Lin Ye, a 2022 bachelor's degree graduate from XJTLU's School of Humanities and Social Sciences, was awarded the third prize in the evaluation of exceptional undergraduate and postgraduate theses conducted by the Jiangsu Provincial Department of Education. After completing her master's degree in Marketing at Durham University, Ye is going to embark on a master's programme in Global Media and Communications, which starts this month at London School of Economics and Political Science.

Ye completed her bachelor's degree at XJTLU's Media English programme. Her undergraduate final year project thesis, titled "Explaining the preference towards different types of corporate social responsibility (CSR) messages on Chinese social media: The role of interdependent self-construal, nationalism, and patriotism," delved into the relationship between corporate social responsibility (CSR) communication and consumer self-construal, patriotism, and nationalism in the Chinese market environment.

Ye discovered her passion for marketing and corporate communication in her third year of study, and her interest in the two fields solidified her decision to pursue them as her research focus and future career goal. Additionally, a series of frustrating publicity incidents that occurred before Ye selected the research topic for her thesis prompted Ye to engage in profound reflections on the challenges and issues concerning corporate social responsibility communication.”

Ye says, "The incidents, from the collective boycott of H&M triggered by the Xinjiang cotton incident to the 'wild purchasing' directed at ERKE during the floods in Henan Province, served as prime examples of the associated consumer behaviours which were fueled by patriotism or nationalism and where social media acted as a catalyst. Therefore, I decided to study how Chinese consumers, under the influence of the two prominent sentiments, perceived different corporate communication messages, especially those related to the Chinese Nation."

Based on real-world cases of CSR communication, Ye classified the relevant material of CSR marketing into three categories: individual-based CSR messages, group-based CSR messages in a general context, and group-based CSR messages in a Chinese context.

"My study demonstrates that as consumers' level of interdependent self-construal increases, which reflects stronger collectivist beliefs, they become more likely to accept and support CSR content. Furthermore, when consumers have a strong inclination towards patriotism, they exhibit a particularly supportive attitude towards CSR messages in both the general and Chinese contexts. On the other hand, when they exhibit a strong inclination towards nationalism, a negative support effect becomes apparent towards CSR messages in the general context, especially those targeting foreign societies released by overseas brands," says Ye.

Viewed from a practical perspective, Ye's research findings can contribute to the formulation of more practical CSR communication strategies that target corporates and brands. Ye adds, "In East Asia, where collectivism is widely advocated, consumers demonstrate a high level of attention towards social issues. This context allows CSR initiatives to serve as effective communication tools for corporates and brands. However, it is also crucial for companies to recognize the prevalent patriotic and nationalist sentiments among Chinese people, and thus, avoid raising controversial topics that may fuel consumer outrage."

When asked about what she has learned from her own research experience, Ye remarks that it's quite normal to encounter difficulties when conducting research as an undergraduate. She explains that the problems can be solved as long as one actively seeks help from their supervisor, and that in evaluating a thesis, the research process holds greater importance than the final results.

"Additionally, as media science falls within the realm of social sciences, we can merge our passion for a particular sub-realm of media science with the social issues that capture our attention. By immersing ourselves in relevant research papers, we can figure out the sub-realms that fascinate us. From there, we can then narrow our focus to a specific research topic that aligns with our interest."

"If you feel lost when conducting research or lack confidence in your work, please remember that almost all academic achievements are built upon the foundational work of previous researchers. Therefore, as newcomers to academia, we should learn to draw inspiration from the giants in our respective fields," says Ye.

Ye also expresses her heartfelt gratitude for the support of her supervisor, Dr. Simon Schweighofer. She says, "Simon gave me great freedom to choose my research topic and helped me tremendously during the process of research. Whenever I met difficulties, Simon had discussions with me and offered me valuable advice, and after I completed the project, Simon asked me whether I'd like to have the paper published in an international academic journal. To improve the study, Simon also helped me refine the analytical model so that the results obtained could be more accurate. Simon is undoubtedly one of the most supportive supervisors I have met on my academic journey."

Dr. Simon Schweighofer joined XJTLU's School of Humanities and Social Sciences in 2020 as an assistant professor in the Media and Communication Department. His expertise lies in quantitative research and analysis, focusing on online data (especially text), social networks, and the roots of political polarisation. According to Dr. Schweighofer, Ye possesses the very rare ability to coherently design a research project. He says that from the general research question and design down to the smallest details of the questionnaire and data analysis, Ye can perfectly integrate the various components of her study like clockwork.

"Ye's paper stands out for its coherent structure and thoughtful analysis, which is quite uncommon in the work delivered by other students. Working with Lin was a very positive experience  - our meetings often went over time because we couldn't get through all her interesting ideas and insightful questions.

In sum, Lin is very creative, but also systematic, confident, but also self-critical - a perfect mix of character traits for a future researcher! "

Journalist: Yiyi Gu

Translator: Xueqi Wang

Editor: Yi Qian, Yiyi Gu

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