Honors Thesis

FMT majors may work on thesis projects in their senior year if they have a 3.0 overall GPA, a 3.5 GPA in the major, and adequate background for independent work. To be considered for a degree with honors, the student must present a thesis completed during the year that will be evaluated by the FMT faculty to determine whether it will be awarded honors. A senior thesis is a two-semester Independent Study submitted for honors (students may also embark on an independent project of one semester, and many projects are best suited to this length). The information below is specific to FMT but students should also take a look at the description of the process in Faculty Legislation.


Junior Year — Fall Semester

During preregistration in the fall of the junior year (or earlier) the student should begin to think about a topic or project, looking at all the potentially related courses offered at the Five Colleges to see whether there are any relevant courses offered in the spring or the next fall.

Junior Year — Spring Semester

By February 15th of the junior year, the student should submit a proposal to the chair of the FMT department that includes the following:

For a Critical Thesis:

  • A brief explanation of the reasons for embarking upon a senior thesis.
  • A three-to-five page description of the thesis. This should include an introduction to the subject, a breakdown of chapters and their contents, a tentative schedule for completion of the work, and a preliminary bibliography/filmography. If additional research outside the College is required, this must also be detailed.
  • Two samples of critical writing, preferably papers from previous classes, with professors' comments included.

For a Creative Thesis:

  • A brief explanation of the reasons for embarking upon a senior thesis.
  • A two-to-three page description of the project that covers your intentions for your project. Include a paragraph grounding your project in your critical studies, and a tentative schedule for completion of the work.
  • A sample of relevant creative work.

The department will meet to discuss the proposals early in the spring semester. If any revisions to the proposal are suggested, the student must submit them to the chair as soon as possible.

Final decisions will be announced by March 1 and are based on the student's demonstrated abilities, the feasibility of the particular topic, and the availability of faculty resources.

As stated in Faculty Legislation - "In the case of a single-department major or honors project, the paper or its equivalent shall be evaluated by an examining committee appointed by the department and composed of at least three members; two or more members of the department in which the honors work has been done, including the director of the project and, ordinarily, the chair of the department, as well as a member of another department at Mount Holyoke College or an examiner from outside the College. "

For formatting see also submitting honors papers (the senior thesis).

Junior Year — Summer Recess

In the summer before the senior year, preparation should begin. Hint: write a summary or a reaction paper for each article, book, or film you study while developing the project. For a film production thesis, it is at this point that you should begin researching your topic and securing permissions from subjects (documentary) or drafting the script (narrative).

Senior Year — Fall Semester

In the fall of your senior year you must:

  1. Create a syllabus for yourself and begin meeting with your advisor once a week. Keep in mind that this is an independent project. Your advisor's job is to aid you in your process. Thus your advisor will make some recommendations about what you should read and see, but you will have to find many of the texts that are relevant to your topic on your own. Remember that this is your project; have a game plan for your conferences. If you are doing a creative thesis, the syllabus you create will include your schedule for preproduction through completion.
  2. Narrow the focus. The odds are that the topic or project that you began with in the spring of your junior year was too broad. One of your tasks in the fall will be to choose some subset of your interests on which you will concentrate in order to create a question to answer or a project to complete.
  3. Begin actual work on the project. If you are writing, you must complete a chapter draft before the end of the semester. If you are producing a film, you should shoot all of your footage during the fall semester. If you are directing or designing a production, schedules may vary.
  4. By the Monday after Thanksgiving break, submit for department review a self-assessment that covers the status of the project to date and timetable for the spring. In turn, the faculty will assess the project and decide whether you may proceed for another semester.
  5. If you are permitted to proceed with a critical thesis for the spring semester, you should have completed approximately half of the writing of your project when you return to school after the winter break.

Senior Year — Spring Semester

In the spring of your senior year, you must:

  1. Complete the project.
  2. Discuss with your advisor whether the project should be considered for Honors. If so, choose the second and third members of your committee by mid-March.
  3. Prepare your final draft or project portfolio, which is due on May 1st.
  4. Defend your thesis. The members of your thesis committee will ask you questions about your thesis. These questions will generate a conversation between you and your committee that will last no more than one hour. Immediately upon completion of the defense, the members of the committee will meet to decide whether to recommend you for graduation with honors. (If they decide that your thesis does not qualify for honors, then it will be an independent study.) If the thesis does qualify for honors, your committee will also decide what level of honors to recommend to the Academic Advisory Board. The full FMT department decides in a later meeting whether to support the recommendation of the committee. In most cases, the department’s recommendation will follow that of your committee. The Academic Advisory Board makes the final decision about what level of honors you will receive at graduation and will let you know just before commencement.

Condensed Timetable

Junior Year

In the fall semester, consider whether a thesis project is suitable for you. By February 15th, submit a proposal to the department chair for approval. You will be notified by March 1st whether or not your proposal has been accepted.

Senior Year

  • First day of classes: Submit a draft for a syllabus for the semester’s work to your adviser and schedule weekly meetings.
  • Monday after Thanksgiving Break: Submit all materials to the department, along with a cover letter summarizing your progress. You will be notified before the end of the semester whether you have made sufficient progress to continue.
  • May 1: Final draft or project portfolio of thesis due. Copies must be given to all three members of your committee and follow the Formatting instructions.
  • During Exam Period: Defend your thesis. You will be notified immediately following the defense whether you have passed. The level of honors will be relayed at a later date through the Academic Advisory Board. Please see the General guide to Academic Honors for more information.