ANTHRO 718 A & B

Interpreting Biocultural Data


This course addresses data sources, data collection and ethics in relation to biocultural research, developing research skills and critical thinking. In the first semester, one component of the course focuses on data collection and analyses and aims to develop a robust understanding of both the "how" and "why" of research methods in a specific field, such as contemporary primatology. The other component focuses specifically on ethical research methods. Students are encouraged to tailor their assignments in this section to their own particular research interests and data sources (living people, non-human primates, human remains, archival data and so on), while considering the range of research conducted in biological anthropology and related fields and the importance of understanding and engaging with data and methods beyond their own particular specialisations. 

Additional course objectives

The second semester of this year long course introduces anthropometric data and data gathering methods useful in biocultural research. In most class sessions, students will learn or practice techniques associated with development of issues, data definition, collection, or analysis. Students are encouraged to think comprehensively about the nature of questions and how they can be appropriately addressed using primarily quantitative methods, but with awareness of the relevance of qualitative research.

Students successfully completing the course should:

  • Understand the ethical dimensions of biocultural research and be familiar with the relevant guidelines, codes of ethics and laws which apply to such research
  • Be familiar with the institutional ethics review process
  • Develop a working understanding of the major theoretical frameworks, methodologies and methods in a specific field
  • Become proficient in navigating the many nuances and challenges of fieldwork in biological anthropology
  • Understand how to carry out research that involves a variety of data gathering methods, including practical issues of measurement selection and definition, data analysis and quality control
  • Be familiar with a variety of anthropometric measurements and indices, including measurements of skin reflectance, and understand their utility and limitations
  • Be familiar with basic statistical concepts and issues including variable definition, sampling, measures of central tendency and dispersion, sources of error and hypothesis testing
  • Be aware of common parametric and non-parametric statistical tests used in hypothesis testing and the assumptions that underlie their use
  • Be aware of the differences in the ways cross-sectional and longitudinal growth data are collected, analysed and interpreted
  • Be familiar with Excel and aware of statistical software packages; understand the implications of the cliché “garbage in, garbage out”

Note that the order of activities within and between the two semesters may be altered from year to year depending upon staff availability.

To complete this course students must enrol in ANTHRO 718 A and B.

Availability 2022

Not taught in 2022




ANTHRO 718A: 15 points

ANTHRO 718B: 15 points