Honors Thesis and Independent Study

Students should pursue an honors thesis if they have always wanted to investigate a particular topic related to German studies in more depth. If a student does not have a clear-cut topic, they can discuss their ideas with the German studies faculty. German majors, especially are encouraged to choose their topics carefully and seriously consider thesis work to gain experience toward arn working on a major project by conducting extensive, independent research on a topic of their own choosing. The independent study and honors thesis is an extremely valuable learning experience and the thesis in German studies must be written in German.

Get Started

Students are advised to start thinking about their topic as early as their sophomore year. However, they should definitely be giving serious thought to a topic by the spring semester of their junior year. This is especially important for those students who are studying abroad (in Germany or elsewhere). In fact, students who are abroad during their junior year, may discover an author or a topic of great interest to them. Students 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. Students will also need to speak with their professors abroad about the feasibility of doing more extensive research in preparation for writing a thesis when they return to campus. Students will also need to contact their major advisor at Mount Holyoke via email to discuss their preliminary ideas.

Departmental Deadlines and College Regulations

Students and faculty involved in the independent/honors process should be familiar with the College's guidelines for honors program and honors thesis first and review the tutorial on the proper use of sources.

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

Fall Semester

  1. Beginning of Senior Year: The student will ask a member of the German studies department to work with them as their thesis advisor. 
  2. By the end of September: A thesis abstract (2-3 pages) must be submitted to for approval by the German studies department which: a)conceptualizes the student’s topic and how they plan to develop it in their thesis. b) includes a preliminary outline of their major focus and themes. 
  3. After the thesis abstract is approved: a. Students must schedule meetings with their thesis advisor and create a firm timeline for completing their thesis. b. The student must choose the other members of their thesis committee in consultation with their advisor. According to legislation, their 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: Students must 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! 
  4. By October 30: Students must submit their preliminary research review, including a substantial number of resources. Indicate how each source will contribute to the work on the thesis. Students should spend the bulk of first semester researching their thesis topic (i.e., reading books and articles, etc.). 
  5. By November 15: Students will submit an annotated outline (with chapter titles) that will guide them as they begin writing. Students will discuss the outline with their advisor before they leave campus for Thanksgiving break. Again, remember that the thesis must be written in German. 
  6. End of Fall Semester: A 20-page writing sample of one of the student’s chapters must be submitted to the thesis advisor, second advisor, and third reader. The third advisor is a professor outside of the department or from the Five Colleges. The student should definitely keep all readers "in the loop" and seek their advice before they hand in the first draft of their thesis! Note that the members of the committee will also conduct the Honors Examination required of all candidates for honors.

Intersession in January: In close consultation with their advisor, students will continue writing, so that they have at least two chapters drafted by the end of Intersession in January

Spring Semester

  1. During February and March: Continue writing. Students will need to make sure they follow their timeline. 
  2. By the end of Spring Break: A first full draft of the thesis must be submitted. 
  3. By the end of March: The German Studies Department, in consultation with the student and their thesis advisor, will review the honors thesis work and decide if they are a candidate for honors. If the student’s work receives a favorable review, they will receive a letter from the department in early April asking them to confirm that they will be submitting the final draft of their thesis to their thesis committee by April 15. 
  4. By April 15: The final draft of the thesis must be submitted to the entire committee. Students will confer with their committee members to see if they would prefer a hard or electronic copy. 
  5. By April 15: Students will need to schedule their 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." The student is responsible for determining the date and time for this oral examination or "defense" of their thesis. 
  6. During Reading Days or Exam Period: The student examination takes place in German. Students will note the procedure of the oral examination: The department normally asks them to give a brief overview of their thesis and explain how they became interested in their 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, the student must answer in German. If a committee member has difficulty understanding the student’s response to a question, then the student may briefly use English to clarify or explain the point they are making. After the student completes the examination, they be asked to wait outside the room. Committee members will consult and, after a short time, call the student back and tell inform them whether or not they are recommending that the student be awarded honors in German studies based on their thesis and oral examination. If they are recommended for honors, the committee will also decide what level of honors to recommend to the Academic Administrative Board. The student will receive a letter from the AAB before graduation informing you of the level of honors they have earned. 
  7. By July 1st at the Latest the final copy of the thesis must be submitted to the library. Although July 1st is the official deadline, we strongly recommend that students prepare the final copy of their thesis and submit it to the library before they leave campus. This copy should incorporate any additional suggestions made by the thesis committee.