Honors Info

The Degree with Honors in Anthropology or Sociology:

In the spring of the junior year, students whose prior work in the major has been of high quality and who wish to write a senior thesis should invite an appropriate member of the department faculty to act as his/her thesis supervisor. It is the normal expectation that thesis candidates will have a departmental grade-point average of B+ or better, although exceptions to this standard are occasionally permitted. 

In consultation with that supervisor and before the end of the Spring reading period in the junior year, the student will prepare a proposal (and, when relevant, a research budget) for a year-long research project to be conducted during the senior year, culminating in a substantial and original work pertinent to the discipline. (Click here for guidelines on the proposal, as well as several sample proposals from earlier years.) If approved by the Department, the student will be permitted to register for Anthropology or Sociology 493-WS031-494 under the direction of the thesis supervisor. The student and supervisor should then work out a schedule for the research and writing to be undertaken the following year.

The summer between the junior and the senior year is when the bulk of data for the thesis is usually collected. In the course of the senior year, the student will undertake the writing of the thesis, typically completing at least one chapter by the end of the Fall semester, and several more chapters by the end of Winter Study. There are two check-in occasions that determine the prospects of the thesis: one in late November-early December, when the student presents the writing accomplished thus far to the supervisor, and one at the end of Winter Study, when the student makes a presentation to the department.

Shortly after the latter occasion, and If the progress of the student meets the expectations of the department, the student, in consultation with the supervisor, will select a panel of readers for the thesis. The number and identity of readers is to be agreed between the student and the supervisor, but will include at least one additional regular member of the department faculty. The supervisor and readers will review the student’s work to date and the supervisor, in consultation with the readers, will decide by the end of January whether there is sufficient potential for a thesis deserving honors, in which case the student will be allowed to proceed.

Under normal circumstances, the student will submit a complete draft of the thesis to the supervisor by the beginning of Spring Break in the student’s senior year. If satisfied with the final draft of the thesis, the supervisor will present the thesis to the reader(s) with a recommendation of approval for honors. Approximately two weeks after the presentation of the thesis, the student will give an oral defense of the thesis before the supervisor and reader(s). (At the department’s discretion, the defense may take place as part of a public colloquium at which several students may make thesis presentations.) The panel will then either recommend that the thesis be awarded Honors or recommend that the thesis be assigned an appropriate grade as an ordinary senior thesis.

To be recommended for Honors, a thesis should represent the product of a sustained, year-long effort in research and scholarship. It should, moreover, stand on its own as a coherent essay, demonstrating a high level of accomplishment in the discipline as well as genuine creativity and originality. In exceptional circumstances the panel may recommend that the thesis be awarded High Honors, deeming it to approach the quality of work published in the discipline’s major journals. It is anticipated that this will happen rarely. For five working days after the panel has made its recommendation, the thesis will be available for inspection by members of the department faculty. At the end of five days the recommendation of the panel will be considered accepted unless two or more members of the department faculty have objected, in which case the recommendation for Honors is denied.