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ANTH 155: Anthropology of Religion (HC)

Themes in the Anthropology of Religion: Ritual (Noonan-Ngwane/Fodde-Reguer/Gettleson) Spring 2020

How to to write a research proposal

When writing a research or paper proposal, the most important thing is to start, even if it seems daunting. Having a basic, rough draft gives you a start towards refining your proposal and honing in on a specific set of questions you want to explore. The basic components of a proposal include: 

I. Topic of interest

II. Background on topic

  • What is the context?
  • Who is the population?
  • Where is it geographically located?

III. Reason for chosen topic, or key question

  • Is something missing from the way this topic is usually approached? What new perspective are you bringing in?

IV. Relationship to field of anthropology

  • How does your proposed research project correspond to anthropological approaches to religion?

*Some helpful sentence stems to complete when starting your proposal include:

  • When I started this course/paper/project, the thing that really interested me was...
  • What makes it hard to engage with what I'm doing is that...
  • The questions I find myself thinking about these days in class are questions like...
  • If I had to put my paper into the form of a single question, it would be ...
  • The observations I make that lead me to pose that question are...
  • I want to know...

For more elaborate discussions on research proposals refer to:

Northwestern Office of Undergraduate Research: Proposal Writing 

  • Disregard sections having to do with funding 

University of California, Berkeley Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholarship: Writing Research Proposals 

* taken from "Twenty Tips for Senior Thesis Writers (and other writers, too)," prepared by Sheila M. Reindl c/o Bureau of Study Counsel


What is an Annotated Bibliography?

bibliography is a list of sources (books, journals, Web sites, periodicals, etc.) one has used for researching a topic. Bibliographies are sometimes called "References" or "Works Cited" depending on the style format you are using, and usually just include the bibliographic information (i.e., the author, title, publisher, etc.).

An annotation is a summary and/or analysis. Therefore, an annotated bibliography includes a summary and/or analysis of each of the sources, along with an evaluation of how you will use this source for your project. Depending on your project or the assignment, your annotations may do one or more of the following:

  • Summary: Some annotations merely summarize the source. What are the main arguments? What is the point of this book or article? What topics are covered? If someone asked what this article/book is about, what would you say? 
  • Assess: After summarizing a source, it may be helpful to evaluate it. Is it a useful source? How does it compare with other sources in your bibliography? Is the information reliable? Is this source biased or objective? What is the goal of this source?
  • Reflect/Analyze: Once you've summarized and assessed a source, you need to ask how it fits into your research. Was this source helpful to you? How does it help you shape your argument? How can you use this source in your research project? Has it changed how you think about your topic?

Your annotated bibliography should serve as a type of outline of sources. For this reason, summaries of sources should not be too long; just enough to help you remember the text. The key component of an annotated bibliography is the analysis, meaning how you will use each of your selected sources for your project. You can also consider engaging in synthesis work throughout the annotated bibliography, which is a compilation of several texts that treat the same subject, explore a particular theme, or argue a certain perspective. 

Adapted from:

Purdue Writing Lab. “Annotated Bibliographies // Purdue Writing Lab.” Purdue Writing Lab.

Writing an Abstract

What is an abstract?

An abstract summarizes the entire paper in an organized, sequential fashion. It includes:

1) The overall purpose of the paper and the questions it addresses

2) A description of the approach/theoretical engagement

3) A brief summary of your conclusions (or anticipated conclusions).

Why an abstract?

In the world of academic journals, the abstract allows you to elaborate upon your research and helps readers decide whether they want to read the rest of the paper. For this class, the abstract will allow your professors to see what further direction you might need before you commit to writing the full-length final paper. 


Creating an Outline

The Writing Centers at George Mason University and Purdue University have created some wonderful guides to content and formatting for outlines.