Like archaeology itself, the key to writing archaeology essays is to dig for clues and come up with new and innovative answers. You need to take the physical evidence you have and interpret it so as to show how civilizations of the past might have lived. Whilst it is not always possible to be involved in the physical excavation of archaeological sites, this does not mean you cannot plan and create an excellent archaeology essay.
In this article there will be an analysis of all you need to know about planning, researching and writing for an excellent archaeology essay.
1. Choosing your essay topic
Choosing a topic for your archaeology essay is always going to be difficult as there are so many different areas within the subject to choose from. However, when you choose a subject for your archaeology essay the three most important factors to consider are the abundance of current research, potential access to primary excavation sites and your interest and understanding of the topic.
In archaeology, subjects range from the truly ancient topics of prehistoric remains and the great ancient civilisations to the more modern archaeology of the last 500 years or so. You need to make sure that the topic you pick is something that is worth covering in that it has not been fully answered by previous academic study. However, you also need to make sure that there is some current research and evidence of the subject so that you have something to compare and analyse your own findings with. If possible it is also important to have access to primary research in the form of dig sites or artefacts. There are many times where this is not possible but it will certainly enrich your archaeology essay if you can be part of the primary research.
Most importantly though you need to choose a subject that you understand well and have a real passion for. If you think that picking a complex archaeology subject will help your marks even though you know little about it and are not that interested in it, then you will likely write a poor essay. Keep to the subject areas that you know and enjoy as the ability to write knowledgeably and enthusiastically on a subject can only help to improve your final mark.
2. Create an essay structure
Archaeology as a subject requires discipline and the ability to structure your research in order to get the most out of it. This allows you to then interpret the findings of your archaeology essay creatively and stick to the question you wanted to answer. A strong background in the structures and analysis methods of science is crucial to creating a good archaeology essay. Unless these methods are followed your research and planning will go awry and the results of your essay will be far more unreliable. Structure your essay by looking at current research first, and then extensively plan any primary research you are going to carry out before continuing with the study. Make sure that you devote a large portion of the essay to displaying and interpreting your methodology and findings as this will show people how and why you have answered a specific question within the topic of archaeology.
3. Primary research – can you dig?
Having access to primary research within an archaeological field will greatly increase the academic worth of your essay. However, it is quite rare that you will have access to most subject areas and excavation sites, particularly if you are looking at obscure or ancient civilisations. However, having access to artefacts taken from primary research sites will also help and is much easier. Do not merely rely on textbooks and the words of other researchers for your data. Try and see first hand the artefacts you are analysing or if possible visit the sites where they were discovered. This will help to give you a better understanding of the topic and therefore make it easier to write knowledgeably throughout your archaeology essay.
4. Drafting and researching your essay
Whilst it can be hard to switch from your extensive research to the actual writing of the essay, it is one of the most important steps and needs to be done without delay. Do not procrastinate over details as these can be added to your archaeology essay at a later time. Instead, try to create a basic draft of your archaeology essay as soon as you have completed research. You will then find it easier to create a more polished essay later on. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes within the essay or have to come back to it later. The best essays are those that you write quickly at first and then can correct the style, flow and details of later on. Writing a number of drafts will also give you a greater opportunity to review your archaeology research and perhaps find new angles from which to analyse the data.
5. Sticking to your question
Archaeology is an extremely expansive subject that covers virtually all of our record-able history, and therefore it can be easy to stray into other topic areas when writing your essay. Whenever you are conducting archaeology research, writing your archaeology essay or planning your essay, you need to keep the original question in front of you. This will keep your mind firmly on the original research question and stop you from straying within your plan and your final writing. Whilst expanding into other subjects may seem interesting and what you write may be excellent, but if you don’t stick to the question then you are wasting valuable words within the word count and allowing the reader to be disinterested. If you can stick to a narrow field within your archaeology essay then you will be in a much better position to answer the original question.
Also, by focusing on a certain subject and planning to stay within this topic you will find it easier to write your archaeology essay in an analytical and argumentative style. These types of essay are generally awarded the best marks as they demonstrate not only your knowledge of archaeology but your ability to stick to a subject and maintain scientific discipline.
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