Writing in Cultural Studies

by Tamara Hollins

The field of Cultural Studies is quite ambiguous. Instead of focusing on one scholarly area, Cultural Studies branches out into many disciplines. The field may be informed by the ideology of literary criticism, film theory, history, or other scholarly ways of operating. As a result, papers written for a Cultural Studies class depend upon the conventions of the respective discipline of interest as well as upon the Cultural Studies professor's individual requirements. If you are interested in history, you may want to write a historiography about domesticity among Irish immigrants. Following the rules for writing a historiography might satisfy History department requirements, while the concentration on a cultural aspect might satisify the requirements of a Cultural Studies professor. The possibilities are endless. However, most papers follow the conventions of the English field. Below are four common English assignments. Clicking on these links will provide you with specific information on English field conventions and extremely helpful hints.

Close Readings 


Class Presentations 


Research/Seminar Papers 


Book Reviews 


After deciding on the form of a Cultural Studies paper, other questions may arise. Some of these questions concern The Writer's Appearance in the Cultural Studies Paper, Balancing the Personal with the Academic, and Writing a Paper in an Ambiguous Field. 

The Writer's Appearance in the Cultural Studies Paper

How much of the writer's personality should appear in the paper? The answer to this question depends on your area of interest and the professor for whom you are writing. Some fields and some professors embrace subjectivity while other fields and professors emphasize a more objective stance. However, this question becomes more complicated when writing an ethnography. If you are too subjective when writing an ethnography, the validity of your work may be contested. On the other hand, the ethnography is inherently subjective because the object is always seen through the ethnographer's eye. Therefore, it is necessary to always be ethical. Click here to see an ethnography excerpt. 

Balancing the Personal with the Academic

How do you write an academic paper that focuses on the personal? One way to balance the personal with the academic is to support personal assertions with theory or relevant quotations from academics. Another way is to demonstrate the relevance of the personal aspect to the Cultural Studies field. These methods are particularly useful when writing an ethnography in which you are one of the subjects. Click here to see an ethnography excerpt in which the author is also a subject. 

Writing a Paper in an Ambiguous Field 

How is it possible to write a paper in a field that is not concretely defined? Again, in order to write a Cultural Studies paper, you should follow the conventions of your field and the requirements of the individual professor. In the Cultural Studies theory classes, for example, you can explore a particular topic by meshing the theory of your area of interest (for example, English, History, Anthropology, Art, etc.) with Cultural Studies analysis. To do this, you must consider how your area of interest is related to Cultural Studies theory or how Cultural Studies theory applies to your area of interest. Click here to read a paper written for a Cultural Studies theory course. The paper connects Cultural Studies and literature, examining how ways of seeing (a Cultural Studies concern) are related to passing (the subject of the literary work studied). 

On the other hand, the field of Cultural Studies defies convention because it is ambiguous. Therefore, it is also possible for you to invent new rules and write papers or conduct projects never seen before in the history of Cultural Studies. Ultimately, the papers or projects you produce depend upon the type and the amount of requirements stemming from the Cultural Studies department, the conventions of your respective discipline, the individual professor, and your imagination. Click here to read a poem on American cultureClick here to read a more conventional piece on the production of identity.

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