Loyola University Maryland

Department of Classics

Honors Thesis

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Students in the department may write an honors thesis as part of their major in either classics or classical civilization. The optional year-long program is open to select senior majors by departmental invitation during the Junior year. It is a directed, intensive study of an author, topic, or theme from classical literature, history, or art and archaeology culminating in a written thesis and oral defense. It provides the opportunity for intensive research and writing on a precisely defined topic resulting in an original and in-depth study. It should sharpen students’ skills of analysis, synthesis, and argument. It also provides a means for outstanding students to earn an extra mark of distinction that will grace their transcripts. This may be particularly attractive and useful for those students bound for graduate or professional schools.

The Honors Thesis Proposal

Select majors will be invited to consider an Honors thesis at the beginning of Spring semester, Junior year (and will get a reminder after Spring Break). If students are interested, they should meet with a Classics professor to discuss possible thesis topics. Normally (but not always) the thesis will grow out of previous academic work: a term paper that particularly sparked the student’s interest, or one that a professor has singled out as worth pursuing further. The topic can be critical (for example, a study of a single work or of several works by a single author), comparative (for example, a study of a single theme or character in works from different authors or periods), or historical. It may also, given faculty approval, address the art or archaeology of the Classical world.

Students should be in discussions with a faculty member by mid-April at the latest. During these discussions, the student must find a professor willing to supervise the thesis. Students must understand that the opportunity to write a thesis is dependent upon finding a professor willing to direct the project. Faculty sabbaticals and other obligations may make some projects impossible. With the guidance of this professor, the student writes a one paragraph description on the proposed thesis and sends it to the Chair by May 1, together with the faculty member’s written endorsement and agreement to serve as thesis director. By May 20, the student must produce a brief (c. 2 page) proposal describing the subject and aims of the thesis. Proposals will include a preliminary bibliography of important ancient and modern sources for the project (this bibliography does not figure in the page count above). Both the topic and the bibliography may expand or change over the course of the thesis project, but the best theses are generally those which have a well-defined topic from the beginning. Students will learn whether their proposals have been approved by June 1.

Honors Thesis Classes

Students who are approved for an Honors Thesis register for CL 450 in the Fall and Spring Semesters of Senior year. In addition to the appropriate distinction for the thesis (awarded after the thesis defense) the student receives a grade for CL 450 and 451 as determined by the thesis advisor.

The thesis advisor will usually meet with the student every two weeks to assess progress and help with bibliography and argumentation.  In mid-February, the professor gives the student an assessment of whether, in his opinion, work on the thesis is moving well and quickly enough for the thesis to be completed by June. If work is not proceeding properly, this communication serves as a warning to the student who has time to improve the situation. Soon after Spring Break, thesis directors must make a final determination of whether thesis work should continue. If, in the opinion of the advisor, the student has not made satisfactory progress towards completing the thesis, the student will no longer be a candidate for the Honors Thesis.  Such students will instead complete a shorter paper which will constitute completion of a non-Honors course. They will receive a grade for the course, but will not receive an Honors distinction.

The completed thesis will ordinarily be between 50 and 100 double-spaced type-written pages, and prepared according to the current MLA Style Manual, with parenthetical citations and a bibliography.  The bibliography must include a sufficient number of secondary sources to demonstrate a satisfactory knowledge of critical writings on the author(s), text(s), artifact(s), site(s), or historical period(s). 

The Honors Thesis Defense

Normally, the thesis must be completed by two weeks before the last day of classes of the semester. 

After the thesis is completed, a copy is presented to each member of the thesis committee. This committee will consist of three faculty members: the thesis advisor, one regular member of the classics epartment apart from the faculty advisor and one faculty member from another Loyola department (usually invited by the faculty advisor). The committee sets a date for a thesis defense that shall normally occur sometime before the last day of exam period. The committee reads the thesis, preparing questions and remarks to present to the student during the defense.

The student meets with the committee to discuss and defend the thesis. Despite its name, the defense is not designed to be an ordeal but rather a collegial exchange of views in which the committee discusses the thesis with the student to learn more about the issues and themes presented in the thesis, and to allow the student to expand upon certain ideas that may have been left out for reasons of space or focus. The faculty advisor must be present for the defense and normally asks the first question; then each member of the committee asks at least one question of the student during the defense, which usually lasts between one and two hours.

After the question and answer period the student retires and the members of the committee then vote to determine the appropriate award.

The committee evaluates the thesis and determines whether to award the student with Honors or No Honors.  (Theses likely to result in an award of no Honors are normally prevented from reaching the stage of the defense.) The committee informs the student of its decision after the deliberations that follow the defense.  The appropriate distinction is then placed on the student’s transcript and diploma.   Student theses are then bound and displayed in the classics department.