Religious Studies majors who have earned a cumulative GPA of 3.5 or higher after six semesters are eligible to apply for candidacy for departmental senior honors. (Starting with the class of 2015, majors will need to earn a cumulative GPA of 3.65 or higher after six semesters to apply for candidacy for departmental senior honors.) Once they receive departmental approval, candidates must satisfactorily complete a senior honor’s thesis in order to be recommended to the College for honors.
The senior honor’s thesis is a research project that is significantly longer normally 50-75 pages long, but no fewer than 40 pages and no longer than 100 pages, and more intellectually sophisticated than the usual term paper. The student works closely with a faculty member associated with the Religious Studies program in developing an independent, focused work of scholarship that builds on the courses the student has taken as a Religious Studies major. Students considering graduate or professional school are especially encouraged to write a senior thesis, although any undergraduate will benefit greatly from this experience.
Interested students should first consult with their major advisor, no later than the second semester of their junior year, about the feasibility of writing an honor’s thesis and names of possible thesis advisors. After having identified an appropriate faculty member associated with the Religious Studies Program who is willing to serve as thesis advisor, the student should meet with the faculty member to discuss the feasibility of his or her thesis topic. Then the student will need to apply for candidacy.
The application form includes a 1-2 page thesis proposal, a preliminary working bibliography, and a recent unofficial transcript. It will also require the signature of the thesis advisor. The completed application should then be submitted to the director of the Religious Studies program for final approval. Once this is obtained, candidates may, in consultation with their advisor, begin planning how to best use the summer months for preliminary reading and research.
The responsibilities of the candidate for honors include: showing up for scheduled meetings with the thesis advisor; adhering to the research and writing plan jointly developed by the candidate and the supervisor; seeking out the supervisor for help when needed; meeting agreed-upon deadlines; and abiding by the guidelines outlined in the Statement of Student Academic Integrity.
The responsibilities of the thesis supervisor include: setting up regular meetings with the candidate; helping the candidate design a research and writing plan; monitoring the candidate’s progress through meetings and periodic written drafts; and offering feedback in a timely fashion.
In the fall semester of their senior year, candidates should enroll in L23 498 ReSt “Independent Work for Senior Honors I.” During the fall semester, students will meet regularly with the thesis advisor, and at the end of the semester will be asked to submit a detailed report of the work accomplished for the advisor to evaluate and grade. The minimum that needs to have been accomplished by the end of the fall semester includes a detailed outline of the thesis, a complete working bibliography, and an updated research and writing plan. This report will also form the basis for the grade that the candidate will receive for Religious Studies L23 498.
At the end of the fall semester, the thesis advisor will be asked to submit a brief written recommendation to the Director of Religious Studies as to whether or not the candidate should be allowed to continue in the honors program. If the recommendation is that the student continue, he or she will then be allowed to enroll in Religious Studies L23 499 “Independent Work for Senior Honors II,” for an additional 3 credits in the spring semester. If there has been unsatisfactory progress, however, or if either student or advisor feels that the thesis cannot be completed, candidacy for honors will be terminated and the student will not be allowed to enroll in Religious Studies L23 499.
By the first week of March, candidates should have a completed a draft of the thesis that is ready to be submitted to the thesis advisor and to a second reader from the Religious Studies Program. Students and advisors should identify this second reader as early in the two-semester honors sequence as possible. The advisor and the second reader will then read and assess the thesis according to the following basic criteria: the breadth of research in primary and secondary sources, quality of analysis and argument, quality of writing and organization.
Please note that it is extremely important that this draft is submitted on time: late submission may make it impossible to recommend the candidate for Honors.
Shortly after Spring Break, the candidate will meet with the thesis advisor and the second reader to discuss the thesis. This meeting should take no more than an hour, and is intended primarily as an opportunity for assessment and closure. The two readers may suggest revisions to the thesis at this time. They will also decide whether or not to forward their recommendation that the candidate be awarded Honors to the College Office.
By or before April 15th, the candidate should submit the completed thesis to the Religious Studies Program office. The final draft should be typed (please use 12 point font), double-spaced, with 1” margins all around. It should be either bound or placed in a notebook, so that it may be shelved in the Program office along with other theses. The supervisor will then submit the final grade for L23 499 “Independent Work for Senior Honors II.”
Please note that awards of A.B. cum laude, magna cum laude, and summa cum laude currently require cumulative averages of 3.5, 3.65 and 3.8 respectively and are calculated based on the student’s complete body of undergraduate scholarship, including the final semester’s coursework. Thus the level awarded at graduation may be the same or lower than what was given by the committee.