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Research Paper

Choosing and finding background information on your topic

Select one of the five broad topics:

  1. Why did the robust australopithecines became ‘robust’?

  1. Cultural developments during the Lower, Middle and Upper Paleolithic.

  1. What happened to the Neanderthals?

  1. The role of dominance and social ranking in primate social groups.

  1. Language capabilities among chimpanzees.

The five topic choices are quite broad so you will want to find a particular focus within the broad topic. To discover interesting options for narrowing your topic:

  • consult your textbook or class notes

  • do a preliminary search for books (particularly edited books) and journal articles pertaining to your broad topic and select one of the many potential more focused topics you'll discover

  • find a relevant article on the broad topic in one of academic, subject specific encyclopedias below

Narrowing your topic

The topic "Cultural developments during the Lower, Middle and Upper Paleolithic" is far too broad but can be narrowed by focusing on a particular aspect.  Brainstorm possible specific topics or read an article about the Paleolithic that answers some of the following questions pertaining to this very broad topic

Who: e.g. Australopithicines, hunters, Homo habilis, neanderthals, etc.

What: e.g. bone tools, caving painting(s), hand axes, diet, meat/hunting/trapping, music, burials, fire, cognitive/cognition, Venus figurines, etc.

Where: e.g. Africa, Asia, India, Near East, Europe, Germany, Swabia

When: many relevant articles will not be indexed with terms specifying Upper, Middle or Lower Paleolithic. Just use "Paleolithic" or, depending on your topic, a more specific term pertaining to the particular period of your focus, e.g. Aurignacian

Why: disappearance/extinction of Neandertals

Note any alternate terms, synonyms, broader or narrower terms that describe your topic and any variations in the spelling of your terms to use when searching, including different word endings.

Search tips:  Use

  •    wildcards for alternate word endings:

neandert* (in the journal databases) instead of neanderthal(s) or neandertal(s)

  •    Quotation marks to keep phrases together:

"hand axe*" or "handaxe*" or axe*

Formulating your search strategy

Concept 1 Concept 2 Concept 3
paleolithic art Africa
  "cave painting" Namibia
  ochre Apollo 11 cave
  rock art  

   Use a wildcard * to indicate you don't care what letters follow

   Enclose phrases in quotation marks for more precise results, e.g. "stone tool*"


Popular vs. Scholarly


  • Written by experts
  • Reviewed by other experts
  • Written for scholars and students
  • Reports original research


  • Written by journalists
  • Reviewed by an editor
  • Written for the general public
  • Reports news, practical information...



You can identify an academic article by:

  1. Author’s credentials
  2. Published in a journal
  3. Academic language
  4. Includes reference list
  5. More than 6 pages long

Tips for reading an ANTH article

Search for peer reviewed journal articles

Use the Advanced search option or combine the keywords for each concept in a search statement using "and" between different concepts and "or" between terms in the same concept. 

If you are doing a Basic search, enclose the alternate keywords in brackets. 

Remember to use the * as a wildcard to allow for alternate word endings and spellings, e.g.     

paleolithic and music*

australopith* and (paranthropus or boisei or aethiopicus or robust*)

(dominan* or rank* or subordinat* or hierarch*) and "rhesus monkey*" and (male* or female* or gender)

Cite Your Sources in SAA Style

Article Searching Tips

Finding too much?

  • Use AND between ideas to search for BOTH terms
  • Put “Quotation Marks Around Your Search" to search for exact phrases

Finding too little?

  • Use OR between your ideas to search for EITHER term
  • Put * after the root of a word to look for multiple endings

For better searching, think of multiple ways to describe your topic

What You Need to Know About Citation

Citation is stating where you got your information.

The reasons you cite:

  • To give credit where credit is due – to avoid plagiarizing
  • To give information about a source so people (i.e. your instructor) can find it

You need to cite:

  • In the paper (in-text citations)
  • At the end (reference list)
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