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Haverford College
Department of Anthropology
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Senior Thesis

The Anthropology Thesis:

The anthropology thesis is a year-long, 2 credit independent research project designed and implemented by each senior anthropology major. Each student selects a research topic, defines a specific research question, describes how that question relates to a broader field of ethnographic and anthropological writing on the topic, conducts independent, original research with primary source materials that can be ethnographic, archival, and/or material, and develops and writes up an original argument, supported by evidence, about the primary source materials. This argument is informed by the relevant theory and by ethnographic and anthropological scholarship.

The senior thesis consists of two courses, Anthropology 450 and Anthropology 451. Anthropology 450 is a seminar course taught during the fall semester, typically by one faculty member who receives one teaching credit. For Anthropology 450, students define their research question, write and rewrite a research prospectus, do ethnographic exercises, study professional ethics, familiarize themselves with IRBs, and conclude with a literature review of their topic. Anthropology 451 is supervised research and writing. A faculty member receives one credit for supervising 4 to 6 senior theses. During Anthropology 451, each student does guided research on his or her topic, drafts and writes a thesis, does a public presentation of his or her thesis research, and takes an oral comprehensive exam.

For Anthropology 450, students are assessed on a preliminary research proposal, a research prospectus, a literature review draft, a research presentation, and a literature review, as well as short in-class methodological exercises. For Anthropology 451, students are assessed on their final thesis, public presentation, and oral exam. Two faculty members read and comment on each thesis. All faculty attend and evaluate the public presentations and the oral exams. The faculty collectively assign each student’s final grade for the course, as well as each of the three components (thesis, public presentation, and oral exam). The thesis also plays an important role in whether or not a student receives Honors or Highest Honors in Anthropology.

Courses in the curriculum explicitly designed to assist students with the thesis are Anthropology 303 (History and Theory) and Anthropology 322 (Ethnographic Methods).