lil corner Tufts Anthropology Department top o' the page Tufts Anthropology Collective - "We're Watching You" pen and highlighter shadow another shadow
Tufts University

Student Work

A Taste of Student Work | Writing an Abstract
Student Work on Faculty Research Projects

A Taste of Student Work

The following opening paragraphs are taken from student papers in anthropology courses, representing the varied subjects of the discipline.

“…I seek to bring into the same analytical framework the economic rationalities of globalization and the cultural dynamics that shape human and political responses” (Ong, 5). In her book, Flexible Citizenship, Aihwa Ong prescribes a shift away from the traditional dichotomy between a global or local approach to social movements. While Ong provides a framework for viewing postmodern globalization and transnational processes, the notion of attending to both sociopolitical macro-processes, as well as individual, locally situated processes serves as a constructive lens from which to view the pre-World War II waves of immigrants from Asia to America. The tendency to homogenize the Asian American immigration experience has informed the collective identity of Asian Americans as “strangers from abroad”, thus reinforcing the conceptualization of Asian Americans as a singular group. Yet despite the compelling commonalities, a clearer picture is constructed if we zoom in our lens to additionally consider how prevalent political and historic circumstances manifested themselves differently across nationality groups and across individuals. Asian American immigration prior to World War II is most accurately described as an intersection between the global and the local: not a tidal wave, but a series of multiple waves, driven by the same current onto the same shore.

“The diversity of Asia is most evident in Southeast Asia. No empire ever united or even pretended to unite all its peoples, its peaks and valleys, or its vast island chains, though plenty of rulers claimed to be god-kings of the whole world” (Heinz, 185). If god-kings would not even take on the insurmountable task of homogenizing Southeast Asia, why do we continually refer to “Southeast Asia” as a unified culture area? Discourse regarding Southeast Asia as a culture area is a legitimate conceptualization of the broad historical forces that shaped these countries and cultures, validating its distinction as a contemporary geopolitical and economic region. In terms of cultural heterogeneity versus homogeneity, however, Southeast Asia presents a prime example of the limitations of categorization that oversimplifies internal diversity. Unified conceptions of Southeast Asia are contingent upon space, the geographic boundedness that exposed the contemporary nations of Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, and Brunei to similar historical factors. As a result the cultural diversity that emerged form the interaction between these broad historical forces and preexisting cultures becomes more pronounced when decontextualized from this loose geographic unity. Once the cultures of Southeast Asia transcend boundaries of space, their diversity, rather than unity, becomes more apparent. In the case of Southeast Asian immigrants to the United States, we see a greater salience of particular ethnic groups, translated into dialogue about the Hmong and the Khmer rather than about a generalized Southeast Asian experience. Thus, geographic displacement unravels the forces that validate the unified conception of this culture, an explanation for why there is discourse about Southeast Asia, but not Southeast Asian America.

In his latest book, Redesigning Humans, Gregory Stock addresses the challenges that we face in the upcoming years as the popularity of biotechnology grows exponentially. Stock states that the increasing trend towards artificial intelligence and the new genetic discoveries "will greatly influence the pace and extent of our ability to reshape human biology" (Stock, 2002). Although in his opinion humans will never become the artificial cyborgs represented in science fiction films such as the Terminator, Stock argues that the trend to incorporate electronic body parts may turn us into functional cyborgs or "fyborgs". While humans are nowhere close to creating robots that rival our ability to think and process, such as George Lucas's legendary C3PO, we are in fact becoming increasingly dependant upon machines in our daily life. The human cyborg is not far away.

Due to the media's increasing use of slim female models and images of nearly unattainable body measurements, young women are subjected to images of the “perfect” female body and are subsequently distorting their own body images. Complaints about body fat have become normal discourse among females. According to Alexandra Brewis, “This pattern of body image distortion is considerably more pronounced and more common in women than in men, to the point that it is considered a characteristically female phenomenon (1999). Is it true, then, that adolescent males are not as bound to societal values when it comes to body image? Men are also subjected to standards of appearance, but American culture manifests values for male attractiveness in different areas. Rather than conforming to one certain body shape or weight, men find pressure in conforming to images of masculinity.

« Back to top

Guidelines for Writing an Abstract


The Writing Center Guide to Writing an Abstract
  • An abstract is a short informative or descriptive summary of a longer report.
  • It is written after the report is completed, although it is intended to be read first.
  • In a technical report, the abstract appears on a separate page after the table of contents and list of illustrations.
  • In an essay written for a humanities class, it most likely should appear on a separate page, just after the title page and therefore just before the essay itself.
  • There are two distinct types of abstracts:
    • A DESCRIPTIVE abstract merely identifies the areas to be covered in the report. It is an extended statement of purpose or scope. Such an abstract is only useful for a very long report, because it demonstrates only the paper's organization, not its content.
    • An INFORMATIVE abstract summarizes the entire report and gives the reader an overview of the facts that will be laid out in detail in the paper itself. It is rarely longer than one page and should never exceed more than 10% of the length of the entire report; otherwise it defeats its own purpose.
  • Several potential uses for abstracts:
    • An executive preparing a comprehensive report might ask her assistant to abstract articles from different levels of periodicals to provide information quickly and to help her decide whether to read the complete articles.
    • A professional might read the abstract accompanying a journal article to decide if it is worth her time to read the full article.
    • Libraries subscribe to abstracting journals and series (including Dissertation Abstracts International) to provide an overview of content.
    • Certain congressional and association newsletters provide abstracts of newspaper articles that pertain to issues relevant to their memberships.
  • How to write an informative abstract:
    • Plan to write an abstract that is no more than 10% of the length of the essay.
    • In the first draft, note key facts, statistics, etc. that you need to include.
    • Do not include a statement of scope; a sentence like "this paper will look at...." is inappropriate in an informative abstract.
    • Be sure to omit or condense lengthy examples, tables, and other supporting detail.
    • Revise the draft into smooth, stand-alone prose; the abstract itself should be a mini-essay.
    • Edit the revision. Be sure that the abstract is complete and accurate. Double check that the abstract is written in the same voice as is the paper.

« Back to top

Student Work with Faculty Research Projects

David Guss
Lost Theaters of Somerville

Deborah Pacini-Hernandez
Urban Borderlands
Digital Storytelling

Rosalind Shaw
Memories from Medford

« Back to top
page curl