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How to write an Anthropology Essay

The complete guide to writing a 2:1 standard university essay

Where choice is given, it is always advisable to write your anthropology essay on a subject you are at least in some way knowledgeable about. Familiarity, in this case, breeds content and it is always preferable to start from a position of knowledge than one of ignorance. Of course, should choice not be given, then an added importance is placed upon the research phase of your anthropology essay.

Preparation being key, it is important to fully understand what the question is asking. It is impossible to overemphasise enough how critical this point is in the creation of a good anthropology essay. Many a student has fallen foul of a surreptitiously placed comma, or, in their eagerness to start writing their anthropology essay, misread. Making sure you have read the question may seem obvious, trivial even, but the cliché says that the devil is in the details. Cliché doesn’t become so unless it is a point well worth repeating.

Perhaps even more important than understanding what the question title of your anthropology essay is asking you, is placing it in its context. Essay titles and questions are not arrived at arbitrarily by the professors and teachers who set them. They are a reflection of the course being studied. They are designed to test your knowledge of that course, of what you have been taught. Thus, whatever anthropology essay you choose or get assigned you should be able to discern, from lecture notes or course packs and the like, what academic context it belongs in. Your anthropology essay will be an argument, a discussion. Differing and opposing opinions should be present. Which opinions and which arguments should be discernable using your anthropology essay question in context. Ask, “What anthropological position does this question represent,” and, “Which positions are hostile to it,” “Which support it.” These questions should enable you to outline a few notes and these notes should help you focus on your next task, research.

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An anthropology essay will have a word limit and that limit, believe or not, will generally be quite small. 2500 words may seem an awful lot of black marks on white but, in reality, it is not. Bearing this in mind is crucial while researching your anthropology essay. You need to be knowledgeable about the area that your anthropology essay falls under, but do not get bogged down in the minutia. Having established the context of your anthropology essay, focus your research in that area. Most courses offer suggested reading materials – use them. It is always recommended to read widely, and this should be your aim, but, as ever, idealism has to be balanced with pragmatism and reality. Deadlines like turning of seasons arrive fast, creeping up from behind with seemingly little warning. It is likely you will, in conjunction with your anthropology essay, have other academic work to complete. Efficient time management is essential. Make a timetable and be ruthless in sticking to it. As ever, it is advisable to start reading, researching and writing early. A successful anthropology essay fuelled by caffeine and late nights is possible, but so too is winning the lottery. Give yourself the space, time and rest your mind needs to function at its best.

Your research should avail you with the arguments, opinions and conflicts needed for your anthropology essay. At least two opposing viewpoints are needed for most anthropology essays, remember professors, teachers and those that hand out the marks want to see a discussion. From the reading you have done it should be possible to draft some form of essay plan. Individual tastes of course vary, some prefer sparse and spartan allowing themselves room for creativity, others like the details, keeping the devil in check. Whatever camp you fall in or in between, your anthropology essay needs structure. Breaking a task into manageable chunks is ever the best way to approach a problem, and your essay plan should reflect this.

Your anthropology essay will need quotations. Different academic institutions require differing levels so do familiarise yourself. Quotations are an essential tool in the construction of your anthropology essay, but be advised that caution needs to be exercised. Markers are interested in your opinion first and foremost, they do not want to read a mere collection of quotes. A quotation should be used as evidence, a way to back up your point. They should not repeat information. Nor should they consume your anthropology essay. You make your point and you back it up with a quote. You then move to the next point.

Writing your anthropology essay can be daunting, there is little that freezes the heart more than a blank page awaiting words. With your essay plan as your guide, you should fear not. You have read and researched. You have organised your thoughts. You have the information. You know the answer to the question. You have written your anthropology essay already, you just need to commit it to paper. It is advisable to follow the standard introduction, main body, conclusion format for your anthropology essay. Much importance is placed upon your introduction and conclusion. Your opening gambit needs to inform the reader where you are likely to head, the conclusion needs to be that destination. Your main body is the journey. You argue, counter argue and conclude. That is your anthropology essay. Fear not the revision. Few, if any, can write an anthropology essay in one stream of consciousness and get it right first time. Editing is a critical skill to develop. Think of each draft as a more detailed essay plan. Each revision hones and refines the argument, the message and, in the end, it is this message that is the most important.

An anthropology essay is a story, an academic tale told using quotes and knowledge. The story needs a beginning, middle and end like any other. It needs a message. It matters not when you decide what that message is, only that you have one. Every scratch and scrawl of word needs to serve the message of your anthropology essay.

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