Honors in Philosophy

June 20, 2016 —

Direct any questions to the honors thesis program coordinator.

Award of Honors in Philosophy
Honors work in philosophy requires completing PHIL 493: Honors Thesis and defending the honors thesis successfully. To receive honors in philosophy, the candidate must:

  1. Receive an overall grade of B+ or higher in PHIL 493, based on the written thesis, oral defense, and work-in-progress seminar.
  2. Maintain a GPA of 3.5 or higher in the major through the winter term of the senior year.

Course Credit Awarded
A candidate who receives a grade of B+ or higher earns a total of six (6) credits in PHIL 493 with that grade, and is awarded honors in philosophy.  A candidate who receives a grade of B or lower, but higher than F, is not awarded honors, but receives a total of six (6) credits with that grade: three (3) credits in PHIL 473: Senior Thesis, and three (3) credits in PHIL 403: Directed Individual Study.  A candidate who has been permitted to proceed with honors work after the fall term and is nevertheless awarded a grade of F for the honors thesis will receive no credits, and must take PHIL 399 or PHIL 473 in a future year to receive a degree in philosophy.

Honors Theses Stored by Library
A copy of each thesis awarded honors is submitted to the university library, where it is stored digitally and entered into the library catalog.  It may be searched using the student's name as the author's name.

Requirements and Procedures

Petition for Honors Candidacy
To become a candidate for honors work, a student must petition the honors thesis program coordinator in writing no later than March 15 of the student's junior year.  The student is expected to read and understand this entire document before submitting a petition.  Any questions should be directed to the student's major adviser or the thesis program coordinator.

The petition for honors candidacy shall include:

  1. The student's GPA in the philosophy major.
  2. A complete list of philosophy courses taken and the professor who taught each course.
  3. A statement of the area or topic on which the student wishes to write.
  4. The names of two potential thesis advisers.  (The department will make every effort to assign one of these, though there is no guarantee.)

The philosophy department will approve the petition for honors candidacy only if the student has demonstrated a high level of intellectual accomplishment and maturity in work in philosophy. This includes sufficient background knowledge, strong intellectual ability, and demonstrated maturity and self-discipline.

  1. Background Knowledge:
    1. A GPA of 3.5 or higher in the major.
    2. Integration of knowledge gained through course work, resulting in a significant knowledge base in all distribution areas of philosophy.
  2. Intellectual Ability, including ability to:
    1. Read and understand complex philosophical arguments at a sophisticated level.
    2. Write and discuss philosophy clearly at a sophisticated level.
    3. Respond effectively to academic advice and constructive criticism.
    4. Discuss others' work charitably and offer useful constructive criticism.
  3. Maturity and Self-Discipline:
    1. Self-discipline, self-motivation, punctuality, and a history of taking responsibility for the quality of one's work, including consistent timely submission of careful, polished work.

Summer Thesis Work
A student admitted to honors candidacy shall conduct summer research to develop and refine a thesis topic, and shall submit a detailed description of that topic to the thesis program coordinator and the student's thesis adviser on or before the Monday that begins the second full week of fall term classes.

Honors Thesis Program
The Thesis.  The honors thesis is a significant paper that thoroughly examines a topic in philosophy.  The topic selected shall be suitably tailored to the length of the paper, which shall be 12,000-16,000 words including footnotes.  The thesis shall be properly formatted using The Chicago Manual of Style, and shall include a title page and a list of references.

Program Overview.  The honors candidate registers for PHIL 493 in both fall and winter terms. In the fall term, the candidate conducts research, develops an annotated bibliography and reading and writing plans, and writes a section of the thesis by the end of the term. In the winter term, the candidate completes researching, finishes writing, and participates in a work-in-progress seminar supervised by the thesis program coordinator. The candidate also meets regularly with the candidate's thesis adviser during both terms. The candidate defends the thesis before the faculty during winter term exam week. Admittance to honors candidacy does not guarantee receiving honors. To receive honors, the candidate must be awarded an overall grade of B+ or higher by the department. Grades are based on the quality of the work, not on the effort the candidate expends or on the candidate's intellectual potential. Final grades are based primarily on the written thesis, but the oral defense and work-in-progress seminar work are also factored into the final grade.

Candidate Responsibilities.  Honors candidacy is an esteemed status, and students granted it are expected to demonstrate exemplary initiative.  The candidate is responsible to schedule regular thesis adviser meetings and to submit drafts and other work to that adviser sufficiently in advance that the adviser has time to comment on it.  How often the candidate and adviser meet, and how far in advance work is submitted, are matters to be decided by each adviser.  However, the candidate is responsible for initiating the conversation about expectations, for backing up all written material to a reliable location (such as Box or a flash drive), and for meeting all deadlines and other expectations.

Removal from Honors Candidacy. Any of following will result in removal from honors thesis candidacy (absent exceptional circumstances): (1) missing a deadline without prior approval from a philosophy faculty member, (2) failure to regularly attend and perform the required work in the work-in-progress seminar, or (3) failure to attend any honors thesis defense, without prior permission or a compelling excuse.

Fall Term Timeline and Deadlines.  During the summer prior to senior year, the honors thesis candidate shall develop and refine a research topic while conducting the first stage of research.  The candidate shall submit a detailed topic proposal to the thesis program coordinator and thesis adviser on or before the Monday that begins the second full week of fall term classes.  On or before September 30, the candidate shall submit an initial reading plan to the thesis program coordinator and thesis adviser.  Although this plan may evolve as work progresses, the plan must demonstrate that the candidate has conducted initial research on the topic, has a viable topic, and has an effective research strategy.  By November 30, the candidate and adviser will agree on the length and nature of submissions the candidate is to make by the end of fall term.  Throughout fall and winter terms, the candidate shall submit work to faculty sufficiently in advance of any deadlines that their adviser has ample time to read the work, and the candidate has sufficient time to revise the work and submit it by the deadline.  To allow sufficient time to revise work in response to faculty comments, candidates can generally expect a full revision cycle (submission, receipt of comments, and re-submission) to take 14-20 days, unless other arrangements have been explicitly agreed on in consultation with the thesis adviser.  Candidates are urged to notify advisers in advance of planned submissions that do not correspond to required deadlines, and to arrange with advisers specific dates for each revision cycle.

Fall Term Final Submissions.  At the end of fall term the candidate shall submit, no later than the deadline specified by the thesis program coordinator, honors work that consists of:

  1. A substantial piece of writing, which may be
    1. the first section of the thesis, with a full outline or abstract of the planned thesis,
    2. an important middle section of the thesis, with a full outline or abstract of the planned thesis, or
    3. a detailed overview of the full thesis as then conceived.
    The length and nature of this piece of writing shall be determined by November 30, in consultation with the candidate's thesis adviser.  In general, the candidate is expected to submit a 5000-6500 word section of the thesis. Work submitted at the end of fall term does not commit the candidate to a particular end product; the project may evolve as work continues during the winter term.
  1. An annotated bibliography, which includes sources referenced to date and sources to be read or incorporated during winter term. The bibliography shall clearly indicate which sources already have been read and the status of other sources.  It is expected that this bibliography will continue to expand as work progresses.  However, it must, in the department's discretion, demonstrate sufficient breadth of background knowledge and proficiency in the philosophical literature relevant to the candidate's topic.

Winter Term Eligibility.  Only a student who has satisfied all the above criteria, and produced a thesis section deemed to be of honors standard (grade of B+ or higher) by the thesis program coordinator and by the student's adviser, will be permitted to proceed with honors candidacy in the winter term. Otherwise the student's fall term work will be recorded as PHIL 403: Directed Individual Study, and the student must register for PHIL 399 in the winter.  Work will be evaluated based on its actual content and quality, not on the effort the student expended or the student's intellectual potential.

March Submission of Work in Progress.  Each candidate shall submit a full draft of their thesis to the thesis program coordinator and thesis adviser on the Monday that begins the ninth week of winter term classes.

Thesis Submission and Defense. The thesis program coordinator will schedule the final thesis submission deadline to occur during the second to last week of winter term.  The department will not accept theses that fail to meet the deadline, formatting requirements, or other requirements specified in this document or set by the thesis program coordinator or department, except under extraordinary circumstances.  The candidate shall defend the thesis in front of the entire faculty during the examination week of winter term.  The oral defense counts towards the overall honors thesis grade.  The candidate shall attend all honors thesis defenses occurring during their senior year, unless excused by the department in advance because of special circumstances.