Anthropology 2510y language, Culture and Communication Term Paper Guidelines

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Anthropology 2510Y

Language, Culture and Communication

Term Paper Guidelines
This is a 2000-3000 argumentative, or academic, term paper on any topic that interests you related to language, culture and communication. This means the essay, rather than simply summarizing information, should have an argument, or a thesis, and attempt to persuade the reader that the opinion is valid by using reasoning and evidence. It should show that you can analyze and synthesize published material. The paper is due the last day of class. See The course outline for due date.

As with the other social sciences, anthropological research at the undergraduate level involves a great deal of reading and writing. The primary purposes of this assignment are:

  • To develop research skills by investigating a topic of interest in depth and approaching its analysis anthropologically

  • To develop analytical and critical thinking skills

  • To develop writing and communication skills.


  • 2000-3000 words (8-12 typed pages, double-spaced, 10-12-point font)

  • Pages should be numbered and stapled

  • Margins one inch on all sides

  • The paper must have a separate cover page with your name and student number, the course name and number, Instructor’s name and submission date, along with the title (and subtitle) of the essay.

  • The paper must have a separate Table of Contents listing

    1. Headings (including introduction and conclusion)

    2. Subheadings

    3. Reference page

    4. Appendix (if appropriate)

    5. The corresponding page numbers for the above

  • The paper must conform to the American Anthropological Association (AAA) style. The AAA uses The Chicago Manual of Style (14th edition, 1993) and Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (10th edition, 2000). A PDF copy of the guide as well as an abbreviated version the style guide is posted on the web site.

  • Marks will be deducted for failing to meet any of the above requirements

  • The essay may be hand written or submitted electronically


  • A minimum of 3 (in addition to the textbook) and a maximum of 10, scholarly references must be used. You may use the course text as one of the three references

  • Note: Scholarly refers to articles in refereed periodicals, books, or websites. “References “refers to books and articles actually referred to in the essay. A “Bibliography”, on the other hand, is simply a list of books or articles that may or may not have been used. It is the former that is required.

  • You must use the American Anthropological Association’s reference format for this paper. See above

Due Date:

  • Last day of classes

  • No late papers will be accepted

Percent of Grade:

  • See Course Outline

About Thesis Statements

Since this is an argumentative paper it is necessary to formulate a thesis statement. Good essays address one — and only one — precisely defined issue, main point, or question. A thesis statement is an assertion in one sentence that explicitly identifies the purpose of the paper or previews its main ideas.

It is not a statement of fact or an observation. For example: “Many Hindus have abandoned their caste obligations” is a statement. “The forces of globalization are leading many Hindus to abandon their caste obligations” is a thesis that can be argued.
A thesis statement also makes a stand or takes a position rather than announcing a subject. For example, “The thesis of this paper is the decline of the Hindu caste system” is an announcement. A thesis statement might be: “the decline of the Hindu caste system has led to changes in peoples’ sense of identity”.
Thesis statements are also narrow and specific, rather than broad and vague. If it is two broad or vague it cannot be properly supported. A broad statement would be: ‘There are many reasons why the Hindu caste system is declining”. A narrow and specific thesis might be” “The primary reason the Hindu caste system is in decline is because advertising of consumer goods is showing people there is a better way of life”.
Everything in your paper should link to the main point you want to make. One way to identify your thesis is to ask a question. The answer is your thesis. A good way to identify your thesis is to explain in some detail to a friend or colleague what your paper is about. Often articulating it verbally helps to identify it. Another way is to complete the following sentence “In this essay I argue that….” It is perhaps best not use this exact sentence in your paper since it should be in the third person, but you do need to make the main point you are making very clear. A thesis statement also serves to orient the reader by highlighting the major themes that will be discussed in the rest of the paper.

A paper that just restates facts and statistics does not have a thesis. A paper that simply states that you feel this way or that way does not have a thesis. Your thesis or argument should show some specific insight and not be self-evident. It should not consist of something almost everyone knows. Saying something like “Many people all over the world practice religion” or “Ritual is an important aspect of religion” is too broad, vague, and self-evident.

Your thesis or argument should be expressed at the beginning of your paper in a powerful first paragraph. This grabs the reader’s attention, makes it immediately clear what the main point you wish to communicate is, and sets the tone for the rest of the paper. It is not enough, however, to simply state your thesis. For example, if your thesis is: “The forces of globalization are leading many Hindus to abandon their caste obligations”, you must also state (in your introduction) what those forces are, and why they are causing Hindus to abandon their caste obligations. You can also state where you are getting the evidence to support our claims, e.g. fieldwork in India.

As you do research and discover more information and generate new ideas your thesis may have to be revised. Re-write your thesis after your first draft, i.e. after you have read what you have written.

Examples and Evidence

Two weaknesses in academic essays are, first being too descriptive and not analytical enough; the task is not to describe or summarize but to analyze. The second weakness is failing to support assertions with evidence, examples, references, or logical argument. Back up any claims you make with concrete examples or references. To test the validity of your thesis, consider possible counter-evidence and objections to your thesis and respond to them in advance. Imagine what an intelligent and informed person might say to challenge your argument. Since every sentence in your paper should be in support of your thesis do not include irrelevant material that does not support your argument or the main point of your paper. Failure to be analytical (i.e. entirely descriptive) or failure to back up any assertions made, either by evidence or argument, will result in a lower grade.

Your conclusion should summarize the results of your analysis (not what you did). Basically it is a reiteration of your argument. You may also discuss any new understandings or insights that you have arrived at from doing the essay and suggest areas for future research. The concluding section is not a place to introduce new data.


  • Help on writing academic essays can be found at

  • The U of T also has a good site on essay writing:

  • Individual tutorial help is also available from The Writing Centre You can send email questions

  • I will also provide feedback on drafts of essays, if submitted in electronic form at least one week before the due date.

  • Perhaps the best book on the market to improve your writing skills is the latest edition of Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style. It is less than 100 pages and sells for less than $15. The first edition, written in 1918, is available online at:

  • PowerPoint slides on writing essays and finding materials in anthropology have also been posted on the Web site.


Plagiarism: “to steal and pass off the ideas or words of another as one’s own” (Webster’s). Plagiarism will not be tolerated and will automatically result in a zero grade for the submission. Any student caught plagiarizing may also be subject to additional University sanctions. The University’s policies and procedures on academic offences can be found at the following website: The University of Lethbridge subscribes to a plagiarism detection service. Students may be required to submit their written work in electronic form for plagiarism checking.

Plagiarism can take several forms:

  1. Failing to cite sources of quotations, ideas, and wording from another source

  2. Submitting a paper that has been borrowed, purchased, or written by someone else.

  3. Submitting the same essay for more than one course without the permission of the instructor(s) may also be considered plagiarism.

  4. Extensive paraphrasing of one or a few sources

Topics: Making It Anthropological

The essay may be on any topic that interests you so long as it relates to language, culture and communication. The trick is to make it anthropological

  • Think in terms of identity. What role does language play in shaping a person's identity? How does language lead to the creation of Canadian cultural identity?

  • Think in terms of symbolism and meaning. How does language create meaning?

  • Think in terms of function and society. What role does language play in society? How is it used?

  • Think holistically. How does language relate to other aspects such as economics, gender, politics etc?

  • Think comparatively. How do language practices between cultures differ or are similar. Remember that comparison is a tool and is used to argue a point.

Topic Suggestions

Often choosing a topic is the most difficult part of writing a term paper. The list below is list of suggested topics. It is not exhaustive. They are in the form of questions. Your thesis or aim is to answer the question.

  1. What are the sociocultural and political issues affecting language use and practice in Canada (Ireland, United States, Israel, Kenya, Brazil etc.) Each country's linguistic situation is unique and important issues about language use are often specific to a particular country, its history and cultural make-up. Thus, the following list of issues is not exhaustive, nor is each item necessarily relevant for each country. General description: What languages are spoken? By whom? What are the statuses of the languages? Are all standardized? Social effects of standardization? Official language, national languages, vernaculars? What is/are the language(s) of governance? Is there more than one official language? Why? How were choices made? Are other languages formally recognized? Encouraged or discouraged? How does this work out--contribute to unity or conflict? What are the policies on minority languages? Indigenous languages? Immigrant languages? What are the sociocultural attitudes towards the country's languages? Is language important in relation to cultural or regional identity? Is there linguistic rivalry, or is language an issue in sociocultural rivalries? Is societal multilingualism seen as a beneficial resource, or as a problem? Are there issues related to standardization (of formally promoting one dialect of a language as the “proper” form)? What is the status of non-standard dialects? Are they meaningful in relation to identity or social advantage, etc.? In countries with a high degree of societal multilingualism, how do people communicate with each other? Lingua francas? Regional languages encouraged? Is a world language used? Who learns and uses it? Is there a high degree of individual bilingualism? Are there language-shift trends? Is code switching or diglossia regularly practiced? By whom, under what circumstances, to what effect? What is (are) the language(s) of education? Are there provisions for education in the first language for minority language children? At what levels of education? Bilingual education? Transitional or maintenance? Provisions for learning other languages in the country, or encouragement of individual bilingualism – for majority language speakers, too? Are there programs for language preservation or revitalization? What languages do the media use? Possible that the survival of the languages enabled the survival of the cultures. "

  2. Have speakers of a language (e.g. English, French, Spanish) viewed the changing nature of its vocabulary and grammar positively or negatively. Why? Who has viewed them this way? Are there competing views? What steps, if any, have been taken to permit change, or to hinder it? How does the ability or inability to change reflect the increasingly complex nature of our technical world, as well as the increasing ethnic diversity in many countires?

  3. How is gender identity shaped by and reflected in linguistic practices? What role does language in the media/advertising play in maintaining or shaping gender relations? (You could analyse several articles from a national paper and look at whether sexist references are relied on in description, reporting) How does the language used in advertisements reflect gender bias? Do men and women respond differently to gendered ads?

  4. What role does language use play in fashioning power relationships in society? What roles does the media or education play? Both the person's and the group's social status is determined by language. You could pick particular examples and show how this was done. For example, how was Hitler, able to build a Nazi state with his rhetoric. What is the relation between language and race? What was it about Martin Luther King’s rhetoric that stirred the civil rights movement? What has been—and is presently--the role of language in the (trans)formation of ethnicity in Canada or the USA?

  5. How much does (or simply does) our language influence what we can think and perceive? Conversely, do our thoughts and perceptions influence or even control our language? How does language shape our view of reality? What are the cultural metaphors? What associations do people make that promote prejudices and biases by the cultural connection they suggest? How does language help objectify and order reality? What role do others play in this social construction of meaning?

  6. Explore a cultural metaphor. What metaphors does a language use to understand the mind, knowledge, time, space, business, the internet etc? How does metaphor help shape the meaning and understanding of what is going on? What role does metaphor play in our society and the process of communication? How are metaphors "concepts we live by."

  7. How does language use in a particular context e.g. religious, business, hospital, hotel, casino school etc. shape our understanding and meaning of these contexts? How are patron-client relationships established using language?

  8. How can businesses develop a knack for cross-cultural communication? What are the value systems of other cultures, as reflected in their language, that allow them to respond to advertising messages

  9. How do children become adapted at speaking, and learning how to say words and communicate? What role do parents play in the socialization process in early language development? Are there cross-cultural differences and how do we explain them. How is language important in the socialization process? What are the advantages and limitations of different languages/ methods of teaching?

  10. oHHHow is language changing? What role has the internet/cell phones/texting/email/ television etc. had in changing language use?


All term papers are marked out of 30 and then factored to arrive at the final mark. The paper will be evaluated according to the following criteria:

  • Spelling, punctuation, grammar, correct referencing, format guidelines followed (5 marks)

  • Introduction: is there a clear statement of the thesis or argument of the essay? Does the author follow through with the promises made in the introduction? (5 marks)

  • Conclusion: Does the conclusion neatly summarize the findings? (5 marks)

  • Style: Does the report flow? Is it wordy or repetitious? Is the essay clear, concise and to the point? Is the author familiar and comfortable with the subject? Is the information presented relevant to the topic selected? For example, do the illustrations or examples used actually illuminate the points stressed or are they irrelevant? (5 marks)

  • Structure of Argument: Is the argument well supported with references? Is the information presented in a logical, orderly fashion that can be readily understood? Does the essay provide new insight into the chosen subject matter via carefully thought out consideration; is it a synthesis of ideas or does it appear as a simple "re-hash" of source materials? Is it too descriptive? (10 marks)

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