SOAS University of London

Department of Anthropology and Sociology

Independent Study Project in Social Anthropology

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

This module provides final-year Anthropology students the opportunity to conduct ethnographic and/or literature-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 an ISP.

An ISP requires independent work, original thought, long hours of research and concentrated drafting and re-drafting. Only those who successfully obtain a 2:1 or above in their penultimate year are likely to be able to cope with the workload. Students must obtain approval from the Anthropology ISP convenor to be admitted onto the module, based on the criteria stated below. 

The ISP module 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 full 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 in relation to your own projects. Students also form smaller working groups to circulate and discuss a series of formative writing exercises and ISP drafts.

In this collaborative intellectual endeavour, students are instrumental to the creation and maintenance of an environment of mutual engagement, camaraderie, respect and support -- that is, a learning community. To this end, you will be expected to be present and prepared for all class meetings and are also encouraged to meet regularly with your working group, from the first weeks of the term until the submisssion deadline. 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 class meetings, 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 the convenor and/or 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: typically, twice in Term 1 and twice in Term 2, in addition to shorter meetings in office hours. Please note: Students who do not attend class meetings, do not complete the weekly writing exercises, or do not read and comment on their classmates’ work may be required to withdraw from the ISP at the end of Term 1 and enrol in two additional 15-credit modules in Term 2 to ensure that they will obtain sufficient credits to complete their degree.

Admission onto the Module

Students wishing to enrol must have a coursework record and a proposal that clearly demonstrate the ability to undertake and successfully complete a project of this kind.

This requires all of the following:

  • a minimum 2:1 overall in the penultimate year
  • a minimum final result of 2:2 (50 or above) for all modules in Year 1
  • all outstanding coursework completed before September of the ISP year
  • a viable project proposal submitted by the May 10th deadline

In all cases, admission onto the module depends upon having a viable project idea. The proposal form is due by May 10th (Term 3) preceding the student's final year. The completed form should be submitted to the ISP convenor by email or in hard-copy in the Anthropology Department Office. Only when this been received will the convenor assess each student’s eligibility and confirm enrolment. Students should have a backup plan for an alternative pair of 15-credit modules in case their proposal is not approved.

List of Potential Supervisors and Their Areas of Expertise (pdf; 185kb)  

ISP Proposal Forms (pdf; 695kb)  

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. Due to continuing uncertainty over the safety of travel during the pandemic, the Hiskins Award is not available for 2021/22.

Hiskins Award Application Form (pdf; 177kb)

Hiskins Endorsement Form (pdf; 124kb)  

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.


  • minimum 2.1 overall in the penultimate year
  • minimum final result of 2.2 (50 or above) for all Anthropology modules in Year 1
  • all outstanding coursework completed before September of the ISP year
  • viable project proposal submitted by the May 10th deadline

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 and, in some cases, ethnographic field research;
  • prepare a 10,000-word essay, of similar length to a journal article, with an apparatus of citations and references in standard professional format;
  • evaluate and critique the work of their peers.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules