Guide on How to Write an Anthropology Essay with Ease

Writing guide
Posted on February 4, 2019

Need help in writing a challenging anthropology essay?

Being a social science, anthropology mostly consists of an argument about how certain social facts are to be interpreted. Modern anthropology cannot be regarded as a unified body of knowledge and only few anthropology issues have been resolved. Anthropology as a science is a dialectical production so we can’t find many generally accepted answers. That’s why an anthropology essay has to show not just some factual knowledge, but also demonstrate your ability to present arguments and counter-arguments about particular issues and assess them.

In this article you will find an easy guide to writing an anthropology essay, a short list of good anthropology essay topics, and some useful anthropology essay writing tips that will help you succeed.

What is An Anthropology Essay?

Students who study anthropology are commonly assigned to write short essays where they have to discuss some challenging and controversial material that they study in class. These may be reflective essays such as reflections written in the journal-entry style and you may be asked to synthesize some concepts and other information that was covered in class lectures, readings, and discussions. Such essays require strong organization and logical development of the ideas and are based on the in-depth research of scholarly sources.

Review the Assignment Guidelines or Choose a Topic

Understanding what exactly you have to do for completing your anthropology essay can really help you in every step on the way. Read carefully the entire assignment before you start writing. If there is something that you don’t understand, ask your instructor to explain it to you. Your assignment may have several parts so pay attention to each of them and find out how many issues you have to address in your anthropology essay.

When reading your assignment, make sure that you fully understand the keywords. Your assignment may ask you to comment, analyze, identify, reflect, describe etc. and your task will be to give a specific and clear commentary, analysis, reflection, description etc. You should also determine and underline the key subjects of the assignment for your essay because you will need to consider all of them when making an outline.

If the topic for your essay was not given by your instructor, you need to choose a topic that you are interested in. You should do preliminary research to find out if it is possible to find enough credible primary and secondary sources that have the information needed for your argument. Besides, you should take care that the topic is narrow enough so you will be able to cover it in your essay. If the topic is too broad, you should narrow it and make it manageable.

Take a look at this short list of interesting anthropology essay topics that you may use to get started.

Anthropology Essay Topics for Your Consideration:

  1. The Development of Anthropology in the Digital Age
  2. The Relationship between Language and Culture
  3. Problems of Researching Food Habits
  4. Religious Beliefs and Practices of Ancient Maya
  5. Marriage in Primitive Societies
  6. New Directions in the Anthropology of Gender
  7. The Anthropology of Tourism
  8. Education in the Era of Globalization
  9. Art as a Cultural Phenomenon
  10. Climate Change as a Human Problem
  11. A History of Economic Anthropology
  12. The Future of Visual Anthropology
  13. Aids in Africa
  14. Health and Income Differences
  15. Third World Poverty

Structure of an Anthropology Essay

An anthropology essay consists of three main parts, just like any other academic essay: an introduction, the body, and a conclusion.

The Introduction

The introduction has to foreshadow your argument and present your topic and the key ideas that you are going to argue in your essay. You should end this part of an essay with a thesis statement or research question. A clear thesis is the key component of analytical papers and it should identify precisely what you will discuss in the body of your essay. It’s vital to revise your thesis statement as your essay develops because, most likely, you will need to make some changes. As you write, you will realize more ideas, and some ideas that you originally included in the thesis statement may become less prominent for your essay.

The Body

The body of your anthropology essay should be broken into sections that should discuss a major theme and each section should be broken into several paragraphs. The paragraphs are the building blocks of your essay and each paragraph should be devoted to a single main idea. You should ensure that every main idea flows logically to the next.

Clarity and organization are the keys to a successful essay and you can achieve it only by careful planning, referring back to the reading material as you write you paragraphs, and revision of what you have written as you proceed. While working on the body of your essay, you should develop your discussion coherently and ensure that all the sentences and paragraphs in your anthropology essay follow logically from one another.

The Conclusion

The conclusion should include a brief summary of your essay’s topic and highlight the relevant points of your argument. You need to present a final answer to your research question or provide an assessment of the problem. A well-written conclusion is your chance to show how coherent your previous sections are in answering your essay question. It’s your last chance to impress your readers so try to end your anthropology essay as effectively and neatly as possible.

Planning Your Anthropology Essay

Before you start writing your paper, you should make a brief outline of each part of your project, taking into account the basic essay structure. It will help you present a clear and logical picture. Different students prefer different methods. You can make a traditional outline or use any other popular techniques such as a ‘knowledge tree’ or a ‘mind map’. These techniques may not work well for everyone but they are worth trying.

Typically, you should address your essay question through several logical steps such as introduction, specific component sections, relevant scholarly sources, etc. These steps lead you from your essay question into analysis and further discussion and back to the answer of your research question.
Students who use brainstorming and create a ‘mind map’ as a part of the planning process can get three valuable outcomes:

  • they can identify the information that may be irrelevant for their topic;
  • they will be able to achieve a flowing writing style where every point connects to the next one;
  • they will spend less time writing in a coherent style so they will have more time rereading, editing, and reshaping the final anthropology essay draft.

In general, making outlines helps when planning out the essay’s organization before you add some details, support for your ideas, and style.

Use of Sources and Quotations

You should write your anthropology essay in your own words even if you think they are awkward. Of course, you should use quotations, but the quotation and paraphrasing should not account for more than 10% of your essay. And it’s crucial that you should properly cite the reference materials that you use in your project and give credit to these sources for the data or ideas that you borrow.

If you paraphrase or quote another person’s work without acknowledgment, it is considered plagiarism which is not acceptable in any academic field. You should cite your sources carefully. Usually, your instructor will provide you with guidelines on how to cite your sources, but if he/she doesn’t provide you with specific instructions, you may check the American Anthropological Association Style Guide.

You should be cautious when you use quotes because usually, instructors are likely to be more interested in how you express your own ideas to support your argument and not in how you collect different quotes no matter how good they are. Your instructors actually want to know what you think so it’s quite possible to complete a good academic essay with the minimal use of quotes. You should use a quotation only if you need it to make a point and you have to provide an explanation why you are using a quote.

You should provide the source of information every time you give facts or figures, paraphrase or summarize someone else’s argument or make a direct quotation. It will allow your audience to follow up on the information that is cited, to determine the parts of your anthropology essay that are original, and check the truth of your statements.

You must acknowledge all sources in the list of references or bibliography at the end of your essay and in the text. At the end of the quote, you just have to put in parenthesis the last name of the author, the year of publication, a colon, and the number of the page. Footnotes or endnotes may be also sparingly used if you want to clarify or expand some side issues or details that are relevant to the essay but it would not be appropriate to expand them within an argument of your anthropology essay.

Polishing the Draft

No one can write a perfect first draft so when you start writing, don’t care too much about your grammar and style because you will fix it later. At this stage, you should concentrate on the content of your essay and do your best to answer the essay question and argue your thesis statement clearly and logically.

To succeed in writing an impressive essay, you will need to revise all or some parts of the paper several times. Revision is an important part of the writing process. You have to review the components of your essay and make changes in the content and structure to ensure that your essay focuses on the topic and provides a good answer to the essay questions. Typically, you will need to add, delete and reorganize your material, doing the global revision. Besides, you will have to edit your essay and do the so-called surface-level revision.

  • When you complete your final draft, you have to check the logical flow and organization and make sure that your arguments in different parts of your essay are consistent with each other and all your assertions are supported with appropriate evidence.
  • Make sure that all your paragraphs have topic sentences and include appropriate transitions.
  • Check if the points in your discussion are clear and precise and that the discussion has an explicit overall development.
  • Make sure that you used clearly relevant concepts, examples, arguments, categories, evidence, positions and that, for each concept, you have explained what you mean by the concept.
  • Make sure that you have avoided wordiness and unnecessary use of the passive voice.
  • Proofread your anthropology essay and fix grammar, spelling, and punctuation mistakes and typos.
  • Check if you have cited the sources properly.

General Anthropology Essay Writing Comments from Our Experts

  • Try to express your ideas as clearly and concisely as possible. Use complete sentences and make them as short and succinct as possible. Your sentences should not take up more than three lines so if they do, break them down into smaller pieces that are easier to read.
  • Your paragraphs should consist of at least three sentences. The length of your paragraphs can vary depending on the argument that you are making in your essay as well as your personal style. But if the paragraphs in your essay are too long, your readers will find them harder to follow.
  • Do not artificially lengthen your essay with irrelevant points and excessive repetition.
  • Keep your essay simple and use only those words that you understand. You should explain all anthropological terms that you use.
  • Use a spell checker to fix minor errors and typos and find someone to read your essay and proof it.
  • Keep your essay length within the word count. Your essay should not be significantly under or significantly over the word limit.
  • Be careful with using block quotations. Never cite the work of other if you just want to fill up space and make your essay look longer.
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