SOAS University of London

Department of Anthropology and Sociology

Independent Study Project in Social Anthropology

Module Code:
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Year 3
Taught in:
Full Year

This course provides final-year Anthropology students the opportunity to conduct ethnographic and/or library-based research and to produce a 10,000-word dissertation on a topic of their choice. The production of a dissertation requires not only keen interest in a particular topic and strong self-motivation, but also a solid foundation in relevant topical areas of inquiry and a firm grasp of anthropological theory and methods. In preparation, Ethnography in Practice (compulsory for single-honours students in Year 2) is strongly recommended for joint-honours students wishing to do the ISP, either before or while taking this module.

The ISP is a workshop-based, full-year course, designed to provide focus and support as students formulate, research, and write the dissertation. Together, we will break down the project into smaller components, including refining the topic, formulating a proposal, engaging with relevant scholarly literature, making sense of ethnographic materials, keeping an eye on time management and planning ahead, and considering the craft of academic argumentation and writing itself. As a class, we will discuss short readings on research and writing as they relate to students’ own projects. Students will also form smaller working groups to circulate and discuss a series of formative writing exercises.

In this collaborative intellectual endeavour, students are expected to contribute to the production and maintenance of an environment of mutual respect, engagement, and support. There are five required class meetings each term, and students are also encouraged to meet regularly with their working group throughout the year. Note that regular attendance and active participation in class meetings is compulsory, and only students meeting this requirement will be permitted to proceed to Term 2.

Supervision and Progress

In addition to attending the ISP classes, each student will work independently on the dissertation under supervision of a member of the Department of Anthropology teaching staff. Prospective students should take the initiative to discuss their project with potential supervisors in Term 2 of the preceding year, in order to determine suitability and interest. Students will meet with their supervisors a minimum of four times during the ISP year: twice in Term 1 and twice in Term 2. By the end of November, each student’s progress will be reviewed by both the ISP convenor and the student’s supervisor. Students will be given advice regarding their project and will be informed whether they are on track to complete the module.

Please note: Students who fail to attend the seminar, fail to complete formative assignments and/or fail to comment on their colleagues’ work may be required to withdraw from the ISP and enrol in two additional 15-credit modules in term 2 to ensure that they will obtain their degree by the end of Year 3.

Admission to the Module

Students wishing to enrol must have a record of coursework and a proposal that both clearly demonstrate the ability to undertake and successfully complete a project of this kind. A minimum average of 50 in Y1 (final results) and 60 in Y2 (all coursework to date) is required. In rare cases, students with a lower average or missing coursework may be admitted onto the course if their marks have improved steadily over time, or if they can demonstrate other mitigating circumstances.

In all cases, admission onto the module depends upon having a viable project and a supervisor, both of which must be settled by the end of Term 3 preceding the student's final year. The completed proposal form is due in the Anthropology Department Office or via email to the ISP convenor by May 10th. Only when these materials have been received will the convenor assess each student’s eligibility and confirm enrolment.

The completed proposal form and preliminary ethics paperwork must be submitted to the course convenor by April 30th.

Only when these materials have been received will the ISP convener confirm each student’s eligibility and enrolment.

List of Potential Supervisors and Their Areas of Expertise (pdf; 91kb)  

ISP Proposal and Ethics Forms (pdf; 385kb)  

Hiskins Fieldwork Award

The Hiskins Fieldwork Award provides a grant of up to £500 for fieldwork to be carried out for an ISP in Anthropology at SOAS. Applicants should demonstrate their ability to complete an ISP to a high standard by meeting the following criteria: (1) an outstanding research proposal; (2) an excellent academic profile for Year Two; (3) an endorsement from their intended supervisor, to be submitted under separate cover using the required form; and (4) a well-conceived fieldwork plan and budget. Instructions are provided on the application form. Deadline for consideration: May 10th.

Hiskins Award Application Form (pdf; 147kb)  

Students planning fieldwork may also wish to apply for the School-wide Undergraduate Vacation Research Award (UVRA). Six awards are granted each year. Please note that the Hiskins Award and UVRA cannot be held simultaneously.


  • Students enrol via the on-line Module Sign-Up system.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

Students will develop the skills to:

  • work independently on a research question of their choosing;
  • develop and pursue that question via library research (possibly augmented by personal experience);
  • write an argued essay, of similar length to a journal article, with an apparatus of footnotes and references in standard professional format.
  • evaluate and critique the work of their peers.

Method of assessment

100% coursework. Students are encouraged to submit their work well before the deadline. The work must be computer-generated, in a 12-pt, readable font (Times New Roman preferred), double-spaced, with a word count. Maximum length for dissertations is 10,000 words including footnotes, but excluding captions, bibliography, and appendices of original source materials not written by the candidate. School policy on plagiarism and on research ethics will be strictly enforced.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules