This section illustrates a number of strategies with which anthropology information may be meaningfully organized. It is most effective to use a combination of these information organization strategies. Complete descriptions of these strategies are provided in the Organization page of the General Purpose Learning Strategies main stack.
Anthropology information such as terms and definitions, people and their accomplishments, time periods or dates and their significance, lists, and graphics may be organized using flash cards. Flash cards are a good strategy for Kinesthetic learners because the hands-on, manipulative nature of flash cards plays to their strengths. Visual learners might choose to add on flash cards drawings or images that serve as memory triggers. Auditory learners should subvocalize or speak aloud the information while making and reviewing flash cards. For many students, color coding flash cards by topic or chapter is a helpful strategy.
Shown below are examples of flash cards for an introductory cultural anthropology course (D. Applegate, CAL).
Examples of flash cards for archaeology material are provided below (D. Applegate, CAL).
Illustrated below are examples of flash cards for an introductory physical anthropology course (D. Applegate, CAL).
Linguistics flash cards are provided below (D. Applegate, CAL).
Running Concept Lists
Running concept lists are similar to flash cards in function but differ in format. Anthropology information - terms, people, dates, lists, graphics - is organized on a single piece of paper instead of individual note cards.
Divide the paper into two columns. The left-hand column contains the terms, names, and dates while the right-hand column is used to record the corresponding definitions, contributions, and events. It is advisable to put related information (by topic or by chapter) on the list and to title the list. Color coding may be used to enhance your ability to associate related information and to distinguish unrelated material.
Shown below is an example of a running concept list for cultural anthropology.
An example of an archaeology running concept list is given below.
Illustrated here is an example of a running concept list for physical anthropology.
A running concept list using linguistics information is shown below.
Matrices or tables are used to organize large amounts of anthropology information. They are good for comparing and contrasting the attributes of two or more anthropology concepts. Visual and sequential learners often like using matrices, although any type of learner might try this strategy.
Shown below is an example of a cultural anthropology matrix that shows the similarities and differences among the four human subsistence modes. The information derives from D. B. Bates' Cultural Anthropology (1996, Allyn & Bacon).
An example of an archaeology matrix for ancient civilizations is provided here.
Illustrated below is a physical anthropology matrix that compares and contrasts Old World and New World monkeys.
The linguistics matrix shown here summarizes information about different types of writing systems.
For anthropology information that ranges from general to specific, hierarchies or arrays are great ways to show relationships among ideas. The organizer may be oriented vertically, which is the traditional format (like a family tree), or horizontally, with the most general information to the left side. Color coding different "branches" of the hierarchy aids in distinguishing related information.
Shown below are examples of hierarchies that might be appropriate for cultural anthropology courses. The first is a tree hierarchy that summarizes different kinds of descent groups. The second is a column hierarchy that organizes information about Native American education in the early twentieth century.
The horizontally organized hierarchy presented here shows different methods of archaeological artifact recovery.
Illustrated below is a tree hierarchy for physical anthropology that shows the divisions of the primate order.
This Indo-European language family hierarchy is adapted from W. P. Lehmann's Language: An Introduction (1983, Random House, p. 190).
Compare-Contrast Venn Diagrams
Similarities and differences between two anthropology concepts, terms, time periods, or people can be graphically organized in Venn diagrams. Color coding helps to distinguish similarities and differences. This strategy may be particularly helpful for visual and random learners taking anthropology courses.
This Venn diagram comparing and contrasting the theoretical perspectives of unilineal evolutionists and Whitean evolutionists might be useful in a cultural anthropology course.
This Venn diagram below compares and contrasts Old World monkeys and New World monkeys. This same material was presented in a matrix format above - compare the two organizational strategies and see which you prefer.
Time Lines and Continuum Charts
Material presented in all types of anthropology classes can be organized into time lines and continuum charts. The organizers may be absolute, with actual dates or time periods, or they may be relative, simply arranging the information in some logical order from one point to another; both types are illustrated below. Time lines and continuum charts may be oriented vertically or horizontally.
Shown below is an absolute time line summarizing the development of cultural anthropology theory. [Note that the time line is incomplete; all theoretical developments are not listed in order to keep the example simple.]
The relative continuum scale below might be used in an archaeology course; it illustrates the stages of plant domestication (stages from B. Smith).
Students in a physical anthropology course might arrange the stages of primate evolution into an absolute time line such as the one below.
A highly sequential way to organize anthropology information, written outlines may be formal (with indented Roman numerals, capital letters, number, and lower case letters) or informal (with symbols and indentation) to separate different levels of information. They help in seeing relationships among pieces of anthropology information, especially relationships between main ideas and details.
An example of a formal outline for archaeology material is shown here. Below it is the same information presented in an informal outline (D. Applegate, CAL).
Human Interaction Outlines
A lot of anthropology deals with human interaction: interactions between social classes, kin groups, tribes, states, or people and the environment. One way to organize such information is human interaction outlines. The strategy works best for examining only two groups at a time.
The human interaction outline below might be used in an archaeology course; it shows the relationships between the Aztec and Spanish in sixteenth century Mesoamerica.
Anthropological information that is processual, spatial, or temporal in nature - cultural systems are a prime example - may be organized using flow charts. In a flow chart, components of a concept or thing are separated and lines are drawn between the components to show the direction of relationships. There are a variety of flow chart formats: vertical linear, horizontal linear, cyclical, and combinations. The type you use depends on the nature of the anthropology material.
Illustrated here is a vertically linear flow chart showing the steps in the fall of the Aztec empire during the early 1500's; it might be used in an archaeology course.
A cyclical flow chart illustrating factors of high altitude stress is reproduced below. It is from Baker and Little's Man in the Andes (1976, Dowden, Hutchinson, and Ross Pub.).