Posts Tagged ‘thesis’

Starting a Research Paper

August 25th, 2015
Comments Off on Starting a Research Paper

The beginning of a research paper can seem like an overwhelming task, not to mention that they can vary from discipline to discipline. Here are a few tips to help you get started:

In the beginning….

1) …there was an idea. What is a problem you are interested in? What are current events affecting history, archaeology, or cultural heritage? Find a topic that genuinely interests you or the paper will be a VERY long and painful process.

2) After you have identified a problem or a research question, come up with 5-8 keywords that summarize the topic and that can act as a guide for reviewing the literature.

3) Jot down some of your thoughts or ideas related to the topic.

4) Come up with a possible thesis statement. Don’t discount this step! This is the most critical part of the paper as you will constantly refer back to what you are trying to accomplish!

5) Make an outline of how your paper could be structured.

6) Start with a title that illustrates your paper topic. It should not be so vague that the reader doesn’t understand what you are writing about. Think of it as an abbreviated thesis statement that you can keep coming back to as you write.


Then you read, and read, and read!

This is the longest part:

1) Find 3-5 peer reviewed and/or published sources that form the main body of literature on your topic.

2) Browse them to identify how they relate to your topic and summarize them in 2-3 sentences. Your “most critical” references will evolve as you go through readings and you may find some that are better than initially found.

3) If you find a specific reference useful, look at the references used in that source. These will lead you to even more (and possibly better!) information! Think of it as information sleuthing.

4) When you are reading, make a note of the idea or block of text that you are interested in. Also note what source and page number you are getting it from. Bibliography software can help you keep track of all of your references and notes and even generate a bibliography in the citation style of your choosing. Most are free! Check here for a list!

5) Insert supporting statements or idea references into your paper text.


Then you write, and write, and write!

1) Break your paper into sections and focus on a section at a time if you need to.

2) Create a more detailed outline of each section to help formulate your thoughts.





Idea: ISIS is using the sale of artifacts that they have stolen to fund weapons acquisitions and terrorist activities. Has this occurred in the past? Does armed conflict encourage looting? Why do people do this!? What laws are in place to prevent this from happening!? How does the sale of artifacts impact the local people?

Keywords: looting, illegal sale of artifacts, archaeology, ISIS, funding terrorism


  • I can’t imagine that ISIS makes that much money off of artifacts.
  • Who is buying the objects? Locals?
  • Heard from Prof. Rawson today about the Red List, google it
  • I wonder what they are finding or looting that is of value?

Possible Thesis Statement: Local populations experience increased poverty due to the loss of their cultural heritage through sale of artifacts by ISIS.


Title: The Role of Artifacts in Terrorism Activities

  • 1.0 Introduction (2 pages)
    • 1.1 Who is ISIS?
    • 1.2 Problem of antiquities sales in the Middle East
  • 2.0 Literature Review (1-2 pages)
  • 3.0 Background (2 pages)
    • 3.1 History of looting in Syria
    • 3.2 Other terrorist groups that have sold artifacts
    • 3.3 Outcome of previous looting
  • 4.0 Discussion (3-4 pages)
    • 4.1 ISIS sale of artifacts
    • 4.2 How ISIS uses the money
    • 4.3 Effect of artifact sales on locals
  • 5.0 Conclusion (2 pages)
    • 5.1 How this impacts the world
    • 5.2 Future work


Main Sources:

  • Of the past, for the future : integrating archaeology and conservation : proceedings of the conservation theme at the 5th World Archaeological Congress, Washington, D.C., 22-26 June 2003
  • All the King’s Horses: Essays on the Impact of Looting and the Illicit Antiquities Trade on Our Knowledge of the Past, edited by Paula K. Lazrus and Alex W. Barker. American Journal of Archaeology Vol. 118, No. 2  (April 2014)
  • Looting and Theft of Cultural Property: Are We Making Progress?:


Ethics and Theory , ,

Conservation Advising FAQ’s

September 3rd, 2013

Conservation Advising FAQ’s

Susanne Grieve 

Students interested in cultural heritage conservation at ECU are typically enrolled in a masters program through the Department of History or Department of Anthropology. We often have students from other disciplines as well interested in doing research related to preservation.

To determine how conservation can fit into your curriculum, you are strongly encouraged to contact your program graduate studies director:

Department of History: Dr. Carl Swanson

Department of Anthropology: Dr. Christine Avenarius

They will be able to best advise you on how the conservation courses fit into your overall academic program and on thesis related questions!!!!

If you are interested in having a part of your thesis on conservation, you are encouraged to contact Susanne Grieve at to begin discussing ideas!

 1) What do professors look for when reviewing prospectuses?

Professors evaluate the thesis proposal as a whole until. In the beginning you should clearly demonstrate your research question. Where is the argument? What are you trying to hypothesize? Your thesis should somehow contribute to the body of research in your profession. Above all, make sure you have a clear research question identified! You also need to be able to demonstrate how your project fits into the bigger picture.

ECU History Website: “A thesis is an examination of a well-defined historical subject that relies chiefly on primary sources, published or unpublished, to form an argument.  It should possess some degree of original thought on the topic, or in its approach to that topic. The thesis should not be a compilation of detail or a simple narrative. Instead, it should pose an argument. It should be expository rather than descriptive.”

Refer to your Departmental Graduate Student Handbook for details on how to craft a prospectus. Here are some additional resources:

ECU Anthropology Graduate Student Guidelines (Please note Anthropology graduate students are expected to defend their thesis prospectus at the end of the first spring semester (May of your first academic year).


 2) What components should my thesis proposal have?

  • Title Page: List your title (which should indicate what your thesis is intending to cover), your name, date submitted, and committee.
  • Table of Contents
  • Research Proposal: 1-2 paragraphs maximum, this is where you highlight your thesis question and your argument
  • Introduction: What are you researching? Why is it important? How will it contribute to the field?
  • Historical Background
  • Research Proposal
  • Literature Review and Reference Literature: What resources are you going to use to do this research? What will be your primary sources?
  • Conclusion
  • Works Cited: List the references you have cited in your proposal.
  •  Appendix: Chapter Outlines, Timeline to Completion,

Be sure to use headings to organize your proposal and don’t forget to include images or tables to demonstrate your points.


3) What is the purpose of the thesis?

The thesis is meant to demonstrate that you have acquired the skills of the profession and that you can conduct an independent research project. It is also a good demonstration of your writing and research ability.


4) Is a thesis necessary?

The Department of Anthropology offers a non-thesis option for students. If you are remotely considering doing a PhD program, I highly suggest you complete a thesis. Even if you are not interested in education past a master’s degree, employers are looking for people who have good writing skills and your thesis is one way of demonstrating that ability. With that said, we are in a new era of employment and universities and employers may judge your professional work based on the amount of peer reviewed literature you have contributed to the field (ie: journal articles, publications, etc.). If you are planning to produce publishable work during your academic training then a thesis may not always be necessary. In conservation, having either publications or a thesis (or both!) will benefit you greatly if you plan on working at a museum or university.


5) Does my thesis have to include archaeology or history related topics?

If you are getting your degree in the Department of History or Department of Anthropology for public history, maritime studies, or archaeology, I highly suggest having some component of your thesis relate to your main field of study. There are many theoretical considerations in each of these fields that apply to those topics.


6) Like what?

Archaeology Theory

  • Site formation processes
  • Ethics of Recovery
  • In Situ Preservation

Public History Theory

  • Interpretation and Display
  • Value Systems


7) How long should my thesis be?

Refer to your Departmental Graduate Student Handbook, but generally the thesis should be between 80-120 pages.


8) Is a doctorate possible/necessary in conservation?

While a master’s degree is considered to be terminal degree in the field, there are a few universities that offer conservation specific doctoral programs. These often require you to have several years of experience for a research based degree or that you attend their masters program before entering the doctorate. A few examples of programs are the University of Melbourne and University College London. Check with the requirements of the programs to see if you would qualify.

9) Can I expect to leave the ECU program as a conservator?

The goal of our courses is not to produce conservators, but to expose students to the complexities of archaeological conservation through theory and practical experience. We will work on building up your portfolio during your time at ECU and meeting your interests and goals in conservation. There are several dedicated masters programs in conservation that will ensure you have employability once you graduate. These programs often require 400 hours of prior lab experience and Organic Chemistry training. For a list of universities that are dedicated conservation programs, please see the AIC website on Conservation Training Programs.


10) Do I have to focus on archaeological materials?

No, absolutely not! We work with a variety of institutions, museums, private citizens and organizations that have diverse collections of historical objects, family heirlooms, contemporary artworks decorative art, and folk art as well as archaeological materials. The laboratory was founded to work with maritime archaeological materials and while our strength is in treating these types of objects, we apply conservation methods to a variety of material types.


11) What courses can I take at ECU that relate to conservation?

There are four main courses offered in the Department of History that are cross listed with Anthropology:

  • HIST6840 Introduction to Archaeological and Museum Artifact Conservation
  • HIST6845 Advanced Archaeological and Museum Artifact Conservation
  • HIST6855 Principles of Archaeological and Museum Artifact Conservation
  • HIST6860 Archaeological Museum Conservation Methods Internship

We also offer material culture courses that are theory based:

  • HIST3993 Approaches to Historical Objects
  • HIST6825 American Maritime Material Culture

Please see the ECU online catalog for more information on the course offerings.


12) How many hours are required for the internship?

3 credit hours=140 hours on site

6 credit hours=280 hours on site

9 credit hours=420 hours on site


13) What official paperwork do I need to be aware of for completing my thesis?

After your prospectus is completed and approved by your committee, you will need to complete an approval form provided in the Department of History Graduate Student Manual. Also be sure to check the dates for when you need to have your thesis components submitted and defended at the ECU Thesis and Dissertation website.

General Conservation ,