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Thesis information and requirements in Culture, Language and Communication Studies

 

for MA theses related to Culture, Language and Communication Studies

in the British Culture and History track of the MA in English Programme[1]

 

 

1 What is an MA thesis in Culture, Language and Communication Studies?

2 Formal requirements

3 Thesis marking criteria

4 Procedures

5 The role of the supervisor

6 Marking

7 Guidelines on content and structure

 

1 What is an MA thesis in Culture, Language and Communication Studies?

 

An MA thesis is a serious academic challenge in the form of an analytical piece of writing based on systematic research as opposed to a purely summative/descriptive one. Research may be either empirical or theoretical in nature. In either case it involves the planned and systematic investigation of a particular phenomenon or question (i.e., research seeks to explore phenomena in a disciplined manner to better understand them). The thesis paper in this field should address an issue that is specifically related to culture, language or communication as reflected in and through the use of English either in English speaking cultures or interculturally.

 

 

The following are possible – but by no means exclusive – topic areas for theses to be written at DELP:

Intercultural communication;

Intercultural communicative competence;

Culture learning and acculturation;

Exploring culture - Aspects and dimensions of intercultural communication;

Understanding national cultures;

Learning cultures;

The role of culture in learning and communication;

The role of culture in translation;

Developing intercultural competence as English language professionals;

Communication in ESP;

Intercultural business communication;

The use of English in the EU;

Critical discourse analysis;

Cultural discourse analysis;

Social issues/cultural practices and language in English speaking cultures;

Popular culture;

Cultural practices reflected in literature/film/arts;

Intercultural communication reflected in literature/film/arts;

Travelogues: cultural encounters through travelling;

The construction of culture – cultural practices reflected in the media;

Gender and cultural practice;

Gender, identity and language use;

 

In your thesis you need to:

 

  • identify a research area you are interested in and limit the aim and scope of the study to a manageable project. The aim of the research may be to explore (or describe patterns of relationships in) phenomena related to the area of culture, language and communication studies. The aim of the research may also be to test specific hypotheses in the field.

  • formulate one or more specific research questions. The objective of the research question(s) is to guide the research and focus the aim of the study.

  • demonstrate your familiarity with the most important literature and theoretical background of the field.

  • demonstrate your awareness of appropriate research tools and justify their use for data collection and analysis. In the case of theoretical research these could be a particular conceptual framework or – if you decide on empirical research – interviews, case studies, questionnaires, observation schedules, etc.

  • collect or select a well-defined and justified set of materials (e.g. a corpus of texts; samples of texts/films/pieces of art) or data (e.g. obtained through questionnaires, interviews, observation, etc.) your analysis will be based on.

  • conduct an analysis based on logical principles and provide a clear presentation of the results as well as a convincing explanation/discussion of these.

  • draw well-founded conclusions demonstrating a deep understanding of the issue examined, in which you also consider possible alternative views and explanations, as well as practical implications and limitations of the study.

  • document all the sources you used properly and follow the APA citation guidelines.

  • use sophisticated academic English.

The extension of the BA thesis into an MA thesis:

As a general rule, your MA thesis may not be the extension of your BA thesis. However, if the topic and the approach allow for extending your earlier research in a novel manner and in a way that promises gaining a considerably deeper  understanding of it, your supervisor and the head of department may give special permission for you to do this. If you want to seek permission to do this, you will have to submit your BA thesis and the referee’s review to your supervisor when starting your consultations about the thesis topic.

 

2 Formal requirements:

 

Length: Different types of research require different ways of writing up. Typically, quantitative research is written up in a more compact manner, while a thick description of various details is necessary in a thesis based on qualitative research. Keeping this in mind, the body of the thesis (the text without the abstract, table of contents, notes, references and appendices) should be approximately 100 000-120 000n (50-60 pages). The body of the thesis must be at least 80 000n (40 pages), and must not exceed 140 000 n (70 pages).

Layout: Single or double sided A4 pages printed double spaced in Times New Roman 12pt font. margins: 2.5 cms on three sides, at the gutter: 3.5 cms.

Number of copies to be submitted: 2 copies: 1 hard bound and 1 ring bound copy

The electronic submission of the thesis must be done according to the instructions at:

http://seaswiki.elte.hu/studies/BA/major/graduation/thesis/submission
  

 

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3 Thesis marking criteria:

 

The thesis will be evaluated according to the following criteria:

 

I. Form (10 points, 40%)

 

Format (5 points)

Layout: Professional appearance (neatness, spacing, fonts, margins).

Structure: Division into main parts, clarity of organisation, clear structure of chapters and subchapters, headings, paragraphs; exact table of contents; APA reference and citation style;

Language (5 points)

Accuracy (grammar, vocabulary, punctuation, etc.).

Register (appropriate academic style, reader-friendliness, e.g. clarity, sign-posting).

Discourse (clarity of argumentation, cohesion within and transition between paragraphs)

 

II. Content (15 points, 60%)

 

Theoretical background/Review of the literature (5 points)

Clear relationship between the research question and the literature survey.

Familiarity with relevant literature and research results (placing the research topic within the development of the field).

A sound proportion of quoted or paraphrased material and the author’s comments or criticism. Not just a patchwork of  ideas.

 

Analysis (10 points)

Research question(s) and objectives: original, relevant and explicitly formulated.

Materials: a well-specified and justified set of materials

Independence: proof of independent use of academic research tools, providing a critical approach

to the area researched.

Procedures: (of data collection, data analysis and interpretation) clearly and systematically

presented with convincing arguments/justification.

Results: clearly presented (e.g., verbally and in tables, figures, charts or quotes if necessary).

The interpretation of the results is separated from the presentation of the data.

Conclusion: well-supported, convincingly related to the study as a whole, includes consideration of

alternative interpretations and views, draws practical implications from the study (where appropriate).

 

The conversion of points into marks works out as follows:

21-25 –– 5

17-20 –– 4

14-16 –– 3

10-13 –– 2

  0- 9  –– 1

 

Regardless of the merits of the paper, the thesis is an automatic fail if:

  • any of the four main criteria (format, language, theoretical background, analysis) are awarded 0 points.

  • plagiarism can be found in the paper. This also entails disciplinary action.

 

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4 Procedures: (suggested times and deadlines – in green – are provided to help planning.)

 

These are the steps to be taken before writing the thesis:

 

1., Decide on your broad research topic and select a supervisor who you think may help you most in your research. If you are not sure who you would like to work with, the Department Head will assist you in finding a consultant according to your thesis topic. (You can find out about the specialist areas of our staff on our website http://delp.elte.hu under ‘Staff details’. Suggested time: 7-8 weeks before the deadline of submission to the registrar’s office (TH).

2., Ask the supervisor of your choice to assist you, and if they agree to undertake the supervision, discuss the research topic with them and narrow down your broad topic to a specific project. Decide on a title for your thesis and a general approach to research the topic. Suggested time: 7-8 weeks before the deadline of submission to the registrar’s office (TH).

3., Start to read up on your topic to prepare for writing a thesis proposal. Suggested time: 6-7 weeks before the deadline of submission to the registrar’s office (TH).

4., Write a thesis proposal. Your supervisor will give you advice to improve and revise the initial version to one that can be submitted.

The thesis proposal should be approximately 300 - 350 words long and should contain the following sections:

Heading:

your name and your EHA code

your supervisor’s name

the title of the thesis

Body:

the topic of your thesis

a justification of the relevance of the topic (references to theoretical background and earlier research)

the rationale for choosing the topic

the research question(s)

the intended approach of data collection and analysis

anticipated problems in the research process and ways of overcoming these

the expected use and limitations of the study

a list of references and annotated preliminary readings of at least four books or eight journal articles

Suggested time: 4 weeks before the deadline of submission to the registrar’s office (TH).

5., Once your supervisor has approved of your proposal, have them sign a copy of it along with the filled in thesis title submission form (Címbejelentő) Deadline: 2 weeks before the deadline of submission to the registrar’s office (TH).

6., Submit the proposal and the thesis form to the Head of Department for approval. N.B.: The Head of Department may ask you to revise or even completely reconsider your proposal. Make sure you keep a copy of the proposal and the form. Deadline: 2 weeks before the deadline of submission to the registrar’s office (TH).

7., If the Head of Department has approved of the proposal and has signed the thesis title submission form, submit the form to the registrar’s office (TH).

………………………..

8., Do the research and write the thesis. You have almost a year to do this. Your supervisor will help you along this process in regular consultations. Register for the tutorial seminars ANGD-C2 and ANGD-C3.

……………………….

9., When the thesis is ready check the current regulations at http://seaswiki.elte.hu/studies/MA/English/graduation/Thesis and the Faculty of Humanities website (http://btk.elte.hu) as to the number of copies to be submitted, the binding and the contents of the cover page as well as other practicalities. Before submitting the thesis, you will have to have a statement signed by your supervisor saying whether or not they consider the thesis ready for submission. This statement has to then be submitted to the department secretary.

10., Submit the thesis in the registrar’s office (TH).

11., When the theses are marked you can get a copy of the referee’s report from the department secretary. You will have to use the referee’s critical remarks/questions to prepare for the defence of your thesis at the final exam.

 

 

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5 The role of the supervisor

 

The supervisor will provide guidance in writing the MA thesis. They will offer the following support:

  • clarification of the topic and title of the thesis

  • overseeing the writing of the thesis proposal

  • discussion of the appropriate research questions

  • suggestions for a reading list

  • advice on possible approaches to the analysis

  • advice on the writing process.

 

The supervisor cannot be expected to edit language, punctuation and spelling. The thesis is supposed to demonstrate the student's academic abilities and language skills, so the quality of the paper is entirely the student's responsibility.

 

Both the student and the supervisor keep a  record sheet of the supervision, on which the consultant has to declare whether they think the thesis is ready for submission or not. The sheet is downloadable from: 'Forms' at http://delp.elte.hu .

 

Selecting a supervisor: Students are free to request the help of any member of staff, yet if a teacher already has 5 supervisees they will have to refuse the request. If in doubt about who to ask to be your supervisor, the Head of Department can give advice. Should you find it necessary, you can request a new supervisor. Written appeals to the Head of Department for changing the consultant will be considered.

 

 

6 Marking

 

The Head of Department will appoint the reader (referees) for all theses submitted in time. The reader and the supervisor will both receive a copy for marking.

Readers are required to assign a mark and submit a 1 to 2-page report of justification based on our thesis marking criteria outlined above. The final mark of the thesis will be decided on at a formal Thesis Markers' Meeting chaired by the Head of Department. The date of this meeting will be posted each term. Conflicting marks will be negotiated and reconciled. If necessary, a third reader will be appointed by the Head. The mark approved by the Department is not subject to appeal.

 

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7 Guidelines on content and structure

 

7.1 Content

 

The aim of conducting research and writing a research paper is to find and present the solution to a problem related to a particular field of enquiry. There are two main types of research papers: empirical and theoretical.

 

Empirical research aims to explore an issue, generate or test hypotheses through gathering and analysing primary data, i.e. data gained by observation, interviews, questionnaires, discourse analysis, thematic analysis, etc. The focus of empirical research can be on behaviour (e.g. practices, actions, cognitive processes, etc.) or products (texts, films, pieces of art, etc.)

Depending on the aim of the research empirical inquiries work with qualitative and quantitative data. In order to explore, understand or interpret a particular phenomenon - or a set of phenomena from the perspective of the participants - qualitative data are used that are gained from observation, interviews or questionnaires with open ended questions, etc. The outcome then is the close study of a particular case or a limited number of cases, which allows the researcher to interpret the situation or to generate a theory or hypothesis. In order to test a hypothesis, the researcher takes an outsider’s perspective and uses quantitative data gained from quantifiable questions or measurements from a sufficient number of participants or samples so that the findings could be generalizable for the behaviour of the population or product type investigated.

 

These are a few examples for questions that can be researched through empirical research in the field of culture, language and communication studies:

  • What kinds of misunderstanding occur in the English language communication of non-native English speaking employees at a multinational company?

  • How do different cultural dimensions appear in the film: ‘Gung Ho’?

  • How can intercultural training improve the effectiveness of communication in a foreign language?

  • Are cultural thought patterns identified by Kaplan (1966) reflected in English compositions written by Hungarians?

  • What elements and functions of English humour do English expatriates identify as ‘typically English’?

 

An empirical research project applies various research tools, preferably a combination of the following:

  • questionnaires

  • interviews

  • thematic analysis

  • observation

  • discourse analysis

  • spoken interaction analysis

  • verbal reports

  • analysis of methods, experiments

  • diaries

  • tests

Theoretical research usually intends to add new angles to or improve already existing theories or conceptual frameworks of particular issues. It may also present completely new theories or solutions for particular problems. It therefore works with already existing theories, theoretical frameworks, data and research results and uses this secondary data to synthesise the literature and offer an original solution of the problem under scrutiny or a heightened understanding of an issue from multiple perspectives. The study may be motivated by the so far inadequate paradigm or lack of categories in a conceptual framework, by trying to establish new logical connections between various phenomena, in by the need to define or describe a problematic or complex issue or to (re)interpret social issues in their historical or social context, etc.

These are a few examples for questions that can be explored through theoretical research in the field of culture, language and communication studies:

  • How do existing constructs contribute to identifying the elements of intercultural communicative competence?

  • How does humour act as a social reflex as suggested by Fox (2004)?

  • How can travelogues serve as a guide in cultural studies?

  • How can contradictory cultural dimensions characterize a group simultaneously?

  • What was the role of post WWII immigration in shaping Australian cultural values?

The main aim of a theoretical thesis is to show various treatments of the particular problem and to provide a new or more complex understanding of the issue. The paper starts with the comparison of what different authors say about the same topic, that is, a survey of the relevant literature arranged into some logical framework created by the writer. The approach needs to be critical and analytical:   the paper can put forward an argumentative proposal of the writer's own opinion and solution of the problem, or it can offer a descriptive and interpretive analysis of the issue investigated. The author does not use a database gathered specifically for this research, but relies on already existing materials, and uses data creatively to illustrate the points made to support his/her argument/description/interpretation.

 

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7.2 Structure

 

The structure of an empirical research paper:

  •    Preliminary pages: title page and a statement of originality (according to the format specified at: http://seaswiki.elte.hu/studies/MA/English/graduation/Thesis ), and a table of contents, which includes the chapters of the paper and also the materials in the Appendices.

  •    Abstract: A short summary detailing the purpose, the relevance, the approach and the results of the paper (100 - 150 words).  

  •    Introduction: This should introduce the reader to the specific issue under analysis and describe the research approach/strategy. The introduction should:

    o   specify the point/topic of the study

    o   explain why the topic is relevant/interesting

    o   explain how the analysis relates to the problem

    o   specify the exact research questions/hypotheses

    o   explain how the study relates to previous work in the field and how it is expected to benefit the field

    o   preview the structure/chapters of the thesis

  •    Review of the literature: This section can either be part of the Introduction or can come under a separate heading (or headings) which specify the main aspects of the review. The purpose of the review is to develop the background, that is, to discuss the relevant literature in order to give the reader knowledge of the field (specifically relating to the research question) which the writer is researching.

   The review of the literature must:

o   define the key terms and concepts,

o   describe relevant theories

o   present earlier research concerning the issue

The literature review can be organized around concepts or the chronology of earlier research but in any case must be focused to suit the purposes of the research. It should be a very thorough and well-structured overview, presented on the basis of an original organising principle. That is, the writer has to make a unique presentation of the existing literature on the topic. This means, for instance, that simply presenting a summary of what different authors said about the same topic, does not qualify for a proper review of the literature. Earlier research results should be evaluated and related to the purpose of the current research.

A good overview is relevant, looks at all the aspects of the given topic, uses a minimum of 15 serious reliable and relevant academic sources, and presents the topic in a new light. As regards materials downloaded from the Internet, only sources that have an author and can be traced even after the submission of the thesis can be accepted.

  •    Research design and method: The Introduction and the Review of the literature are typically followed by a section in which the writer describes in detail how the analysis was conducted, that is, the technical aspects of the study. This chapter is often structured as follows:

o    Research Question(s) (What questions arise based on the lit. rev. and the

      researcher’s focus/interest?)

o    The approach of the research (qualitative or quantitative)

o    Reference to earlier research to justify the approach and methods.

o    Description of the methods of data collection: What? Why? How?

    - Setting (a description of the context, e.g. the place, general and 

       specific background, etc.)

    - Participants or set of materials (texts) analysed (rationale for

       selection, variables, )

    - Procedures (What happened, how long did the procedures last?)

    - Instruments (questionnaires, interviews, observation protocol,

       diaries, document analysis, framework for discourse analysis,

       retrospection, etc.)

(Before getting down to the details, a one or two-sentence summary of the research process should be given.)

o    Methods of data analysis – description of procedures and methods

o    Validity/reliability/credibility/trustworthiness/generalizability/ 

      transferability/ limitations

o    Ethical issues, if relevant

The use of the particular methods must be justified. In the justification, reference must be made to literature on research methodology.  A good method section describes the procedures in such a detailed way that anyone wishing to replicate the study would be able to do so. All the data collection materials (e.g., questionnaires, interview protocols, tasks, observation sheets) need to be exemplified in the appendix. If a data collection instrument is not in English it has to be translated into English and be included in the appendix.

  •    Results and discussion: The Results section will normally contain the results of the analysis, which will detail and justify the conclusion. This section is often merged together with the discussion section, which includes the writer's discussion (i.e. explanation and interpretation) of the results with respect to the original questions/hypotheses and the consequence of the results.

  •    Conclusion: This section briefly summarizes the main findings of the analysis, discusses possible alternative interpretations and views, examines the practical implications (where appropriate), mentions the limitations of the research and proposes directions for future investigations. All the conclusions have to be drawn on the basis of the data, and not subjective speculations.

  •    References: In this section the writer lists all the references that were cited in the texts (and only those!). See our website on APA citation guidelines for details. Make sure you use and refer to sources regarding both the content matter and the research methods.

  •    Appendices: The following materials are appropriate for an appendix: questionnaires, interview questions, observation schedules, information brochures, handouts, teaching materials used or designed, raw data, visual aids, scales, tests, less important tables or figures, practical examples, or other kinds of illustrative materials. The appendices have to contain a short sample of the data (e.g., filled in questionnaires, transcript of interviews, parts of texts produced by the participants). If it is in Hungarian, it also has to be translated into English. All other data used in the research has to be made available to anybody interested.

 

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The structure of a theoretical thesis paper:

 

Questions that are normally addressed in theoretical papers include:

What is the point/topic of the study?

Why is this topic interesting/relevant?

What has been done in the field so far?

Is there any problem with something missing from what has been done/said so far?

What is the problem with/What is missing from what has been done/said?

What solution may be offered?

Why is this solution good, or not so good?

How are various facets/perspectives of the topic investigated linked? What understanding or interpretations do the connections allow?

How does the social/historical context affect the issue under investigation?

etc.

 

Depending on the nature of the problem or issue discussed, such papers may be structured in different ways. A typical pattern of organisation is presented below: 

  •    Preliminary pages: Title page and a statement of originality (according to the format specified at: http://seaswiki.elte.hu/studies/MA/English/graduation/Thesis), and a table of contents, which includes the chapters of the paper and also the materials in the Appendices.

  •    Abstract: A short summary describing the purpose, the relevance, the approach and the findings of the paper (100 - 150 words).  

  •    Introduction: The introduction normally starts by introducing the subject of the paper and its relevance, that is, the reason why it is considered as an interesting issue to explore. The exact aim of the paper and the main research question(s) should be clearly formulated. (In theoretical papers, research questions relate to finding possible solutions to the problem or to describing and analysing a complex issue.) The introduction generally ends with a brief overview of the analytical approach/strategy to be pursued and the outline of the thesis.

  •    Review of literature: The aim of the literature review is to provide theoretical background to the issue identified in the introduction. It offers a critical review of the various treatments of the issue, enumerating arguments representing the body of literature both opposing and supporting the author's position. The survey should be organized into a logical framework created by the writer.

  •    Theoretical / conceptual framework (of analysis): The function of this chapter is to explain the methods/approach of analysis. The author has to do the following things:
    restate the aim of the research and the research question(s) stated and justified in the introduction.

     - explain the analytical framework in relation to the aim(s) and research

        questions), i.e., explain what theory provides the basis of the 

        analysis/interpretation, e.g., a particular theory and/or method. It also

        has to be explained/justified why this is the appropriate approach.

        The following methods (and a combination thereof) are often used in 

        analysing cultural products: content analysis, narrative analysis,

        thematic analysis, semiotics, ideological approaches, typological

        approaches, genre study, discourse analysis,  critical discourse

        analysis, visual analysis, historical study, "auteur" study,

        impact/reception study (i.e., how the product has impacted the

        audience/users, how it was received), etc.

- explain the practicalities & process of the analysis, i.e.: describe what 

   product (text, film, etc) was chosen and why (i.e., why is it exactly this

   product that is best suited for the purpose of the analysis)

- describe and justify the steps of the analysis (i.e., how was the analysis

   carried out);

    - discuss any issues of research ethics (if relevant).

  •   Analysis:The analysis section offers a thorough, disciplined and systematic presentation of the description and interpretation of or possible solution(s) to the problem under scrutiny as envisaged by the writer. It should build upon the work of other researchers in the field, and should be carried out based on the theoretical/conceptual framework described in the previous chapter. Depending on the topic and approach of the inquiry, the analysis can be descriptive, interpretive, critical or argumentative. (In the case of an argumentative approach, authors are expected to come up with an original solution to the problem discussed.) All arguments/claims put forward by the author must be accompanied by some form of supporting evidence (e.g., examples, figures, facts, views of other researchers). Brief reference should be made to the criteria of analysis described in the previous chapter where necessary. This section ends with an evaluation of the proposed solution(s), showing that it is (or these are) exempt from the weaknesses identified in the opposing view(s), or with a summary of the main findings of the analysis in answer to the research question(s).

  •   Conclusion: Theoretical papers normally end by a restatement of the problem under investigation and a brief summary of the outcome of the analysis or the proposed solution(s) discussed. In the conclusion section, authors may indicate in what ways the study contributes to current achievements in the field, refer to the limitations of the paper, and point to possible areas for further investigation.

  •   References: In this section the writer lists all the references that were cited in the texts (and only those!). See our website on APA and MLA citation guidelines for details. Theses about language, language use, intercultural communication, language teaching or learning should follow the APA style of documentation, while papers about the civilisation of English speaking cultures or other aspects of cultural studies should follow the MLA standards. Be sure to use and refer to sources regarding both the content matter and the research methods used.

  •   Appendices: Visual or textual documents to illustrate certain points of the analysis can be included in the appendices.

 

  Tip: 

A comparative overview of the structure of empirical and theoretical theses can be found here.

 

Section 7 is based on:

Stokes, J. (2003). How to Do Media and Cultural Studies. London: Sage.

Swales, J.M., & Feak, C.B. (1994). Academic Writing for Graduate Students. Ann Arbour: The

University of Michigan Press.

 

 

 

 

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[1] Parts of this document are based on the thesis requirements of now phased out old five-year programme at DEAL.

 

 

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