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Anthropology

Tips for Choosing a Topic

Choosing a topic for an anthropology assignment can be tricky, but here are some pointers to get you started:

  • Choose topics that you're interested in! You will find it much easier to write about something you care about
  • Avoid broad topics (e.g. Symbolism of African masks), or narrow ones (e.g. Symbolism of a rooster head Songye mask). A better topic might be: Symbolism of 3 selected masks of the Songye people
  • Review your assignment guidelines, and follow instructions regarding topic selection
  • Get help from your peers, your instructor, and your Subject Librarian

For more information on choosing a topic, see:

Get Background Information & Identify Search Terms

Get familiar with your topic by researching in general anthropology resources, including:

Make a list of search terms relevant to your topic, such as:

 

Search Term Examples
Groups First Nations, Coast Salish, Nuxalk, Assyrians (ancient), Homo Erectus  
Geographic Locations
Pacific Northwest, British Columbia, Bella Coola, Assur (ancient Assyria), Java (Indonesia)
Time Periods Pre-colonization, 19th Century, 1980s, Middle Assyrian Empire, Pleistocene epoch 

Approaches, Theoretical Concepts, Methods

Sociocultural, Cultural Materialism, Participant Observation, Archaeological, Biological 

 

Develop Research Questions & Adjust Your Topic

After doing background reading and identifying search terms, try to turn your terms into research questions.

You may find that:

  • There is too much or too little information on your topic
  • The topic you have chosen is too narrow or too broad

Adjust your topic accordingly.

Here are some examples:

Search Terms

Example Research Questions

Adjusted Topic

Bella Coola, Nuxalk, potlatch, pre-colonization, sociocultural

How did the pre-colonization Nuxalk potlatch differ from how it is today? Too broad

What were the long-term socioeconomic impacts of the potlatch ban (1884) on the Nuxalk? 

Assyria, Nimrud, palace of Ashurnasirpal II (site), Nimrud reliefs (artifacts), archaeological  

What is the symbolism of the reliefs at Nimrud? Too broad

What do the reliefs at Nimrud tell us about Ashurnasirpal II's royal ideology?  

Homo Erectus, Pleistocene epoch, teeth, computer-based analysis, diet

What do fossil records of Homo Erectus tell us about what she ate for breakfast? Too narrow

What can computer-based methods of analysis tell us about the dietary habits of Homo Erectus?

Research Methods

University of Alberta Libraries - University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada T6G 2R3 - We are located on Treaty 6 / Métis Territory.