[csaa-forum] Formal elements of the PhD thesis

Amanda Wise amanda.wise at mq.edu.au
Wed Mar 16 14:14:21 CST 2011

Hello Anthropology and cultural studies colleagues,

I am having a debate with a colleague at the moment (a sociologist) about
the required elements of a PhD thesis. She is of the view that there always
needs to be stand alone 'Literature Review' and 'Theory' chapters.

What to do with interdisciplinary work. My work is interdiscipinary as is
most of my students' research (in migration, transnational, multicultural
studies, ethnicity, identity). Recently I supervised a student, whose work
on labour migrants involved 8 months of in-depth fieldwork, drew on
anthropology, cultural studies, sociological theories and work in cultural
geography. We had two sociologists of migration mark it, and one social
anthropologist. The two sociologists wanted a lot more detailed exposition
of 'method' (OK), and a stand alone literature review chapter. My
sociologist colleague also feels our students should have a 'theory'

My PhD was in cultural studies (co-supervised by an anthropologist) and
neither of these were required. Either I had dodgy supervision (I don't
think so) or there simply are different expectations. I feel that such a
rigid structure can sometimes (depending on the thesis) disrupt the
narrative flow of a thesis and that theory/lit review is just as happily
embedded throughout the chapters.

So, I wanted ask the opinion of cultural studies people and anthropologists:

1) do you ask your students to include a literature review as a stand alone
2) what level of detail in 'methodology' when it mainly
involves ethnographic work / cultural analysis/ development of theory.
3) Does anyone really require write a 'theory' chapter?
4) How do you manage these issues in an interdisciplinary thesis where there
are different expecations for each discipline?

On top of the ERA, I can't help feeling of late there is more and more pull
towards a single discipline now.

Thanks for your thoughts and reflections.

Dr Amanda Wise
Senior Research Fellow
Centre for Research on Social Inclusion,
Macquarie University NSW 2109
Ph: +61 2 9850-8835
Email: amanda.wise at mq.edu.au
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