Honors Work


The honors program provides an opportunity for the motivated student to conduct original, rigorous analytic work. It requires her to engage in an analytic exercise to show how theory, conceptual frameworks, and evidence can be integrated to support a creative, well-supported scholarly argument. The most important components of an honors program are the quality of the research, the originality of the author's thinking, the author's ability to link her work to theoretical issues of importance in the field, and the quality of the writing.

The completed thesis in Sociology or Anthropology is generally 75-100 pages long. Submission of the thesis is followed by a one-hour oral examination by a faculty committee. The oral examination is designed to test the student's command of the subject and to see its significance as part of the field.

In accordance with college policy, work conducted under the honors program remains independent work until it is accepted by the student's advisor, examining committee, and members of the discipline in the department as honors work. Honors work that does not receive approval for "honor" is designated on the student's transcript as independent study, after either the first or second semester as the advisor deems appropriate.

Criteria for Participating in the Honors Program

NOTE: Guidelines on this page supplement but do not supersede college criteria. Therefore, students should also consult college eligibility criteria and Guidelines for the honors program and honors thesis.

Defining a topic is one of the most important steps of the honors program. A student hoping to register for the honors program should discuss her ideas with faculty members. She must submit a 1-2 page (300 word) proposal to the Chair of the department in the spring semester of her junior year (by the Monday of the last full week of classes). Students who are off campus must submit the proposal by mail, fax, or e-mail.

The junior year proposal must include:

[1] a tentative/working title;

[2] a description of the research problem or research program;

[3] a proposed methodology or research design, for example, guided reading, participant-observation, survey analysis, ethnographic interviews, a library research project (Note: students planning to collect data should include a timeline for the fall semester. All data collection should be completed by the end of the fall semester);

[4] a copy of completed IRB form, if necessary, with advisor's signature (note that the student is responsible for getting her proposal approved by the IRB);

[5] a completed background information form (listing name, class, advisor, major and minor fields, courses taken in the major, relevant research experience);

[6] name of preferred advisor;

[7] a transcript.

c. At the end of Spring semester, the department will review all proposals and decide whether to accept the student's proposal. If accepted, the department will assign an advisor to work with the student. At this point, the student will enroll for independent study for the Fall semester — the honors program requires a minimum of 8 credits distributed between two semesters. Usually, the student registers for two semesters (usually fall and spring of the senior year) of 4-credit 395 (independent study) although a combination of a 2-credit 395 and a 2-credit senior research seminar in one semester, and a 4-credit 395 in the other semester would also satisfy college requirements.


This timetable gives dates for completion of specific stages of the project. We recommend strongly that the student attach specific dates to each item listed below.

I. Junior year, spring semester

  1. Submit a 300-word proposal for participation in the honors program by the Monday of the last full week of classes.
  2. Register for 4 credits of 395 (independent study) in anthropology or sociology for the fall semester of the senior year; or 2 credits of 395 plus a 2-credit senior research seminar.

II. Senior year, fall semester

  1. During the first week of classes, the student should meet with her advisor to discuss expectations for the fall semester and to set a meeting schedule. Meeting bi-weekly is common but sometimes meetings are more regular. Exact details are left to the students and faculty members involved. We would emphasize, however, that regular, ongoing communication with the advisor is vital to a successful honors program.
  2. In consultation with her advisor, the student should register for 4 credits of 395 (independent study) in anthropology or sociology for the spring semester of their senior year.
  3. The student should submit a formal thesis proposal to her advisor by the Monday of the last full week of classes.
  4. Students who are NOT approved for continuation will be notified before the end of the fall semester exam period.

III. Senior year, spring semester

  1. The student should meet with her advisor during the first week of classes to discuss expectations for spring semester and to set a meeting schedule.
  2. Constituting a thesis committee. No later than 3 weeks after the beginning of Spring semester classes, the student should recommend appropriate committee members to her advisor. If approved by her advisor, the student asks prospective members of her committee if they will serve. It is important (and courteous) for the student to keep the committee members apprised of her progress throughout spring semester.

    The thesis examining committee is comprised of at least three faculty members: two or more members from the department, including the advisor (who normally acts as Chair of the examining committee), another department member, and an outside evaluator. The outside evaluator may be from another department or program on campus, or from another Five College campus. Additional committee members can be added at the discretion of the student and advisor.

  3. The COMPLETE first draft of the thesis must be submitted to the advisor on the Monday following spring break. (A complete draft means everything -- no holes! -- including references.)
  4. The advisor will return the draft with comments no later than 10 days after receiving it.
  5. The revised second draft is due 10 days after the advisor returns the first draft. The second draft should be distributed to the examining committee.
  6. Committee members -- at their discretion -- offer comments on the second draft. At that point, the advisor lets the student knows whether the thesis is of sufficient caliber to go before an oral examining committee, or whether it will remain independent work.
  7. The oral honors examination is one hour long. It must be taken early enough for the grade to reach the Registrar by senior grade deadline, spring semester. At any point through the oral examination, committee members may suggest or ask the student to make corrections or rewrite certain portions of the thesis before turning it in to the Library. After the examination is over, the advisor may tell the student whether she has passed but not what level of distinction the committee will recommend. Levels of distinction and eligibility criteria for each level are listed in the College Guidelines for the Honors Program and Honors Thesis. A thesis which does not result in a recommendation for a degree with distinction will be recorded on the student's transcript as independent study.

Preparation of the Thesis Proposal (fall semester)

During the fall semester, the student collects data (where appropriate), conducts a review of the relevant scholarly literature, and prepares a formal thesis proposal for submission to the department. Thesis proposals are generally 10-12 pages (2500-3000 words) long not including the bibliography, tables, figures, or other technical appendices. Copies of previous thesis proposals are available for consultation upon request in the department office.

The thesis proposal is due on the Monday of the last week of classes of the Fall semester of the senior year.

Thesis proposals should include the following elements.

[1] A title page including a tentative/working title, and the student's name, class, advisor, major and minor fields, courses taken in the major, and relevant research experience.

[2] An extended statement of the research problem and its theoretical significance.

[3] A literature review that situates the research problem in relation to scholarly literature. The literature review should cite works relevant to the student's research problem. It should demonstrate that the student understands the theoretical and empirical context of the question she proposes to investigate.

[4] A data and methods section that explains the methodology of the project and source and type(s) of data for the project. Most importantly, this section should outline how data and methods will be employed to provide evidence to support the student's argument. This section should demonstrate familiarity with techniques and methods relevant to the student's research problem (for example, textual analysis, use of historical documents, participant-observation, interviewing techniques, cleaning and critically evaluating quantitative data sets, etc.).

[5] A brief discussion of the contribution this research will make to academic understandings of the subject.

[6] References and the bibliography should be written in the citation format conventions of the discipline. They should include all works cited in the literature review as well as all other citations relevant to the project.

Writing the Thesis (spring semester)

1. The spring semester is generally spent writing the thesis. The student should establish a regular relationship with a writing assistant at the College writing center early in the spring semester, to help with composition, editing, and formatting. The student should also consult with LITS to see whether they will support her computer program.

2. The finished thesis should include the following elements.

[a] A title page,

[b] acknowledgments,

[c] table of contents,

[d] preface or introduction,

[e] main text by chapters including summary and conclusions,

[f] appendices (if any), and

[g] references.

3. The body of the thesis should cover following points (not necessarily in this order)

  1. A statement of the problem. This section includes a review of all important and relevant background literature, including both theoretical and empirical reports published in the field pertinent to the study.
  2. A methodology and data section. This section describes the research procedures, study design, nature of the sample, data collection techniques, and method of analysis.
  3. The results section presents the most important findings in enough detail to evaluate their validity and significance.
  4. An analysis or interpretation of findings. This section discusses the implications, limitations, and significance of the project.

References and Bibliographies

The thesis must be referenced completely, accurately, and according to departmental and disciplinary requirements.

Also see the sociology reference materials or anthropology reference materials.

Manuscript Preparation for the Honors Thesis

(Official Guidelines as found on the LITS Archives and Special Collections Web site).

Formatting and Honors Thesis
The final form of the honors thesis should be produced on a word processor and printed on a good letter-quality printer, on 20 to 24 pound white bond paper of good rag or cotton fiber content (at least 25% to 50%), 8 1/2 X 11. Printing should be on one side of the paper only, and the text should be double spaced throughout except that footnotes, bibliography, and quotations of five or more lines should be single spaced. For type, the library recommends Times Roman, Palatino, or Courier, 12 Point; check with your adviser for specific requirements within your particular discipline. The left margin should be two inches wide to allow for binding, the right, not less than one inch, and about 1 1/4 inches should be left at the top and bottom of the page. All illustrations, tables, maps, etc., should come within the limits of the page margins; folding is permissible, but the folded page should be narrower than the thesis page so that it will not be caught in the binding. Five spaces indentation is recommended for paragraphs in the double-spaced matter in the text and appendices; for footnotes and bibliography, three spaces indentation is suggested. Page numbers and Arabic figures should appear in the upper right hand corner of the page in line with the text margin. Pages should normally be numbered sequentially. Pages with charts, diagrams, illustrations, or photographs may be assigned lower-case letters after the number of the page they follow, e.g., 14a, but the thesis should be internally consistent in its treatment of such pages. Each chapter or division should begin on a new page, the heading and title dropped about two inches from the top of the page, centered and written in full capitals. All matter that would be italicized in printing should be underlined in the typed copy, if italics are not supported.

Number of Copies
A student should submit three copies of her thesis to her major department/examining committee who will, in recommendations for summa cum laude, submit all three copies to the Academic Administrative Board for review. These copies will later be returned to the department.

Parts of The Thesis
Theses presented for honors should include a permission sheet placed within the binding which reads as follows: "I give permission for public access to my thesis and for any copying to be done at the discretion of the archives librarian and/or the College librarian." The permission sheet must be signed and dated by the student at the bottom. Parts of the thesis should be arranged in the following order: permission sheet; title page; acknowledgment; table of contents or outline; table of charts, figures, or diagrams, if any; preface and/or introduction; main text by chapters or parts; summary or conclusion; appendices, if any; bibliography or literature cited.

Footnotes may be placed at the bottom of the page below a line drawn completely across under the text, at the end of the chapter, or following the summary or conclusion. Acknowledgment of sources should follow the accepted practice in the discipline concerned. The thesis director can refer the student to a style manual that will set forth acceptable practices. Quotations of five or more lines should be single spaced and indented five spaces from the left margin, without framing quotation marks. If a single paragraph or part of one is quoted consecutively, indent the first line of each three spaces. Verse quotations of a single line or part of a line should be run on, in quotation marks, in the text; longer verse quotations should be centered. For ellipsis within a sentence, use three . . . spaced periods, leaving a space before the first period.

In addition, a copy should be submitted to Library, Information, and Technology Services (LITS) electronically. See complete instructions, format specifications, and help submitting honors pages on the Archives Web site.