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Department of Social Anthropology


In conjunction with the University and Colleges, the Department of Social Anthropology is committed to providing opportunities for acquiring and developing skills that enhance academic performance, are sought after by employers, and can be used beyond the undergraduate career. Some of these skills are common to all subjects and should be acquired by all Cambridge undergraduates before they leave; others are more specific to Social Anthropology.


Generic skills

  • Intellectual skills: criticism, analysis, synthesis, problem-solving. Lectures, seminars, examinations, dissertations, supervisions, independent reading and project work are all relevant here;
  • Communication skills: writing and oral presentation. In your written work, supervisions and seminar presentations you might experiment with different styles and formats appropriate to different kinds of audience;
  • Organisational skills: independent work, initiative and resourcefulness, time management, project management, organisation of events;
  • Interpersonal skills: flexibility, adaptability and the ability to work with or motivate others. Group work and discussion in seminars and supervisions, field research projects and participation in Department or Faculty committees are relevant examples here.


Skills more specific to Social Anthropology

  • Research skills: preparing written work involves the basic skills of independent library/ internet research and critical analysis. In addition to research design, the final year dissertation (see Dissertation) typically involves the skills required in qualitative field research: participant observation, surveys, census taking and questionnaire work, handling and processing data, writing up;
  • Audio-visual skills: film, video, still photography and audio-recording are all basic tools of anthropological research and teaching. Special courses deal with the theoretical aspects and critical appreciation of audio-visual material; film or video may be submitted as part of a dissertation;
  • Foreign language skills: many key anthropological works are in French, German, Spanish and Portuguese and field research for dissertations often involves work beyond the English-speaking world. The University has a Language Centre and offers courses leading to a diploma or certificate in modern languages. Students should make every effort to improve their foreign language skills;
  • Intercultural skills: the study of anthropology and the experience of fieldwork provide opportunities to develop skills in dealing with broader issues related to ethnic and cultural difference.