Senior Thesis

The honors program provides students the opportunity to conduct original, rigorous analytic work. Students who write honors theses engage in independent research where they integrate evidence, conceptual frameworks, and theory to produce a creative, well-supported, well-written scholarly argument.

An honors thesis in Sociology or Anthropology is typically a 75-100 pages long document, although alternative formats (videos, photo essays, performances) may be considered subject to department approval. 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 evaluate the significance of the thesis as part of the field.

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.


Junior year, spring semester

  1. Submit a 300-word proposal by the Monday of the last full week of classes. Explore research funding options, if necessary. See below for guidelines.
  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.

Senior year, fall semester

  1. Meet with your advisor during the first week of classes to discuss expectations and meeting schedule for the semester, as well as the work you need to complete by the end of the semester to continue honors work in spring.
  2. Submit the agreed upon work to your advisor by the Monday of the last full week of classes.
  1. Register for 4 credits of 395 (independent study) in Anthropology or Sociology for the spring semester.
  2. Students who are not approved for continuation will be notified before the end of the fall semester exam period.

Senior year, spring semester

  1. Meet with your advisor during the first week of classes to discuss expectations and meeting schedule for the semester.
  2. Start forming your thesis committee. The thesis committee is comprised of at least three faculty members: two faculty members from the department, including the advisor (who normally acts as Chair of the examining committee), and an outside evaluator from another department or program at Mount Holyoke College, or from another Five College campus. Additional committee members can be added at the discretion of the student and advisor. Recommend appropriate thesis committee members to your advisor no later than 3 weeks after the beginning of Spring semester. Upon your advisor’s approval, ask prospective members of the committee if they will serve. It is important (and courteous) for the students to keep the committee members apprised of their progress throughout the spring semester.
  3. Submit the complete first draft of your thesis to your advisor on the Monday following spring break. (A complete draft means everything – no holes! – including references.) Your advisor will return the draft with comments no later than 10 days after receiving it.
  4. Submit your revised second draft to your advisor and your thesis committee within 10 days after receiving your advisor’s comments. Committee members -- at their discretion – may offer comments on the second draft. At that point, the advisor informs the student whether the thesis is of sufficient caliber to go before an oral examining committee, or whether it will remain independent work.
  5. Book a date and location for the oral defense in conjunction with all committee members.
  6. 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. 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 into the Library. After the examination is over, advisors may tell the students whether they have passed but not what level of distinction the committee will recommend.

Levels of graduation honors are described on the registrar’s website.

In accordance with college policy, work conducted under the honors program remains independent study until it is approved by the student's advisor, examining committee, and other faculty members in the program as honors work. Honors work that is not approved appears on the student's transcript as independent study, after either the first or second semester, as the advisor deems appropriate. 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.

Guidelines for the Junior Year Proposal

Students who wish to undertake honors work are required to submit a 1-2 page (300 words) proposal to the department by the Monday of the last full week of classes in the spring semester of their junior year. Students should also explore funding options for research-related expenses, if applicable. The proposal must include:

[1] A working title; [2] name of preferred advisor; [3] description of the research problem; [4] proposed methodology or research design, (e.g. participant-observation, ethnographic interviews, survey analysis, library research); [5] research timeline (all data collection should be completed by the end of the fall semester); [6] a copy of a completed IRB form, if necessary, with advisor's signature (note that the student is responsible for getting her proposal approved by the IRB); [7] a completed background information form (listing name, class, advisor, major and minor fields, courses taken in the major, relevant research experience); [8] a transcript.

The department reviews the proposals at the end of spring semester. Students whose proposals are accepted are assigned advisors to work with them. Students enroll for independent study for the fall semester — the honors program requires a minimum of 8 credits distributed between two semesters.

Guidelines for the Honors Thesis

In Sociology and Anthropology, a finished honors thesis should include the following elements.

[a] A title page, [b] acknowledgments, [c] table of contents, [d] preface or introduction, [e] main chapters that include statement of the problem, review of the relevant literature, study design, data collection techniques, method of analysis, research results, and the analysis/interpretation of findings, [f] conclusion, [g] appendices (if any), and [h] bibliography, formatted according to departmental and disciplinary requirements.

Submitting the Honors Thesis

The Department of Sociology and Anthropology requires one unbound paper copy of the thesis. Consult the department coordinator for assistance with printing. Please follow official guidelines for formatting and submitting honors theses, as described on the LITS website.