Honors Program

Majors with strong academic records (a GPA of 3.5 in ALC and 3.5 overall) and an interest in pursuing honors should contact the Director of Undergraduate Studies in the spring (DUS) of their junior year. Students may qualify for department honors by completing two quarters of thesis coursework in which they work with an adviser to develop and compose an honors thesis of approximately 30 to 40 pages. The honors project must result in a thesis, and course work alone, such as completion of 400-level courses, is not sufficient. Completion of the ALC 397 Fall Senior seminar and the two quarters of independent study do not assure the granting of Honors. All students who want to pursue ALC honors must complete the fourth year level language instruction in their linguistic area. Students whose honors thesis, grades, and language training meet departmental criteria are recommended to the college for graduation with honors.

If a student is interested in writing an honors thesis, he or she should contact the DUS at the beginning of the Spring quarter of his or her Junior year.  The DUS will then discuss the topic with the student, direct him/her to the most appropriate ALC culture faculty member who will help the student arrange the Fall/Winter/Spring Study Sequence, and put together a thesis committee to supervise the work (an advisor specializing in the area of the student's research and one independent reader). The student will then have to submit an honors’ application to the department’s office by the sixth week of the Spring quarter (students studying abroad will have two more weeks). Accepted students complete a thesis (see timeline below), normally through the ALC Fall Senior Seminar, and two quarters of senior-year independent study (ALC 399). The 2 quarters of 399 count toward the 17 units required for the major.

Students should consult with the department adviser and the Director of Undergraduate Studies before going abroad. In general, students will not be permitted to count more than 2 courses for this and the literature and the culture requirement combined.

Format of an Honors Thesis

The student’s research should result in a thesis of at least 30 pages in length with endnotes and an up-to-date bibliography. The thesis should make an original contribution to the topic under discussion. The thesis advisor establishes, in consultation with the student, the agenda and general schedule for the research and for the writing of the thesis. Even though a student may have signed up for one or two quarters of Independent Study, the ongoing research should be guided by regular consultations between the student and his or her advisor. Students should make a consistent effort to use sources in appropriate Asian language(s).

Students carry out their research design by working closely with their advisors, and by enrolling in ALC Fall Senior Seminar, which has as its main pedagogical goals to provide a capstone experience for all ALC majors and to help those students interested in writing a honors’ thesis learn the tools and techniques needed for research and for writing sustained scholarly essays by engaging seriously with sources in an Asian language.

The Honors Committee, composed of the thesis advisor and the second reader, will issue their independently written evaluations of the project. These statements will be communicated to the department faculty and chair for their decision whether or not to grant departmental honors. The departmental Honors Committee’s criteria in its deliberations include, but are not limited to, a thesis of outstanding quality; a minimum GPA of 3.5 in major courses. Exceptions will be made to the minimum GPA requirement if the thesis is judged to be of extraordinarily high quality. The department’s recommendation is subject to approval by the WCAS Committee on Superior Students and Honors.

Schedule and Review of Work

SPRING QUARTER of Junior Year before Senior Year: Initial Contact with DUS and Thesis Advisor

During this initial contact, a student will discuss the research topic for the Honor Thesis and chose the Honors Thesis Committee (an advisor specializing in the area of research and a second reader). The student will then write a final honors application, which should include a final statement and outline of the nature and substance of the research project, as well as a description of the research question and its significance, a bibliography, and a work plan indicating how often the student and thesis supervisor will meet and what will be accomplished for each meeting. This plan needs to be approved and signed by the thesis supervisor and by the second reader and then submitted to the Director of Undergraduate Studies by the sixth week of the Spring quarter. Students who study abroad during their junior year will have two more weeks to meet the application deadline. Students in this position should contact advisors well in advance.


Students whose thesis proposal has been approved may engage in research over the summer, and must enroll in the ALC Senior Seminar in the Fall of their senior year, which prepares students for conducting research and writing an honors essay in the following two quarters under the direction of an honors adviser. They will also meet regularly with their thesis advisor for conversation and intellectual exchange. Consequently we strongly discourage ALC majors from staying abroad in the Fall Quarter of their senior year. Students who for compelling reasons have no other choice but to study abroad in the Fall Quarter of their Senior year may petition for a waiver by writing to the Director of Undergraduate Studies by junior year.


The student works with the thesis supervisor on developing the arguments and writing the thesis by enrolling in ALC 399. The student is expected to meet regularly with the thesis supervisor to discuss the work. By the end of the winter quarter, the student is expected to submit a comprehensive draft of the senior thesis to their thesis supervisor and the second reader so that they may suggest improvements, changes, or amendments by the beginning of the Spring quarter. These comments will serve as a basis for the final version of the thesis.


The student will continue writing his/her thesis by enrolling in ALC 399. He or she will have four weeks to write the final draft of the thesis, which is due by the end of the sixth week of Spring quarter. No late thesis will be accepted. The thesis advisor and the second reader will have one week to issue their independently written evaluations of the project. These statements will be communicated to the department faculty and chair for their approval of granting or not granting departmental honors. The student will be notified no later than one week before the College’s deadline for the submission of the successful candidates’ names. In the case of a negative decision, the student can request a review from the Chair and the Director of Undergraduate Studies, which may reverse or confirm the original evaluation.

Students must understand that nomination to the Committee on Undergraduate Academic Excellence does not guarantee the award of honors. The CUAE makes the final decision.