Student Independent Work

Junior Paper (JP) and Senior Thesis

Department of Anthropology concentrators write one junior paper (around 8,000 words) in their junior year followed by a senior thesis in their last year (around 20,000 words). The goal of independent work is for students to reflect on critical debates in the field of anthropology.

For the junior paper, students write a literature review, which may or may not be focused on a topic related to their anticipated senior thesis research. For the senior thesis, students can choose to conduct original ethnographic or field/lab research, compare and synthesize data from multiple sources, and/or write a critical theoretical analysis based on deep engagement with extant literatures.

As with departmental courses, students need to earn a grade of "C" or better for this work to count towards the major.


Anthropology majors have one faculty adviser for their junior paper and usually a different faculty adviser for their senior thesis.  Every effort is made to match advisers with students based on the students’ interests and the faculty members’ areas of specialization. Advisers help students develop and refine their research topics, find relevant literature, conceptualize their approach, and improve their written expression. Advisers also evaluate their advisees’ work.

Every advising relationship is different—for example, some students prefer structured deadlines to motivate their work; others prefer more independence and flexibility. In all cases, independent work demands focus, initiative, organization, and good communication with one’s adviser. It is each student’s responsibility to schedule advising meetings and to meet all departmental benchmarks on time. Students experiencing challenges with their independent work should feel free to contact their departmental representative or residential college dean for guidance and support. The Office of Undergraduate Research also has some useful suggestions for managing the advising relationship.


The Student Activities Funding Engine (SAFE) is a student portal to all University funding opportunities, including support for senior thesis research offered by the Anthropology Department and other departments, programs, and centers on campus.