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Anthropology Research Guide

Background Information

Anthropology is a wide-ranging field with four subfields: Cultural/Social Anthropology, Physical/Biological Anthropology, Linguistics, and Archaeology. Anthropology also overlaps with a number of other disciplines, including biology, ecology, sociology, psychology, economics, political science, women's studies and various area studies. Therefore, in anthropology, in order to do comprehensive research, it is important to think about which other disciplines are relevant to your topic.

General Reference Sources:

Reference sources such as encyclopedias, dictionaries, handbooks, or guides to the literature are a great way to find background information on a topic as well as build a vocabulary for searching in the discipline.

  • Sage Research Methods Online: A research methods tool created to help researchers, faculty and students with their research projects. It links over 100,000 pages of SAGE’s book, journal, and reference content. Explore methods concepts to help you design research projects, understand particular methods or identify a new method, conduct research, and write up findings.
  • Reference Universe: Access to over 15 million authoritative citations to 11,000 specialized print and electronic encyclopedias.


Click on the title to get to the catalog record. To find additional handbooks, search for anthropology handbook or archeology handbook as the keyword in  discoverE.


Biological Anthropology

Cultural Anthropology

Creating a Search Strategy

  • Try different keywords and search terms using different databases and catalogs. Every database is different so some keywords and search terms work for one database but not for another.
  • Expand your search by:
    • including synonyms and plural/singular forms of keywords. Separate synonyms by OR. Separate the synonyms from the rest of the words by using parentheses.
    • use truncation symbols (or wildcard symbols) to search variations of your search terms (e.g. scien$ for sciences, scientific, scientfically, etc.) See truncation guide for truncation symbols.
  • Narrow your search by:
    • combining different concepts/search terms with AND
    • using the limit functions of the database. Look in the database's HELP function to discover the limit functions it offers. Possibilities include limiting by date, language, type of article, etc.
  • Keep a record of what search terms work and which databases work for your topic. This can help you from repeating your steps.
  • Did you find an article you really like? Then, read the cited references (a.k.a. bibliography, end notes, footnotes) to find similar articles. Unfortunately, this can bias your project by focusing on only one side of an issue.
  • Ask for help. Ask a librarian for search tips. Also, use the help screens in the databases for instructions and tips.
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