The Honors Thesis and the Religious Studies Major
I. Matching Mentors with Honors Students
It is the responsibility of the student to select a mentor from among the faculty of the Department of Religious Studies. The student should consult our web page on undergraduate research, which lists the mentoring interests and availability of faculty members. Having selected a potential faculty mentor, the student should make an appointment with that professor to discuss the feasibility of the thesis topic and the ability of the faculty member to direct a thesis on that topic. The decision of whether to direct a thesis or not is up to the discretion of the professor. If the faculty member chooses to mentor the honors student, then that faculty member will notify the department chair and submit a copy of the thesis proposal for the department’s files. Most likely the student will come to know a potential mentor while taking courses in the discipline. If so, that student is welcome to approach that person directly to discuss mentoring the thesis.
II. Counting the Honors Thesis in Major Requirement
Eight hours of HNR 498 can be counted among the electives in Religious Studies required by the major. If the honors thesis does not receive an evaluation of B or higher by the thesis committee, that grade will be recorded for the course but the thesis will not be accepted as an honors thesis. The student will receive credit toward the major but will not be considered an honors student.
III. The Honors Thesis and the Senior Seminar
Religious Studies majors must complete the Senior Seminar (REL 492) in the spring of their senior year. The Senior Seminar requires a project or paper and a presentation. If the major is an honors student working on a thesis to be completed in the spring of the senior year, that student may request the instructor of the Senior Seminar for permission to submit a draft or portion of the honors thesis as the Senior Seminar project. Permission to do so is not to be automatically assumed but is entirely up to the discretion of the seminar instructor. If the request is denied, the honors student must complete the seminar by submitting the seminar assignment required of all other majors in the seminar. If the senior honors student expects to be studying abroad in the spring, then that student should arrange to take the Senior Seminar in the spring of the junior year. The honors thesis cannot be submitted in Senior Seminar in that case, and the honors student must complete the same course requirement as other majors in the seminar.
IV. Description of an Honors Thesis in Religious Studies
The honors thesis should show evidence of engagement with a current scholarly discussion in an area of religious studies. While it need not culminate in a new contribution to the field, it should show an awareness of previous approaches to the topic or problem under study, how it is currently understood, why the topic is worthy of research, and present some informed and creative reflection upon the topic. The thesis should contain a minimum of forty pages not counting bibliography and endnotes. Its style should conform to the most recent edition of the Chicago Manual of Style.