Research Methods for Cultural Studies

Research Methods for Cultural Studies

Research Methods for Cultural Studies

Research Methods for Cultural Studies


This new textbook addresses the neglect of practical research methods in cultural studies. It provides students with clearly written overviews of research methods in cultural studies, along with guidelines on how to put these methods into operation. It advocates a multi-method approach, with students drawing from a pool of techniques and approaches suitable for their own topics of investigation. The book covers the following main areas:
• Drawing on experience, and studying how narratives make sense of experience.
• Investigating production processes in the cultural industries, and the consumption and assimilation of cultural products by audiences and fans.
• Taking both quantitative and qualitative approaches to the study of cultural life.
• Analysing visual images and both spoken and written forms of discourse.
• Exploring cultural memory and historical representation.

The contributors, along with Michael Pickering, are Martin Barker, Aeron Davis, David Deacon, Emily Keightley, Steph Lawler, Anneke Meyer, Virginia Nightingale, and Sarah Pink. The book is designed for use by students on upper-level undergraduate and taught Masters-level courses as well as postgraduate research students and cultural studies researchers more generally. It will be of enormous value across all fields of study involved in cultural enquiry and analysis.



There has long been a reluctance to bring any explicit discussion of methods and methodology into cultural studies. This can be explained in various ways. We can see it first of all as connected with the field’s renegade character, and its conscious dissociation from established academic disciplines. Developing and adhering to a particular set of methods was considered to be characteristic of those disciplines and somehow compromised by an unexamined notion of empirical enquiry. Cultural studies has preferred to borrow techniques and methods from established disciplines without subscribing to any disciplinary credentials itself. Empirical enquiry has been treated with suspicion or regarded as woefully insufficient in itself, primarily because of the emphasis in cultural studies on fully conceptualising a topic of enquiry and locating it within a more general theoretical problematic. Along with a heavy reliance on textual analysis of one kind or another, applying techniques of close reading to a broad range of cultural phenomena, cultural studies has been distinguished as a field of study by the ways it has engaged with theory and sought to apply it, rather than by its adoption or development of practical methods.

The influence of theoretical issues and preoccupations has gone hand in hand with an inclination to ask critical questions about the rules of asking questions, with codified procedures and the prescription of set methods seeming to inhibit the free play of critique. By defining its practice as operating in opposition to disciplinary boundaries and controls, such procedures and methods have been regarded as imposing constraints on intellectual enquiry, particularly where this is dealing with the politics of culture or with the reproduction of relations of power in particular cultural texts or practices. Academic boundaries and prescribed methods have at times been associated with such reproduction, perhaps especially in relation to male control of intellectual agendas . . .

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