Written summary & analysis | Topics in Anthropology: Archaeology of Death | School of the Art Institute of Chicago

The skill I am trying to assess with this assignment is your ability to appropriately and effectively represent an author’s work to a peer who is interested in the text, but who will never have a chance to read that text. In this case, appropriate representation involves three things: (1) Appropriate contextualization of the text (who wrote it? when? where [i.e., in what magazine, journal, newspaper, volume] was it published); (2) a summary that effectively “boils down” what the author is trying to do in the text; (3) an analysis of why the text matters in the course, in terms of the course topic we’re exploring on the day your article was assigned, and to someone who is generally interested in the subject on which the author is writing. 

In terms of the particulars:  

  • This should be a single, coherent essay, that is, a piece of work that reads smoothly from beginning to end. That means you need to think about how to introduce the work, how to develop a summary that would be accessible to someone who has not read the work, how to transition into your analysis/commentary on the work, and how to conclude the essay.
  • I usually am not a stickler on length requirements, but I very much want students to land between 600 and 800 words on this.  I will penalize the essay for missing the mark on either end, so consider the scope of the work.
  • Your essay should be double-spaced, edited, proofread, and presented in “standard English.” If you turn in something that is filled with grammatical and structural errors, I will return it without substantive commentary, and you’ll need to use your one rewrite to bring it up to snuff. 

Content-wise, here are things I’m looking for: 


  • Article context—Briefly, who wrote it and when? Who is the intended audience? End your brief introduction with one sentence that captures the author’s main argument or goal.
  • Article’s moving parts. (Summary section)
    • Your “naive reader” should understand what kind of article this is (research report, journalism, theory building, etc.)
    • Your “naive reader” should have a clear idea of the author’s main argument and how the author supports their argument.
    • In this summary, be sure you are not simply “re-narrating” the article. Your goal is to make the article’s main points accessible to a reader who is not in the class and who will never have an opportunity to read the article.  In achieving that, bear in mind that you don’t need to follow the author’s organization from front to back (in fact, rearranging material in an order that makes sense to you is likely to improve your work, as it demonstrates your mastery of the material).
  • Article’s significance. (Analysis section)
    • Why does this article matter in the field?
    • Why does it matter in the context of the class, particularly in terms of the topic for the week you are presenting?
    • What are the implications of the article for a student of anthropology? What are the implications for someone interested in this topic? 

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