Latin Honors involves both demonstration of acquired knowledge (based in part on GPA) and a report on an original research project. University Latin Honors requirements are: 3.5 for Cum laude; 3.65 for Magna cum laude; and 3.8 for Summa cum laude. The student is required to obtain these GPA levels both overall and in Anthropology. Honors students planning to graduate in May take 4951 in the fall and 4961 in the spring of their senior year. Your thesis advisor is responsible for assigning a grade. Students are expected to meet with their advisors frequently and to have written a substantial portion of the thesis by the end of the fall semester.
If you are interested in working for Latin Honors you need to select a departmental professor willing to sponsor your honors project. This may be as early as the sophomore year, but ideally will be during the junior year. The first semester of the senior year is late to begin planning an honors thesis.
You should fill out the accompanying Anthropology Honors Program registration form and return it to the Honors Coordinator. Specific questions about eligibility or requirements should be addressed to the department Honors Coordinator (Professor Robert Sussman, firstname.lastname@example.org, 102 McMillan Hall, 935-5264).
Once you and your sponsoring faculty advisor have agreed upon a thesis topic, you must inform the Departmental Honors Coordinator. Two courses, Anthropology 4951 and Anthropology 4961, are available to allow you to secure appropriate credit for the extra research involved in the honors thesis.
For students graduating in May, the Honors Coordinator must be informed in January of the thesis title and your intention to complete the thesis that semester in order to properly register you as an honors candidate with the University. Most advisors ask for a near-final draft in mid-February in order to read it carefully, suggest revisions, and give the student time to make necessary changes before early March, when the other committee members must receive their copies. A final draft of the thesis must be completed no later than March 21, the Monday after Spring Break.
The honors thesis is evaluated by a three-member examining committee whose members are selected by the sponsoring advisor in consultation with the student and the Honors Coordinator. This three-member committee decides on the quality, suggests revisions, and makes its recommendations to the College of Arts and Sciences by the end of March on the level of Honors to be awarded. The final copy, with all changes required by the committee, is due by the last day of classes. For students graduating in December, please see the Honors Coordinator for time schedule.
Thesis Format and Length
As a rough guide, honors theses typically consist of about 60 pages of text. In consultation with a thesis advisor, each student should choose a professional stylistic format and follow standard bibliographic and citation techniques appropriate for the relevant subdiscipline. The published style guide of a lead journal such as American Anthropologist (for cultural), American Antiquity (for archaeology), or American Journal of Physical Anthropology can provide necessary details. The student is required to supply the department with a final copy of the thesis to be filed in the anthropology library. This copy must be spiral bound with a clear plastic cover. It is customary to provide the thesis advisor (and often committee members) with final copies.
Advantages and Disadvantages
New graduate students often discover on reaching graduate school that there is a considerable gap between what they have learned about a subject from books, and actually formulating and carrying out original research in the field. Making this transition is one of the most important challenges they face as a graduate student. Doing an honors thesis gives you the chance to take this step as an undergraduate through participating in original research in an area in which you are especially interested.
There are also several practical benefits to doing an honors thesis: you learn how to frame a research question, develop methods and analytical techniques with which to address it, and to discuss your results in the context of relevant anthropological literature. In doing so you work closely with one or several faculty members.
1) This is one of the best opportunities for undergraduates to conduct and report independent research beyond the level possible for a one-semester course.
2) If you are potentially interested in going on to graduate school, this experience helps you to evaluate whether or not you are really interested in research.
3) This experience also enables faculty members to get to know you well, and to make any recommendations that they may write much more substantive.
4) You receive university recognition for this work in the form of university Latin Honors. This is one of the most impressive awards a student can receive, and it will distinguish you as an outstanding scholar for life.
5) Sometimes undergraduate honors research can be published.
Doing an honors thesis is very demanding academically and takes a great deal of time and effort. Students find that doing the research not only takes time, but writing and even the mechanics of making proper citations, putting together extensive bibliographies, and creating and referencing figures and tables is much more time consuming than they had ever imagined. Occasionally, students are unable to complete the thesis in time for the spring deadline. As the program guidelines suggest, it is best to start honors research in your junior year.
There are two other factors you should consider when weighing the advantages and disadvantages of honors research:
1) Although faculty will help you as much as they can, you will have to learn to work independently more than you may be used to.
2) Since the final results of your work towards an honors thesis are not known until after applications for graduate school are due, the fact that you are doing an
honors thesis may not help with those applications.
Choosing a Topic: It is important to work in an area in which you are especially interested, and with which you have a solid academic groundwork, i.e., on which you have completed upper level coursework, written a paper, or done some preliminary research in class. Before agreeing to supervise an honors thesis, your faculty advisor will generally expect you to have taken upper level courses that relate to your topic. Past honors theses are on file and can be accessed through Dr. Cook, Academic Coordinator. These are useful for ideas about topics, as well as for many aspects of working on a thesis, such as methods, length, and format. You will need to discuss potential thesis topics and the data that may be available to address them with faculty before they agree to advise an honors thesis.
Research Method: Methods will vary greatly with subject, and should be discussed in detail with your advisor. Methods classes in the relevant subdiscipline of anthropology will be helpful.
Human Subject/Studies Approval: Students conducting research that involves interviewing or surveying people must obtain approval from the Human Research Protection Office (HRPO) before beginning research. Copies of the guidelines are available online at http://hrpohome.wustl.edu/. You should consult with your advisor about making this application, and allow some time for the procedure. See the Anthropology Department guidelines here.
Access to Laboratory Facilities: Those of you who are doing laboratory-based theses will need to obtain special permission for extra access hours to laboratory facilities. You will need to discuss this with your advisor and other professors ahead of time.
Expenses: You should consider applying for research funds from the Office of Undergraduate Research. There are also small grants available from Sigma Xi. Short proposals are required and you should discuss these with your advisor. The deadlines for proposals are in November each year. Forms are available in the Anthropology office. You should also bear in mind that you get academic credit for doing honors research, but do not have normal expenses such as the purchase of textbooks or laboratory fees. You should save this money toward research expenses such as photocopying.
If you have any questions about the HRPO application process, contact their office at http://hrpohome.wustl.edu/ or 633-7400.