Cultural Studies

Some Guidance for Writing the Cultural Studies Essay
The cultural studies essay is an argumentative essay. For an essay of this length, the arguments you present should be clearly apparent at two levels:
-the overall argument (argued throughout the essay, presented in a thesis in the introduction)
-the detailed sub-arguments that support the larger sub-arguments (argued in nearly every paragraph within a section)

As you no doubt realize, the cultural studies essay is thus quite similar to a literary essay, though with some differences. The primary differences are:
-how much information you need to present. In literary studies you do not need to explain how a book works, what chapters are, etc., and there are clear traditions for how you present evidence. In cultural studies, depending on what you are examining, you may need to describe a visual image, song or other type of object, or even explain how some things function that many people may not know about (i.e. like interactive fiction, flash mobs or MMORPGs).
-how evidence/material is presented. When the object you are analyzing isn’t a book you will need to think about how to present the details/aspects/material to your reader. Just as in a literary essay, you still want to show your reader this material and then interpret it, so the reader can determine the credibility of your interpretation.
-the scope of what you examine, since you need to examine both an object and its cultural context (production, reception, etc). You have essentially been doing this with the literary essays, if we just think of this as object and context, but a literary work’s historical and social context is not necessarily the same as considering the politics of production or ways that an object is consumed or received.
Otherwise, like a literary essay your primary job is interpretation/analysis and your primary purpose with the essay is to make a claim (thesis) and then argue for it. This is why it can be helpful to keep the literary essay format in mind as a sort of loose model.
Some reminders:

A strong thesis statement, as we have discussed in the literature module, is important, and the same concerns there apply here (you need to be making an argument, it should not be vague, etc).
Also, most of your body paragraphs will present a sub-argument that supports part of the thesis, and so should each of these should begin with a strong topic sentence that states that sub-argument. These paragraphs should follow essentially the same structure as I suggested for body paragraphs in the “Additional Essay Concerns” document in literature.
However, since you may need to just present some information in the cultural studies essay, you
may also have body paragraphs that are more informative or explanatory than argumentative. Such paragraphs may introduce a theoretical concept, aspect of the cultural object or provide some other information as a foundation for the sub-arguments you later make. Note that informative paragraphs still need a topic sentence and concluding sentence that emphasize the relevance of the information to your argument. This shows reader you are in control by making it clear why it is important to read this information in context of your argument.
Otherwise, follow the same formal rules for writing we’ve been talking about with the literary essays, and in academic writing.

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