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What's in this guide

1. How to find information for a comparative essay

2. How to find book reviews

3. How to find articles on theorists and theories

Your Term Paper Assignment

You've been assigned a comparative essay: you need to select two books and address the core questions in the assignment outline.

In addition to comparing the two books, you also need to consider how it contributes to your understanding of anthropological theories. 

1. Read the books

You can't write a comparative essay if you haven't read the books.

When reading, keep in mind the core questions from the assignment. Make a table.

It might also be helpful to examine:

  • How have the theorists have framed their theories? How are the ideas separated out into chapters? How does the ideas in one chapter lead to ideas in the next?
  • Do they reference other theories or theorists? How have they done this?

Remember to read everything with a critical mind.

Identify key concepts and search terms as you read.

2. Find some Background Information

How this helps you:

  • Find an overview of your topic
  • Define terms
  • Identify key books and articles in your topic area

Good resources for research on anthropological theory:

3. Find book reviews

Search Library Search Box for the book title using quotations (e.g. "patterns of culture")

"See all articles/chapters" under the Articles & Book Chapters column

On the full results page, use the Content Type delimiter (left column) to include only Book Reviews:


Need more book reviews?  

Two useful review journals: Anthropological Theory and Critique of Anthropology 

Check out these databases for even more reviews




4. Where to search for Books and Articles

Library search will look for materials in a variety of formats across many different disciplines.

Databases tend to be subject-specific and have specific formats (e.g. journal articles). 


Try searching for the theorist's name first. This will give you an idea of how much material is available on that person. 
In some databases, you'll need to use the theory or school of thought to find materials.


In Anthropology Plus andSocINDEX, use wildcard * to get variations.
e.g. Famil* will return family, families, familial

5. Write, edit, cite

The Student Success Centre has great online resources for structuring and organizing, grammar, and editing.

Your professor has specified the American Anthropological Association citation style for this assignment. Check out my simplified guide to citing with AAA.

Ways to avoid plagiarism

Cite your sources both within the text of your paper as well as in a reference list at the end.

Hand in original assignments for each class. 

When taking notes from a source, re-write the ideas in your own words (avoid cut-and-paste) -- unless you plan on using it as a quote.

When citing someone else's exact words, use quotation marks AND cite the source. Quote sparingly.

Paraphrase properly: make sure you understand the gist, look away, and rewrite in your own words. Think about how this idea fits into the larger scheme of your paper. You still need to cite even when you're not using the author's exact words.

Evaluating search results

Is it relevant?

Read the abstract.

Look at the subject terms (these indicate the main focus of the article).

How do I know if this is a "good" article?

Here is a general method for evaluating your source:

Currency - How long ago was this information written? Are you researching in a subject area where it is important for you to have the most up-to-date information?

Reliability - Can you rely on the information in this source? Consider where you found it and what sources it cites (or doesn't cite).

Authority - Who wrote it?

Purpose - Why did they write it?

In addition to these criteria, you should also think about how the information fits into your topic. What does it add to your discussion?

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