Step-by-Step Guide on How to Write an Anthropology Research Paper

Writing guide
Posted on February 4, 2019

Feeling overwhelmed with your anthropology research project? One of the most common problems that anthropology students face is writing an acceptable scholarly paper. In this anthropology research paper guide, you will find advice on how to write a research paper in anthropology and avoid the most common mistakes. Different academic subjects have different formats and standards so what is good for your research paper in Chemistry or English is not relevant here. Keep reading this easy writing guide and find out how to write like an anthropologist.

What Is an Anthropology Research Paper?

Most research papers in anthropology are either reports based on original research or reviews of literature on a particular research topic. Very often original research reports also include a ‘review of the literature’ section that presents the student projects in the context of the previous research.

A research paper in anthropology addresses a topic that is assigned by the instructor or chosen by the student. Writing a research paper requires that a student should read scholarly literature on a topic or theme. You have to do effective searches for information among the books in your university library and through the electronic databases of journal articles. As a rule, students are not limited to reading journal articles and scholarly books that are strictly ‘anthropological.’ You are expected to find information from different disciplines that address the topic of your paper.

You should organize and synthesize the information from these books and articles to present your argument. Your research paper must be well-organized and have a proper structure and each section of it has to follow the logic and support the main argument of your paper.

Although writing analytical anthropology research papers requires close analysis of scholarly sources and proper citation, it generally gives more freedom of personal expression to students than writing academic papers in other disciplines.

Choosing a Topic

The first step in completing any research paper is to understand the assignment. If you feel confused about something, do not hesitate to ask your instructor to clarify your assignment. Then you will be able to focus on other aspects of the writing process such as identifying your audience and choosing a topic.

Very often, the assignment given by the instructor covers only the logistic of the anthropology research paper, but students are free to choose their own topics. You should keep in mind that your topic should be relevant to some aspect of your anthropology course. You should try to find a topic that truly interests you so you are likely to enjoy doing research and writing about it. You should start thinking about choosing your topic early and use brainstorming techniques. This approach is especially useful when you have to narrow your topic.

Keep in mind that the initial topic that you have chosen for your anthropology research paper may not be the exact topic that you will be writing about. You may change it in some way as you do preliminary research. You should make sure that you will be able to find enough credible sources to base your argument on them. If your initial topic is too broad to handle it in your paper, you should narrow it and make it manageable so that it can be covered in in a short paper. After you have chosen and focused your topic, you have to do library research, starting with background sources and then moving on to some scholarly articles and books. Taking thorough research notes can save plenty of valuable writing time.

Choosing a topic for a research paper is an arduous task so here we have a short list of good anthropology research paper topics to help you get started.

Anthropology Research Paper Topics Our Writers Advise:

  • History of Linguistic Anthropology
  • Anthropology as a Part of Cognitive Science
  • Anthropology of Violence and Sociopolitical Conflict
  • Contemporary Approaches to Diet and Culture in Nutritional Anthropology
  • The Biocultural Approach in Nutritional Anthropology
  • The Anthropology of Museums
  • History of Visual Anthropology
  • A Cross-cultural Approach in the Anthropology of Aesthetics
  • Religion as a Cultural System
  • Climate Change and Anthropology
  • Core Concepts in Cultural Anthropology
  • Indigenous People and Environmental Politics
  • Work and Migration in a Globalizing World
  • Problems of Bilingualism
  • Anthropology and Mass Media

Research Paper Structure

Research papers are commonly organized as follows:

  • An abstract is about 150-200 words and briefly describes major findings of your research paper;
  • The introduction provides a brief description of the background of the problem and review of the existing literature and includes the research question or the problem statement/thesis statement. It shows the focus of the paper;
  • The research method section usually includes the nature of the sample and the research context. It has to include an explanation of how the data will be analyzed;
  • The results section includes an organized presentation of the data and its analysis. It should include tables and figures with titles that reflect the presented information;
  • In the discussion section, you need to provide your interpretation of the data and relate it to your research problem that you stated in the introduction;
  • The conclusion provides a brief summary of your findings and explains their significance. It may give suggestions for further research;
  • References include a list of sources arranged alphabetically by author’s last name;
  • Appendixes may include ethograms or questionnaires that may help your readers understand your research better.

Outlining and Drafting

Writing a draft is one of the last stages of the anthropology research paper writing process. Before you start wiring a draft, you have to formulate a thesis statement or a research question. Without a thesis, you will be writing with a direction or purpose. You should consider the thesis statement or research question to be your compass.

When you have a thesis statement, you should just start writing and do not think much about format issues. There is no need to worry about grammar, spelling or writing in complete sentences. You should brainstorm and write down all your ideas that you think are related to your thesis. After that, you should reread what you have written and evaluate your ideas. You have to choose the most relevant ones which you can use to approach your thesis.

Now it’s time to make an outline. When thinking about the organization of your research paper, you can use a basic outline structure. This outline is just a starting point for your writing. You should be flexible and if you come across better ideas as you are writing, don’t hesitate to refine your original ideas and change the outline.

After your working outline is ready, you may start writing parts of your paper and focus on your content and answering your research question. Use your outline as a flexible anthropology research paper guide and develop your paper around the points that you are willing to make, integrating your sources into your discussion. You should analyze, explain, summarize, and evaluate the scholarly works that you have read when doing research.

You don’t have to pay much attention to grammar and spelling at this stage as you will need to revise and rewrite your text several times to improve it but you should write in full sentences and pay attention to word choice. When writing, you should use only words that you know very well and always explain the meaning of all anthropology terms and concepts that you use in your research paper.

Avoid wordiness and be concise. Try to choose the precise words. When writing your body sections, you should also take care of the transitions between paragraphs to ensure that your reader will be able to follow your argument. You should prove your main points with relevant evidence, statistics, and examples. You need to develop your discussion coherently and ensure that all sentences and paragraphs in your research paper follow logically from one another.

You should write in your own words and don’t overuse direct citations and paraphrasing because your instructor wants to see how you can present your own thinking and how you can convey your own ideas. Your research paper should present an example of your own research and writing and not of the work of other people. The direct quotations can make up only about 10% of your final paper. If you use direct quotes in your text, you should explain why you use them.

Anthropology as a science allows writers to bring more of their own opinions into papers than any other fields of studies would permit. Typically, you can write from the first person perspective and use words ‘I’ and ‘we’. But you can also write from the third person perspective and use words ‘he’, ‘she’, ‘they’. It’s up to you to choose but you need to be consistent and avoid changing perspectives.

Writing in anthropology requires an elegant style so you can use complex sentences and mix them with shorter ones and you are encouraged to use the active voice.

A Few Words on Citation Styles

To avoid plagiarism, you must give credit to the source of information if you paraphrase someone else’s argument, summarize or quote directly. Remember that you must acknowledge all your sources in the list of references at the end of your paper and in the text.

When writing anthropology papers, you have to use the following ‘in-text’ style of referencing. At the end of the quote, you have to write in parenthesis the last name of the author and the year of publication and then add a colon and a page number. You can also use endnotes and footnotes if you want to mention side issues or details that are relevant to your paper but they would interfere with the flow of the argument if you included them in the body of your paper.

Revise, Edit, Proofread

Don’t expect that your first draft will be flawless. To complete a strong research paper, you will need to revise and rewrite it all or some parts of it several times. When revising, you will need to do the following actions:

  • Make major changes to the various drafts of your research paper;
  • Remove sentences, paragraphs or even the complete pages of your text;
  • Evaluate and improve the word choice throughout your paper;
  • Rethink the whole research paper and rewrite it as needed.

As you see, when revising, you should take care of the content and do everything to ensure that your paper answers your research question, is clear, and concise.
At the next editing stage, you need to take care of the general appearance of the text:

  • Evaluate the logical flow between major ideas and paragraphs;
  • Analyze the consistency of tone and voice throughout your anthropology research paper;
  • Correct minor errors in typography and mechanics.

You should edit your final draft and don’t waste time on editing at the early stages of writing because that content is bound to change anyway.
At the final stage of the writing process, you need to proofread your paper and look for any inconsistencies and grammar, style, and spelling issues. Your task is to reread your paper and do a final check in order to find any errors and typos that you have overlooked in the previous revisions. When proofreading, you’d better print a copy of your paper and do corrections with a pen because it is easier to notice mistakes on a hard copy than when you are reading from a computer screen.
Use the most common proofreading strategies:

  • You should read slowly and carefully so that you have enough time to spot errors;
  • You can read aloud to notice organization and grammatical issues that you may overlook when reading silently such as awkward transitions and run-on sentences;
  • Make a list of the most common errors from your previous assignments and use search in the Word document to look for the errors from your list;
  • Read separate sentences starting from the end of the research paper one by one to focus on the sentences itself and not on the ideas of your research paper as a whole.

These anthropology research paper tips will make the whole writing process much more interesting and effective.

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