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Anthropology: Anthropology Research Quick Guide

The purpose of this guide is to recommend print and electronic resources for conducting research in anthropology in the Library.

Finding Sources

  • KEYWORD search to find relevant or interesting sources
  • Look for SUBJECT terms in relevant books and articles; click on or search those
  • READ or SKIM abstracts, ToC, introductions, and bibliographies
  • Find relevant sources CITED within sources and read or skim them
  • REPEAT for every topic
  • Look for the scholarly conversation
Anthropology Journal Articles
  • Anthropology Plus (anthropology articles; broader search, no full text searching)
  • AnthroSource (anthropology articles; narrower search, full text searching)
  • ‚ÄčGoogle Scholar (Try the "cited by” feature, Search within citations)
  • Web of Science (Try Cited Reference Search / Related Articles / Shared References)

Anthropology Review Articles, Handbooks, and Bibliographies (Good for theory, background, and context)

Books (Anthropology books are at call# range: GN)
  • Catalog (Search books and journals at Princeton)
  • WorldCat (Search books at other libraries)

Finding a Scholarly Conversation

  • Search for recent scholarly books or articles as focused on your topic as possible. Review or “handbook” articles and scholarly encyclopedia entries make good starting places if available.
  • Stop searching and skim/read the books or articles for especially interesting or relevant parts that cite other scholars. Look for authors discussing other authors, not just publications listed in a bibliography.
  • Find the cited books or articles and skim/read them for especially interesting or relevant parts that cite other scholars.
  • Repeat until you start seeing connections among scholars, publications, themes, theories, etc.
  • To go forward in the “conversation,” use the Google Scholar “Cited By” feature to see who has cited the most useful books or articles.
  • Also try Web of Science: Cited Reference Search / Related Articles / Shared References

When Your Topic Doesn't Have Much Anthropology Lit to Review

Strategies for an Anthropology Literature Review When There Isn't Much Anthropology Literature on Your Topic:

  • Analyze fewer anthropology sources more deeply. Work with what you have.
  • Review any tangentially related anthropology literature .
  • Broaden your context until there’s enough anthropology literature to review.
  • Bring in relevant non-anthropological literature as needed (e.g., public health in medical anthropology), but don’t make that the only focus of your review. Use the anthropology as a lens to view the other literature.
  • Find theoretical sources through the practical sources.
  • Find scholars in conversation with each other.
  • Remember: there are no bad sources, only bad ways to use them.

Reviewing the Literature

From Shan-Estelle Brown. Writing in Anthropology: a Brief Guide. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017.


  • First Look at the Title and Identify Its Key Words
  • Review the Abstract
  • Examine the Structure
  • Identify the Purpose
  • Ask the Essential Questions:
  • What is the Question, Controversy, or Problem Driving the Study?
  • Who or What Group was Being Studied
  • How was the Study Executed? What Method was Used? What Kind of Study was Done?
  • What Questions were Addressed or Asked in the Study to Generate Data?
  • What was Found in the Study? What were the Results of the Study? Why did the Scientists They they Found what they Found?
  • How does this study—in its Methods as well as in the Findings it Shares—Relate to other Relevant or Potential Studies?

To move from a series of summaries to an argument, ask yourself the following:

  • What is my specific problem or research question?
  • How does each source relate to it?
  • What type of literature review am I conducting?
  • Am I seeing trends in theory, in methods, within the work of specific researchers, in findings across sources? What can I say about the trend?
  • What unexpected findings or patterns emerged as I read across the literature?
  • Are there contradictions or telling points of disagreement in the literature?
  • Where do I stand on the specific debates under way among the authors of the sources?