SOAS University of London

Department of Anthropology and Sociology

802 Research Training Seminar

Module Code:
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Year 1
Taught in:
Full Year

This two-hour, discussion-based seminar is the compulsory first-year research training module for all MRes students, run in conjunction with the MPhil Training Seminar for first-year MPhil students.

In term 1, students will be introduced to:

  • good writing practice, skills and techniques
  • ethics in anthropological research
  • decolonising anthropological research
  • audio-visual research methods and practice
  • how to construct a research proposal
  • funding bodies and applications
  • library orientation for research students

Other weeks across both terms will be focused on support for the students' own research proposal writing through tutor feedback and peer support and commentary.

Coursework requirements:

This course is aimed at supporting the writing of the MRes dissertation which is slightly different to the other MA dissertations in anthropology in that it carries 90 credits as opposed to 60, and it requires an additional 5,000 words and a methodological fieldwork proposal.

To this end, all students will be required to make various unassessed presentations in the seminars Questions to consider include: What makes good ethnography? What is an effective way of structuring an argument (both in writing and visually)? What makes for difficult reading or viewing? What are the boundaries of ethnography, and how have they changed, and continue to change? Longer presentations to be made during term 2 will consist of a section of the student’s dissertation. Selection of work for presentation should normally be discussed and agreed upon with the student’s supervisor. In term 2 students will be assigned to act as commentators on one another’s written pieces of work.

Course aims: 

In addition to supporting the written work students do and the ideas they explore in their individual tutorials with supervisors, the MRes Training Seminar also aims to introduce and hone transferable skills. These include the ability for composing and communicating both brief and more sustained seminar presentations; the skills to critically assess ethnographic writing and each others’ work in a productive manner; and the ability to contribute to discussions and the making of knowledge as a group member. The seminar provides a vital forum for students to discuss competing theoretical positions and approaches; and to consider different writing styles, forms of ethnographic representation, and ways of communicating results and ideas. All such aspects of the seminar are aimed at contributing to the intellectual and organisational development of the MRes dissertation.


Compulsory for students on:

MRes Social Anthropology

MRes Social Anthropology + Intensive Language

Run in conjunction with the MPhil Training Seminar for first-year students on the MPhil/PhD Anthropology and Sociology.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful complication of this module students will be able to:

  1. compose and communicate both brief and more sustained seminar presentations
  2. critically assess ethnographic writing
  3. provide constructive feedback to peers on work in progress
  4. contribute to academic discussions and the making of knowledge as a group member
  5. identify key theoretical postions and approaches to be adopted in the MRes dissertation
  6. assess and adopt different writing styles, forms of ethnographic representation and ways of communicating results and ideas
  7. elaborate a clear ethical understanding of their own and others' research projects
  8. situate their project in the broader context of academic 'decolonisation' i.e. in relation to issues of power, diversity, in/equality, representation and disciplinary knowledge.

Scope and syllabus

Term 1
Week 1: Introductions and overview
Week 2: What does an anthropological/ethnographic research project look like?
Week 3: Writing a research proposal
Week 4: Library tour and archival resources
Week 5: Ethics in anthropological research
Week 6: Presentation of project ideas/outlines with discussion
Week 7: Presentation of project ideas/outlines with discussion
Week 8: Research planning
Week 9: Fieldwork planning
Week 10: Recap and review

Term 2
Week 1: Student presentations and discussion
Week 2: Decolonising our research
Week 3: Student presentations and discussion
Week 4: Student presentations and discussion
Week 5: Thinking about research through impact
Week 6: The dilemmas of good fieldwork
Week 7: Writing ethnography workshop
Week 8: Research and academic freedom
Week 9: Student presentations and discussion
Week 10: Student presentations and discussion

Suggested reading

Representative readings:

  • Abu El-Haj, Nadia. 2017. Academic Freedom at Risk: The Occasional Worldliness of Scholarly Texts. Ch.9 in If Truth Be Told: The Politics of Public Ethnography, edited by Didier Fassin. Duke University Press, pp. 205-227.
  • Adjepong, A. 2019. Invading Ethnography: A Queer of Color Reflexive Practice. Ethnography 20 (1): 27–46.
  • Behar, Ruth. Ethnography in a Time of Blurred Genres. Anthropology and Humanism 32(2). (2007)
  • Crewe, E. and Axelby, R. 2013. Anthropology and Development. Culture, Morality and Politics in a Globalised World. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, chap 2.
  • Dilger, HJ. et al. 2019. Guidelines for Data Management and Scientific Integrity in Ethnography. Ethnography 20 (1): 3–7.
  • Fanon, F. The Wretched of the Earth, 1961, pp. 1-62.
  • Haase, Bill. Learning to be an Apprentice, in John Singleton (ed) Learning in Likely Places: Varieties of Apprenticeship in Japan. Cambridge: CUP 1998, pp. 107-121.
  • Mbembe, A. Decolonizing Knowledge and the Question of the Archive
  • Strathern, Marilyn (ed). 2000. Audit Cultures: Anthropological Studies in Accountability, Ethics and the Academy. New York: Routledge


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules