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Guidelines for Honors Senior Thesis

2017-2018

The Honors Senior Thesis has both an oral examination and a written component, and can be done in either senior semester, or across the entire senior year, as explained below:

Fall Term: The oral examination for the thesis must be completed by the last day of the Exam Period, and the final copy of the thesis must be submitted one full week before the date of the oral examination. Theses submitted after that date will not be accepted.

Spring Term: The oral examination for the thesis must be completed by the last day of the General Examinations and the final copy of the thesis must be submitted one full week before the date of the oral examination. Theses submitted after that date will not be accepted.

1. The Honors Senior Thesis: Overview

The Honors Thesis in Religious Studies is normally a one-semester course, for which one credit is given, involving a written thesis of approximately 10,000 words (excluding notes & bibliography). With permission of the instructor, a student may choose to do a two-semester thesis for two credits, entailing a paper of approximately 20,000 words (excluding notes & bibliography).

The thesis project involves three components:

  1. A written thesis, which is an extended argument demonstrating the proposition or point of view proposed by means of documented evidence and resulting in a coherent conclusion;
  2. An oral examination on the thesis, which follows completion of the written work; and
  3. The colloquia, which involves a presentation of capstone work completed by all seniors, scheduled for the end of the semester, to which friends and family can be invited.

Prior to registering for your thesis (RELG 497 for a single-semester thesis, or RELG 498 for the first part of a 2-semester thesis), you should submit a proposal of 750-1500 words, plus annotated bibliography, to your thesis advisor. A reminder will be sent around each semester to prepare your proposal, which will be due October 15 in the fall or March 15 in the spring of each year. Please note: this proposal is to come in during the semester prior to your signing up for the thesis. It will be circulated to the faculty of the Department of Religious Studies for review, comments, and advice. The proposal form can be reached by opening the following link:

Senior Thesis Proposal Form (PDF)

Senior Thesis Proposal Form (Word)

The proposal asks that you provide a provisional title and topic, and that you address these issues:

  1. Provisional Thesis Title
  2. What is your thesis question or research objective? (Thesis Argument)
  3. What is the significance or importance of your thesis? (Thesis Significance)
  4. Which methods or theories will you use? (Methodology)
  5. What are your sources? (Preliminary Annotated Bibliography)

We encourage you to begin your preparations early for the thesis. To help, there is a limited amount of money from the Department of Religious Studies to support early research. This is a competitive grant, and you’ll need to apply for it at the beginning of the spring semester of your junior year. We’ll send out information to you at that time.

2. Readers

Each thesis must have at least two readers from the department. The first reader is also the principal thesis advisor, who directs the student in researching and writing the thesis and determines the letter grade assigned for the course. Additional readers from outside the department may also be included. Students should make arrangements regarding readers early in the term to facilitate coordination of schedules.

If a thesis is comparative in structure, readers from all the fields encompassed should be fully involved as the work proceeds. One person, however, should assume the role of principal advisor. We encourage all students, regardless of topic, to be in touch with their second readers over the course of the thesis process and, especially, to submit their rough drafts to their second readers for comments and suggestions.

3. Grade

Two distinct grades are given for the thesis:

  1. A letter-grade for the course, based on the quality of the product (the final paper turned in by the student), and on the quality of the process (cooperation of student with professor, meeting deadlines, general involvement with project). This grade is determined by the thesis advisor.
  2. A ranking grade based on both the final written thesis and the oral examination. This grade is determined by consultation between the first and second readers. It conforms to the college grading of General Exams and encompasses the following grades: Distinction, High Pass, Pass, and Fail.

4. Oral Examination

The oral examination, of 45 to 50 minutes, is given jointly by the first and second readers of the thesis. The student must schedule the oral examination in advance with both readers at a time convenient for all involved. The purpose of the oral examination is two-fold: to determine whether the student can explain clearly the data and interpretations presented in the thesis, and to discover whether the student can go beyond what is written in the thesis. The principal advisor chairs the examination, but both advisors share in asking questions.

5. Colloquium: Public Thesis Presentation

At the end of the semester, after the thesis is finished, each writer participates in a public presentation of his or her thesis. You’ll have about 15-20 minutes to talk about what you’ve done, and there’ll be refreshments available during and after. Normally, students invite friends and family to this gathering to help you celebrate your accomplishment!

To be awarded Honors in Religious Studies, a student must have an A- average in those ten courses fulfilling the major requirements and earn a Distinction on the Honors Senior Thesis.