Anthropology Research Paper Guide


One of the goals in making you write an essay is to see how well you follow instructions.  A part of your grade will depend, therefore, on how faithfully you follow these guidelines.  In general it is a good idea to make reference to the (attached) Essay Evaluation Guide, which provides you with some indication of the criteria that we will be using to determine your grade. 

Layout and Length:  Essays should be preceded with a cover page that includes (at least) the following: the course code, your name, your student number, the essay title, the instructor’s name, and the date due.  This cover page does not count towards the page or word limit.  The acceptable length for essays in this course is 6-10 full pages, including everything apart from the cover page (e.g., references, tables, figures, etc.).  5% will be deducted for each page or part thereof under 6 pages or over 10 pages.  All essays must be typed or word-processed, double-spaced with 1” margins and 12 pt. Times New Roman font.  All parts of the essay, including references, tables, and figure legends must be double-spaced. 

Content:  Your essay should include clearly demarcated Introduction and Conclusions sections.  As noted on the Essay Evaluation Guide, a percentage of your grade will be based directly on the content in these sections.  The use of other subheadings is at your discretion.  Subheadings can be a good way of clarifying the structure of your essay for both you and the reader. 

ReferencesEVERYTHING YOU GET FROM ANYWHERE MUST ALWAYS BE REFERENCED!!!  Come and talk me if you aren’t sure what this means.  References should be cited in the text by giving the name(s) of the author and year at the end of the section the reference applies to.  If a paper has more than two authors, cite it by the first author name and then “et al.”  Page numbers should not be given unless you are referencing a quotation.  For papers with more than two authors, the names of all authors must be given in the references cited section.  

For example

The ear morphology of Ignacius graybullianus is supportive of a close relationship to euprimates, rather than dermopterans (Bloch and Silcox, 2001). 

Chronolestes simul is best considered a basal plesiadapoid, not a crown group carpolestid (Silcox et al., 2001). 

 In the case of a quotation, the reference should be placed at the end of the quotation, with the addition of the relevant page numbers.  For example: 

“The simple presence of an entotympanic is also unlikely to be a synapomorphy linking dermopterans and paromomyids to the exclusion of other archontans.” (Bloch and Silcox, 2001, p. 191) 

Figures must be referenced by giving the figure number in the original publication.  For example: (Bloch and Silcox, 2001: fig. 1). 

Web pages should be referenced similarly, but including the author of the webpage (if provided), the date the page was most recently updated (if provided), and the name of the webpage.  For example: 

All mammals have hair at some point in their development (Myers, Class Mammalia, Animal Diversity Web). 

It is recommended that you use peer reviewed journal articles as your main sources of information for your essay.  Secondary and tertiary sources such as newspapers, encyclopaedias, and popular science magazines (e.g., Scientific American, National Geographic, New Scientist) tend to be less up to date, and less reliable.  Journal articles are also useful for their reference lists, which can provide follow-up resources and new “leads” on relevant information.  Alternatively, if you have an article that is particularly relevant to your topic, you can do a “cited reference search” in Web of Knowledge to see which other papers have cited your source.  This can lead you to more recent perspectives on the topic in question. 

Notes on using the Internet to research your paper:  The Internet can be a tremendous resource for the easy location of information on a huge range of topics.  However, it is very important to remember that there is no quality control whatsoever about what is made into a web page.  This contrasts with the many levels of evaluation that occur before any book or article is published.  When using the Internet, it is important to be very critical of the source of particular assertions.  Who is the author of the web page you are using?  Is he or she an academic, a student, or a crank?  Is the information properly cited?  Are the citations to reputable sources (e.g., refereed publications), or questionable sources (e.g., other web pages)?  

In other words, BUYER BEWARE.  If you rely on a website as a key reference to your paper, and the information it contains is incorrect or out of date, it will hurt your essay grade.  In general, I would recommend that you use web pages only as starting points to provide you with places to look for more conventional reference sources. 

Other formatting issues:  Please note that there are sections of the Essay Evaluation Guide dedicated to style, spelling, and grammar—in other words, all of these count towards your grade. A particular formatting issue becomes apparent when working with taxonomic names.  Please follow these conventions whenever taxonomic names are used: 

Genus names are both capitalized and italicized or underlined (e.g., Homo) The trivial or species name is italicized or underlined but not capitalized (e.g., sapiens) Other formal taxonomic groupings are capitalized but not italicized or underlined (e.g., Hominidae) Informal derivations of taxonomic group names are neither capitalized nor italicized or underlined (e.g., hominids) 

Why is this important?  When you get this kind of thing wrong, it communicates to your reader that you are not well versed in the topic you are writing about, hurting your credibility.  It is important to get in the habit of doing this correctly.  Students formatting taxonomic names incorrectly can expect to receive a penalty.


Physical Anthropology 

1. You are a paleoanthropologist working in the Great Rift Valley of Africa, looking for hominins.  If you could choose, what would be the ideal fossils for you to find to demonstrate that you had found a member of the human lineage?  Why?  Assume that you would not be able to find an entire skeleton, but only two or three key pieces. 

2. Humans are regarded as cultural primates, but several species of non-human primates are known to have culture as well. Provide documented examples and explain what constitutes culture in non-human primates. Reference: Huffman, M.A., Nakagawa, N., Go, Y., Imai, H., Tomonaga, M. 2013. Monkeys, Apes, and Humans: Primatology in Japan. SpringerBriefs in Biology, DOI 10.1007/978-4-431-54153-0_1.  

3. How significant were the neandertals to the evolution of anatomically modern humans? Reference: Prüfer K., Racimo F., Patterson N., Jay F., Sankararaman S., Sawyer S., Heinze A., Renaud G., Sudmant P.H., de Filippo C., Li H., Mallick S., Dannemann M., Fu Q, Kircher M., Kuhlwilm M., Lachmann M., Meyer M., Ongyerth M, Siebauer M, Theunert C, Tandon A., Moorjani P., Pickrell J., Mullikin J.C., Vohr S.H., Green R.E., Hellmann I., Johnson P.L., Blanche H., Cann H., Kitzman J.O., Shendure J., Eichler E.E., Lein E.S., Bakken T.E., Golovanova L.V., Doronichev V.B., Shunkov M.V., Derevianko A.P., Viola B., Slatkin M., Reich D., Kelso J., Pääbo S. 2013. The complete genome sequence of a Neanderthal from the Altai Mountains.  Nature 505: 43-9. 

4. The Piltdown hoax is one of the most famous, and infamous, incidents in the history of Paleoanthropology, but the mystery of who was responsible remains unsolved.  Whodunnit?  Pick a suspect and present the evidence for and against that suspect being the perpetrator. Reference: The Piltdown plot website:  http://www.clarku.edu/~piltdown/pp_map.html (note that this website has copies of many of the relevant historical documents available online—make sure you reference the original authors of these papers correctly.  Ask me if you aren’t sure what this means.) 

5.  Is there a biological justification for the concept of different human races? Reference: Brown, R.A. and Armelagos, G.J. 2001.  Apportionment of racial diversity: A review. Evolutionary Anthropology 10: 34-40. 

6.  The discovery of Homo floresiensis in 2004 shocked the world, and the validity of the species continues to be debated.  Review the history of the discovery, and consider whether LB1 represents a novel species, or simply a pathological modern human. Reference:  Brown, P., Sutikna, T., Morwood, M.J., Soejono, R.P., Jatmiko, Wayhu Saptomo, E., Rokus Awe Due. 2004. A new small-bodied hominin from the Late Pleistocene of Flores, Indonesia.  Nature 431: 1055-1061. 


1.  When, where, why and how were dogs first domesticated? Reference:  Grimm, D. 2015.  Dawn of the dog.  Science 348: 274-279.  

2.  Do changes in human material culture (i.e., tools, art, etc.) reflect changes in human cognitive abilities over time?  Reference:  Klein, R.G. 2000. Archeology and the evolution of human behavior. Evolutionary Anthropology 9: 17-36. 

3.  When did people first arrive in North America?  Where did they come from?  How did they get here?  Chose one type of evidence that has a bearing on this question (e.g., stone tools, skeletal evidence, genetics etc.) and discuss what it contributes to the debate. Reference:  Gibbons, A. 2015. Humans may have reached Chile by 18,500 years ago. Science News 350, 898. 

4.  What do cave paintings mean?  Chose a cave site, discuss the paintings found there, and assess hypotheses for what those paintings might have meant to the people who painted them. Reference:  Balter, M. 2009.  On the origins of art and symbolism.  Science 323: 709711. 

5.  Traditionally anthropologists have highlighted seven features as characteristic of civilizations:   1. Food and labour surplus controlled by an elite;  2. Social stratification;  3. A formal government;  4.  Specialization of labour;  5.  Monumental public works; 6.  Densely populated settlements;  7.  A system of recordkeeping.   Choose a human culture from the archaeological record that interests you and evaluate the archaeological evidence (or lack thereof) for these seven features.  Your focus should be on the interpretation of material culture (e.g., artifacts, features), rather than on written records.  Is that culture a civilization according to this definition?


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