Optional Senior Honors Thesis


An honors thesis is a highly challenging and rewarding undertaking. It allows a student to study a single topic in great depth, and integrate knowledge gained in previous courses. A thesis requires a considerable commitment of time and attention, but it also provides a unique opportunity to conduct original research or explore new ways of thinking about a subject. It can also be a means to reflect on your experiences abroad in an academically rigorous way.

During the first two weeks of the fall semester, there will be a mandatory orientation meeting for seniors who are considering writing a thesis. This will be an opportunity to have your thesis-related questions answered, and to meet other IGS thesis writers. The time and place of this meeting will be posted on the IGS homepage and emailed to all IGS majors.

Eligibility and Enrollment

Thesis students must have a minimum GPA of 3.5 in the courses counted towards the IGS major, and be engaged on a thesis project closely tied to IGS themes (as determined by the IGS honors coordinator). Students interested in completing an honors thesis should apply to the honors coordinator, preferably in the spring of their junior year, but no later than the end of the add/drop period during the fall of their senior year. Applications should include a brief statement of the thesis topic, and should name a thesis advisor. Approval of the application by the honors coordinator is necessary for a thesis to be eligible for IGS honors. Thesis students will register for an IGS 99d course each semester with the thesis advisor. In order to register, you need to complete an Add Form that includes your thesis advisor's signature, and then bring the form to the Registrar's office in Kutz. Students are not eligible for honors in IGS unless they complete both semesters of IGS 99d.

One semester of IGS 99d may be used to towards the IGS electives requirement (i.e., it can count as one of the two IGS electives outside your specialization).

Establishing a Committee

The student's primary thesis advisor should be an IGS faculty member — any faculty member who teaches an IGS or IGS cross-listed course. You should choose your advisor carefully, as you will work very closely with this person throughout the whole year. Together, you will come up with a plan for completing the thesis, and ideally, you will meet frequently to discuss and get feedback on your progress.

The best advisors tend to be those who are already familiar with your work, and whose regional or subject expertise matches your topic. You should remember that faculty sometimes go on leave or are otherwise not available, so it is best to talk to faculty as early as possible about their ability to supervise a thesis. If you need assistance with finding an advisor, contact the IGS honors coordinator.

In addition to your primary advisor, the examining committee for the thesis must include at least two other faculty members, at least one of whom teaches an IGS or IGS cross-listed course. No more than two of the three people on the examining committee can come from any single department.  While the composition of the committee is primarily up to you, it would be wise to consult with your advisor about the other members. You may decide to put your full committee together early in the thesis process, or wait until you are close to completion. These additional committee members can be helpful resources for consultation purposes during various stages of the thesis process. Typically, they will not read your thesis work until the final draft, but individual cases will vary.

Information about IGS faculty expertise can be gained by looking at the course listings in the Provisional Bulletin, which contain links to IGS course descriptions and the faculty who teach them.

Thesis Proposal

By early October you should submit one copy of a thesis proposal to your thesis advisor and one copy to the IGS honors coordinator. In all likelihood, some aspects of the plan that you develop in the proposal will change as you actually work on the thesis. But you will probably find the process of putting the proposal together useful for getting you started on the thesis. You should discuss the specifics of the proposal with your advisor, but it commonly is a 3-5 page document that includes a provisional title for the thesis, a statement of the question or problem that will be your focus, a short literature review, a description of your research method or form of analysis, and a bibliography of sources you intend to consult. Your advisor will probably use the proposal to make suggestions about your ideas. In some cases, your advisor may ask you to modify and resubmit the proposal. You may also want to show the proposal to one or all of your other committee members to solicit comments and suggestions.

Thesis Process and Timetable

A finished thesis will typically be 75-125 pages. But since IGS is an interdisciplinary program, there will be a fair amount of variation in form and length between student theses. Be aware that over the course of each semester, the thesis will probably take more time than you usually spend attending and preparing for another class. At the beginning of each semester, you should meet with your advisor to map out a schedule for completing the necessary work. Individual schedules will vary, but you can use the following timetable as a rough guideline:

First two weeks of fall semester

Orientation meeting

Fall add/drop period

Obtain preliminary approval to do thesis from IGS honors coordinator

Confirm thesis advisor

Enroll in IGS 99d


Submit thesis proposal to advisor and honors coordinator

Spring add/drop period

Enroll in IGS 99d


Confirm additional examining committee members


Submit entire draft of thesis to advisor


Submit final revised thesis to entire committee

Last week of classes / Finals week

Oral defense

Before commencement

Deposit thesis with IGS and University Archives

For more details, please visit IGS Senior Thesis schedule for 2018-2019.

Continuation on the thesis in the second semester of senior year is based on successful progress during the fall term. This will be determined by your thesis advisor and you, in consultation with the honors coordinator. If you do not continue with the second half of 99d, your advisor will assign a letter grade for the work completed in the first half of 99d. Please be sure to contact the honors coordinator in December to confirm that you will or will not be continuing into the spring semester.

Research on Human Subjects and the Institutional Review Board (IRB)

In some circumstances, student research done at Brandeis may need approval from the Brandeis Committee for Protection of Human Subjects (BCPHS), also known as the Institutional Review Board (IRB). For further information on whether this is necessary, and how to complete the IRB application, see the BCPHS website. You can also consult with your thesis advisor or the honors coordinator. Please be aware that IRB approval is a time-consuming process; if your project requires such approval, you will need to begin work on it by early September.

Oral Defense

Once the written thesis is completed, students prepare for an oral defense. You should arrange the defense by finding a time, usually during the last week of classes but no later than finals week, when your entire committee can meet. You need to give your entire committee a completed copy of the thesis at least one week before the defense. The defense is meant to be a conversation between you and the examining committee about the thesis. Committee members may ask questions about your methods, sources, findings, argument, or other matters connected to the thesis. The defense usually lasts about an hour.

Determination of Honors

IGS awards three categories of distinction: Honors, High Honors and Highest Honors. While most thesis students will receive some level of honors, completion of a thesis is not in itself sufficient for honors. IGS departmental honors are based on the examining committee's evaluation of the completed thesis and the record in courses for the IGS major. Students will be informed about any honors received as soon as possible following the defense, usually during the week preceding commencement.

Format Requirements

Because IGS is an interdisciplinary major, there is no specific format that theses are required to follow. Students should keep in mind, however, that the thesis is a work of scholarship, and therefore should be consistent and professional in its presentation. You may want to consult with your advisor about any preferences for disciplinary styles of citations and bibliography. Links to several citation style guides are available online.

Regardless of format used, all completed theses should have a cover page with the following information:

Senior Honors Thesis
International and Global Studies, Brandeis University

Copies Submitted

When you are finished, a copy of the thesis needs to be submitted to the program administrator. In addition to that, you need to submit a clean, loose copy (do not staple, bind, or hole-punch) to the University Archives at Goldfarb Library. The University Archives also asks that you complete a Thesis Release form (PDF), which gives the library permission to photocopy your thesis for research purposes.

Resources for Thesis Writers

The IGS honors coordinator is Professor Avinash Singh. You are welcome to contact the honors coordinator with questions or concerns at any point in the thesis process. The honors coordinator will also arrange occasional gatherings where all IGS thesis writers can come together to discuss the research and writing process.

Limited financial assistance may be available to thesis writers who apply to the Office of the Dean of Arts and Sciences for it. There is no deadline for this funding, but applications are considered on a 'first come, first serve' basis. For further information, see the DAS website.