Social Research Glossary


A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z Home


Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2012-20, Social Research Glossary, Quality Research International,

This is a dynamic glossary and the author would welcome any e-mail suggestions for additions or amendments. Page updated 19 December, 2019 , © Lee Harvey 2012–2020.


A fast-paced novel of conjecture and surprises



core definition

Anthropology is the study of one society by researchers from another, usually more technologically developed, society.

explanatory context

Anthropology was originally the study of non-technological societies (by people from technologically ‘advanced’ societies). Anthropology was often referred to as the study of ‘primitive’ societies, but this is now regarded as inappropriate (a) because of the derogatory overtones of the word, and (b) because the nature and structure of such societies was often extremely complex and far from ‘primitive’. To counter this some definitions refer to anthropology as the study of culture in small, pre-industrial societies. The term non-technological is more appropriate although anthropologists currently study societies that are certainly not devoid of advance technology, and are perhaps better characterised by a lack of central bureaucracy.


Anthropological procedures have also been widely used in the study of ‘advanced’ societies, notably in community studies.


Participant observation as a technique was developed in anthropological fieldwork.


Anthropology is an extensive discipline but three approaches may be identified: functionalist, structuralist and cultural.


Cultural anthropology

Cultural or cognitive anthropology assumes that culture is really an aggregate of the common sense and related perceptual systems of the members of the culture. The approach assumes that members of the culture, in effect, retain mental maps of the environment (social and natural) that enable them to perform as competent cultural actors. The role of the anthropologist, from this perspective, is to specify the common elements of the mental maps that cultural actors use.

analytical review

Elwell's Glossary of Sociology (undated) defines anthropology as:

A social science, closely linked to sociology, which concentrates (though not exclusively) on the study of traditional cultures--particularly hunting and gathering and horticultural societies--and the evolution of the human species.

associated issues


related areas



Elwell's Glossary of Sociology, undated, available at, page not available 20 December 2016.

copyright Lee Harvey 2012–2020


A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z Home