Anthropology, according to Dictionary.com, is the study of human beings' similarity to and divergence from other animals. As a social science, its study includes the origins, physical and cultural development, biological characteristics and social customs and beliefs of mankind. The field is further divided into biological, cultural/social and linguistic anthropology and archeology. Any of these areas might serve as excellent focal points for a research project.
Biological anthropology or physical anthropology is the study of human development and includes paleoanthropology or hominid evolution, primatology, analyses of modern human health and disease, forensic anthropology, molecular anthropology , and bioarchaeology. In biological anthropology, a project might involve human adaptation, or rather the human adaptive response to stressors and variation. For example, one project could focus on the human adaptive response to space flight, another to slavery or imprisonment.
Cultural anthropology is the study of society and societal interactions, of the human way of life. Such research takes an on-site immersion in the field. It includes long-term observation and intimate knowledge of a community. As a member of the human race, each person has a foundation for which to base a project on. Household organization and structure, for example, is a subject that has received much attention. Consider a project on the changing household roles or expectations, whether in the United States, India or elsewhere. Or a project could study those changing roles in a family of first- and second-generation immigrants and how their adopted homeland has facilitated this.
Linguistic anthropology is the study of the structure and evolution of human language, both contemporary and extinct. More specifically, it is the study of how language, culture and human cognition come together. Project ideas include those on language variation and change and could study anything from the evolution of a neologism into everyday acceptance to the formation of a Creole dialect among Haitians or Jamaicans.
Archeology is the study of prehistoric people and their corresponding culture. The surveying, excavation and analysis of data taken by way of artifacts and biofacts or through the studying of architecture and landscapes help to provide a backdrop for the study of past human cultures. Projects could focus on the methods employed in the study of these cultures, namely, proper practices and methodology for surveying, excavating and analyzing within the field. Or, as an alternative, projects can speak to the pitfalls of poorly executed excavations and the damage such practices have caused.
- ruins image by Dianne Burridge from Fotolia.com