Instructions and Guidance for Term Papers

General Advice

It is wise to begin research on your paper early in the term. Be sure the library has the materials you will need. Unavailability of sources is not an acceptable excuse for a poorly researched paper. If you begin your paper early you will be able to get missing books from Interlibrary Loan. If you intend to use Internet sources, you must cite them properly. You should also not rely solely on this source since such postings are rarely refereed and could contain inaccurate information.

Your paper will be written in an academic style. In academic writing, the second person is never used and the first person is discouraged unless you are indicating your own actions. The use of the passive voice is also discouraged. It is recommended that you write in the third person. Academic writing is also formal writing. That means you should avoid informal language, slang and jargon, and you should avoid the use of contractions. Write with your audience in mind. For an academic paper, your intended audience might include the professor specifically and other anthropologists or students generally. Remember that you are trying to demonstrate your command of the scholarly literature and your ability to write a convincing argument. Make sure that the style you use is appropriate to the purpose of the paper.

You cannot expect to write a good research paper in one sitting. Papers always need to be revised several times. It often helps to read the paper aloud as you revised the paper. You may also take your paper to the writing center for expert advice.

The Term Paper

Most term papers in anthropology are either reports of original research or reviews of the literature written about a particular research topic. Often an original research report contains a "review of the literature" section that places the writer's project in the context of previous research.

A thesis is a one-sentence or occasionally two-sentence statement of your central idea in the paper. In a research paper, it is usually a statement of the issue or hypothesis you are investigating. The body of the paper, then, presents a description of the methods you used, the data, and of your key findings.

In a review of the literature paper, this thesis analyzes the often competing conclusions drawn by a variety of researchers and expresses your viewpoint, after considerable reading and analysis, on a debatable issue. Your job in the literature review, then, is to convince readers that your view is worth taking seriously. You will do this by presenting evidence in support of your thesis.

Your term paper should be well organized, succinct, lucid and, hopefully, interesting. Papers should show evidence of your knowledge and understanding of the topic. Use quotations sparingly. To avoid accusations of plagiarism, cite the works of others carefully. Your paper should be mainly an example of your research and writing, not that of others. Your topic should be specific enough to be covered in a short paper. Good organization begins with a good outline!

Term papers generally are organized as follows:

1. A title page. The title should accurately describe your paper.
2. Abstract (if appropriate). The abstract should be about 100-250 words and highlight the major findings and contribution of your paper.
3. Introduction and statement of problem. At the beginning of the paper you need a clear statement of the problem, thesis, purpose, theme, or focus of the paper. In other words, tell the reader in an opening paragraph what the paper is about. The introduction can also include the brief statement background of the problem and a review of the relevant literature.
4. Research Methods (if appropriate). The methods section should include the nature of the sample, (e.g., television, interviews, behavioral observations), the research context (e.g., interviews in an office setting, observations at a zoo) and a statement of how the data are to be analyzed.
5. Results. Data analysis and an organized presentation of the data or information. Tables and figures should have titles that reflect the information presented in the table and the information in the tables should be clearly identified.
6. Discussion. Your interpretation of the data or information. Be sure this relates to the problem stated in your introduction!
7. Conclusion. A brief summary and set of conclusions. Suggestions for further research are optional.
8. References. A bibliography of references cites, arranged alphabetically by author’s last name. See below
9. Appendixes (if appropriate). Materials that may help the reader to further understand the research. For example, questionnaires or ethograms may be included in an appendix.

Citation Style

Citations should be placed in the text, not as footnotes or endnotes (if you must, use footnotes or endnotes for supplementary information). General information from an author should be cited as author and date of publication, e.g., (Adams 1956). Specific information and numerical data (e.g., census figures) require a page number citation as well, e.g., (Adams 1956:22). Direct quotes require quotation marks as well. If a source is a chapter in an edited volume, you must cite the author of the chapter in the text, not the editor of the volume. Style guides most commonly used in this department are available on-line at American Anthropologist ( or American Antiquity (

References for good science writing

1. Jack Hailman & Karen Strier. 1997 “Planning, Proposing, & Presenting Science Effectively.” Cambridge University Press.
2. Lee Cuba. 2000 “A Short Guide to Writing about Social Science,” 4th edition. Allyn & Bacon.
3. Howard Becker. 1986 “Writing for Social Scientists.” The University of Chicago Press.
4. Diana Hacker. 2000 “A Pocket Style Manual,” 3rd edition. Bedford/St. Martins press.

Department News

Excavations in the Western Negev Highlands: Results of the Negev Emergency Survey 1978-89  by Dr. Benjamin Saidel and co-author M. Haimon was published December 2014 by British Archaeological Reports. See here for more.


Haley Drabek translated the Tyrrell Water Management Study finalized in 2014 into 9 separate brochures, one for each proposed water management district. She spent six weeks visiting property owners in each district to explain the benefits of participating in the localized water management district and asking for signatures of intent to join.

Anna Claire researched existing oral history booklets at the Tyrrell Visitor Center and then interviewed elderly Tyrrell County residents who grew up in the county. She taped these interviews for safe keeping at the Visitor Center and is currently writing narrative reports of the collected information, one for each conversation partner. These reports will be bound and held at the Tyrrell County Visitor Center for interested readers. Anna Claire has also been involved with a group of children in the county with a diverse ethnic background. Under Anna Claire's direction the children are currently writing a newsletter that will report on the children's experiences of growing up in Tyrrell County, exploring their favorite places, activities, and hopes for their future.  

 Click here to see Anthropology's latest Newsletter

 Dr. Holly Mathews and Dr. Laura Mazow were recognized for their outstanding teaching methods by students during the Spring 2015 semester from the College STAR.

Student response for Dr. Mathews:

"She gives feedback and forces her students to expand their mind and explore alternate theories or explanations. She wants her students to discuss topics in class instead of just listening to her talk the entire time."

Student response for Dr. Mazow:

"We have a small class which allows many opportunities for a lot of class discussion...She always provides feedback and answers to our journal entries and is always available when we need help." 

Congratulations to them both!

This summer two undergraduate anthropology students at East Carolina University, Tyler Beasley and Anna Lawrence, worked as interns for the Hyde County Office of Planning and Economic Development through the State Employees' Credit Union Foundation public service internship program. Both interns worked on research projects aimed at improving economic development by better understanding the needs of the local business community.


Marina Clough, also an undergraduate anthropology student at East Carolina University, completed an internship at Wanchese Industrial Park and provided an overview of webpages and print media that write or advertise about sailing related events, helped plan the Regatta of Sail NC and conducted 40 interviews with participants.

Dr. Charles Ewen interviewed for the New York Times. Is it the Roanoke Island Colony? Read more to find out!