Honors Thesis

Students wishing to graduate with honors in American studies must compose an honors thesis during their senior year.

An honors thesis is a challenging enterprise to be undertaken only by the most ambitious and thoughtful students, but it is also an invigorating and rewarding intellectual experience. As a work of both scholarship and interpretation, a thesis undertakes extensive research into a given subject and makes a critical argument about that subject. It aims to master the relevant background and thinking in an area of inquiry while making a fresh contribution to ongoing scholarship.

Ideally, the thesis should serve as a capstone experience to your undergraduate education in American studies.

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Thesis Timeline

The bulk of the work on your honors thesis occurs during the senior year. This is in addition to — not in lieu of — your regular coursework. Following is a rough timeline for the project:

  • Second week of September: Compose a three- to four-page honors proposal.

  • Remainder of fall semester: Meet regularly with your adviser, conduct the bulk of your research and organize rough skeleton of your thesis.

  • Prior to winter break: Give your adviser one or two completed chapters to evaluate over winter break.

  • During winter break and spring breaks: Use this time, when you are unencumbered by other coursework, to make significant process in your writing.

  • Mid-March: Have a completed first draft.

  • April: Craft final version of your thesis.

  • First week of May: Thesis is due to your adviser.

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Honors Colloquium

Throughout your senior year, in addition to the regular meetings with your individual faculty advisers, you will participate in an Honors Colloquium. The colloquium is a forum to exchange information, report on progress and foster a sense of community and shared purpose. The gatherings will be informal — usually meetings over lunch, occasionally a more structured presentation on library research, proper citation, professional standards or scholarly writing.

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Thesis Defense

After you turn in the final draft of the thesis, your adviser will decide if it is worthy of a defense before the thesis committee, composed of your adviser, a second "reader" from the American studies program and an "outside reader" from another department. The defense is structured to be a congenial but rigorous discussion, not a mean-spirited inquisition designed to trip you up.

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Honors Designations

Students who successfully complete the honors program are awarded one of the three honors designations:

  • Honors. The student has successfully completed and defended an honors thesis with distinction, in writing and person.

  • High Honors. The student has successfully completed and defended an honors thesis with unusual distinction, in writing and in person.

  • Highest Honors. The student has successfully completed and defended an honors thesis with the highest distinction, in writing and in person. Only the most original scholarship and eloquent presentation warrant this evaluation.