Learn and Generate Bibliographies, Citations, and Works Cited

Writing and Bibliography Tips for an Anthropology Paper

Learning about different cultures helps students understand how social and family bonds are formed. For example, it helps students empathize with other cultures. Studying anthropology is a broad area, so there are many topics to choose from for your anthropology paper. Generally, this subject is an elective, but you will learn many interesting things if you choose this course.

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What Is Anthropology?

Anthropology is defined as the study of human beings. Since it is such a broad subject, the first thing you need to do is narrow down your topic for your anthropology paper. There are four major fields in anthropology:

  • Biological
  • Cultural
  • Linguistic
  • Archaeology

Each of these fields covers different aspects of anthropology and uses different research methods. Your teacher will provide you with a syllabus and topic ideas.

Anthropology Paper Ideas

Remember when you select your topic for your essay, you want a subject that has a lot of current sources. Here are a few starting points:

  • Margaret Mead
  • Family Ties
  • Non-kinship social groups
  • How television affects American culture
  • Compare and contrast two cultures
  • East coast vs. west coast or northern vs. southern United States
  • Rural and urban cultures

With so many subjects to choose from, you will need to narrow your topic down to make your research manageable.

Researching Biological, Cultural and Linguistic Anthropology Topics

A good way to start your research is to find secondary sources. Reference works, magazine articles, and information websites such as InfoPlease are good places to start. You may also try searching Google Scholar. Articles and encyclopedias will refer to primary sources, such as research studies, images, and audio recordings. Follow those links to find current, relevant sources for your bibliography.

Your school or public library provides free access to paid academic databases, such as Science Direct and AnthroSource, among others. These databases contain original research papers via authoritative sources like peer-reviewed journals. Reading the abstracts is an easy way to skim through information to find relevant information for your essay.

Ask your librarian for help. Many libraries have online reference librarians available, including the Library of Congress’ Ask A Librarian site.

Helpful Sources to Start

These websites can get you started on your research. Remember you need to find primary sources for your paper.

MLA or Chicago Style

Anthropology research essays may be formatted in MLA style, using a Works Cited page, or in Chicago/Turabian style. This article focuses on creating a Chicago/Turabian style bibliography. However, these search techniques will work for any style or topic.

This bibliography example will focus on the subfield of archaeology, with a topic of housing structures for the Diné tribe, also known as Navajo.

Search Strategy

Student working Bibliography for an Anthropology Essay

Here is an example of a search strategy for sources on an essay about housing structures developed by the Diné people.

Start With a Basic Keyword

First, you can begin your search with a basic web search using the keyword “Navajo housing.” This general search term will take you to the Navajo Nation government websites. Then, keep scrolling to find the information you want, like the Navajo People website. Since the website domain is .org, that lends authority to the source.

Confirm Credibility and Authority

The About page confirms the authority of the content creators:

“Content for this site is provided by Clayton Long, Navajo Language Curriculum Designer and Bilingual Ed. Director for San Juan School District and Harold Carey, a Navajo Historian and Photojournalist from Malad City, Idaho.”

As you search through the site, you will find primary sources, such as images. You will also learn the name of the traditional housing structure for the Diné is “hogan.”  Knowing that will help guide your search. Consider searching the authors’ names for additional research as well.

Note:  Navajo as a keyword rather than Diné, as it more commonly used.


Build on Your Research

In Google Scholar, enter the keywords Navajo AND Hogan to find primary sources for this topic. This entry shows a primary source of research on the hogan.

Alkidaa’da hooghanee (They Used to Live Here): An archaeological study of late nineteenth and early twentieth century Navajo hogan households and federal Indian …KF Thompson – 2009 – repository.arizona.edu

As Athapaskan-speaking people with a lifestyle distinct from other Southwestern groups,
Navajos, upon entering the Southwest in the sixteenth century, are thought to have begun a
process of culture change that persists to this day. The anthropological view of Navajo …

  Cited by 1 Related articles All 3 versions 

Click on the Related articles link and you will find several other primary sources. Follow each thread, read summaries and review abstracts until you find bibliographic sources for your anthropology essay.

Preliminary Bibliography

A bibliography is a list of all the sources you researched for your essay. As you research your sources, start a preliminary bibliography of every source you find in your search. Make sure you note these elements:

  • Author, editor, and/or translator
  • Date of publication
  • Edition
  • Volume
  • Series
  • Publisher’s name
  • Place of publisher (location)

As you work through your search strategy and develop your bibliography for your anthropology paper, you will find interesting facts to build reader interest. Your teacher will be happy too.

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