There are several stages in the honors thesis process when evaluations are made.

Thesis Defense Committee

The defense committee, made up of the advisor, a second reader from the African and African American Studies Department, and a third reader from AAAS or another department makes a recommendation for honors at the time of defense. The committee bases its recommendation on the quality of the written thesis and the oral defense.

Oral Defense

An oral defense of the essay or thesis is required, with both readers present. The defense usually lasts about one hour and is confined to the honors. The candidate should open the oral defense with a brief summary of the central argument(s) of the project, along with a discussion of anything they wish the committee to know. Candidates may comment, for instance, on the discovery process that led them to write the essay or thesis to begin with; on certain field-related or theoretical difficulties they encountered along the way; or on unresolved issues or questions that they did not discuss in the written document. The discussion that follows will allow faculty a chance to ask the candidate questions about his/her research and to converse with the candidate about the contents.

Thesis Honors

After the defense, the candidate should then leave, while the three readers confer on the outcome: (“Highest Honors,” “High Honors,” “Honors,” or “No Honors”). The student then returns to the room, is given a frank appraisal of the work by the committee, and receives suggestions for improving it before depositing it in the Library. To facilitate this, the three members of the student's committee are urged to make extensive comments on spelling, style, content, methodology, bibliography, and the like on the text of the thesis before returning it to the student. The Thesis Defense form must then be signed by all three members of the committee. The committee may also determine that the thesis is not eligible for honors, in which case the student does not graduate with honors, but does receive course credit, assuming the thesis receives a passing grade.

Departmental Honors

Departmental honors are determined on the level of honors recommended by the committee and the departmental grade point average. Therefore, the final decision on departmental honors will not be made until the grades for the final semester are submitted and the AAAS department holds its meeting to vote and approve all graduating students. The possible levels of honors are:  honors, high honors, and highest honors.

Note: Departmental Honors are not allowed to be revealed to students until two days after voting meeting at the earliest (usually the Thursday before Commencement).