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Guide to the resources in Anthropology

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Writing for Anthropology

♦ Types of writing assignments you should expect in Anthropology courses (click to expand for more information):

  • Ethnographic projects (more on this below)
  • Analyses using fossil & material evidence

♦ General guidance for Anthropology papers:

  • Understand what the prompt or question is asking you to do: It is a good idea to consult with your instructor or teaching assistant if the prompt is unclear to you.
    • See UNC's handouts on Arguments and College Writing for help understanding what many college instructors look for in a typical paper).
  • Review the materials that you will be writing with and about: One way to start is to set aside the readings or lecture notes that are not relevant to the argument you will make in your paper. This will help you focus on the most important arguments, issues, and behavioral and/or material data that you will be critically assessing. Once you have reviewed your evidence and course materials, you might decide to have a brainstorming session.
  • Develop a working thesis and begin to organize your evidence (class lectures, texts, research materials) to support it.

♦ What is an Ethnography? / What is Ethnographic evidence?

An ethnography is a portrait—a description of a particular human situation, practice, or group as it exists (or existed) in a particular time, at a particular place, etc. So what kinds of things might be used as evidence or data in an ethnography (or in your discussion of an ethnography someone else has written)? Here are a few of the most common:

  1. Things said by informants (people who are being studied or interviewed). When you are trying to illustrate someone’s point of view, it is very helpful to appeal to his or her own words. In addition to using verbatim excerpts taken from interviews, you can also paraphrase an informant’s response to a particular question.
  2. Observations and descriptions of events, human activities, behaviors, or situations.
  3. Relevant historical background information.
  4. Statistical data.

“Evidence” is not something that exists on its own. A fact or observation becomes evidence when it is clearly connected to an argument in order to support that argument. It is your job to help your reader understand the connection you are making: you must clearly explain why statements x, y, and z are evidence for a particular claim and why they are important to your overall claim or position.