Archaeological grant proposal
The point: This exercise gives you a chance to think about applying some of the methods and ideas we have discussed and consider how the results are used to solve problems. As a group project, it also gives you a taste of how larger archaeological projects are often put together. Finally, since you pick the subject and will have to research some background to write the proposal, it is a chance to pursue a topic that is interesting to you.
What you do: You form a group with one or two other classmates and pick an archaeological question to pursue. As a group, you write a "grant proposal" in which you outline the issue and enough relevant background to show why it is interesting and should be resolved. You propose one or more hypotheses concerning the issue, and describe an archaeological research design that would test the hypotheses, explaining what data you would gather, what methods you would use, and how the data would resolve the problem. The proposal includes a schedule, budget, and bibliography. Some library and/or web research will probably be necessary for background information.
Concept check: I suggest, but do not require, that you email me a brief statement of what you are planning to do fairly early in the process, so I can confirm that you are on track.
What you turn in: A grant proposal consisting of a title page and abstract; plus at least 4 pages about the problem, hypotheses, methods, and how the expected results will be used to evaluate the hypotheses; plus additional pages with a schedule of the work, budget, and bibliography. The proposal may be longer if you wish, as I suspect you probably will.
How to find a subject: You might look for inspiration in examples mentioned in the textbook or discussed in class, in the papers you reviewed for the previous assignment, at any of the websites (both legitimate and "quirky") that you consulted for the website review, or in other websites listed at, for example, Archnet. You could troll through JSTOR or Pharos (the journal article search system available through the SSU library), entering words that you think might bring up interesting subjects. You might be inspired to check out claims from a documentary you have seen, or any other source. One approach is to find something that you disagree with and propose a way to test your objections. Another is to find something that is described as a mystery, still unsolved, or requiring further research, and propose a way to resolve the issue. Many academic articles suggest needed further research in their conclusions.
Content: Your grant proposal should include:
A cover page with the following three items:
- Name of the research project: This should be descriptive.
- Abstract: A paragraph that summarizes the problem and work to be done to resolve it. 250 words maximum.
A description of the project of at least 4 pages in length, including the following sections:
- Background and description of the problem: This section should orient the reader to the region and cultural setting, so that the problem or research question can be explained. This section should make it clear why the problem is of interest. It is, in part, intended to sell the project to an evaluation committee by convincing readers that it is important to resolve this problem. Ways to show that a problem is important include showing how it affects other issues in the field, either specifically in this region or, better yet, of broad theoretical interest; why others might want to refer to the conclusions for other kinds of research; how and why others have called for this kind of research or have begun research that the proposed work will expand on; and so on. This section is where you will probably need to do some library research and include a few citations. You may choose to include a map or other illustrations here (or elsewhere) if they would help to orient the reader and support your case.
- Hypotheses: Here you explain what propositions your research will test. Hypotheses should be falsifiable, that is, it should be theoretically possible to show that they are incorrect (should that be the case). You may propose a single hypothesis that you hope will be shown to be true or false by your results, or you may propose multiple hypotheses that the results will allow you to choose among. A single hypothesis might be "The great pyramid at Giza was built by slave labor." This is a statement that, at least in theory, could be shown to be true or false. An example of multiple hypotheses might be "The great pyramid at Giza may have been built by slaves, forced labor of peasants, or voluntary labor provided for religious or patriotic reasons." In this case, your project would be designed to test each of these propositions, in order to decide among them.
- Test implications: Here you apply middle-range theory to propose what archaeological evidence should be found if the hypothesis is true or false. Continuing the Giza example, you might write that "If the great pyramid was built by slaves, we would expect to find evidence of walls or other control mechanisms around the workers' housing; guard posts or other facilities for controlling their movements; references to slaves in hieroglyphic texts of the time; and illustrations of slaves and overseers in artwork of the time."
- Research methods: Here you explain how you will check to see whether the test implications are present or not. You might write that you will do survey to locate and map the relevant sites, if their size, location, or surface features would help to solve the problem. You might propose to excavate at sites that you find by survey, or that are already known. You might propose to take samples from artifacts that have already been excavated and are stored in museums, for radiocarbon dating, diet analysis, DNA work, or whatever. A single project may employ a number of methods, but don't get too carried away; it should maintain a fairly tight focus or it won't seem do-able. Many projects require sampling of regions to survey, areas to excavate, or collections to take DNA or radiocarbon samples from. Be sure to describe how you will select your sample, and why you have selected say, a stratified random sampling scheme over the alternatives. If you will not be sampling, make that explicit and explain why it is feasible in this case. Make sure that the methods that you propose are ones that could reasonably be expected to produce evidence that will let you evaluate the test implications, and thus the hypotheses.
- How the results will be used to test the hypotheses: Explain how the likely outcomes of the work will allow the hypotheses to be accepted or rejected. For example, "If we find that the workers' camps are dispersed and were not walled, we will suggest that the workers were not slaves." This may end up being a bit repetitious after the previous sections, but it is worth being crystal clear about the logic of the research.
Additional pages with the following sections:
- Plan and schedule of work: Here you lay out the nitty-gritty details of your methods. How many people will be involved, and which will be paid professionals, paid unskilled laborers, student volunteers, etc.? What will they do, for how long? Will one stage come first, and then another follow it? This may require a bullet list, table, or a calendar-like presentation. Try to be realistic, but don't worry about the factual details here too much; I won't hold you responsible for the accuracy of these figures. If you are planning a survey, you might estimate around 5 person-days per square kilometer; for stratigraphic excavations, maybe around 4 person-days per cubic meter; for lab work or other work, use your imagination. Excavations usually require at least as much lab time as digging time, just for the initial sorting, recording, and storage of the artifacts, even before specialist analyses are done. Real values for these things vary widely, but remember, everything takes longer than you think!
- Budget: A simple list with a total. Try to include everything you can think of, although you may lump certain categories like "field equipment" without going into all the details. Again, I won't hold you to the accuracy of these figures, although I ask you to make some effort to be realistic here. You may want to include salaries for skilled and unskilled workers; plane fares and/or other travel costs; vehicle rental, purchase, maintenance, gas, etc.; food and housing in the field if necessary; rent for lab space in the field, if necessary; field equipment; lab equipment; supplies like bags, xeroxed field forms, etc.; film and processing; radiocarbon dating (estimate $200 per date, assuming this is an NSF proposal); and so on. Some of this will depend on the schedule of the project (for example: "3 meals a day for 60 days for 7 people, at $15 per person per day = $6,300"). You may not have to cover all these expenses through the budget; student volunteers might pay their own plane fare, or local workers might not get housing or food in addition to their wages, if the project is near their homes. I suggest that you try to keep your budget under, say $30,000. The higher the cost, the more spectacular the results you have to promise the granting agency for it.
- Bibliography: Mostly for the sources you cite in the background section, but possibly for other material as well.
Format: Any common academic research paper and bibliography format that you are comfortable with.
Due date: The proposal is due Thursday, December 12.
Lateness policy: I will accept grant proposals up to this course's final exam period with a 15% penalty, but please try to get them in by the due date.
Grading: 20% of the course grade (200 points out of 1000).