Students don't always believe it, but sometimes the most difficult part of writing a paper is settling on a topic -- and then narrowing that topic sufficiently. Such is often the case with a cultural analysis paper, which affords you many interesting choices. First you have to choose a culture or a country. Then, after studying its cultural influences, you must choose the one that interests, if not fascinates, you the most. Right from the outset, start saving information, chronicling the websites you visit and a jotting a brief overview of what you found there -- just as a tourist visiting a country for the first time might do.
Settle on a focus for your cultural analysis paper. Writing a paper on a country's entire “culture” is far too broad, no matter what the assigned length of the paper. So consider a specific cultural event, custom, celebration, influence or even cultural phenomenon. Choosing "religion" or "music" might be tempting, but even these ideas are much too broad. Narrow the focus even more by limiting your research to a facet of the religion or one form of music. With a specific and narrow theme, you can focus your research with great precision, enabling your paper to teem with rich, colorful details that will set it apart.
Develop a working thesis statement for your cultural analysis paper. Think of this statement as the answer you would give someone who asks, “So what is your cultural analysis paper about?” A thesis is the guiding force of any paper, and every sentence and every paragraph of your paper ought to amplify, illustrate and support the thesis in some meaningful way. Continue to tweak, refine and improve your working thesis statement until you are ready to turn in your paper; this is how important the thesis is.
Write an introduction for your cultural analysis that sets a tantalizing stage for the paper. Provide a brief overview of the culture you have chosen to profile and then segue to your theme. Place the theme in context by explaining what it is that makes it such a profoundly important part of the culture. Then lead directly to your thesis statement. Altogether, you might devote up to five paragraphs to your introduction.
Develop your theme in the body of the cultural analysis paper. The body represents the bulk of the paper and where you must convince the reader of the veracity of your thesis statement. With this vital task at hand, start at the beginning to make your case, assuming the reader knows little to nothing about your topic. Slowly build your case with evidence, examples, statistics and quotes. A cultural analysis paper affords great opportunity to allow the reader to truly “experience” a cultural theme, so choose descriptive words with care and share your enthusiasm for the topic.
Conclude your paper by giving the reader something to ponder. Too often, students end papers as though they have written the definitive and last word on a subject. But the world continues to turn, so try to “point forward” -- or, better yet, find a source who points forward and makes a prediction about the future of your cultural theme.
Try to put your paper aside for at least one day and return to it with a refreshed pair of critical eyes. If you can't be your own worst critic, find someone to assume this role for you. Then edit and proofread your paper carefully.
- James Woodson/Photodisc/Getty Images