[csaa-forum] csaa-forum Digest: Thesis Components

Tony Mitchell Tony.Mitchell at uts.edu.au
Thu Mar 17 09:43:40 CST 2011

1) do you ask your students to include a literature review as a stand alone

absolutely not. this is surely a formula for a dull, conventional thesis that no publisher would want to look at. The literature review should be woven into the fabric of the thesis so that it is barely noticeable.

2) what level of detail in 'methodology' when it mainly
involves ethnographic work / cultural analysis/ development of theory.

certainly not a theory/methodology chapter, again surely a recipe for dullness. and think of the poor examiners. Reading about people's methodologies is boring, unless they are doing something highly unusual, like interviewing animals. Findings are always paramount.

3) Does anyone really require write a 'theory' chapter?

obviously some people do, but again in the interests of formulaic, programmatic theses destined for oblivion.

4) How do you manage these issues in an interdisciplinary thesis where there
are different expectations for each discipline?

isn't everybody interdisciplinary? is it even possible to be mono-disciplinary any more? isn't everybody using the same theorists to say basically the same thing? everything is complex/multivocal/polyphanous/intertextual/pluralist/diverse/etc.

'The revolution will not be twittered'

the Darlo barber

Dr. Tony Mitchell
Senior lecturer
Cultural Studies
Arts & Social Sciences

P.O.Box 123 Broadway
NSW 2007
Tel. 61-2-95142335

From: csaa-forum-bounces at lists.cdu.edu.au [csaa-forum-bounces at lists.cdu.edu.au] On Behalf Of Andrew Hickey [Andrew.Hickey at usq.edu.au]
Sent: Wednesday, 16 March 2011 4:48 PM
To: csaa-forum at lists.cdu.edu.au
Subject: Re: [csaa-forum] csaa-forum Digest: Thesis Components

Hi Amanda,
I recently supervised an autoethnographically based thesis that steered away considerably from the usual '5 chapter' structure of a PhD. Having said that though, there was clear connection with the literature throughout the work, and similarly, the methods applied were articulated expertly by the candidate (particularly the epistemological implications of autoethnographic work). One thing we did give considerable thought to was the list of examiners we might contact once the thesis was completed and ready to send out. We explicitly selected folks we knew would be up to speed with the alternative structure of the thesis and who would appreciate the creativity the thesis contained. While we were'nt looking for an easy ride (and the candidate will adamantly confirm that she wanted to have the thesis examined on its merits as an academic work), we felt it was vitally important to go for examiners who would appreciate its structure. (As it happened, she got through with 'flying co
 lours' and was highly commended by the examiners).

My own thoughts on the structure of the thesis are that, yes, it must contain evidence of a connection to the literature and field, and must articulate clearly how its data were collected and analysis performed (both as a pragmatic discussion of what was done 'in the field' as well as the epistemological orientations of the researcher). A PhD, as the highest qualification, must represent the scholar's 'license to practice'; a demonstration of the candidate's capacities for rigorous research and scholarship. Whether or not this needs to be done within clearly delineated chapters I'm not so certain. I take Jipson and Paley's (now aging) idea of 'daredevil research' on board here and actively encourage those candidate's I work with to think creatively about how they might present their work- in many instances, the usual 5 chapter approach isnt the best way to convey what needs to be conveyed. But again, dealing with institutions and examiners who often have very fixed ideas abou
 t what a thesis should look like must be a consideration.

Apologies for prattling on, but I hope this adds something to your query,


Andrew Hickey
Senior Lecturer- Cultural Studies and Social Theory
Faculty of Education
University of Southern Queensland

(07) 46 31 2337
hickeya at usq.edu.au

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Today's Topics:

   1. Formal elements of the PhD thesis (Amanda Wise)
   2. Digital Humanities International Perspectives (Kylie Brass)


Message: 1
Date: Wed, 16 Mar 2011 15:44:21 +1100
From: Amanda Wise <amanda.wise at mq.edu.au>
Subject: [csaa-forum] Formal elements of the PhD thesis
To: aasnet at anu.edu.au, csaa-forum at lists.cdu.edu.au
        <AANLkTincJQmd+_RVgnRt-4WKnXvPOm1Y9d6HnYVgopWt at mail.gmail.com>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="iso-8859-1"

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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Message: 2
Date: Wed, 16 Mar 2011 16:17:35 +1100
From: Kylie Brass <kylie.brass at humanities.org.au>
Subject: [csaa-forum] Digital Humanities International Perspectives
To: <csaa-forum at lists.cdu.edu.au>
Message-ID: <C9A69321.8DDE%kylie.brass at humanities.org.au>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="iso-8859-1"


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