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ANTH 495: Anthropology Capstone

Research Guide for the Capstone Course in Anthropology

Writing your Research Essay

Everything in your research paper should point back to the thesis statement.

Vignette or Story (for ethnographic research):

  • One or two paragraphs telling a story about your research population

Introduction: one paragraph that summarizes what you will write and puts it into context. Should consist of 3 parts:

  • " What You're Studying": start with a thesis statement about your research question which includes background contextualizing your project research question 
  • "Who & Where You're Studying": what population are you researching and where is their community?
  • "So What?": demonstrate why your research question and project is important and why your reader should care

Context of Your Subject Matter:

  • One to two paragraphs about the population you are writing about. 
  • What do we know about these people, their values, their history, their place, and their community? 
  • Even if you're focusing on materials, artifacts, or other objects, who is the population behind them?

This section can be mixed or separated with the next section, depending on your preference.

Previous Scholarship:

  • One paragraph about what other scholars (Anthropologists/Sociologists) have said about this population, subject, place, and community. 
  • What have they written about and how do their themes, theories, evidence, and arguments link to your broader thesis statement? 


  • One paragraph about the methods you used to conduct this research.
  • Was it based on previous scholarship?
  • What inspired you do this work?
  • What did your methods allow you to see or not see?
  • What is your positionality in your research, i.e. a premed student, a museum employee? How did your positionality shape your results?


  • One paragraph about the theoretical approaches that have been applied to this subject.
  • How does your real world research adapt, challenge, or add to these theories?

What Did You Learn?:

At least three paragraphs outlining what you learned from your research and how it connects to your thesis and theories. Prioritize and organize your main points and paragraphs to logically build to a compelling conclusion. Each paragraph should include a topic sentence, evidence, analysis, and a transition sentence:

  • The topic sentence summarizes the lesson learned that the paragraph will discuss
  • Use evidence from your research sources to build your answers about what your study findings mean 
  • Make sure that you synthesize your ethnographic research findings and your evidence and arguments
  • Analyze your evidence to show how it links to your broader thesis
  • Include a transition sentence at the end of each paragraph to connect what you discussed in that paragraph with the main idea of the next paragraph

Conclusion: one to three paragraphs that summarize what you learned

  • Restate your thesis from the introduction in different words
  • Briefly summarize your main points or arguments about your study findings and what you can conclude about your evidence
  • Briefly summarize the theories you've connected your study findings with and why
  • Tie your conclusion together into the paper's main thesis
    • Has this research made you rethink your initial research question?
  • What new research questions do your study findings raise?
  • End with a strong, final statement that ties the whole essay together and makes it clear the essay has come to an end

References list: a list of the sources you cited 

  • Cite your sources in Chicago Style
  • Format your References list in Chicago Style

For more writing help, contact the Writing Center and make an online appointment to meet with one of their consultants.

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