SELECTING A TOPIC FOR YOUR GRADUATION THESIS: SOME GUIDELINES

What is a thesis (卒論/ そつろん) and how do I select one?

The best way to think about a thesis is as an IDEA or HYPOTHESIS (仮説 (kasetsu)) about something or some topic which you have. After stating your idea, you then look for evidence or proof (立証 (risshou)) to show that the statement was or was not true. An example is the following:

Horse Racing in Japan has a different public image and attracts a different type of customer than Horse racing in the UK

Or

The Japanese media's coverage of Japanese major league stars like Ichiro and Nomu is quite different from the American media's coverage of them.

How do I select a graduation thesis topic?

Selecting a topic for your graduation thesis is difficult and takes a lot of time. One reason for this is that a thesis must be at least partly ORIGINAL. It is very hard to find a topic that nobody or very few people have ever researched. But if you can find something interesting to research, you will enjoy doing it and be able to graduate with a sense of pride. Here are some guidelines for choosing your topic:

Try to choose a topic which is:

1. really really interesting for you. It might be connected to your hobby.
2.
possible to research using books, the Internet, magazines, newspapers or other available sources;
3.
manageable in SIZE and quite narrowly focused. Generally the smaller the topic the better;
4.
involves some comparison with Japan. If you do not compare with Japan, it is unlikely that your topic will be original.
5.
is connected with something else you want to study at this university
6.
has an "academic" side to it

FROM HOBBY TO THESIS-A CASE STUDY

How can you connect your personal interest or hobbies with your graduation thesis. Look at this example. Lets imagine that Hiroshi likes American rap and hip and hop music and he would like to study and write about it. Here are some questions Hiroshi should ask himself.

(a) Does this topic fit the class topic-British & American Cultural Studies?
(b) Do I just like the music itself or is there something about the culture that produced this music that I like?
(c) Could this topic-a popular culture/entertainment topic- have an "academic side." Is there a serious side to this topic which could be studied in a university?
(d) Is this a topic which other people-in either the US or Japan have written about in a serious way (not just in fan magazines)?
(e) If this topic is too big to study itself, can I find a SUB-topic (a topic within this topic) that is more specific and narrower in focus?
(f) Is there likely to be information about this topic in the university library or on the Internet? Can I find AUTHENTIC or PRIMARY sources in Japan or on the Internet.
(g) is there any way that I can make my own original contribution to this topic by looking at it from a Japanese point of view or by comparing it to the same topic in Japanese culture?

How do I narrow down or reduce the size of a topic which I am interested in?

Lets imagine that Hiroshi answers "Yes" to most or all of these questions. Now he should start finding information about rap and hip-hop music. This information should not just be about which singers or songs are popular now, but should include BACKGROUND information on how rap started; why it started; what musical and social forces influenced it and created it; why it developed in the African-American community: what kinds of themes are in the songs and how these themes have changed over the years. Why has it become so popular with white people too? To do this he may have to read some books or articles on the history of Black American music and some articles on how rap emerged in New York in the elate 1970s. He may find that rap music borrowed from Jamaican "toasting," a kind of reggae with spoken lyrics. He may find that talking about your life and about social problems in music is not new to Black American music etc. He may find that certain individuals or artists played a major role in creating rap and that these artists grew up in a very poor area of Brooklyn, New York during the1970s. After finding out all of this, our friend Hiroshi can think about what area of his original big topic to focus on. Maybe will do his research on how rap music has changed music in other countries including Japan. He may ask the question: Would there be a Hikaru Utata without rap and hip hop? Now he is ready to make a plan for his thesis and to pose some questions which he will try and answer by doing research on hip-hop and rap artists in Japan and comparing them in with different ways to their American counterparts.

Early Research

After much thought, Hiroshi decides that he wants to look at the themes and language of rap music. But when he compares the themes of American Black rap music to the themes of Japanese rap artists, he finds that they are very very different-perhaps because of the huge social and cultural differences between the two. So then he decides that maybe a better comparison would be American WHITE rappers and Japanese rappers because their social backgrounds are quite similar and both are borrowing and adapting using Black culture. So he carefully chooses some rap records from America and Japan and starts to look at the lyrics of the songs and to divide the themes into categories. He now decides that his thesis is that

Hiroshi's Thesis Statement

"Rap music is a musical form that can and has been adapted by some young Japanese rappers to express their frustration with some aspects of Japanese society. However most of these themes are different from the themes which are popular with white rappers in America. In addition Japanese rap has not really attracted the attention of the mass young people's market and rap is not as popular as pop and dance music." One reason may be that Japanese is not an ideal language for the rap style. Another might be that the themes do not attract most young Japanese.

What topics did last year's students choose?

Xmas in Japan and US/UK
School lunch in the UK vs Japan
Travel-comparing role and image of stewardess/stewards
Travel-comparing role and purpose of certain types of travelers
Travel book comparison-comparing what travel books in the UK and Japan focus on and why
Drop out schools-comparing the educational philosophy and way of working of "drop out" schools in Japan and the UK or US
Baseball audience-comparing how audiences behave during a game