CAC Essay Information

As noted in the syllabus there are two parts to the final grade for this course, participation (30%) and a final essay (70%).

The final essay’ portion is made up of three pieces of work which you will submit in the latter half of the semester;

  1. Topic proposal - Deadline: 26 Nov
  2. Annotated bibliography - Deadline: 22 Dec
  3. Final essay - Deadline: 19 Jan 2024

1. A topic proposal

This section offers some general advice that I hope will help when you come to propose a topic for your final essay. For this piece of work you should submit a short document (about 4-500 words?) which:

  1. Proposes a title or research question that you are interested in writing about
  2. Explains briefly why you think this is a worthwhile topic and how investigating it will help us understand the world around us

Below are some general hints that might guide your thinking:


It is often tempting to compare groups of people. One of the most common essay proposals I get is the difference between people in Kantō and Kansai’. If you are thinking of writing an essay which compares groups then bear in mind the following:

  1. Make sure the groups are comparable in a meaningful way. Make sure you are comparing apples with apples’ and not apples with pineapples’; in other words, a lot of comparisons only tell us things we already know, that the two groups are different (if they weren’t different we maybe wouldn’t see them as two separate groups!).
  2. For a comparison to be interesting the differences have to be significant; so, for instance, pointing out that people from Kansai habitually stand on the right on elevators and people from Kanto tend to stand on the left might be interesting as a cultural factoid’ but actually tells us nothing about anything beyond that (unless you can make a persuasive case, based on evidence, that it does have some deeper meaning).
  3. My instinct say that bigger groups are more difficult to make meaningful comparisons with, the reason being that as groups get bigger they are more likely to approach the average. As I will say a hundred times during the course, human beings in large numbers are pretty much the same. A group does not have to be large to have its own set of rules, values etc that we might label a culture’ — we talk of companies having a culture, sporting teams too.
  4. Remember that you also do comparison of groups


If you decide to write about language then you will need to acquire some basic knowledge of linguistics. We talk briefly about certain aspects of linguistics but CAC is not a linguistics course and to get up to speed you will have to look through an introductory text; for instance, something like…

Coulmas, F. (2005). Sociolinguistics. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

might be useful if you are interested in the ways language and societies (people in groups) inter-relate. If you are planning to write about language-related matters talk to me about finding appropriate sources.

Examples of titles from previous student essays

Feel free to look ahead to the remaining sessions to look for topics that might interest you, the readings should all be there already to get you started.

• Multiculturalism in Japan: Focusing on Kanagawa and Kyoto
• What is Cultural Appropriation’ and why is it important?
• Does Fast Pace of Life’ Have a Positive Impact on People?
• Emojis as a Cross Cultural Communication Tool
• The Effects of Nihonjinron on Contemporary Japan: Japaneseness, self-image and discrimination
• Why most people in the world are and want to be multilingual?
• The development of Non-verbal Language (Sign Language)
• How did Linguistic Imperialism affect language formation in Hawai’i?


When choosing a topic (a research question) make sure you can answer a few basic questions:

  1. Would a meaningful answer to this question fit into a 2000-word essay?
  2. Does previous research on this topic, or an analogue’ (maybe comparing different groups to the ones you’re interested in but whose methodology etc you can use) exist? If not, why not?
  3. Thinking of things that exist and are observable in the real world’, where are you going to look for your evidence?
  4. Finally, bear in mind the practicalities of what you are thinking of doing; what resources are required? Do you have access to all the things (data, documents etc) that you might need?

2. An annotated bibliography

Choose 5 resources (books, papers, websites etc) that you will use when you write your essay. Explain briefly how you will use them, ie, do they provide a theoretical approach that you will use, or data about the subject of your essay, or a review of the relevant literature for your chosen area?

Try to write a paragraph or two (300-400 words) summarising the relevant content and explaining how this resource will help you write your final essay. Remember to include accurate APA-style references for your chosen resources.

You should also show that you understand the different informational roles’ of different types of resources; information from, for example, a newspaper website can be used safely in certain ways but is inappropriate in other situations, likewise information taken from a company website, campaign organisation, or any body with a specific agenda’ has to be dealt with in a different way to information you might get from an article in an academic journal.

3. The final essay

This is an argumentative or analytical essay on a subject of your choice, it will require you to;

  • choose a topic related to the content covered during the course
  • provide evidence of independent reading
  • provide evidence of the ability to reason logically, and think critically
  • refer to appropriate sources and cite and reference them properly
  • use appropriate presentation and style

Refer to the online APA style guide to remind yourself how to cite the various types of material you will need to refer to.

Plagiarism and AI checks

All essay-related assignments will be checked for plagiarism and use of AI using the Turnitin software. At the end of the 2023 Spring Semester, across all the courses I taught, about 20% of students had submitted work which alerted the Turnitin AI detection function. This returns a percentage value which estimates what proportion of the text is AI-generated text; the figures I saw ranged from 10%-ish all the way up to 100%. After this information was included in the general assessments for each class, about 10 students (not in CAC!) were given F grades due to their use of AI in their submitted work.

If you want some more general advice on essay writing, please have a look at my top tips’ slides.

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