Lynette Owen (Pearson Education), Joss Saunders (Blake Lapthorn Linnells Solicitors) and Bob Seath (Lion Hudson publishers).

Some feedback from students:

‘Great module, very interesting with good topics, great and varied visiting speakers'

‘Guest speakers gave me an overview of real world applications of rights issues'

‘Feel ready now to negotiate rights on a professional level'

‘Best guest speakers, very useful in terms of career and publishing practice'

‘Really interesting range of issues - copyright, vocational insights, book fairs'

‘A very valuable module - the session with the agent was fascinating'


Independent Study

Module Leader(s) / Tutors:

This module takes place during Semester 2

This module offers you the opportunity to design a course of study to suit your own interests and concerns; organise and carry out a work schedule set by yourself; and to determine a set of learning outcomes and assessment criteria in collaboration with the module leader and a supervisor.

The independent study is a very flexible piece of work. You may want to pursue an individual interest, to develop an area of work you have particularly enjoyed during the earlier part of your course, to study an aspect of publishing that is not specifically taught during the course (such as newspaper publishing), to conduct a study based on your publishing work experience or an industry placement, and/or to tailor a study to fit in with your career or business plans.

Practical projects (such as digital or print publishing projects) are possible for an independent study, but it is important that your study demonstrates an intellectual objective or reflectively addresses an issue relevant to the publishing industry. Practical projects such as this must be accompanied by an analytical report.

Independent studies are more usually carried out on your own, but can be in pairs, or in a small group. In the case of pair or group you must think about the assignment of roles and also the implications for assessment.

Before embarking on an Independent Study module you should contact the module leader and/or a possible supervisor to discuss your proposal. A written Learning Contract must be completed and approved by the supervisor and module leader before study can commence.

It's a wonderful opportunity to make part of your course exactly what you want it to be.

It works like this. You bring your idea to the Module Leader and talk it over - and you can discuss it with anybody else in the department. (You work with a staff member as supervisor during the course of your Independent Study.) When you have decided what you want to do, we ask you to draw up a learning contract with us. We help you with this, of course. Then you, your supervisor and the module leader all sign the agreement.

The learning contract tells us what you are going to do, what you are going to achieve by doing it, when you plan to complete the various stages of your project, and also how it will be assessed. You can even be one of the markers yourself - in fact, we encourage this.

Then you go away and do it.

If your project involves making something like a book or a website, we will require you to write a reflective report about this as part of your programme of work.

Independent Study students have produced a very wide range of different projects in the past: there have been children's books, websites, newsletters, marketing plans, promotional materials, reports on technical processes in various parts of the publishing industry, and so on.

Whether you know exactly what you want to do or merely have a vague idea, come and share your idea with us. We'll help you find a way to make it happen.

Fiction and non-fiction publishing

Module Leader(s) / Tutors: Sarah Franklin,

This module takes place during Semester 2

Fiction and non-fiction are perennially popular business models within the publishing world, and the globalisation and digitisation of the consumer book landscape have only enhanced one of the most dynamic and creative sectors of the industry.

Within this module, you will explore the range and depth of pitfalls and possibilities intrinsic to this ever-changing aspect of publishing. Through a range of guest lectures and taught presentations, you will gain an understanding of the importance of verticals in consumer publishing and as well as the elasticity of the role of the author.

The module will build on and synthesise knowledge from your compulsory modules in order to examine in more depth the implications of brand within this sector of publishing. It will explore the landscape for entrepreneurship by identifying failures as well as successes and interpreting key financial decisions. Students will have the opportunity to construct assessments according to their key interests and will undertake case studies which will reiterate their understanding of the key tenets of fiction and non-fiction publishing.

Digital publishing strategy

Module Leader(s) / Tutors: Adam Blades,

This module takes place during Semester 2

This module focuses on digital products within the various sectors of the publishing industry. The technological basis for the products themselves will be examined and the strategic reasons for developing digital products critically appraised. Key issues that face publishers and how they are addressed will be analysed through case studies.

You will learn about the process and management of digital product design and development, and have the opportunity to practice this in the specification of a digital publishing product and the creation of a prototype.

The assessment requires you to work effectively as part of a small group.  This year Harcourt Educational Publishers will be involved with the course, providing educational and vocational textbooks for you to metamorphose into an eproduct..  You will build a small part of your proposed website for demonstration purposes and write a report for the full eproduct.

Feedback from students:

‘Things were laid out really nicely in the module. There was obviously a plan as to the sequence in which we learned the material. It was a thoughtful and useful progression.'

‘I feel I have learnt a lot about epublishing and have become confident in using software I would otherwise would not have had the chance to use.'

‘I enjoyed the guest speakers - gave real world examples.'

‘I learnt a lot about electronic publishing in different media which should be useful in any future publishing employment.'

Children’s Publishing

Module Leader(s) / Tutors: Beverley Tarquini,

This module takes place during Semester 2

In a series of lectures, visiting speaker sessions and seminars, this module explores children’s publishing. As well as looking at the development of the market sector, its current shape and business practices, the module also examines contextual issues relating to publishing for children and young adults. Topics change from year to year but may include picture books, co-editions and translatability; the role of trade events including the Bologna Children’s Book Fair; the sector’s links to other leisure industries and the possibilities for merchandising and content reuse; editing and censorship; age ranging and gatekeeping; literacy and reading campaigns; and promotion.

When you have completed this module, you will have been given the opportunity to: attend lectures and visiting speaker sessions which provide an introduction to a wide range of issues relating to children’s and young adults’ publishing engage in class discussion and activities relating to children’s and young adults’ publishing present a research article relating to issues in the world of children’s and young adults’ books participate in the Children’s Publishing Forum evaluate publishing programmes in the children’s or young adults’ market sector, and identify opportunities for their growth and diversification

Assignments involve a group presentation of a researched radio programme and an individual researched article on a topic of your choice. 

Here's a comment from a recent MA graduate:

I just wanted to tell you that I've written a children's sticker collection for work. It's just about done now and I'm really happy with it - and I'm excited about being an author as well as an editorial assistant! So much of what I learned in your Children's Publishing module was really useful to me while I was writing. Issues regarding language, tone, age groups etc. all came up while I was working on this book (and others, for that matter), and I often thought back to the things that you and some of your guest speakers had told us during that module. So I just want to say thank you, your module definitely gave me some of the skills (and confidence!) that I've needed over the last few months.

Secretly prefer reading Jacqueline Wilson and Melvin Burgess to Martin Amis and Zadie Smith?  Got some great ideas for getting teenage boys to read?  Prefer Bologna to Frankfurt?  Then the Children's Publishing module is for you.

Oxford has long provided inspiration to children's writers including Lewis Carroll, C S Lewis, J R R Tolkein, Jan Mark, Philip Pullman and Korky Paul.  It is also the home to children's publishers including OUP, David Fickling Books and Barefoot Books.

Brand Publishing

Module Leader(s) / Tutors: Alexandra Shakespeare,

This module takes place during Semester 2

Offering an advanced insight and understanding of the global magazine industry and its evolving business models, this optional module is aimed at students intending to pursue a career in publishing. Through a range of lectures, seminars, workshops, debates and external speakers, students will critically reflect on a range of industry trends, as well as contemporary cultural issues that are significantly impacting the market. Within assignments, students will undertake detailed analysis of the market in order to produce a strategic assessment of how under-performing titles can further innovate. Developing targetted content and marketing and branding ideas, students will evaluate how a chosen title can improve brand reach and circulation while also identifying relevant new revenue streams.

Designing a sample of print and digital editorial pages, students will build up a working knowledge of current industry technologies, as well as develop skills within editorial creation, content planning and storytelling across a variety of platforms.

Academic and professional publishing

Module Leader(s) / Tutors: Philip Shaw,

This module takes place during Semester 2

During this module you will develop an understanding of the context and practice of global academic and professional publishing, including journals. You will investigate the market, the nature of scholarly communication, the shape of the publishing industry, and current debates about research funding, open access and peer review.

You will study the continuing transformation of academic and professional publishing from traditional content development and distribution, to the development of integrated solutions to support research and professional practice.

You will explore important developments in the field, including technology innovations, the integration of different media and data types into scholarly communication, the convergence of book and journal content, the emergence of new publishing and business models, and the blending of publishing with the provision of workflow solutions to customers.

The module provides a platform for progression towards a role within this dynamic sector of the publishing industry.

Professional experience

Module Leader(s) / Tutors:

This module takes place during Summer

The Professional Experience Module offers you the opportunity to spend a sustained period of time working in a publishing or publishing-­related organisation such as a bookseller or a book promotion organisation, and to conduct a study based on that work experience that may be tailored to fit in with your career plans and aspirations. Your experience on this module can therefore take several forms and might be composed, for example, of different work in the context of the host organisation:

  • a practical piece of publishing project management in either an editorial, design or production context (e.g. editorial work on a publication or series of publications, creating a website, taking a manuscript and illustrations through pre-­press stages, development of digital resources or intellectual property),
  • creation of marketing materials, work on exhibitions or special events, other book promotion activities, development of an emarketing campaign,
  • a company-­based plan or report (e.g. a market research project looking at a particular market sector – either geographic or sectorial),
  • working on the management of IP (dealing with either the sale or purchase of rights)

The assignment will be based on this work experience and will enable students to both analyse and compare the processes experienced during the work and to explore what you have learnt through the work experience and how this may be relevant to your future career. The module may only be taken in Semester 3 and is specifically developed to permit international students to take advantage of extended period of work experience that are offered by UK publishing companies and/or supported attendance at the EU funded summer school that requires a research project taken for credit as a part of the MA programme.

Major Project

Module Leader(s) / Tutors: Dr Caroline Davis,

This module takes place during Summer

Students on the MAs in Publishing must complete either a Major Project or a Dissertation. The Major Project is a major in-depth investigation of either a practical or business project and its development process in an area significant to the study of publishing media through extended design, production or strategic management work.  It can take the form of either a major practical or business project, and has an accompanying written analytical component of 5,000 words.  For students taking the MA Digital Publishing, the Major Project will be in the specific context of digital issues, as appropriate. 

Work on the Major Project starts in Semester 1, with a series of research methods classes and project workshops designed to assist the development of your ideas. In Semester 2 you complete a project proposal, which you receive feedback on. In Semester 2 you are also allocated a supervisor, who you work with closely on your Major Project during a negotiated set of 1-to-1 supervision sessions. Your supervisor will discuss your plans, your development and research methods, and give you feedback on draft material. The Major Project is submitted in September following your final semester on the MA.

Major Projects can cover a wide range of publishing topics. Some students use design and production skills to produce publishing products (books, magazines, journals, and websites).  Others write business plans for a proposed new publishing idea, or write consultancy reports for industry practitioners.  Frequently, students base their topic in an area of publishing in which they would like to work, or where they are already doing work experience or internships.

Major Projects enable you to focus on an area of publishing that really fascinates you; to allow you to conduct and create real-life practical and professional projects; to make contact with experts (both academics and practitioners) in your field of study; and to situate yourself in the job market.


Module Leader(s) / Tutors: Dr Jane Potter,

This module takes place during Summer

A Dissertation is a dynamic, defining and essential component for the award of the MA degree. It is a major in-depth investigation of a subject, theme or issue significant to the study of publishing through original research and extended written work of 15,000 words. It provides an opportunity to demonstrate your enthusiasm for a particular subject and your ability to gather information, undertake a synthesis of findings, apply appropriate insights, theories and models, evaluate critically, argue coherently and bring to a successful conclusion a significant piece of independent work which has been founded on appropriate primary and secondary research. This module aims to provide you with the skills that you will need to carry out this important aspect of your MA course, skills that will also be implemented in concurrent and subsequent Publishing modules.

Research in Publishing encompasses a wide range of different approaches across several research ‘cultures’. Depending on the topic under investigation, your research can resemble anything from historical or literary research, through social science inquiry, to the kinds of investigations undertaken in business fields. Publishing researchers therefore need to be versatile and have a wide range of understanding of different research environments. This module reviews and appraises the research methods that are commonly used across the Publishing Media fields – such as burrowing in archives, conducting interviews and surveys, the practicalities of project planning and scheduling, and the all-important matter of what to do with data when you get it. The module helps you to prepare your Proposal (due in Semester 2), the first stage of your Dissertation.

The first semester will cover research and academic literacy skills applicable to all MA Publishing/MA Digital Publishing students whether they intend to undertake a Dissertation or a Major Project. Indeed, Semester 1 is designed to help you decide which of these to undertake. In the second semester, students opting for the Dissertation will be offered different classes tailored to their research needs. From the middle of the second semester and during the third semester, you will have individual supervision meetings with your allocated supervisor.


Dissertations can cover a wide range of publishing topics.  Some students like to look at historical and cultural topics.  Others prefer to look at more contemporary issues in publishing.  Frequently, students base their topic in an area of publishing in which they would like to work, or where they are already doing work experience or internships.

Recent student dissertation titles include:

  • 21st Century Teenage Kicks: How the Book Publisher Can Reach the Adolescent Male Market in a New Era of Popular Culture
  • Fighting for Change: The Role of Publishing in UK Non-Governmental Organisations' (NGOs') Advocacy Campaigns
  • Literary Agents: Gatekeepers or Translators?
  • The Battle for Literary Freedom: A Study of the Cultural Effects of Censorship

There is an annual award for the most publishable Dissertation, offered in collaboration with Lightning Source.  Lightning Source produces the winning dissertation as a print-on-demand title, and the winning Disseration is published by the Oxford International Centre for Publishing.  Winning Dissertations include Rachel Craven's work E-volution and Revolution, which analyses the importance of Internet Marketing for ELT (English Language Teaching) publishers.  Rachel's work links to her subsequent employment: after working in marketing at Pearson, she is now an e-marketeer at The Stationery Office.

Our students are also very successful in the annual Sue Thomson Foundation Publishing Award.  Past winners from Oxford Brookes include Isabel Essery's work on publishing in South Africa, which was subsequently published as 'Politics and Publishing in South Africa' in Logos (17: 3).  For her work, Isabel conducted fascinting interviews with Marie Phillip and James Currey, both of whom were active in publishing opposition to the apartheid regime in South Africa.

Dissertations enable you to focus on an area of publishing that really fascinates you; to engage with contemporary and/or historical aspects of publishing; to make contact with experts (both academics and practitioners) in your field of study; and to situate yourself in the job market.