Completing an honors thesis under the guidance of a faculty member in the department offers students a unique opportunity to do original research on a topic of special interest, and to hone their writing skills in their language of study. The subject of the honors project relates to an area of study already familiar to the student, whether through coursework in the department or study abroad.
An honors project typically involves two semesters of independent study, the writing of an honors essay of approximately fifty to seventy-five pages in French, Italian, or Spanish and its defense before a committee of members of the department. All students pursuing an honors project also take a 3000-level course in the department in the fall semester of their enrollment in the independent study.
Hispanic studies, Francophone studies, or Romance languages and literatures majors who wish to complete an honors project in their senior year must have an outstanding academic record in the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures and possess an excellent command of their language of specialty.
Honors Research Schedule
Junior Year: Getting Started
Choosing a Faculty Advisor
During the spring semester of the junior year, a student interested in undertaking honors work in the department initiates conversations with a department faculty member about the proposed project. The student chooses a thesis advisor whose areas of expertise most closely relate to the topic the student wishes to pursue.
It is extremely important for students to contact an advisor as early as possible, particularly if the student is abroad, because the process of defining a topic requires substantial revisions and frequent consultations with the chosen advisor. These exchanges all take place in the language of specialty.
Presenting a Proposal
Before spring registration of the junior year, the student presents a 3-5 page description of the proposed project to the faculty member that they would like to have serve as the thesis advisor. This project proposal, written in the language of specialty, describes the theme, scope, and central questions to be addressed by the project and includes a preliminary bibliography. The faculty advisor may request revisions to the written project proposal prior to and/or following its consideration by departmental colleagues.
Fall Semester, Senior Year: Next Steps
If the project is accepted by the department, the student may register for an independent study for the fall semester. A thesis committee of the advisor and at least two additional faculty members is formed prior to the beginning of fall semester. During the first week of the fall semester the student should present to the committee a detailed written proposal describing the theme, scope, and central questions to be addressed by the project, together with a preliminary bibliography. By the end of the second week of the fall semester, the student, in conjunction with the professor, establishes a work plan for the independent study, including dates for the completion of portions of research, readings, and writing.
Presenting Preliminary Research
At the beginning of December, a chapter of between fifteen and twenty-five pages, along with a detailed plan for the full project, is turned in to each member of the committee. Before winter break, the student meets and discusses the project with the committee. At that time, the committee assesses the progress and feasibility of the project. If the project is approved for a second semester, the student writes a full honors thesis. Students who do not continue in the second semester receive a course credit for independent study for their first-semester work.
In citing sources and preparing the bibliography, all theses in the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures follow the MLA style guidelines. Students may choose to follow the 7th or 8th edition, but must remain consistent throughout.
The Hawthorne-Longfellow Library distributes guidelines for format, title page, and deadlines for submission of the final version to the library, which are accessible through their website for Services for Honors and Independent Study Students.
Students are reminded that whether in French, Italian, or Spanish, the title page should indicate that the honors project has been completed in the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures. To clarify, it is suggested that students write at the bottom of the title page: An Honors Project in French (or Italian or Spanish) for the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures.
Spring Semester, Senior Year: Final Steps and Submission
A draft of the entire thesis must be submitted to the committee for commentary by spring break. Committee members provide the student with written feedback or questions no later than one week after spring break. The student then revises the project during April with the guidance of the advisor.
A colloquium or defense of the project before the committee takes place during the reading period. During that meeting the student summarizes the evolution of the project and its central conclusions or revelations and addresses the committee members' questions. The student may also present the project in a public forum. At this point the committee may ask for minor revisions prior to final submission of the project.