“Consistency has been my most valuable lesson”, an interview with José Ignacio Urquijo Sánchez

“Consistency has been my most valuable lesson”, an interview with José Ignacio Urquijo Sánchez

“Consistency has been my most valuable lesson”, an interview with José Ignacio Urquijo Sánchez

Winner of the award for the best doctoral thesis in the field of Social Sciences at the Sixth Senate Awards Gala in December 2022, José Ignacio Urquijo Sánchez has been blending scientific research with actual field work for years.

The winning thesis, “The Representation of Migration in the Spanish Media. An analysis of ABC, El País and La Vanguardia”, was carried out under the supervision of Professor Camelia Beciu, from the Faculty of Journalism and Communication Sciences at the University of Bucharest and Professor María José Pérez del Pozo, from the Faculty of Information Sciences – Facultad de Ciencias de la Información at the “Complutense” University in Madrid.

José Ignacio Urquijo Sánchez tells us about the challenges of writing a complex doctoral thesis, his passion for an interdisciplinary field, and his plans for future research.

Reporter: You were awarded the best doctoral thesis in the field of Social Sciences at the sixth edition of the University of Bucharest Senate Awards. Could you tell us what motivated you to sign up for the competition organized by the Senate of the University of Bucharest?

José Ignacio Urquijo Sánchez: The main motivation to take part in Premiilor Senatului Universității din Bucureșt was the encouragement from my supervisor, prof. univ. dr. Camelia Beciu. I can’t imagine getting this prize without her guidance and support. A PhD is like a long trip in which you might know where you want to go, but you are not sure about the path that you have to take. There will be moments when you find difficulties that you could not have foreseen, and especially in those moments the support from your supervisors is the key to not getting lost. I have been lucky enough to count on two brilliant supervisors, who are a reference in their fields and helped me to get to this amazing end of the trip.

R.: Could you tell us about your doctoral thesis, entitled “The Representation of Migration in the Spanish Media. An analysis of ABC, El País and La Vanguardia”, and about the research motivation behind the choice of this topic. What made you pick it, given its complexity and, as the coordinator and the members of the Ph.D. committee mentioned, its high degree of difficulty?

J. I. U. S.: I chose this topic because of two reasons. One, because I lived in Romania and while there, I realized how different the image that the media was showing about Romanians was in comparison with what I was seeing in my everyday life. Romanian culture is one of the richest, most varied and most interesting ones that I have found. However, the image that the media were showing about Romanians living in Spain was very limited and I had the feeling that it was happening also with other people from other countries living in Spain. The other reason to pick this topic was that I was a migrant myself, a Spaniard working in Romania, but many times I was not considered by other people as a migrant, but as an “expat”. I wanted to learn more about this concept, using my background as a journalist and the tools I have gathered working as a researcher for the University Vrije of Amsterdam.

R.: How long did it take to document, collect, and interpret the data? What challenges did you face when putting your thesis together?

J. I. U. S.:  The documentation, aggregation and interpretation of the data took me most of the time. It is the foundation of the work; without this strong pillar, it is not possible to build the rest of the analytical work. The main difficulties: dealing with the responsibility of a task in which you are the main responsible to advance and, in my case, the emotional difficulty of the topic. Many articles related to migration that I have to study often talk about sad situations, such as people dying at sea or being attacked. When you spend many months reading about these circumstances, it can get difficult to find the motivation to continue.

R.: What kind of research methods did you use for your thesis?

J. I. U. S.: The thesis used a multidisciplinary approach, including elements from content analysis, frame analysis and critical discourse analysis, with an emphasis on the relevance of discourse-historical approach and textual analysis. Using these elements, it was built a codebook that can be applied to analyze the particularities of the Spanish newspapers. To me, it was particularly important to include the instructions of the codebook as detailed as possible, in such a way that any other researcher could pick up the same instruments developed for this investigation and apply them to corroborate the findings of this work or expand the scope of the results.

R.: Written during your studies at the Doctoral School of the Faculty of Journalism and Communication Sciences of the University of Bucharest, your thesis was coordinated by Ph.D. Camelia Beciu, Professor at the Faculty of Journalism and Communication Sciences of the University of Bucharest and Ph.D. María José Pérez del Pozo, Professor at the Faculty of Information Science Facultad de Ciencias de la Información de la “Complutense” University of Madrid. How would you describe the experience of collaborating with the two professors? Has there ever been an instance in which their visions differed? How did you handle the matter in this case? How would you describe the collaboration with them?

J. I. U. S.: My experience of having two supervisors during these years was a success. We didn’t have any problems with coordination, which shows their professionality and rigour. I am lucky because my work was enhanced but their feedback and it ultimately allowed me to have a richer and more in-depth experience during this time. I would recommend anybody who has the opportunity to have a co-supervised PhD to try it. Of course, there is more administrative work to handle dealing with two universities and many times it will imply two sets of revisions, one for each supervisor, but it is a unique experience that allowed me to learn and grow so much as a researcher and even as a person, thanks to the professionalism and human qualities of my supervisors.

R.: What motivated you to complete your studies at a Romanian university?

J. I. U. S.:  The decision to take my doctoral studies at the University of Bucharest was easy. I knew about the good reputation of the University and the quality of the work of my potential supervisor, prof. univ. dr. Camelia Beciu, so when I got the news that I was accepted I felt very happy and honoured. Regardless of my foreign origins, I always felt very welcome at the University of Bucharest and I am very grateful for it.

R.: What are the conclusions of your research thesis and in which ways do they impact previous studies in this sphere? How high was the level of interest regarding this research field in Romania? What about Spain? 

J. I. U. S.: After working on it for more than five years, I could talk about the conclusions of my research for ours. I want to keep it simple by highlighting the most important finding of the work: positive stories about migrants, when they are well documented, can attract the attention of the readers in high numbers. This finding disputes the statement made by some authors who consider that there is a general agreement that negative stories about migrants tend to appear more often in the news because they attract more attention from the public. Taking into account the analysis of the data of my research, this is not always true. According to my findings, news in which journalists invest time and effort to interview sources and follow up the stories are attractive to the public, including those who show a positive representation of migration.

R.: These days, choosing a career seems more and more difficult. Since you had an educational and professional background in which you showed, among other great aptitudes, consistency, we would like to ask you what exactly convinced you to immerse yourself in this field.

J. I. U. S.: Thank you very much for your words. It is indeed consistency which I found to be the key to having good results. This is the main lesson that I learn and if I would have to pick one piece of advice for students who are thinking about starting a PhD, I would tell them exactly that: regardless of the topic, even the ones that right now sound very interesting to them, it will come a time, sooner than they think, in which the motivation will shrink and they will need to apply consistency to their work. It is the everyday work, the one that is not glamorous, that will take you to the finish line. Only by working every day consistently, I managed to finish. Of course, there will be times when this is not possible to apply, but the tendency must be to continue steadily. It is better to invest five minutes into work one day than not invest anything.

R.: In your opinion, do initiatives such as the University of Bucharest Senate Awards promote an innovative and dynamic academic environment? What other tools would you suggest using in order to encourage excellence in both teaching and research?

J. I. U. S.: It is an amazing gesture from the University of Bucharest to organize these awards, taking the time and the resources to do it. I think it is not only a way of recognizing the work of the Doctoral Students, but also of their supervisors, who are crucial for the success of the PhD. I think this is an extra motivation for winners of this edition, who hopefully will be, in some years, supervising future students.


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