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Cultural Studies Dissertation Topics

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Example cultural studies dissertation topic 1:

A comparative study of the rate of suicide amongst girls aged fifteen to nineteen in South Korea and the United Kingdom: Is academic stress a significant factor?

The rate of girls aged between fifteen and nineteen who committed suicide in South Korea is 4.9 per 100,000, yet this figure is only 1.8 per 100,000 in the UK (Wasserman, Cheng and Jiang, 2005). This dissertation examines the stresses on South Korean youth that are not as evident in British culture (Lee, Hong and Espelage, 2012), and focuses on the issue of academic stress, given South Korea's highly geared academic environment. Encompassing a broad literature review, this thesis also offers the opportunity to undertake primary research through surveys of female high school students in both the UK and South Korea, as well as in-depth interviews of school psychologists in both countries. Finally, it makes recommendations as to reducing academic stress without invoking a diminution in standards.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Lee, J., Puig, A., Kim, Y.B., Shin, H., Lee, J.H. and Lee, S.M. (2010). 'Academic burnout profiles in Korean adolescents', Stress and Health, Vol. 26(5), pp. 404-416.
  • Lee, S.Y., Hong, J.S. and Espelage, D.L. (2010). 'An ecological understanding of youth suicide in South Korea', School Psychology International, Vol. 31(5), pp. 531-546.
  • Wasserman, D., Cheng, Q.I. and Jiang, G.X. (2005). 'Global suicide rates among young people aged 15-19', World Psychiatry, Vol. 4(2), pp. 114.

Example cultural studies dissertation topic 2:

Methods of resilience in coping with adversity: An examination of the differences between the elderly and youth.

Much is made in the British press of the ability of the 'Blitz' generation to withstand the 'slings and arrows' of life, and the comparative inability of youth to cope with stress and change. This thesis considers the veracity of such assertions by examining rates of depression, and depressive relapse, amongst those aged above 75 years of age, and those aged between nineteen and 25 years. In addition, the paper notes the sources of depression, evaluates the degree to which such factors contribute to depression today, and speculates as to the effect of similar factors between 1950 and 1960. Issues such as food rationing are excluded, and a calculation is made to mitigate for the lower incidence (but not omission) of war injuries and stress today.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Butler, J. and Ciarrochi, J. (2007). 'Psychological acceptance and quality of life in the elderly', Quality of Life Research, Vol. 16(4), pp. 607-615.
  • Masten, A.S., Burt, K.B., Roisman, G.I., Obradovic, J., Long, J.D. and Tellegen, A. (2004). 'Resources and resilience in the transition to adulthood: Continuity and change', Development and Psychopathology, Vol. 16(04), pp. 1071-1094.
  • Snowdon, J. (2008). 'Is depression more prevalent in old age?'. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, Vol. 35(6), pp. 782-787.

Example cultural studies dissertation topic 3:

Adopting the model of widening participation in Britain's elite universities to professional football.

As Britain works to widen participation amongst elite universities, not merely by facilitating attendance by state school pupils, but by offering courses that appeal to a broader range of intellectual abilities, this dissertation asks why such a proposal could not work within the wealthy elite of professional football teams. Given that the intellectually superior must accept that the contributions of those with differing levels of ability or life-readiness are just as valid as their own, this thesis suggests that professional soccer should emulate this by offering places to players who struggle to achieve the higher standards of their colleagues. In so doing, Britain could demonstrate to the world its willingness to show compassion to all sectors of society, rather than dividing society into the 'cans' and 'cannots'. In addition to secondary research on the benefits of equal participation regardless of ability, the project seeks to include students of all abilities on top sports teams at the University of Loughborough.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Light, R. and Curry, C. (2009). 'Children's reasons for joining sports clubs and staying in them: A case study of a Sydney soccer club', ACHPER Healthy Lifestyles Journal, Vol. 56(1), pp. 17-22.
  • Thomas, L. (2001). 'Power, assumptions and prescriptions: A critique of widening participation policy-making', Higher Education Policy, Vol. 14(4), pp. 361-376.
  • Warren, D. (2002). 'Curriculum design in a context of widening participation in higher education', Arts and Humanities in Higher Education, Vol. 1(1), pp. 85-99.

Example cultural studies dissertation topic 4:

New frontiers: Expatriate women engineers in the oil industry working in the Middle East.

Although the numbers of female engineers working in the oil industry are slowly increasing in environments such as Britain and the US, expatriate women engineers are still a rarity on site in Muslim countries such as United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and Qatar. This dissertation examines the challenges that face gender equality in this arena, particularly given that the rates of female engineering students enrolled in universities in these countries are 44%, 49%, and 42% respectively. This is an under-researched area, as primarily it is the role of female expatriate managers that draws academic attention. Accordingly, the thesis draws on a significant amount of primary research, with surveys of male and female expatriate engineers, and focussed interviews with the contract managers for international engineering companies such as McDermott and Shell.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Lau, R., Lau, L., Lau, L. and Eide, C. (2010). Who gets to be boss?... Addressing demographic pressures within the petroleum industry. SPE Asia Pacific Oil and Gas Conference and Exhibition, 18-20 October 2010, Brisbane.
  • O'Shaughnessy, S. and Krogman, N.T. (2011). 'Gender as contradiction: From dichotomies to diversity in natural resource extraction', Journal of Rural Studies, Vol. 27(2), pp. 134-143.
  • Seznek, J-F. and Kirk, M. (eds) (2011). Industrialization in the Gulf: A socio-economic revolution. Abingdon: Routledge.

Example cultural studies dissertation topic 5:

Representations of disabilities in children's picture books: Why are anthropomorphic figures rarely disabled?

The portrayal of disabled children is gaining more attention in cultural studies, but the extension of such equality is not given to anthropomorphic characters. This dissertation explores the value (or otherwise) of introducing children to issues of equality in a manner that will be familiar to them. In so doing, it presents a total of ten specially constructed texts to a sample of 100 five year olds. Of the texts, two present animals with physical disabilities (for example, The Adventures of Maude, the Three-Legged Rabbit), two with animals with learning disabilities, two with animals with autism spectrum disorders (such as Alasdair, the Autistic Aardvark, Goes to School), two with humans with physical disabilities (for example, Jenny's Wheelchair Olympics), one with a human with a learning disorder and one with an autism spectrum disorder. Measures of empathy and involvement with the text are taken and evaluated.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Ayala, E.C. (1999). '"Poor little things" and "Brave little souls": The portrayal of individuals with disabilities in children's literature', Literacy Research and Instruction, Vol. 39(1), pp. 103-117.
  • Burke, C.L., Copenhaver, J.G. and Carpenter, M. (2004). 'Animals as people in children's literature', Language Arts, Vol. 81(3), pp. 205-213.
  • Matthew, N. and Clow, S. (2007). 'Putting disabled children in the picture: Promoting inclusive children's books and media', International Journal of Early Childhood, Vol. 39(2), pp. 65-78.

Example cultural studies dissertation topic 6:

A Marxist approach to greater inclusivity for the disabled.

The Marxist response to the role of the disabled as an integral part of a progressive society traditionally has not garnered significant academic study. This thesis responds to the opportunities that Marxism can provide (but may not necessarily yet have achieved) in an inclusive society and the means by which this may be effected, particularly with regard to current provisions in the communist states of Cuba and Vietnam. Rather than being treated as objects of sympathy or charity, this paper explores the tangible ways that disabled citizens may make equal contributions to a Marxist regime, and reviews the attack on disability benefits by the Coalition in Britain from a Marxist perspective. Finally, it recommends mutual learning objectives for each of the three countries stated.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Sheldon, A. (2006). Disabling the disabled people's movement? The influence of Disability Studies on the struggle for liberation. Keynote address at the 3rd Disability Studies Association Conference, Lancaster: Lancaster University, 18th September, 2006.
  • Slorach, R. (2011). 'Marxism and disability', International Socialism, Vol. 129, pp. 111-136.
  • Wilson, J.C. and Lewiecki-Wilson, C. (eds) (2001). Embodied rhetorics: Disability in language and culture. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press.

Example cultural studies dissertation topic 7:

The rise of pet ownership in the 'one child policy' China.

Once banned by Chairman Mao as examples of bourgeois society, pets are making a resurgence in Chinese society, partly as a response to the country's 'one child policy'. The rise of a middle class, with greater disposable income, more leisure time, and a fascination with the pastimes of the West, have all contributed to a pet population in China of approximately 22 million dogs and 53 million cats (McConnell et al., 2011). This dissertation examines the changes wrought by the rise of pet ownership, including increasing rates of pet abandonment, animal rights, stress alleviation, emotional outlet, new avenues of commercial enterprise (through pet food and accessories), ecological change and the disapproval of pets as food (particularly subsequent to the crackdown for the Beijing Olympics 2008).

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Headey, B., Na, F. and Zheng, R. (2008). 'Pet dogs benefit owners' health: A 'natural experiment' in China', Social Indicators Research, Vol. 87(3), pp. 481-493.
  • McConnell, A.R., Brown, C.M., Shoda, T.M., Stayton, L.E. and Martin, C.E. (2011). 'Friends with benefits: On the positive consequences of pet ownership', Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 101(6), pp. 1239.
  • Turner, J. and d'Silva, J. (2006). Animals, ethics and trade: The challenge of animal sentience. London: Earthscan.

Example cultural studies dissertation topic 8:

Acts of violence committed by teenage girls: A response to social frustration, a form of gender equality, or a consequence of increased substance abuse?

In a number of Western countries, such as the US, Britain and Australia, acts of violence committed by teenage girls are increasing. Examples such as that of eighteen-year old Victoria Osoteku, who was convicted of manslaughter and conspiracy to commit grievous bodily harm after the gang murder of a fifteen-year old boy in Victoria Station in March 2010, have shocked society. This dissertation explores the reasons for girls becoming more involved in gang violence, violent bullying, murder and robbery; the paper offers an extensive literature review of the three countries stated and first determines how significant the rise in activity is, or whether differences in reporting are leading to a change in public perception. Secondly, the thesis examines the police and court statements of numerous teenage girls charged with violent crime and seeks to determine whether the girls themselves understand the motivation for their crimes.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Alder, C. and Worrall, A. (eds) (2004). Girls' violence: Myths and realities. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.
  • Fleisher, M.S. and Krienert, J.L. (2004). 'Lifeā€course events, social networks, and the emergence of violence among female gang members', Journal of Community Psychology, Vol. 32(5), pp. 607-622.
  • Sondheimer, D.L. (2001). 'Young female offenders: Increasingly visible yet poorly understood', Gender Issues, Vol. 19(1), pp. 79-90.

Example cultural studies dissertation topic 9:

Differences in social acceptance of cosmetic surgery and the costs of such surgery: A comparative study of the UK and Brazil.

Globally, cosmetic surgery procedures - both invasive and non-invasive - are rising. Figures vary, but countries with a high rate of cosmetic procedures include the United States, South Korea, and Brazil; in contrast, the United Kingdom sees relatively few procedures undertaken. This thesis examines whether social acceptance of surgery is the primary factor in the difference in uptake of invasive plastic surgery between Brazil and the UK, or whether other factors, such as greater affordability, a national health system, high rates of medical insurance, differences in expectations of the roles of women, media portrayals of beauty, or other issues are at play. This paper offers flexibility in research gathering and the potential for meaningful primary research.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Edmonds, A. (2007). ''The poor have the right to be beautiful': Cosmetic surgery in neoliberal Brazil', Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, Vol. 13(2), pp. 363-381.
  • Harris, D.L. and Carr, A.T. (2001). 'Prevalence of concern about physical appearance in the general population', British Journal of Plastic Surgery, Vol. 54(3), pp. 223-226.
  • Swami, V., Arteche, A., Chamorro-Premuzic, T., Furnham, A., Stieger, S., Haubner, T. and Voracek, M. (2008). 'Looking good: Factors affecting the likelihood of having cosmetic surgery', European Journal of Plastic Surgery, Vol. 30(5), pp. 211-218.

Example cultural studies dissertation topic 10:

An analysis of the effect of club music on alcohol and drug consumption: Two case studies.

This dissertation explores the link between electronic dance music, club music presented by a disc jockey, and the consumption of alcohol and drugs at clubs. Factors that may contribute to the consumption of such substances include beat, volume, the juxtaposition of human interaction with the music (through the actions of the disc jockey) and the electronic, non-human sound, a desire to increase the psychedelic effect of the lighting and music combined, peer pressure, sexual motivation, and the social expectations of the setting. The paper examines two case studies: over a period of eight evenings in one month, club-goers at a club in Newcastle and a club in Glasgow voluntarily participate in sharing their perceptions of their motivation for increases (or decreases) in their consumption of drugs and alcohol. Conclusions are then drawn to determine whether such consumption is an inevitable by-product of the club culture.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Chen, M.J., Miller, B.A., Grube, J.W. and Waiters, E.D. (2006). 'Music, substance use, and aggression', Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, Vol. 67(3), pp. 373.
  • Kavanaugh, P.R. and Anderson, T.L. (2008). 'Solidarity and drug use in the electronic dance music scene', The Sociological Quarterly, Vol. 49(1), pp. 181-208.
  • Miller, B.A., Furr-Holden, C.D., Voas, R.B. and Bright, K. (2005). 'Emerging adults' substance use and risky behaviors in club settings', Journal of Drug Issues, Vol. 35(2), pp. 357-378.

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