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, and is normally undertaken by only a small number of graduating seniors, 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.
This IGS Thesis Guidebook provides detailed instructions and guidance on how to complete an honors thesis.
Eligibility and Enrollment
Thesis students must have a minimum GPA of 3.5 in 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, Professor, Lucy Goodhart). Students interested in completing an honors thesis should apply to the IGS 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.
Interested students should apply to complete an honors thesis through this application form. The IGS honors coordinator will review your application and provide feedback. If you meet the honors thesis requirements and have identified a thesis advisor, the IGS honors coordinator will direct you to enroll in IGS 99d in the course section instructed by your thesis advisor. Students must complete two semesters of IGS 99d to be eligible for honors.
One semester of IGS 99d may be used towards the IGS electives requirement (i.e., it can count as one of the two IGS electives outside your specialization).
Sample Thesis Schedule
- September: Information Session for Juniors (via Zoom as necessary)
- Early-March: Information Session for Juniors (via Zoom as necessary)
- March: Apply to write an Honors Thesis using the online form
- April: Contact potential advisors
- Early May: Visit Undergraduate Research and Creative Collaborations symposium
(if resident on campus)
- May/June: Check-in with your advisor on summer plans
End of August: Register for IGS 99D for the fall semester
Tuesday after Labor Day: Submit your Honors Thesis Prospectus using the online form
September: Fall Senior Thesis cohort meeting
By the end of September: Submit IRB request for human subjects research as necessary
Mid-late October: First chapter draft
Early December: Second chapter draft
- Mid December: Check-in with your advisor on winter break plans
- Second week January: Third chapter draft
- By mid-January: Register for IGS 99D for the spring semester
- January: Spring Senior Thesis cohort meeting
- February/March: Recruit additional committee members
- Mid March: Complete first draft submitted
- Two weeks before defense: Complete all edits suggested by committee and circulate thesis
- Early May: Present at Undergraduate Research and Creative Collaborations symposium
- Last Week of Classes: Defense scheduled within last week of the semester
- Within One Week of Defense: Thesis submitted digitally to library using online form
Specific deadlines are outlined in the IGS Senior Thesis Schedule for 2023-2024 (pdf).
Students are encouraged to begin planning their honors projects in the spring of their junior year. This includes identifying potential supervisors and discussing the possibility of working with them.Interested students should apply to complete an honors thesis through this application form.
Once the IGS honors coordinator approves a student’s application and an honors thesis advisor is selected, students may enroll in IGS 99d in the course section instructed by their honors thesis advisor. Students must complete two semesters of IGS 99d to be eligible for honors.
At the beginning of each semester, you should meet with your advisor to map out a schedule for completing the necessary work. 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.
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.
Establish 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 your 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 or on the Brandeis Faculty Guide website.
Thesis ProspectusBy early September you should submit one copy of a thesis prospectus 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.
Research on Human SubjectsIf the research for your thesis is based on interviews, participant observation, testimonials, or other forms of data collected from human subjects, you first need the approval from the Human Research Protection Program (HRPP). For further information on whether this is necessary, visit the Office of Research Administration website. You can also consult with your thesis advisor or the honors coordinator. Please be aware that approval is a time-consuming process; if your project requires such approval you will need to apply before you begin your research.
Resources for Thesis Writers
The IGS honors coordinator is Professor Lucy Goodhart. 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 (DAS) 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.