Principles of Social Anthropology/ASU West/Prof. Koptiuch
GUIDELINES FOR CRITICAL ESSAYS
NOT YET REVISED FOR FALL 2003
One typed page only (double spaced).
Essays to be read aloud in class!
purpose of these essays is to encourage you to
- -keep up with the readings
- -synthesize your understanding of course
- -raise pertinent issues for discussion
- -develop your own anthropological perspective
|Check out the web page of
Center for Writing Across the Curriculum
for writing and style
guides, grammatical rules, etc.
Choose a focused
topic (you can only do so much in one page!)
- Choose something in the readings that
really grabs your interests (the best writing comes when the writer
is most engaged with the topic). You may highlight an issue of interest to
you, ponder an anthropological problem, develop a polemical argument, wonder
about an enigma in the text/world, dispute the conclusions an author draws
from her/his data, relate course materials to your own lives, current events,
- NOTE: "Critical essay" need not
mean you must criticize the reading as "bad" or flawed; you may offer
a positive critical appreciation as well!
- CHIEF GROUND RULE: Essays must
relate your topic to the key assigned reading. For weeks when
there is no major book, essays should refer to at least two
Maximum grade of "C" for essays not
tied in to the key text (or, to two articles). However, you are always free
to draw on additional course readings, videos, etc.
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A Critical Essay should almost
1) present an analysis and 2) develop an
- Choose a title that emphasizes the
main topic of your essay, that is, do not simply use the formal
title of the assigned reading. Lure us in with an irresistible title!
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- Analysis: break down a subject or an idea into its parts and
explain how the parts relate to each other and to the whole (establish a
context, state the claims, examine the claims, relate the analysis to the
whole or to an issue stemming from the whole)
- Argument: assert a position, identify support and opposition,
conclude by interpreting the significance of this evidence in relation to
your position and follow its implications
- Do not simply summarize the readings--think critically
about the author’s theoretical assumptions, use of ethnographic data, strategies
of analysis, interpretation, or representation, etc.
- Your essays ought to be informed by anthropological concepts
from the course (you will get a better handle on these as the course procedes)
- Push yourself to consider the implications of your own argument
for doing anthro today
- Write your essay using the first-person pronoun "I." (Voice Of God)
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Path of critical essay:
SHORT GUIDE TO A STRONG ESSAY
- Try for a strong opening, the better
to lure in the listener/reader. Sketch your topic or theme.
- Briefly identify the work(s) and author(s)
under discussion within your text, so we'll know what you're addressing
- underline or italicize Book
Titles, put quotations around "Article Titles"
- Situate your chosen topic within
the larger context of the author’s overall discussion. Clue your reader
in by briefly answering the question, what is the article/book about?
- Locate statements, points, or quotes
from the reading within their particular context.
- give page number for quotes; if unclear from
context, give author and title
- As a rule, put punctuation inside quotations:
"xxxxxxx." "xxxxx," "xxxxx?" "xxxxx"(p.x).
- Support your argument with
some examples from the text that illustrate what you mean to say (you don’t
need direct quotes to do this, paraphrasing or summarizing is fine)
- Explore the implications of
your argument (for doing anthropology today, for the incorporation
of the Other into the "Western Tradition," for understanding everyday life...)
- Wrap up the end of your paper
by tying it back in to your starting point for closure. This confirms your
thesis point, reminds the reader of what you aimed to address, and shows
how far your argument has taken you. (This is a good place to interpret
your essay’s implications)
- Do you make a point? Avoid
leaving your listeners in confusion, or in so-what land!
- Proofread your essay carefully
(and use your spell-check!!!). Try having
someone else read it aloud to you and listen for clarity, persuasiveness,
awkward sentence structure or poor grammar (or, read it to someone else and
solicit their reaction).
There are MANY effective styles
and strategies for writing essays.
No single form will be privileged in this class.
You have license to experiment!!
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NOTE: These are NOT simply
- You are of course welcome to present your
opinion (indeed, this cannot be avoided!)
- But think of "opinion" less as a matter
of individual taste or preference, than as
- a point of view, a way of seeing, a perspective
shaped by your (& your nation’s) subject-positioning (i.e. who you are,
socially speaking) and experience
- rooted in the politics of your own social
location at a particular intersection of culture/history/gender/race/class/
- grounded in your knowledge of anthropology
- Work these considerations into your analysis
in light of our study of anthropology Top of page
audience is listening!
Address your classmates,
not just your professor!
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