Graduation with Distinction

Participating in the Philosophy Department’s Graduation with Distinction program involves writing, submitting, and defending an Honors Thesis. An honors thesis for a Philosophy major is a substantial research project, covering the major works in the literature in your area of concentration.


To be eligible for graduation with distinction, you must have at least a 3.5 GPA in the philosophy major. Before the end of the junior year, you must secure the consent of a faculty member to direct the writing of the honors thesis. The director of undergraduate studies will be informed of this before the beginning of the senior year.


You must research and write an honors thesis, and present your work before a committee with at least two members from the Department.

Evaluative procedure

Your mentor and at least one other member of the Department will evaluate your paper and conduct an oral examination.

Levels of distinction

The committee’s evaluation of “pass,” “high pass,” or “highest pass” will result in the awarding of Distinction, High Distinction, or Highest Distinction, respectively.

Graduation with Distinction


If you are interested in writing an honors thesis, we courage you to contact the Director of Undergraduate Studies (DUS) in Philosophy as early as possible, ideally at the time when you declare a major. An honors thesis is a major undertaking that requires careful planning. It is a rewarding intellectual enterprise but it should be recommended only if you are willing to devote a substantial part of the senior year working on it. If you are pursuing a double major, and especially if you are planning to write an honors thesis for another program as well, should carefully discuss the feasibility with the Philosophy DUS.


You are urged to take a two-semester reading course with your mentor while writing the paper. This is not required, but is to your advantage and may be required by your mentor.


An honors thesis is more than just a long term paper or a collection of term papers. The thesis must be a coherent sustained study with an original analysis. The length of the thesis is expected to be between 40 and 60 double-spaced pages. Although the final draft of the thesis may incorporate revised versions of a paper or papers written for past courses, at least half of the thesis should be new material, prepared exclusively for the Philosophy honors thesis.

You are responsible for making sure that the project develops in a timely fashion as outlined below and keep your advisor informed about the status of your work.

A complete draft of the thesis will be due on the first weekday of April of your final semester. This deadline is set so that the committee members have the time to read the thesis and to request revisions if necessary.


  • During the spring semester of junior year, it is suggested that you express your interest in writing an honors thesis to the Philosophy DUS. Before you approach other faculty members to ask about writing an honors thesis, consult the DUS to determine whether you are eligible to write a thesis. After determining your eligibility, the DUS can advise you concerning potential thesis advisers to consult for advice on the theme, purpose, and methodology of a research project.
  • Before the end of the semester, you must create a reading list (or a research plan) and obtain consent of the faculty member to do an Independent Study (thesis tutorial) with that member in the following fall.
  • Note that a faculty member’s consent to supervise an Independent Study does not mean that your plan to submit an honors thesis has been formally accepted. The final approval is obtained only upon the completion of at least one chapter of the thesis by the end of the fall semester of your senior year.


  • Begin the research, work on the reading list.


  • You are required to enroll in an Independent Study with your advisor for the fall semester, and it is advised, though not required, that you also enroll in an Independent Study with that person during the spring semester. Your research timetable should be organized in such a way that you will spend the first six to eight weeks on reading/researching and the rest on writing a paper.
  • By the end of the second week of the semester, submit a preliminary proposal of your thesis, which should include a clear statement of your theme, purpose, and methodology, as well as a tentative bibliography.
  • By the end of the sixth week of the semester, submit a formal proposal of your project (a polished-up version of your preliminary proposal), a chapter-by-chapter outline of your thesis, and a detailed time table of completion.
  • Before the end of the semester, submit a 10-to-20-page paper designed to be a chapter of your thesis. Upon reviewing this paper, the adviser will decide whether your research project should be turned into an honors thesis.
  • Your honors thesis committee will be composed of three members-usually there are your thesis adviser or adviser-pair and one or two other faculty members of the Philosophy Department, although the third member of your committee may be from another department. It is the responsibility of you and your adviser(s) to arrange for these other faculty members to create a three-member committee. Immediately upon reign the approval of your adviser to write the honors thesis, work with your adviser(s) to request faculty member(s) with relevant interests (in or outside Philosophy) to be on your thesis committee.


  • Continue working on your thesis with your advisor(s) according to your schedule, with the option of enrolling in an Independent Study.
  • Throughout the spring semester you should also maintain regular contacts with the members of your committee and give progress reports or hand in chapters as they are completed.
  • Schedule a thesis examination sometime in mid-April. It is strongly advised that you schedule the time as early as possible.
  • Submit a complete draft of honors thesis to your committee on the first weekday of April.
  • Prepare a 15-minute examination.
  • Your honors thesis committee will evaluate whether your thesis merits distinction and will also recommend the appropriate distinction level, based on the quality of the thesis and on performance in the major program. The three levels of distinction are: Distinction, High Distinction, and Highest Distinction.