The Honors Program gives a student of philosophy the time and the support necessary to do extensive work on a philosophical topic which grows out of the student’s own interests. It is best if the topic develops out of work a student has already done in a course, rather than requiring the student to learn a whole new body of material. The successful completion of the work distinguishes the student at graduation as exceptionally capable and dedicated.
Application to the Honors Program must be made to a member of the department and approved by the department by the end of Spring semester of the student’s junior year. This means that interested students should begin discussion of a honors project with a member of the faculty Fall semester of the junior year. The written proposal for the thesis should be developed in consultation with a member of the department. Typically, the proposal requires several revisions.
Students will be accepted on the basis of the written project proposal and an interview with members of the department. Acceptance will be based on the student’s grasp of the history of philosophy, his or her demonstrated ability to write good philosophical papers, the quality and feasibility of the proposed project, and the student’s academic record. In accordance with general college requirements, students must have a GPA in the major of 3.5 in order to be eligible to receive honors.
Because supervising an Honors Thesis takes a great deal of time, no faculty member can work with more than one honors student per year, thus normally limiting the total number of honors students to five per year.
Nature of the Work
The topic can be any issue, philosophical position, or philosopher the student wishes to work on, but it must be approached with an appreciation of its historical background. While we do not expect the thesis to make an original contribution to the field, it must be more than simply a summary of a philosopher’s position. An element of critical assessment needs to be included. The typical length of the thesis is 20-30 pages.
The completed thesis must be such that in the faculty’s opinion it is publishable in shortened form in a representative undergraduate philosophy journal - for instance, Episteme - or presentable at an undergraduate philosophy conference.
The Time Frame
The project is carried out during one semester of independent study during the senior year, normally Fall. However the student should expect to be working on the project earlier than this, as well as during most of the following Spring semester. The honors student is expected to work closely and meet regularly with a member of the department.
In order that the evaluation of the project for honors can be accomplished before graduation, the penultimate draft should be presented for review by three members of the department - chosen by the student in consultation with the student’s primary advisor - by the fourth week of Spring semester. On the basis of the three faculty members’ review of the work, revision can then be made so that the final version can be available by the tenth week of Spring term. These revisions are often extensive.
A review committee - consisting of three members of the department - will read the final work and reach a final decision as to its merit. Depending upon the specific project, and at the discretion of the Philosophy Department in consultation with the student, one or more additional faculty members from outside the Department may be consulted in the evaluation of the work.
The work will be evaluated on the basis of the adequacy of the research, its coverage of the topic, the clarity and originality of the analysis, and the competence of the writing. The decision to award honors will only be made by a unanimous vote by the three members of the review committee from the Philosophy Department.
If approved for honors, the project will be presented at a colloquium open to all interested students and faculty, and a copy of the project will be deposited in the college archives. Another will remain in the department’s library. The student will then receive his or her degree with honors.
The student will receive credit towards the major for the one semester of independent study whether or not the thesis is accepted for honors.
Summary of Deadlines
First week of Spring semester, junior year: Begin discussion of project with a member of the department.
Eighth week of Spring semester, junior year: Submission of project proposal.
Fourth week of Spring semester, senior year: Completion of penultimate draft and submission to the review committee.
Tenth week of Spring semester, senior year: Revisions completed and final draft of thesis resubmitted to review committee for final assessment.