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This guide provides research tips and selected resources for study in anthropology.

Sources in Anthropology Research

Primary Sources in Anthropology Include:

  • First-hand evidence
  • Contemporary accounts of events 
  • Material culture (i.e. objects and artefacts)

Below are some examples of anthropology specific primary sources, and how they could be used:

Type Example Uses
Ethnography Hunting Caribou: Subsistence Hunting Along the Northern Edge of the Boreal Forest For direct insights about a culture "from the field." *Ethnographies are key sources of information in sociocultural anthropology.
Object/Artefact Tailored winter coat. Caribou, fur lining. Decorated in a double-curved motif For gaining insights from material culture from archaeological sites. *Objects/artefacts are essential sources of information in archaeology.
Research data Franz Boas’s Immigrant Study (data) For conducting analysis on raw (i.e. unfiltered) research results. *Research data is used in all areas of anthropology to some extent.
Oral Histories Opie Collection of Children's Games & Songs (British Library) For information from different perspectives, especially those not often found in written sources. 
Records of organisations/individuals Verne Dusenberry Papers, ca. 1885-1966 For historical information that is otherwise unpublished. 
Documentary Photographs, Sound Recordings, Videos Caribou Kayak For topics where visual and aural aspects are important to the topic of study. 


Secondary Sources:

  • Critique, interpret, or evaluate primary sources
  • You will likely use many secondary sources when you write an anthropology paper

*Remember that it is important to also use a variety of primary sources, whenever possible.

Below are some of the most common secondary sources used in anthropology, and how you might use them:

Type Example Uses
Scholarly journal article The Expensive-Tissue Hypothesis: The Brain and the Digestive System in Human and Primate Evolution For peer-reviewed information that reports on original research, or evaluates the research of others. *You are often required to use this type of source in your papers
Conference proceedings Proceedings of the Ninth Fyssen Symposium, "From Monkey Brain to Human Brain"  For cutting edge research on a topic. Conference proceedings are often published months (if not years) before such information is published as a journal article.
Scholarly Books Evolution of the Primate Brain: From Neuron to Behavior  For in-depth research findings on a given topic. Scholarly books are either edited (i.e. containing chapters by different authors) or by a single author.  
Theses/Dissertations The Human Prefrontal Cortex and the Evolution of the Social Brain For an in-depth treatment of a topic. *Use the bibliographies from theses and dissertations as a starting point for finding sources for your assignments


Reference Sources

  • Are excellent places to start when researching an unfamiliar topic

They typically contain:

  • Background information
  • Lists of primary/secondary sources on a topic
  • Pointers to useful resources on a topic

Below are some of the common anthropology reference sources, examples, and possible uses:

Type Example Uses
Encyclopedia Encyclopedia of Historical Archaeology For a comprehensive summary of information on a topic, often with pointers to other resources.
Dictionary The Dictionary of Anthropology For brief information on a topic, including definitions of key terms. Often includes biographical entries on important figures in a discipline.
Bibliography Anthropology - Oxford Bibliographies For comprehensive lists of sources on a specific topic. 


Looking for more reference sources in anthropology? Below is a selected list of titles in the UofA Library collection: 

More Information on Sources

For more information on different types of sources and how they could be used, see: