The Process

1. If you think you would like to do an honors thesis in philosophy, you should begin thinking, no later than midway through your junior year, about (a) a research topic, and (b) which faculty member will serve as your adviser. You should talk with that faculty member as soon as possible and work with him or her to develop your topic.

See the College's Honors Study Guidelines, Standardized Format.

Guidelines for Choosing a Topic

a. The honors thesis must build on coursework that you have already completed. The department will not consider a proposal for a thesis on a topic that is unrelated to any courses you have taken.
b. The topic must be narrowly focused.
c. The topic must be something that you and your potential adviser would both like to work on for a year. That is why it is important to communicate with your potential adviser early.

2. The next step is to write a 5-6 page thesis proposal. The proposal must be submitted to the department chair by April 15 of your junior year. Before submitting your official proposal, you should work closely with your potential adviser to refine the proposal so that it meets the following standards:

Guidelines for the Honors Thesis Proposal

a. The proposal must contain a brief description of the philosophical problem or puzzle that you will explore in your thesis.
b. It should explain why this problem or puzzle is so important that it is worth spending a year on.
c. It should contain a very general outline of the whole project. (How many chapters do you anticipate? What will be the main topic of each chapter?)
d. It must contain a section describing what in your background prepares you to undertake the project. (Which relevant courses have you taken? What other side reading have you done?)
e. Finally, it must contain a working bibliography, or a list of books and/or articles that you have read or plan to read.

3. Once the department has had a chance to read your proposal, you will be asked to discuss the proposal in a meeting with the faculty. This meeting will last about half an hour. You will have 5-10 minutes to describe the honors study you would like to pursue, and then the department will take the remaining time to ask you questions, provide you with suggestions, recommend things to read over the summer, and so on. After this meeting, the faculty members will confer, and you will receive one of three recommendations:

(a) go ahead with the honors study;
(b) pursue an individual study rather than an honors study; or
(c) take more courses.

4. At this point, you will register for PHI 497, Honors Study in Philosophy, for the first semester of your senior year.

5. You should next meet with your adviser to negotiate all the details of your honors study (how often you will meet, how much and what you will read, whom you might ask to serve as your second reader, and so on.) At the end of the first semester of your senior year, your adviser has the option of turning in a grade of 'IP' ('In Progress'). This will get changed to an 'A' or an 'A-' at the end of the year when your honors thesis is successfully completed and defended. However, your adviser is not required to submit a grade of 'IP' at the end of the fall semester. If your adviser determines that you have not been doing 'A' or 'A-' work, then he or she may submit a lower grade. In that case, your honors study automatically converts to an individual study, and you will not graduate with honors. Your adviser is under no obligation to continue the year-long project if you do not do 'A' or 'A-' work during the fall semester.

6. An approximately complete rough draft of your honors thesis is due no later than one week after the start of classes in the second semester. This must be submitted to the thesis adviser, who will then determine if it is ready to be passed on to the second reader. If the adviser judges that it is, or that it will be with perhaps one more round of relatively minor revisions, then all is fine and the (revised) thesis will be passed on. But if the adviser judges that it is not or will not be ready even with those revisions, the honors study shall terminate at that time and you will not graduate with honors. The option shall remain open, however, whether you might continue with the project as an individual study.

7. The second reader shall be asked to provide written comments no later than ten days after receipt of the draft. In this period, too, you are expected to bring your thesis to the Writing Center to receive additional outside input on your writing fundamentals and style.

8. The final draft of the thesis must be submitted to the adviser no later than two weeks prior to the end of classes in the second semester. At that time the adviser will determine whether the thesis is ready to be "defended." If it is not, then the honors study converts into an individual study and you will not graduate with honors. If it is ready, or will be with only minor final revisions, the adviser shall schedule the "oral defense," a roughly hour-long meeting in which you will present the results of your work to the entire philosophy department and then stand for questions. The final grade for the honors study project will then be assigned by your adviser, in consultation with the second reader and the other members of the department.

9. It is customary for those who have successfully defended their honors theses to briefly present their work to fellow philosophy majors and minors at the department's annual year-end banquet.

10. The final, officially formatted and bound draft of the thesis must be submitted no later than one week prior to the end of classes. (This is a College-wide deadline). You must submit two physical copies of the thesis: one for your adviser and one for the department. The copies submitted to the department must be properly formatted and in the standard Connecticut College binders (available in the bookshop). It is your responsibility to purchase the binders, do the photocopying, study the formatting guidelines, etc.  Additionally, students must complete and submit the "Honors Thesis Submission Form" to the Registrar's Office before 5 p.m. on the due date as well as upload an electronic version of the thesis to the Honors Study Moodle site for inclusion in Digital Commons @ Connecticut College.  Neither the Library nor the Registrar's Office will accept a physical copy of an Honors Thesis to meet the submission requirement.  See the guidelines for submitting honors papers to the library for more information.