Junior Independent Work

What does an Anthropology junior paper look like?

Independent work in the junior year involves an original paper focused on an anthropological theme or debate of interest to the student. The paper is mostly based on library research and literature review and should reflect the student’s growing mastery of anthropological ways of knowing and the uniqueness of ethnographic evidence-making and theorizing.  New field research is not appropriate for this exercise. In the fall, students develop a detailed problem statement and annotated bibliography on a relevant subject and present a research proposal for approval by the department. In the spring, students write a paper (about 8,000 words) based on the research initiated in the fall, in consultation with their adviser.

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 JPs?

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. For an idea of the range of possible topics, students can browse examples of JP titles from past years. Examples of JPs are made available to students for reference as part of the junior advising process.

Structure and Format

Junior papers are somewhat longer than term papers. Whereas anthropology term papers are usually 1500 to 4000 words in length, JPs are expected to be about 8000 words (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 Advising

Junior advising starts in Ethnography, Evidence and Experience (ANT 300); the fall half of our 300-301 methods sequence for most students. In addition to learning some of the basics in ANT 300 about how to begin to develop an anthropology literature review, students will be assigned a JP adviser. Starting in October each junior should begin meeting regularly with their adviser. By the end of the fall term, students will develop a detailed problem statement and annotated bibliography for their JP. In the spring, students write a paper based on the research initiated in the fall. 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 Canvas for Anthropology Concentrators. Departmental deadlines for the JP are clearly shown on this calendar. Students are expected to use the calendar to help pace their own independent work. A student who is in danger of missing a deadline must read and understand the department’s policy on extensions and late work.

Junior paper writers should also refer often to the Guide to Independent Work in Anthropology, a handbook that is updated as needed at the beginning of each new academic year. The anthropology Libguide and anthropology databases are also invaluable resources.