Honors Program

Qualified majors may apply for admission to the Honors Program of the Department during the second or third terms of their junior year. Completion of the Honors Program is prerequisite to graduation with Honors or High Honors in the major subject.

The Honors Program of the Department of Religion is designed to encourage and enable a qualified major student to pursue a long-term independent research project on some topic of interest and importance. Through the project, as guided by a member of the faculty, the student should come to an understanding in depth of the content of the subject and the methodological procedures necessary to enable him or her to reach the desired goal.

In order to qualify for an Honors Program in the Religion Department, the student must have at the time of application an average of 3.0 in all subjects and 3.3 in the major.

During two terms of the senior year the honors student will pursue the project under the guidance of a selected faculty member by enrolling in REL 85.02 (Senior Colloquium for Honors Program) and REL 87 (Honors). The student is expected to produce a substantial thesis as the culmination of the project. A paper of seventy-five to one hundred pages would be considered usual, although the exact nature of the project might dictate a different length. The student will be expected to maintain at least a ‘B+’ level of performance throughout the two terms. Unless at least a grade of B+ is assigned the thesis and a cumulative average of 3.0 is maintained in the major, he or she will not be considered to have successfully completed the project. If in the judgment of the Department the student has failed to perform at the minimal level, it will have the right to terminate the project at the end of the first or the second term.

The Honors Program course sequence fulfills the culminating experience requirement in the major, and they count for two of the major's ten required courses. See also the Registrar's ORC.

The procedure for writing an Honors Thesis is described below.

Junior Year: Fall/Winter Term

1. Preparation

Plans for writing a thesis must be made during the junior year -- the earlier the better. Begin by meeting with that faculty member, or faculty members, in the department with whom you expect to work. If you have already selected a topic, discuss plans for approach, do preliminary readings, and compile a tentative bibliography. If you do not have a topic, but know the general area in which you want to work, faculty will help you narrow your focus and propose possibilities for you to consider. Your main thesis advisor should be a faculty member in this department; where relevant, second readers or advisors in other departments or programs can be involved. Not all faculty are available every year to supervise work. That is why it is urgent that you consult with relevant faculty as early as possible.

Junior Year: Winter/Spring Term

2. Proposal

To be accepted for thesis work, you must submit a formal proposal to the department Chair (submit via email), by the seventh week of Spring term.

 In your proposal you should:

a) be 2-4 pages in length;
b) explain what it is you want to examine and why;
c) note your preparation for this investigation (i.e., relevant course work);
d) explain your approach - what methods do you plan to use?;
e) where possible, note and discuss anticipated results; and
f) be accompanied by a tentative bibliography.

SAMPLE proposal can be viewed here

Your proposal will be read and discussed by the entire faculty at a department meeting. Since the Department may request that the student revise the proposal, we recommend that a proposal be submitted to the Department by the seventh week of the Spring term of their junior year.

Senior Year: Fall/Winter or Winter/Spring

3. Research and Writing

Your course of research will be set by you and your advisor. You should have a clear plan, and manage your time wisely, with an exact schedule for completion of each part of the thesis that is agreed upon by you and your advisor. You should allow 2-3 weeks at the end of your work for final revisions.

Senior Year: End of Spring Term

4. Presentation and Defense

When your thesis is finished, you are required to present and defend your results to the faculty of the department. In most cases, all theses are read by all members of the department. This is not done to determine your grade; that is decided by your thesis advisor. Rather, this is done to give you experience in publicly explaining your views and to give the faculty a chance to ask questions. Thesis presentations are scheduled during the last full week of spring term. Contact the department administrator for information regarding the printing and distribution of your thesis copies to the faculty before the deadline.


For Proposals

Proposals must be submitted to the chair of the department before the end of spring term of your junior year.  See Proposal requirements above.

For Completing Your Thesis

A thesis written during the fall and winter must be submitted by the end of the first week in May. A thesis completed during the spring term must be submitted by the end of the third week in May.  See presentation and defense requirements above.

Go To: Listing of Religion Department Honors Theses

Honors Thesis Advice from a 2017 Honors Major

Eliza Rockefeller '17, an Honors Religion major, wrote detailed notes and suggestions after completing her thesis, to help other students working on - or considering working on - an honors thesis in Religion. Read her advice here:

Religion Thesis Advice Sheet.