Junior Independent Research

What does an Anthropology junior paper look like?

Independent work in the junior year involves an original paper (the Junior Paper, or JP), usually based on library research. Normally, field research is not appropriate for the JP. 

The JP in anthropology starts from preparation leading up to a literature review. The literature review should describe a set of texts (books, articles, essays, and other written sources) that have been consulted in the student’s research. But the literature review should go beyond a mere description or summary of the literature; the goal is to develop a critical evaluation, in terms of the authors’ use of evidence, methods of research, styles of interpretation, persuasiveness, and scope. An important job of the JP writer is to select, assemble, and read sources in a meaningful way, in the service of a coherent, overarching perspective on the literature under review – for example, as cumulative knowledge, a statement of issues in contention, or an analysis of implicit or explicit assumptions underlying the body of work the student has selected. Good models for anthropology literature reviews can be found in the Annual Review of Anthropology.

What do Anthropology majors write about in their junior papers?

Topics for anthropology junior papers are extremely variable; the topic should reflect a student’s real interests. Some students use the JP as preparation for their senior thesis research; however, this is neither required nor expected. The JP is meant to be a vehicle for students to implement their developing sense of what makes an analysis anthropological, and to consider how an anthropological perspective might make sense of issues and problems encountered outside the university, including, perhaps, domains of professional work to which the students aspire. Anthropology majors are therefore encouraged to review and re-use sources and ideas encountered in anthropology courses, as well as any other relevant courses taken, in developing the JP. While JP topics are completely open to individual interests – and may even concern phenomena about which professional anthropologists have not already written – the student needs to find some significant set of anthropological sources as an analytical context for making sense of the chosen topic. The junior seminar and individual faculty advisers can help make these connections. For an idea of the range of possible topics, students can browse examples of JP titles from past years. 

Structure and Format

Junior Papers are somewhat longer than term papers. Whereas anthropology term papers are usually 10-20 pages in length, JPs are expected to be 25-35 pages (excluding notes, bibliography, tables, illustrations, and appendices) – approximately the length of a published journal article. Sub-headings may be used, as appropriate, but JPs normally do not have multiple chapters.

Students should consult anthropology journals (like American Anthropologist) for guidance on the proper style of footnotes, citations, and references. Note that the citation of sources is not usually placed in footnotes in anthropological journal articles, but rather placed parenthetically in the text itself; footnotes are reserved for clarifications and other asides. For more detailed guidelines, refer to the American Anthropological Association (AAA) Style Guide.

Junior Seminar and Advising

The junior seminar is designed to support junior independent work. It is ungraded but attendance is required unless a student is studying abroad.  The junior seminar is a series of workshops designed to help students formulate research problems, relate their core questions to anthropological literatures, and support their writing process throughout the year. Each JP workshop group will be small, so as to spark productive synergies and foster mutual support.

Although much of the development and writing of JPs take place in the junior seminar, all junior anthropology majors also have their own faculty advisers, who will be directly involved in the preparation of JPs, especially as students develop their topics and the research dimension of the work advances.

In the fall, students work through the junior seminar as well as individually with a faculty adviser to develop a detailed problem statement and annotated bibliography. This system gives the student a chance to explore interests with group support and faculty guidance; many anthropology majors are unsure about topics in the fall of their junior year, and need time to investigate several interesting possibilities before settling on one. By the end of the fall semester, the student is expected to be making good headway on reading and to have developed a substantive topic on a subject relevant to the student's interests, and written a research proposal for approval by the department. In the spring, students write a paper based on the research initiated in the fall, in consultation with their adviser and with the support of the junior seminar's writing workshops.

Students enrolled in ANT 300B and ANT 301B during their junior year are automatically enrolled in the junior seminar; students not taking ANT 300B and/or ANT 301B during junior year will also enroll in the junior seminar by individual arrangement with the Departmental Representative.

For a detailed timeline for the JP, students can refer to the Junior Calendar that is posted at the beginning of each academic year in the Blackboard organization for Anthropology_Concentrators.

Junior Paper writers should also refer often to the Guide to Independent Work in Anthropology.