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

Check out the accomplishments and activities of the Anthropology Student Organization in the latest Annual Report!

 Congratulations to all of our new graduates in Anthropology! The graduation ceremony was held on Friday and was well attended by family and friends. Thanks to all of our faculty and staff that helped make the event a success! Check out one of our featured graduates interviewed on WNCT!

The Anthropology Student Organization (ANSO) raised $750 during a bake sale over 3 days for earthquake survivors in Nepal.  Proceeds were sent to Direct Relief, a nonprofit which works with local Non-Governmental Organizations: Thank you for everyone's support!

 Check out the latest Department of Anthropology Spring 2015 newsletter highlighting some of our recent activities! Download a copy here.

 Discovery is a core characteristic of pirates at ECU! See our Anthropology summer field school student, Mansi Trivedi, explain some of the discoveries in Jordan on the latest ECU Values video.