Thesis Guidelines

Do I Want to Write a Senior Thesis?

Only you can answer this question--if you have always wanted to investigate a particular topic related to German studies in more depth, perhaps offer a new way of looking at an author's works, or explore how an author was influenced by theoretical writings or the times in which s/he lived, then writing a thesis is for you!  Even if you do not have a clear-cut topic, you may want to discuss your ideas with the German studies faculty. It is to your benefit to choose a topic carefully. We encourage you (especially German studies majors) to seriously consider thesis work since it is a wonderful way to learn how to work on a major project by conducting extensive, independent research on a topic of your own choosing.  This is an extremely valuable learning experience.  A thesis in German studies must be written in German.

How Do I Get Started?

You may start thinking about your topic as early as your sophomore year.  However, you should definitely be giving serious thought to a topic by the spring semester of your junior year.  This is especially important for those students who are studying abroad (in Germany or elsewhere).  In fact, if you are abroad during your junior year, it may well be that you discover an author or a topic of great interest to you.  You should take this opportunity to learn more about the author and explore the topic in greater depth by using the university library abroad to do some preliminary research and reading.  Also, speak with your professors there about the feasibility of doing more extensive research in preparation for writing a thesis when you return to campus.  Don't forget to contact your major advisor at MHC via email to discuss your preliminary ideas with him/her. 


Departmental Deadlines and College Regulations

 ·      Please consult college guidelines first and be sure to review the tutorial on the proper use of sources.

1)   Spring of your Junior Year:  Pre-register for German 325 (senior seminar) and consult with your German studies advisor about the timeline and regulations of writing a thesis. You will work on your thesis project as part of the requirements for German 325 and sign up for German studies 395 with your adviser in the Spring of your senior year.


2)   Beginning of Senior Year: Ask a member of the German studies department to work with you as your thesis advisor.


3)   By the end of September: Submit a thesis abstract (2-3 pages) to be approved by the German studies department which:

     a.conceptualizes your topic and how you plan to develop it inyour thesis.

     b. includes a preliminary outline of your major focus and themes.

4)   After approval of your thesis abstract:

a.   Schedule meetings with your thesis advisor and create a firm timeline for completing your thesis.

b.   Choose the other members of your thesis committee in consultation with your advisor. According to legislation, your thesis committee must consist "of at least three members: two or more members of the department in which the thesis 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 or an examiner from outside the College."  It is the tradition of the German Studies Department to invite all continuing department members to serve on thesis committees.

c.   Very Important: Make an appointment with one of the research librarians as soon after the start of fall semester as possible.  The librarians can be of great help to you! 

5) By October 30: Submit your preliminary research review, including a substantial number of resources. Indicate how each source will contribute to the work on your thesis. The bulk of first semester should be spent researching your thesis topic (i.e., reading books and articles, etc.).

6) By November 15: Submit an annotated outline (with chapter titles) that will guide you as you begin writing.  Discuss the outline with your advisor before you leave campus for Thanksgiving break.  Again, remember that you must write the thesis in German.

7) End of Fall Semester: Submit a 20-page writing sample of one of your chapters to your thesis advisor, second advisor and third reader. The third advisor is a professor outside of the department or from the Five Colleges.  You should definitely keep all readers "in the loop" and seek their advice before you hand in the first draft of your thesis!  Note that these members of your committee will also conduct the Honors Examination required of all candidates for honors.

8)  Intersession in January: In close consultation with your advisor, continue writing, so that you have at least two chapters drafted by the end of Intersession in January.

9) During February and March: Continue writing. Make sure you follow your timeline.

10) By the end of Spring Break: Submit a first full draft of your thesis.

11) By the end of March:  The German Studies Department, in consultation with you and your thesis advisor, will review your work and decide if you are a candidate for honors.  If your work receives a favorable review, you will receive a letter from the department in early April asking you to confirm that you will be submitting the final draft of your thesis to your thesis committee by April 15.

12) By April 15: Submit the final draft of your thesis to your entire committee. Confer with your committee members to see if they would prefer a hard or electronic copy.

12) By April 15: Schedule your Honors Examination (or "defense"). Legislation states that "a candidate for an honors degree by thesis or project shall take a special honors examination [...] designed to test her command of the special subject of her honors work and her ability to see its significance as part of the field.  The length of the [oral] honors examination shall be no more than one hour [...] and shall be given no later than 10 days before Commencement." You are responsible for determining the date and time for this oral examination or "defense" of your thesis. 

13) During Reading Days or Exam Period: Your examination takes place in German. Note the procedure of the oral examination: The department normally asks you to give a brief overview of your thesis and explain how you became interested in your topic. This is followed by a series of questions posed by committee members.  If the committee member from outside of German studies does not speak German well, then s/he will ask questions in English.  However, you must answer in German.  If a committee member has difficulty understanding your response to a question, then you may briefly use English to clarify or explain the point you are making.  After you complete the examination, you be asked to wait outside the room.  Committee members will consult and, after a short time, call you back and tell you whether or not they are recommending that you be awarded honors in German studies based on your thesis and oral examination. If you are recommended for honors, your committee will also decide what level of honors to recommend to the Academic Administrative Board.  You will receive a letter from the AAB before graduation informing you of the level of honors you have earned.

By July 1st at the Latest
Submit the final copy of your thesis to the library.  Although July 1st is the official deadline, we strongly recommend that you prepare the final copy of your thesis and submit it to the library before you leave campus.  This copy should incorporate any additional suggestions made by your thesis committee.