Honors Study in Classics

General Criteria

Although it is difficult (and perhaps too restrictive) to set out rigorous guidelines for the appropriate level of “research, thought, and originality”, the following points are designed to give you a rough idea of the kind of work we hope that you will produce.


To receive honors, the thesis will typically give evidence of a serious attempt to analyze both primary texts and relevant secondary literature.  This will usually involve detailed attention to the problematics of the primary texts or evidence, understanding of some 5–20 scholarly articles or chapters on the specific issues you discuss, and some recognition of the general scholarly consensus (or lack of consensus) exhibited in more general studies (e.g. encyclopedias or introductions to topics, authors, or translations, etc.).


To receive honors, the thesis will give evidence of serious thought about the issues and arguments involved in the thesis.  This will typically be shown by the way you ground your work in the primary texts, develop the thesis with respect to the context of scholarly thought on the subject, and argue cogently throughout.


To receive honors, the thesis must display a level of originality appropriate to your knowledge of Classical culture and scholarship. A thesis that develops the ideas of previous scholars with flair and cogency may be considered “original” in this sense; theses which independently develop ideas that have been published in languages or publications deemed by the advisor to be inaccessible to you may also be considered “original”.

Scholarly presentation

Requirements for scholarly presentation are manifested in (most of) the articles which you read during your research. The following are merely some of the more significant features that a laudable thesis will exhibit:

Bibliography. The thesis must have an adequate bibliography (as determined by its specific subject matter and the honors advisor). The bibliography will normally contain at least: 5–20 relevant articles, some introductory works, and texts, translations, and editions of the Classical authors or material used.

Annotation. The thesis must have appropriate notes. These will vary with the subject, of course, but will usually involve:

  • citations of primary and secondary sources (primary sources should be cited in their original languages, if possible, and translated);
  • passages from primary texts supporting the interpretive claims you make; and
  • citations of secondary sources noting agreement, disagreement, or further reference on an issue which exceeds the scope of the thesis.

English. The thesis must be written in clear, grammatically correct English. It should not contain spelling errors (it has been revised, after all, several times).

Thesis advisors will select an article or chapter in the relevant field of study for you to use as a model for the presentation of the thesis. (The model(s) should exemplify, e.g., a citation convention and bibliographical format.)

Criteria for High and Highest Honors

In order to earn honors, a thesis must meet the above criteria; magna (or, more rarely, summa) cum laude, implies extraordinary strength in one or more of the categories enumerated in. (In borderline cases, the committee may consult the student’s academic record in order to determine the appropriate level of honors.) Again – receiving honors of any kind is an honor. Focusing on the level is inappropriate.


The candidate for honors must normally have:

  1. a GPA average of at least 3.5 in Classics courses (including courses counting for the major under the rubric of “related courses”) and
  2. a grade of A- or above in at least one 3000-level course in the field of Classics relevant to the candidate’s proposed thesis.
  3. by Arts College regulation, a student is permitted to write an honors thesis only in the department(s) in which s/he is majoring (i.e., not minoring).

The candidate must also submit to the honors committee:

  1. a proposal for study,
  2. the name of an advisor who is willing to supervise the thesis, and
  3. a term paper or essay which gives evidence that the candidate will be able to meet the guidelines for a complete thesis.

Candidates who do not meet these criteria may apply for special dispensation, providing they obtain the support of a potential thesis-advisor and the director of undergraduate studies.


The honors course is an 8-credit unit completed over two semesters (CLASS 4721-4722).  In addition to the steady research that you conduct under the direction of your advisor, you must adhere to the following timeline:

Fall Semester

1. During the third week of classes in the fall semester, you, the candidate, submit to the honors committee (by way of the Undergraduate Coordinator) a 3-5 page proposal for research.

(There is a form for this proposal that includes the following elements:  description of the subject you want to investigate, a preliminary bibliography (the primary texts and at least 3 relevant scholarly books or articles), your relevant background, and a plan of research. You do not need to know your precise crux, question, or thesis at this stage.)

2. One week after classes end for the fall semester, you hand in to your advisor a summary of progress to date: bibliography of works read, a revised proposal, including a precise statement of your thesis, a rough outline of your paper, and a schedule for completing each section (3-5 pages).

[These will be used by the advisor (in consultation with the honors committee when relevant) to determine whether you are well positioned to write a successful honors thesis in the short period remaining before your graduation. If your advisor finds that this is not the case, your work in the fall term must be converted by petition to a one-semester independent study that you can complete satisfactorily.]

Spring Semester

3. Four weeks before the deadline for honors grades (or 2 weeks before the end of classes) you submit to your advisor a complete draft of the thesis manuscript.

[The purpose of this requirement is to allow adequate time for the advisor to advise, and for the student to polish and then submit a thesis that meets the scholarly requirements outlined below and is worthy of your efforts over the year. Failure to hand in the final draft on time will automatically disqualify the candidate from highest honors.]

4. Two weeks before the deadline for honors grades (or by the end of classes) you turn in the completed thesis to the committee (by way of the Undergraduate Coordinator).

[The purpose of this requirement is to allow the honors committee sufficient time to appraise all the honors theses carefully. Failure to hand the thesis in on time will automatically disqualify the candidate from highest honors. If the thesis is handed in too late for the committee to evaluate properly, the candidate will not receive honors.]

5. During Study Week you present your honors work to the members of the department. This provides you the opportunity to display the results of your hard work.


Candidates are reminded that it is an honor to receive honors. The course of study may result in one of the following:

Honors. If the thesis meets the criteria of research, thought, originality, and scholarly presentation outlined below, you will graduate with honors at the appropriate level (cum laude, magna cum laude, or summa cum laude), as determined by the honors committee.  This is separate from the grade your supervisor assigns for your research (considered as an independent study).

No honors. If the thesis is handed in too late or is incomplete or otherwise inadequate, no honors will be awarded. Your work will be graded (by your supervisor) as an 8-credit independent study, on the normal letter-grade scale of A-F.

Termination of honors course after the fall term. In this case, you will be graded as a 4-credit independent study for the term on the normal letter-grade scale of A-F.