Becoming an Honors Candidate
Students who wish to consider pursuing honors should meet with the Undergraduate Concentration Advisor in the first half of their sixth semester.
Eligibility is dependent on:
- Being in good standing
- Having completed at least two thirds of the concentration requirements by the end of the sixth semester.
- Having earned two-thirds “quality grades” in courses counted towards the concentration. A “quality grade” is defined as a grade of “A” or a grade of “S” accompanied by a course performance report indicating a performance at the “A” standard.
To pursue honors candidacy, eligible students must:
- Secure a faculty advisor and discuss plans for the proposed thesis project well before the established deadline; this can be done by email when a student is abroad.
- Prepare a thesis prospectus (see below).
- Submit the prospectus to the advisor, one other proposed faculty reader (at least one of the readers must be in the department) and the department chair no later than the first week of the seventh semester.
The structure of a thesis prospectus
An honors thesis in Egyptology or Assyriology is a substantial piece of research with some degree of originality that demonstrates the student’s ability to frame an appropriate question and deal critically with a range of original and secondary sources. A thesis prospectus is a short analytical document consisting of several parts. It will normally include a concise and focused research question; a justification for that question that demonstrates familiarity with previous research on the topic; a project description that includes a discussion of the types of evidence available and appropriate to answering the proposed question; a discussion of methods of collecting and analyzing that evidence; a conclusion that returns to the research question and assures the reader that the project will add value to our understanding of the topic; and a bibliography. The prospectus will ordinarily be in the range of 5-7 pages in length, exclusive of bibliography. The prospectus will include proper citations throughout.
Determination of whether or not a student may pursue the proposed project will be made on review of the prospectus by the readers and department chair. Prospectuses will be evaluated on the following scale:
- No concerns about the viability of the project.
- No concerns about the viability of the project, but minor weaknesses in execution of the prospectus.
- Concerns about the viability of the project, but willingness to reevaluate a revised prospectus submitted within two weeks of receipt of evaluation.
- Reservations that the prospectus does not describe an honors-worthy project.
- Poorly conceived and shoddy work.
Prospectuses will be returned to the student with this numerical evaluation and comments one week after submission of the prospectus. A prospectus must receive an evaluation of 1 or 2 prior to the third week of the seventh semester for a student to be admitted to the honors track. Students who submit an original prospectus that is graded 4 or 5 will not be permitted to rework the prospectus for second submission.
Developing, Completing and Submitting an Honors Project
Once accepted as honors candidates, students will pursue a course of study that goes beyond what is expected of a regular concentrator. This includes:
- Enrollment in two semesters of independent study in Egyptology or Assyriology (these do not fulfill course requirements towards the concentration).
- Twice-monthly meetings with the thesis advisor and once-monthly meetings with the second reader. These meetings will be scheduled at the beginning of each term.
- Submission of a comprehensive outline to both readers no later than October 15 (for May graduates).
- Regular submission of drafts. A partial draft including a complete version of at least one chapter or section is due before Reading Period of the seventh semester.
- A complete draft is due to both readers no later than March 15 (for May graduates).
- The revised final thesis is due in both electronic and physical form to both readers and the department chair April 5 (for May graduates).
Failure to meet any deadline will result in an automatic termination of the honors process. No extensions will be granted. If a thesis is turned in late but before the end of the term, credit and grade for the Independent Study may still be granted.
Evaluating the Submitted Work of Honors Candidates
In order to receive honors a student must be found to have:
- Remained in good academic standing throughout the academic year.
- Not violated the Academic Code of Conduct during honors candidacy.
- Completed or be about to complete all concentration requirements.
- Produced a thesis that is judged by the readers to meet the department’s expectations for honors work (see below), and turned it in by the established deadlines.
- Successfully defended the thesis during a half hour public presentation held during the final exam period of the eighth semester.
Students who submit theses that are deemed to fall short of the expectations will graduate without honors. In that case, the thesis will count as a capstone project.
Expectations for Honors Theses
An honors thesis in Egyptology or Assyriology is expected to add to existing scholarship. The thesis must be based on close work with primary sources (usually in publication rather than in person), supplemented by critical engagement with a substantial amount of relevant secondary literature. While the resulting study is not necessarily expected to be ground-breakingly original, and may engage with a well-studied topic, it will usually include a new insight into or interpretation of the material considered.
An honors thesis is not a book or dissertation. It is, however, a very serious piece of research and writing for which two dedicated independent study courses have provided substantial time to the honors student. The question upon which the honors thesis is based should be focused enough to allow an in-depth treatment, generally in under 100 pages or 30,000 words (exclusive of bibliography and illustrations). Appropriate length will vary considerably depending on the topic itself and the nature of the primary sources being considered, particularly if substantial translation of ancient textual sources is required.
The thesis should present a sustained analytic argument in answer to its structuring question. A thesis should not be primarily descriptive or narrative in nature. Each chapter should contain a sub-argument that is clearly related to the overall argument of the thesis. The significance of the argument and its relationship to prior scholarship should be clearly articulated. Honors theses are not expected to demonstrate comprehensive familiarity with the secondary literature, but they are expected to engage critically and maturely with important works on the defined topic.
Egyptology and Assyriology are very broad fields, and the appropriate methods will be determined in conjunction with the thesis advisor on the basis of the question and types of evidence – textual, archaeological, art historical – under consideration. With very few exceptions the methodology of the thesis is expected to be conventional rather than innovative, rooted in the accepted practices of the field in question.
Organization and writing
An honors thesis must be well organized and written. It should include an introduction and conclusion as well as well-considered chapters that allow the reader to follow the line of reasoning easily. The relationship of any section to the larger whole should be clear, and segues should help the reader move between sections. Writing should be grammatically correct, well copy-edited, professional, and consistent. Citations and bibliography must be in an accepted style as determined in consultation with the advisor.