Going for honors? Here is what you need to know:

Your thesis will be a 40-80 page research paper on a topic chosen by the student and approved by the advisor upon receipt of a proposal in the fourth quarter prior to expected graduation. The paper, supported by mastery of primary and secondary scholarship, advances a well-reasoned, supportable thesis. Writers of honors theses must have a grade point average (GPA) of 3.5 in Religious Studies courses, and at least 3.2 overall, and are expected to have already demonstrated success in writing research papers. The honors thesis is read and graded by the student's advisor and one other member of the Religious Studies faculty. Theses earning a grade of 'B+' or above receive honors.

Things to Consider First...

As you begin to formulate your essay or thesis topic and develop a written proposal, you should be asking yourself three important questions:

  1. Does my topic emerge from the coursework I’ve been doing in the department?
  2. Does the topic in some way significantly reflect my focus of study in the major?
  3. Have I found someone in the department who is both knowledgeable about and willing to direct my research and writing?

You should also be discussing your plans at length with your advisor. The choices concerning a) whether to write an honors thesis rather than a senior essay, b) what a viable topic might be, given your interests and work in religion to date, and c) which faculty member in the department might be best suited to guide you should be made in close consultation with your main advisor. Note that c) implies that the advisor of your senior project may turn out to be someone other than your regular advisor. That’s fine! Just be sure to keep both advisors informed of your progress.

Honors Thesis proposals are due by the end of spring quarter junior year, along with your signed honors declaration forms (see the students services associate to obtain this paperwork).

The Honors Track

Assuming you satisfy the prerequisites (adequate GPA and demonstrated prior success in writing research papers) and that you have decided in consultation with your advisor to pursue an Honors Thesis, there are special steps that need to be taken to ensure your project fulfills the expectations commensurate with achieving Honors in Religious Studies.

  1. Consult early with relevant faculty members (your advisor, professors who share your interests, the Director of Undergraduate Studies). If your proposal is to be finished by the end of your junior year, winter quarter is the right time to begin thinking about a topic.
  2. Consider enrolling in RELIGST 199 for two or three units of credit during the spring quarter of your junior year. This will carve out adequate time in your study list to develop a detailed proposal with a preliminary bibliography. These units can be taken graded or CR/NC (consult with your instructor) and counted towards the total required for the major (60), even if permission to pursue Honors is not granted.
  3. By the end of your junior year, you should have presented a statement of the proposed topic and the method of investigation—approved by both your thesis advisor and your main advisor—to the Director of Undergraduate Studies. This statement should be no less than four double-spaced paged in length and, in addition, contain a substantial bibliography of works to be consulted, together with an appended list of courses taken or to be taken that are germane to the topic.
  4. Once your proposal has been approved, you are encouraged to take advantage of the Bing Honors College, URP grants, and similar university sponsored research opportunities. Indeed, such opportunities are one reason why getting the proposal finished by the end of junior year is to your advantage.
  5. Within the department, you should—indeed, must—avail yourself of RELIGST 297: Senior Essay or Honors Thesis Research. This is a 3- to 5-unit course consisting of supervised research devoted entirely to your thesis. You may count up to 10 units of RELIGST 297 (taken over two quarters, e.g., autumn and winter senior year) toward the major. You must accrue at least 5 such units. You will receive an N grade for RELIGST 297 until a grade for the thesis is assigned, at which point the N will be converted to the thesis grade.
  6. The thesis advisor is expected to supervise the development of the Honors Thesis at every stage, a complete draft being submitted to him or her no later than the first day of the quarter preceding graduation. This draft will be revised in light of the advisor’s criticisms. In addition, the required RELIGST 298: Senior Major’s Colloquium is a 4-unit (S/NC) course devoted to the revision, discussion, and presentation of Honors Theses and Senior Essays is OFFERED ONLY IN THE SPRING QUARTER.
  7. The final draft of the Honors Thesis must be submitted no later than the end of the second week in May prior to graduation. The thesis advisor and second reader in Religious Studies will assign a final grade; the essay must receive a grade of “B+" or better in order to be counted as Honors.
  8. Late in May the department will sponsor an Honors Thesis presentation event at which you will summarize your research for your peers and the faculty.