Your guide to writing a Cultural Studies thesis

How to Write a Cultural Studies Thesis

Cultural Studies is an interdisciplinary field which combines sociology, political economy, philosophy, media and communications theory, anthropology, literary theory, social psychology and various other social science disciplines.

Cultural Studies generally examines the phenomena of everyday life and practices (for individuals and societies) within particular social settings (from local to global), typically within the context of the contemporary world.

Common topics for a Cultural Studies thesis include consumption, ideology, power and identity.

Structure of a Cultural Studies Thesis:

The basic format for most theses within the social sciences is as follows:

  • A clear introduction, providing an overview of the topic as well as your purpose and methodology

  • A well-balanced literature review demonstrating a strong familiarity with the topic and its relevant theorists

  • Your qualitative and/or quantitative findings and observations (including discussions on limitations to your research as well as ethical issues (e.g. participant anonymity), if necessary).

  • Some common research methods include:

    • qualitative interviewing
    • discourse analysis
    • ethnographies/participant observation
    • quantitative surveys

  • A well-considered, unbiased analysis of your findings

  • A concise conclusion that summarises if and how you have answered your research question(s), and what can be learned from (or should be done with) this knowledge. It may be helpful to provide a further brief discussion on obstacles that you faced, particularly if you haven’t already addressed the limitations in your findings section

Alternative Structure:

For some Cultural Studies theses, it may make sense to combine the literature review and the analysis in order to provide a clearer assessment of the findings. In this instance, an appropriate structure would be:

  • Intro » Findings » Lit Review and Analysis » Conclusion

Useful Tip: Always keep in mind the question you are trying to answer! A common issue with Cultural Studies thesis writing, as with any longer academic work, is maintaining focus and coherence. Make sure to ask yourself frequently if what you are writing is relevant to your topic and if it supports/strengthens your argument.]]]

Key Terms (to get you started on your Cultural Studies thesis):

Culture: one of the most difficult concepts in the field to pin down, but within the social sciences, it essentially refers to all the goods, ideas, customs, knowledge, etc. that are socially circulated within human society (or a particular society).
See: Williams, Thompson, Boas

Modernity: the historical stage roughly initiated by the industrial and democratic revolutions in the late 18th century; often characterised by constant social (and technological) change in contrast to the ‘traditional world’.
See: Simmel, Giddens, Beck

Political Economy: the study of how values and power are produced, exchanged and consumed (often related to social inequalities, including class divisions)
See: Marx, Innis, Graham

Consumption: the diverse, often mass-produced, material culture (e.g. goods and services) prevalent in modern capitalistic societies.
See: Miller, Slater, Barthes
Further reading: The Culture Industry of Adorno & Horkheimer

Ideology: ideas and ideals that form a more or less coherent perspective on culture, society, politics and so on. Ideologies are often coded/embedded within social systems such as the media (e.g. representations of ‘good’ prevailing over ‘evil’).
See: Marx, Gramsci, Althusser

Identity: an individual’s understanding of him or herself as it relates to social constructions and performances of gender, race, age, occupation, etc. The concept can also be applied to groups.
See: Hall, Butler, Bhabha

Agency: a popular topic in the social sciences that deals with the free will of individuals in relation to larger social structures (e.g. the hegemony, ideology, technology, the state)
See: Giddens, de Certeau, Bourdieu
Further reading: Social Constructionism vs. Technological Determinism

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