Guidelines for ANSO Students Contemplating a Senior Honors Thesis:
The Department encourages qualified students to consider writing a senior honors thesis. Grappling with a significant problem over an extended period of time and in close association with a member of the department’s faculty offers an unparalleled opportunity for intellectual growth.
The first step is to approach a faculty member in Anthropology or Sociology whose research interests and background fit most closely with what you are hoping to research. It is never too early to make that contact; you need to make sure you have full support of a faculty member by the Spring of your junior year, when you begin to draft your thesis proposal.
The thesis proposal is due to the department before the end of the Spring reading period. Please make sure that your proposal contains the following:
- a carefully framed and feasible research question;
- well-chosen method(s);
- thorough discussion of the relevant literature, and
- a clear statement regarding your access to the materials and/or sites relevant to your research.
In addition, if you are requesting funding to support data collection and analysis, the proposal should contain an appendix with a research budget, and a discussion of other sources of funding you have applied for.
Please note that the department views the thesis proposal as a prospectus, not a contract. The department recognizes that the parameters of your research may change in the process of data collection and analysis. But a thesis proposal that does not demonstrate evidence of sustained thought and research, or one that is deemed unfeasible, will not receive departmental approval.
Several recent thesis proposals are available here as samples to consult.
Finally, several general notes to keep in mind:
- While many successful theses in Anthropology and Sociology are rooted in ethnographic fieldwork, there are many research methods that are equally legitimate and supported by the department, including (but not limited to) archival research, oral history interviewing, and document, media and discourse analysis.
- The benefits of writing a thesis are derived from the writing, not from the honors that might be awarded as a result. Examine your motivation for writing a thesis. It is best to embark on this sort of project because the project itself challenges you, not because you want to add a line to your resume.
- Be aware, too, that simply finishing a thesis doesn’t mean it will automatically be awarded Honors. The standard for Honors in this department is high, and not all efforts are awarded Honors. Students whose theses were not awarded Honors nonetheless have found the experience of writing a thesis a valuable and rewarding one. Even if you are not awarded Honors, you will receive full course credit for the work you do.
- Start early! Remember that you must consult members of the department faculty early enough to find someone who will work with you to develop a proposal before the end of reading period in the Spring before your senior year. If you are studying abroad during junior year, you should write to the department chair or to your potential thesis advisor to make appropriate arrangements.
- Make full use of the resources at your disposal. Consult frequently with your advisor, but make as much use as you can of other members of the department. Remember, it is the department as a whole that approves your proposal.
- Plan ahead! The Department will do what it can to help you with thesis research, but you must give us time to do so. Research and writing always take longer than you think they will; budget your time generously.
- Finish early! For many people the hardest part of writing a thesis is not the initial composition, but doing the revisions under time pressure that comes at the end. Remember that you should have a complete first draft to your advisor by Spring Break.
- Have fun! Above all, writing a thesis should be a feast for your mind. Enjoy it.