Anthropology is a comprehensive discipline that promotes an understanding of human beings by offering complex accounts of their evolutionary origins, history, linguistic and expressive communication and performance (such as art, music, and ritual practices) and sociocultural diversity. Anthropologists engage in ethnographic, archival, biological, archaeological, and linguistic research that focuses on both individual and collective experiences; they also participate in an open and critical exchange with the humanities and the social, physical, and biological sciences.

A central concern of anthropologists is the application of knowledge to the solution of human problems. Historically, anthropologists in the United States have been trained in one of four subdisciplines: sociocultural anthropology, linguistic anthropology, biological/physical anthropology, and archaeology. Anthropologists often integrate perspectives drawn from these subfields into their research, teaching, and professional lives.