Undergraduate Program Requirements
for an A.B. in Anthropology
To major in Anthropology, a student should have taken – before the junior year – at least one course in anthropology (at any level) or obtain special permission from the Departmental Representative.
Anthropology concentrators must take nine departmental courses: two courses at the 200-level (normally completed prior to senior year), three core courses (described below), and four elective courses (at least one of which should be at the 300-level and one at the 400-level).
The core courses ensure that students will have a systematic understanding of the scope, methods, and theories of anthropology associated with cultural inquiry and its implications for an understanding of human experience. They are:
- ANT 300 (Ethnography, Evidence and Experience, normally taken as ANT 300B in junior fall unless a student is studying abroad)
- ANT 301 (The Ethnographer's Craft, normally taken as ANT 301B in junior spring unless studying abroad)
- ANT 390 (History of Anthropological Theory, normally taken as ANT 390B in the fall of the student's senior year)
The core courses are designed to prepare students for their junior and senior independent work. To prepare for independent senior thesis research, students should plan to complete ANT 300 and ANT 301 by the end of their junior year.
Required junior and senior seminars are designed to support students' independent work. The Junior Seminar is year-long and is scheduled for students along with ANT 300B (fall term) and ANT 301B (spring term) as "Lab" components of the two core courses. A junior major who has taken ANT 300 and/or ANT 301 before junior year is also required to participate in the Junior Seminar by separate scheduling. The Senior Seminar is taken during the fall term only and is scheduled for students along with ANT 390B as a "Lab" component of the third core course. A student who has taken ANT 390 before senior year is also required to participate in the Senior Seminar by separate scheduling.
Departmental electives may be chosen in accordance with each student's special interests while satisfying departmental requirements as explained above. Up to two courses outside the Anthropology Department may be taken as cognates to satisfy departmental electives. These may be courses taken during study abroad, or courses in other departments at Princeton. Any proposed cognates must be approved by the Departmental Representative. Cognates taken at Princeton may be counted so long as they are judged by the Departmental Representative to be relevant to a student's junior or senior independent work. Exceptionally well-prepared undergraduates may take graduate seminars for departmental credit. To enroll in a graduate seminar, the student must have the approval of the Departmental Representative and the instructor of the course.
To count for the major, departmental courses must be taken for a grade and not pass/fail. The final grade earned for a departmental course must be "C" or higher.
Note: Beginning in Spring 2014, the Anthropology Department revised the departmental course requirements for majors. Students who declared Anthropology as their major with the Class of 2015 or earlier have the option to follow either set of departmental requirements. Prior to Spring 2014, the course requirements for an anthropology major were a minimum of eight departmental courses comprised of three required core courses (ANT 201, Foundational Concepts in Anthropology, previously Introduction to Anthropology; ANT 301, The Ethnographer's Craft; and ANT 390, History of Anthropological Theory) and electives chosen in accordance with the student's interests. The information on electives and grading in the preceding two paragraphs also applied to the former requirements.
Independent work in the junior year involves an original paper (the Junior Paper, or JP), usually based on library research. Normally, field research is not appropriate for the JP. The junior seminar is designed to support junior independent work. In the fall, students work through the junior seminar as well as individually with a faculty adviser to develop a detailed problem statement and annotated bibliography. This system gives the student a chance to explore interests with group support and faculty guidance; many anthropology majors are unsure about topics in the fall of their junior year, and need time to investigate several interesting possibilities before settling on one. By the end of the fall semester, the student is expected to be making good headway on reading and to have developed a substantive topic on a subject relevant to the student's interests, and written a research proposal for approval by the department. In the spring, students write a paper based on the research initiated in the fall, in consultation with their adviser and with the support of the junior seminar's writing workshops. Students enrolled in ANT 300B and ANT 301B during their junior year are automatically enrolled in the junior seminar; students not taking ANT 300B and/or ANT 301B during junior year will also enroll in the junior seminar by individual arrangement with the Departmental Representative.
The JP in anthropology starts from preparation leading up to a literature review. The literature review should describe a set of texts (books, articles, essays, and other written sources) that have been consulted in the student’s research. But the literature review should go beyond a mere description or summary of the literature; the goal is to develop a critical evaluation, in terms of the authors’ use of evidence, methods of research, styles of interpretation, persuasiveness, and scope. An important job of the JP writer is to select, assemble, and read sources in a meaningful way, in the service of a coherent, overarching perspective on the literature under review – for example, as cumulative knowledge, a statement of issues in contention, or an analysis of implicit or explicit assumptions underlying the body of work the student has selected. Good models for anthropology literature reviews can be found in the Annual Review of Anthropology: http://www.annualreviews.org/journal/anthro.
Topics for anthropology junior papers are extremely variable; the topic should reflect a student’s real interests. Some students use the JP as preparation for their senior thesis research; however, this is neither required nor expected. The JP is meant to be a vehicle for students to implement their developing sense of what makes an analysis anthropological, and to consider how an anthropological perspective might make sense of issues and problems encountered outside the university, including, perhaps, domains of professional work to which the students aspire. Anthropology majors are therefore encouraged to review and re-use sources and ideas encountered in anthropology courses, as well as any other relevant courses taken, in developing the JP. While JP topics are completely open to individual interests – and may even concern phenomena about which professional anthropologists have not already written – the student needs to find some significant set of anthropological sources as an analytical context for making sense of the chosen topic. The junior seminar and individual faculty advisers can help make these connections. For an idea of the range of possible topics, students can browse JP titles from past years.
All senior anthropology majors write a thesis. The Anthropology Department encourages innovative and multidisciplinary projects, although all anthropology theses must engage or otherwise incorporate anthropological sources and reflect anthropological studies in some way. The research and critical reading skills that students develop in writing the Junior Paper are just as crucial to writing the senior thesis. Senior theses take many different forms in anthropology; many styles of writing and interpretation are valid. However a student approaches it, the thesis should address a clear research question, explain the significance of the question, critically engage literature relevant to the question, and present an analysis of data that bear on the question. Senior theses are expected to be based on original research, and are therefore more complex than JPs in their treatment of research topics. Correspondingly, they are also usually longer.
Senior theses in anthropology have focused on a wide variety of subjects and have been based on field, library, laboratory, and museum research. Some theses have also included creative components – for example, a theater production, photography exhibit, dance performance, or documentary film – but such projects must be accompanied by a substantial written essay. A compilation of senior thesis titles, including a list of prize-winning anthropology theses in recent years, can be found under Senior Thesis Titles. Bound copies of these and other past anthropology theses are filed on shelves in the Anthropology Department office; students are welcome to come to 116 Aaron Burr Hall and take a look. The Mudd Library also maintains an online catalog of Princeton University senior thesis titles.
Students are welcome to consult any faculty member, within or outside the Anthropology Department, in developing their research. However, barring exceptional circumstances, an anthropology major’s thesis adviser will be a member of the Anthropology Department faculty. In the first weeks of the fall semester, seniors will be assigned a thesis adviser with whom to consult regularly all year. Throughout the fall term, the senior seminar gives students a chance to develop thesis ideas and to begin writing their theses with structured group support in addition to individual faculty guidance.
Grade average for honors
Grade averages for Anthropology departmental honors are calculated from the student’s departmental courses, including cognates taken at Princeton. Recognition of cognates is approved by the Departmental Representative during course advising meetings. In the fall of the senior year a final review of accepted cognates will be completed at the request of the student; cognate status is contingent on the relevance of the course to the student's junior or senior independent work. To receive credit towards the major in departmental courses (including cognates), Junior Paper, and Senior Thesis, a student must receive a grade of C or better.
Honors are calculated according to the following weighting system:
- Average grade in departmental courses (comprised of the nine required and elective courses, including cognates): 60%
- Senior thesis: 25%
- Junior paper: 10%
- Senior departmental exam: 5%