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Sample assignment: Spend two hours riding the Chapel Hill Transit bus. You will usually learn about these kinds of evidence by reviewing scholarly studies, course readings, and photographs, rather than by studying fossils and artifacts directly.
This handout briefly situates anthropology as a discipline of study within the social sciences.
It provides an introduction to the kinds of writing that you might encounter in your anthropology courses, describes some of the expectations that your instructors may have, and suggests some ways to approach your assignments.
Here are some tips for approaching your anthropology writing assignments: Many introductory anthropology courses involve reading and evaluating a particular kind of text called an ethnography.
To understand and assess ethnographies, you will need to know what counts as ethnographic data or evidence.
If your instructor asks you to do an ethnographic project, that project will likely require some fieldwork. What kinds of things did you see while you were riding? To complete these assignments, you must understand and evaluate the claims being made by the authors of the sources you are reading, as well as the fossil or material evidence used to support those claims.
Because they are so important to anthropological writing and because they may be an unfamiliar form for many writers, ethnographies will be described in more detail later in this handout. Fossil evidence might include things like carbon dated bone remains; material evidence might include things like stone tools or pottery shards.Using course materials and outside readings, examine three authors’ hypotheses for the origins of bipedalism.Compare the supporting points (such as fossil evidence and experimental data) that each author uses to support his or her claims.Your anthropology courses will often require you to evaluate how successfully or persuasively a particular anthropological theory addresses, explains, or illuminates a particular ethnographic or archaeological example.When your instructor tells you to “argue,” “evaluate,” or “assess,” s/he is probably asking for some sort of critical essay.What kinds of anthropological concerns underlie the current anthropological work on globalization that you have selected?And what assumptions, theoretical frameworks, and methodologies inform these questions or projects?Sample assignment: Assess the cultural evolutionary ideas of late 19th century anthropologist Lewis Henry Morgan in terms of recent anthropological writings on globalization (select one recent author to compare with Morgan).What kinds of anthropological concerns or questions did Morgan have?In most cases, the only difference is in the kind of evidence you use to support your argument.In an English essay, you might use textual evidence from novels or literary theory to support your claims; in an anthropology essay, you will most often be using textual evidence from ethnographies, artifactual evidence, or other support from anthropological theories to make your arguments.