What is Anthropology?

Though its definition is a bit ambiguous, anthropology is the holistic study of humanity through time and space. It is a comparative look at how human societies and cultures have changed over time. American anthropology is often divided into four subfields: sociocultural anthropology, linguistic anthropology, biological/physical anthropology, and archaeology. Each subfield explores the overarching themes of anthropology in different ways: sociocultural anthropology studies the social and cultural forces that shape the ways of life all around the world; linguistic anthropology explores how language shapes social identity and influences cultural beliefs; biological anthropology focuses on human evolution and examines how biological forces can help explain the significance and emergence of human characteristics; and archaeology explores past lives through their material remains, studying artifacts and landscapes to understand the emergence and experiences of past societies.

What Does Writing Look Like in Anthropology?

Since the subfields of anthropology approach the study of human cultures in slightly different ways, it makes sense that the writing assignments associated with each one are different as well. Sociocultural anthropology places great emphasis on qualitative data (e.g. ethnographies, narratives, etc.), which means assignments could be personal and cultural narratives, reading summaries, journal analyses, book reviews, etc. Assignments in linguistic anthropology are similar to these, but also focus on the interpretation of linguistic data to support various arguments. Biological anthropology and archaeology are a bit more scientific in their methods, which affects the types of assignments found in these courses. Oftentimes, there will be scientific articles that must be analyzed or documents from archaeological excavations that need interpretation. Still, there are many writing assignments common to all of the subfields, including research papers, book reviews, journal analyses, synthesis papers, annotated bibliographies, peer reviews, literature reviews, and mock grant proposals.