Academic Resources

Senior Thesis Guidelines

Semester before thesis semester:

  • Contact a potential thesis advisor.
  • Four double-spaced page proposal due to advisor by date determined by department.
  • Final draft due to the department by date determined by the department.
  • Beginning of pre-registration: department decision on proposal

Thesis semester

  • Beginning of semester: consultations with first and second faculty supervisors
  • Mid-term: begin writing
  • Second to last or last week of classes: public oral presentation of thesis
  • Final exam week: submit signed final draft of thesis to department

MAP and the Senior Thesis, is designed to provide students an opportunity to do a piece of research and writing in any area of anthropology under the direction of two members of the anthropology faculty. A senior thesis may be based on original research, library research, or a combination of the two, but in any case should build on a student's previous course work in anthropology. It should include a thorough review of relevant previous literature and develop an original argument on the topic. In addition to a written paper, students are expected to do a public presentation of their thesis.

All Senior Theses are considered Mentored Advanced Projects (MAPs). Under this program the college may provide some funding for necessary expenses incurred during the completion of a thesis. Application for such funds must be made through a faculty member. There is also funding for students to present their theses at appropriate professional meetings any time within a year of graduation. Application for these funds is through the Dean's Office.

Application Procedure

Enrollment in MAP or Senior Thesis is not automatic. Students must apply for permission to complete a senior thesis. The application consists of a written proposal to the department that explains the thesis topic and the student's ability to successfully complete it. Students interested in submitting a thesis proposal should consult with a department member by the fifth week of the semester prior to that in which the thesis is to be written. Applications are due by two weeks before the first day of pre-registration for the semester in which the thesis is to be written. The faculty must be convinced that the student has already done enough work on the topic to allow the successful completion of a thesis by the end of the semester. The department will evaluate applications, will notify candidates of the departmental decision prior or during pre-registration, and if the proposal is accepted will assign a second reader.

The proposal should include:

  1. A Statement of the studen'ts background relevant to completing the project, including previous coursework, off-campus study experience, and other experience (approx. 1 page)
  2. A bibliography with annotations of the sources that have already been used
  3. The signature of a faculty member in the department who has agreed to be the primary supervisor for the thesis
  4. Description of the thesis topic (approximately 4 double-spaced pages)
  • Statement of the central question(s) or hypothesis to be investigated.
  • Brief overview of different ways this topic has been treated in recent scholarship [1]
  • Clear indication of what theoretical approach or approaches will be used in the thesis and why.
  • Clear indication of what methods will be used and, if the thesis entails work with living persons, an expression of understanding of the role of the Institutional Review Board (IRB)

Thesis Preparation and Submission 

Generally, students should plan to begin actual writing no later than mid-semester. This means that a considerable part of the necessary research must be completed prior to the beginning of the semester. It is the department's expectation that the student will work closely with the primary faculty supervisor throughout the semester. The secondary reader's role is more flexible, but at least will include close consultation with the student and the primary reader early in the semester as the topic and approach are being refined, and again toward the end of the semester to evaluate drafts of the thesis.

In the past, senior theses in anthropology have been anywhere from 30 to 60 pages long. Examples of previous theses are available for examination in Goodnow Hall. In preparing the final draft, students should use one of the major citation and bibliographic styles used in the discipline. (see the guidelines of the American Anthropological Association for an example.) The timing of a student's oral presentation of the thesis will be based on mutual agreement, normally prior to final examination week

The student should submit an electronic version of the thesis to Marna Montgomery (montgomm[at]grinnell[dot]edu), Academic Support Staff in Goodnow Hall. The student should also prepare three copies of the final draft of the thesis, one for each reader and one for department files. The two readers will decide whether or not to accept the final version as submitted, indicating their acceptance by signing the copy of the thesis that will become part of the department's collection.

[1] We envision not a comprehensive historical overview of the literature as much as a contextualization of where the student's topic fits within a larger area of discourse, and then an indication of which conversation regarding the topic (perhaps of several possible ones) the student intends to join. The student, working with his/her advisor and other members of the department, should in the proposal identify, and at least briefly discuss, some of the important approaches that have been taken to the topic, but we do not expect the student to incorporate every one of these approaches in the final thesis.

General Links
Biological Anthropology Links
Cultural Anthropology Links
  • Culture and Agriculture section of AAA - The purposes of the Group shall be (a) to develop the study and understanding of agrarian systems from a holistic, social science perspective, and (b) to link academics and practitioners concerned with agrarian issues, agricultural development, and agricultural systems through dissemination of scientific research, encouragement of effective instruction, and to encourage application of knowledge to public policy.
  • Society for the Scientific Study of Religion - The Society for the Scientific Study of Religion stimulates, promotes, and communicates social scientific research about religious institutions and experiences. Founded in 1949, SSSR fosters interdisciplinary dialogue and collaboration among scholars from sociology, religious studies, psychology, political science, economics, international studies, gender studies, and many other fields. Its flagship publication, the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, is the most cited resource in the field.
  • Sustainable Living Coalition (Fairfield, Iowa)
  • Cultural Survival
  • UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
Linguistic Anthropology Links
Archaelolgy Links

Field School Resources


Archaeology Abroad Update No. 21

Archaeology Abroad comes out annually in March/April and provides information about hundreds of varied and exciting archaeological fieldwork opportunities outside the UK suitable for all pockets, archaeological interests and levels of experience.

In addition to extensive excavation and field school listings, Archaeology Abroad contains comprehensive guidance notes and advice about choosing and applying to join an excavation project abroad, plus directory-style sections on the British Schools and Institutes abroad and a wide range of other relevant organisations, learned societies, publications and on-line resources. Further information can be found on the web site at:

Archaeology Abroad subscribers also receive Archaeology Abroad Email Updates which are produced on an occasional basis and provide subscribers with information about additional excavation and field school opportunities throughout the remainder of the year. As the year progresses, Email Updates increasingly list projects for the autumn and winter months and for the following year.

Archaeology Abroad and Archaeology Abroad Email Updates are produced as PDF files, which are easy to use and navigate and allow quick access to additional information via live email and web links.

American Institute of Archaeology

These include field school and volunteer opportunities all over the world, with some emphasis on classical sites in the Old World, and field schools in the Americas. There are links to field school scholarships and information for those preparing to go on a dig.

Art Collection

Seri Ironwood Carvings

This gallery was created by Egan Liias '05 and Cristina Wood '05, both Anthropology majors at Grinnell College, as a part of their 2004 summer research/M.A.P project.

Work was done with the collection of Seri carvings donated by Dale B. Furnish '62, in order to create physical exhibition cases in Goodnow Hall and this virtual gallery to share Mr. Furnish's generous gift with the public.

Our work also included research on the Seri Indians of Sonora, Mexico; focusing on numerous aspects of their culture, and the necessities for beginning the art of ironwood carving.

We would like to give special thanks to Dale Furnish, Jim Lindell, Lesley Wright, Kathy Kamp, Fred Hagemeister, Paula Forbes, Grinnell College Anthropology Department, and the Faulconer Gallery for all their support.