Honors Program

Thesis/Honors Process and Requirements

The department encourages students with sufficient background for independent work to enroll in the honors program for their senior year. Pursuing honors involves engaging in a significant amount of independent research, the culmination of which is a written thesis. To be admitted, students must have at least a 3.0 grade point average, and must complete a successful application (see schedule). To pass, the thesis must be judged acceptable by the honors committee.

Writing an honors thesis is a considerable undertaking, and requires motivation and advance planning. Please consult the schedule for information on the different stages of writing an honors thesis. The links on the left provide additional information.

Advance Planning

If you are writing on a topic within a field in which you have never taken a class, you will have to do a substantial amount of work during the summer before your senior year. On top of doing the reading and research immediately relevant to your topic, you will also have to complete extra reading and research on foundational topics in the field.

For example, suppose you wish to write a thesis on the ethics of eating meat, but have not taken a course in ethics (or have only taken a specialized course on a particular topic in ethical theory). During the summer before your senior year you will not only have to read some of the important texts on your topic, but you will also have to read about some of the basic theories employed by authors writing on that topic.

With this in mind, the department recommends that you do not pursue a thesis topic in a field for which you have not taken the necessary courses. This does not mean that writing on such a topic is disallowed, or that doing so is impossible; rather, past attempts indicate that it typically involves more work than can feasibly be done in one year.

The best way to avoid this problem is to plan ahead. During January Term of your junior year (or earlier) begin thinking about what topic you want to write on. Then look at all the philosophy courses offered at the Five Colleges to see whether there are any courses that might prepare you for writing the best thesis you can. Take one or more such courses. Such a course might also be offered in your senior year - if so, take it. The more ways you approach your question, the better your thesis will be.