Senior Honors Essay and Thesis

To be considered for honors in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, students are required to complete and defend a senior essay or thesis. Program honors are awarded on the basis of excellence in all courses applied to the major, as well as all courses taken in the program, including the senior essay or thesis, as determined by the program faculty.

We encourage rising seniors who are majoring in women’s, gender, and sexuality studies and have a GPA of 3.5 or better in WGS courses to consider an honors degree. Students with a GPA below 3.5 should consult their adviser and the WGS chair to determine whether undertaking an honors essay or thesis is advisable.

Completion of a Senior Essay

  1. Select a general topic for a one-semester essay. Ideally this would be done the second semester of your junior year.

  2. Discuss your topic with one or more potential faculty advisors, until you have a definite and explicit commitment from a faculty member who agrees to advise you. For an essay, you’ll need one main advisor from the core WGS faculty, and a second reader from the core or affiliate faculty. If you are having trouble finding an advisor, or are not sure where to start, you should meet with the Undergraduate Advising Head, or the Department Chair, who can help you.

  3. In consultation with your advisor, draft a proposal (about two pages): Outline your topic, methods, sources, texts you plan to examine, questions you will ask and your likely conclusions. It is a good idea to have the proposal completed and approved by your adviser by beginning of the semester in which you will complete the essay.

  4. Sign up for WMGS 99a for a fall essay, or 99b for a spring essay.

  5. Research and write your essay. Determine a schedule for this step in consultation with your essay advisor. Most essays are about 30-50 pages long, and should be completed by early April. We encourage you to have a full rough draft of the essay by a month before the final deadline/defense date.

  6. Set a defense date with your two readers, fill out the Senior Essay or Thesis Defense form (pdf), and defend your essay by mid-April.

Completion of a Senior Thesis

  1. Select a general topic for a two-semester thesis. Ideally this would be done the second semester of your junior year.

  2. Discuss your topic with one or more potential faculty advisors, until you have a definite and explicit commitment from a faculty member who agrees to advise you. For a thesis, you’ll need one main advisor from the core WGS faculty, a second reader from the core or affiliate faculty, and a third reader from the Brandeis faculty. If you are having trouble finding an advisor, or are not sure where to start, you should meet with the Undergraduate Advising Head or Department Chair, who can help you.

  3. In consultation with your advisor, draft a proposal (about two pages): outline your topic, methods, sources, texts you plan to examine, questions you will ask and your likely conclusions. It is a good idea to have the proposal completed and approved by your advisor by the beginning of the semester in which you will begin writing the thesis.

  4. Sign up for WMGS 99a in the fall, and 99b in the spring.

  5. Research and write your thesis. Determine a schedule for this step in consultation with your thesis advisor. Most theses are about 60–90 pages long, and should be completed by early April. It is a good idea to have one solid chapter written by the end of the fall semester and to plan to write one chapter every two weeks in the spring semester. We encourage you to have a complete rough draft of the thesis completed by a month before the deadline/defense date.

  6. Set a defense date with your three readers, fill out the Senior Essay or Thesis Defense form (pdf), and defend your essay by mid-April.

  7. Deposit your thesis with the Brandeis Library.

Students are encouraged to revise the essay or thesis based on the comments of their core faculty readers and submit the revised copy to be considered for the Giller-Sagan Prize at the end of the spring term. Both essays and theses require a defense. Two WGS core faculty, or one core and one affiliate, must sign off on the completed essay or thesis. Students must receive a “C” or higher on their senior thesis for credit towards the major.

Double-counting

Students pursuing honors in another department or program may petition to submit this thesis as a WGS thesis if the project has a significant focus on women and/or gender. Students should contact the WGS Program Office to submit this petition. At least one reader from the WGS core faculty is required in order to count the project for honors in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies.