Writing an Anthropological Research Proposal for Cultural Anthropology (1-2 Pages)

The aim of the research proposal is to demonstrate that you have a project both worth doing and manageable within the timescale left in the semester. To be worth doing, your project must be well-founded, and must also make a contribution to understanding in its field. To make clear that your project is manageable within the relevant period, you need to show that you understand the scale of the issues and problems you are addressing.

In order to do these things, your proposal should include:

a) Title

Be as concise and explicit as you can.

b) Introduction

Use this section to introduce the questions and issues central to your research. Identify the field of study in broad terms and indicate how you expect your research to intervene in the field.


Your research question must be 1-2 sentences, clear and concise. For example you may ask "how does X group members value Y?

Or you may ask...

How do X individuals create Y relationships in regards to the their social circle?

If you are having trouble defining a research question, remember that questions that characterize processes, social changes, relationships, or identities are key.

Here is a link to tips on writing research questions (CLICK HERE)

If you still need help in defining your research question please come to me!

c) Research background and questions

Use this section to expand your Introduction. What are the key texts and approaches in the field, and how does your proposal differ from existing lines of argument? What does your project contribute to existing work in the field? How does it extend our understanding of particular questions or topics? You need to set out your research questions as clearly as possible, explain problems that you want to explore and say why it is important to do so. In other words, think about how to situate your project in the context of your discipline.

d) Research methods

This section should set out how you will achieve what you set out to do in Research background and questions. This will obviously depend very much on your research topic. What sources will you use? In other words, does your project involve archival sources, particular databases or specialist libraries?

Will you use participant observation? If so why? Will your interviews be structured or unstructured? Will you do basic statistical modeling? What theoretical resources do you intend to use and why? What forms of textual, historical or visual analysis will you use? All said, this section should display how will you set about answering your research questions.

e) Schedule of work

Use this section to show that you have a realistic plan for completion of the study (2-3) weeks of ethnography and then 1-2 weeks of analysis.

f) Bibliography

Include a bibliography, in a standard format such as MLA, listing the books and articles to which you refer in the proposal.

Special Note:

Some of these sections will be easier to write than others at this very preliminary stage. The selectors who read your proposal know that it is a provisional statement and that your ideas, questions and approaches will change during the course of your research. You should treat the proposal as an opportunity to show that you have begun to explore an important area of study and that you have a question, or questions, that challenge and develop that area. It is also necessary to demonstrate that you can express your ideas in clear and precise English, accessible to a non-specialist.





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