Graduate Program in Balkan and Eastern Mediterranean Archaeology

ARHM006. How to Write a Good Archaeological Paper? Bogdan Athanassov, Ilian Boyanov, Boyan Dumanov, Petranka Nedelcheva, Zhivko Uzunov

Project, practical online class, 150 hours, 15 credits


Today it seems much more difficult to write a good paper than in the time of our parents and teachers. There is no doubt that this is due to some general shift away from literature to other media that offer information in a shorter and more spectacular way. It is difficult also because of the fact that academic writing has become less scholastic and standardized. This could be seen as a good sign for if not ‘democratization’ then at least for a move away from stereotypes of the archaeological discipline.


We realize that no general agreement of what a good paper is can exist anymore. That is why the question at the beginning of this practical course is: What are the written genres that are currently used to present scientific information?


In this practical course, every participant will be assigned readings on an archaeological topic she or he finds fascinating. Ideally, this could be a topic close to that of one’s MA-thesis, but other themes might be extremely useful as well. The member of the faculty who is competent in the field chosen will supervise the collection and evaluation of information. In the following assignments, the student will write at least two texts on their chosen topic.


The first text is the most detailed and follows the way archaeological information is presented in leading peer-reviewed journals (for example, the American Journal of Archaeology).


Once the student has mastered the traditional way of writing a paper, she or he will be asked to choose another genre, like a script for a documentary, essay, paper for the general public, etc.  In addition, those who wish can do also a conference poster.


We believe that thinking about academic writing as only one possible way to present archaeological information helps students and scholars to better interpret and produce publishable texts. The ultimate goal of the course is to make graduate students perceive themselves as writers and researchers.






Theory of communication.

           a) Prehistory and early forms of literacy

           b) Literacy in the age of Internet



Different genres of archaeological writing. From Joachim Winkelmann to archaeological texts in the 21th cent. AD



Alternative ways of written presentation of archaeological information. Essay, public archaeology and others.



How to choose a topic to write on? 



Collection of information. How to ‘sieve’ useful from unimportant?



Quotations, Maps, Drawings, Photographs, Bibliography



Writing of scientific paper



Discussion, evaluation and choice of an alternative ‘genre’



Writing of a second text



Discussion, comparison, evaluation and recommendations for the MA-thesis








Essential readings


Gustavii, B. 2003. How to Write and Illustrate a Scientific Paper. Cambridge Univ. Press.


Moore, H. L. 1987. Space, Text and Gender. Cambridge Univers. Press


Mullen, C. A. 1999. "What I needed to know to get published": Teaching (frightened) graduate students to write for publication. Journal on Excellence in College Teaching 10, 2, 1999, 27-52.  


Smith, M. 2015. How can archaeologists make better arguments? In: The SAA Archaeological Record, September 2015, 18-23.


Tyler, St. A. 1986. Post-Modern Ethnography: From Document of the Occult to Occult Document. In: Clifford, J. / G. Marcus (eds.) Writing Culture. The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography. Univ of California Press, 1986 (Seminar held in Santa Fe, April 1984), 122-140.