The Purpose of the Thesis
The honors thesis program was established for classical studies majors who wish to demonstrate their ability to analyze a body of material from the field in a creative and original way. If completed with distinction, a senior thesis allows a student to graduate with both a bachelor's degree and departmental honors in classical studies.
While writing an honors thesis is a difficult undertaking, and one that requires commitment and perseverance, the students who have done so say consistently that it was one of their best experiences at Brandeis.
The thesis should represent a definite contribution to our knowledge of a particular subject. Simple compilation of data from previously published sources should be avoided. Where relevant, research on unpublished material is encouraged.
The thesis should show clearly the student's aptitude for supervised research, and it may be treated as a document from which the student's suitability for graduate studies may be judged. Following the initial choice of a topic, close consultation is required with the student's advisor to ensure the feasibility and value of the proposed research.
The Department of Classical Studies welcomes all qualified students into the honors thesis program. In order to be accepted into the program, we recommend a grade point average of 3.0 (B) or better in classical studies courses.
First Steps: Advisors, Topic, Prospectus, Research Course
By the start of the student's senior year, the following first steps toward writing the senior thesis should be well in hand:
Advisor/s. By early September of the senior year, the student should have chosen an advisor from within the Department of Classical Studies who has agreed to direct the student's research.
In consultation with the student, the advisor will choose another faculty member as the second reader. Ordinarily, this will also be a member of the Department of Classical Studies, but in special circumstances, a second reader from another department (or another institution) may be chosen.
If a double concentrator is planning to write a senior thesis in classical studies to present for honors in two departments, a reader and an advisor from each department will ordinarily be chosen. A third reader may be chosen before the oral defense.
Topic. By early September, the senior should have chosen a topic in consultation with the main advisor.
Research Course. At registration in fall semester of the senior year, the student should register for an Independent Research course (GRK, LAT, or CLAS 99d). The main thesis advisor must sign the enrollment card.
Prospectus. By September 22, the senior should have crafted the thesis topic into a formal prospectus. The prospectus should include a description of the project, an outline of the planned research, a suitable methodology and a bibliography.
The Senior Thesis Form (PDF) must be signed by the student and all readers. Signed and completed forms must be filed with the department administrator before the end of September.
N.B.: Failure to meet this deadline will result in the transfer of the student from the Independent Research course (99d) to Directed Reading (98a). See deadlines in Tentative Schedule of Thesis Events below.
In the course of your research, you may need modest funding as well as source materials.
Library Research. The Brandeis Library can be a great resource for researching a thesis topic. The Library keeps a copy of senior theses, for which one can do a title, author, subject search in the library catalog, LOUIS.
To narrow the search to Classical Studies theses, do a search for author words "Brandeis Department of Classical Studies." For information on archived theses and dissertations in the library, access this website. For information on research help, access this website. For information on inter-library loans, visit this website.
Jim Rosenbloom is our contact in Library Research & Instruction Services; he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or x6-4688.
Download the Thesis Release Form (PDF), which must accompany the submission of your approved thesis to the library.
Thesis Funding. Funding for thesis-related expenses (except copying and binding costs) is available through the Office of the Dean of Arts and Sciences. There are no deadlines for this funding.
Mid-September. By the beginning of the third week of classes (Monday, Sept. 22), seniors planning to enroll in an Independent Research course (GRK, LAT, or CLAS 99d) must have submitted a topic and draft prospectus to their advisor and second reader for their approval.
Mid-October. By one month later (Monday, Oct. 20), the senior must have submitted an expanded prospectus. If not approved, the student is transferred from the Independent Research course (99d) to a Directed Reading course (98a). If approved, subsidiary deadlines for chapters and rough drafts should be set.
Mid-November. By five weeks later (Monday, Nov. 24), the senior must have submitted a significant part of the bibliography for the senior thesis and a piece of writing from the text.
Mid-January. By the start of the spring semester (Monday, Jan. 12), a full bibliography and a more substantial piece of writing are due.
Late February. By late February (Monday, February 23), a full first draft of the thesis is due. (Monday, Feb. 16 through Friday, Feb. 20 is Midterm Recess.)
Late March. By late March (Friday, March 27), a revised second draft is due.
Early April. On April 1, students will be expected to make an informal oral presentation at a Senior Thesis Event for the benefit of interested students and department faculty.
N.B.: By late March, check with the department administrator to learn the deadline for nominations for the annual Doris Brewer Cohen Award. To be considered for this award, you must give your readers ample time to read your completed thesis.
April. A few days after the spring recess (Friday, April 24), two hard copies of the final thesis draft must be submitted to the advisor and any readers, and the formal thesis defense must be scheduled. (This oral defense, in fact, should be scheduled well before the end of April, but may take place in late April, early May or during exams.)
The submitted draft must be carefully proofread with all typographical errors corrected. Spring Recess: April 6 through April 10.
Early May. By one week before the final departmental meeting of the year, three proofread copies of the final submission are due. No postponements are permitted. Failure to meet this deadline eliminates the candidate from honors consideration.
May. At the department's annual degree meeting in early May, departmental honors will be determined. The level of departmental honors (honors, high honors, highest honors), if any, will be announced at the Humanities Mini-Commencement. Commencement is May 17.
N.B.: In addition to the above deadlines, subsidiary deadlines for individual chapters (and possible additional rough drafts) may be set by the student and the main advisor/s.
Length and Format of the Thesis
There are no fixed limits to the length of a senior thesis, which should be double-spaced and computer-generated. It is expected that a thesis will be at least 50 pages in length, but a considerably longer thesis may be required to cover the subject matter involved.
The length of archaeological theses will usually be between 50 and 100 pages. Students often ask for recommendations for a style manual; the following are two well-respected sources:
- The Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition. The University of Chicago Press Staff. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003.
- The MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, 6th edition. By Joseph Gibaldi. New York: The Modern Language Association of America, 2003.
Final Submission of the Thesis
Three corrected, proofread hard copies of the senior thesis must be submitted as soon after the thesis defense as possible. One copy in a spring binder must be presented to the department one week prior to the department's degree meeting in early May.
The second copy, secured in a manuscript box and accompanied by the proper form (see Library Research above), must be delivered by the student to the Library, where it will become part of the Special Collections. The third copy, likewise housed in a manuscript box, will be returned to the student after grading by the committee.
Evaluation of the Thesis
Evaluation of the senior honors thesis occurs at several points during the thesis year. While evaluation of the student's writing is an ongoing process, receipt of grades for 99d courses, the thesis defense and honors determination are scheduled events.
Course Grade. There is a grade for the Independent Research course (GRK, LAT, or CLAS 99d), which may be taken for one or two semesters of the senior year.
Writing Evaluation (On-going). One week after spring vacation or one week before the end of classes, whichever date is sooner, both readers will submit to the student written evaluations of the thesis, considering both format and content. The student may then revise the thesis before submitting three copies of the final draft to the department.
Honors Thesis Defense. During the week before the department's degree meeting, the student will present the thesis orally to the advisor and readers. The readers may then revise their written evaluation of the thesis. Their comments will be made available to the student and to members of the department.
The defense committee (made up of the advisor, a second reader from the Classical Studies Department, and sometimes a third reader from another department) evaluates both the written thesis and its oral defense by the student author. The oral defense, usually lasting one to two hours, encompasses the student's knowledge of the honors research project. It is not a test of the entire field of classical studies.
Departmental Honors. The level of departmental honors is determined after taking into account the thesis committee's evaluation. See Tentative Schedule of Thesis Events above for deadline and announcement information.
The department may nominate one outstanding thesis for the annual Doris Brewer Cohen Award. The deadline for nominations is ordinarily in early or mid-April (see Tentative Schedule of Thesis Events above). Students who wish to be considered for this award must submit a final draft before the deadline for nominations. Please see the departmental administrator for further information.
Photos courtesy of the VRoma Project: [left] Bust of Nero, Pentelic marble head, Roman, adapted from original of 60-65 C.E., Townley Collection, The British Museum, London (Photo by Barbara McManus); [middle] Head of Paris, detail, glass blown in two layers, blue inside white, with outer layer carved like cameo, Roman, 37-27 B.C.E., The British Museum, London (Photo by Barbara McManus). [right] White Bird, detail, wall painting, garden, House of Marine Venus, Pompeii (Photo by Paula Chabot).