The Honors Program in Anthropology allows exceptional undergraduate students to undertake independent research on a topic in consultation and mentorship with faculty members. This program is open to all Anthropology majors with junior standing who have a 3.3 GPA in all general University courses and Anthropology courses, and who are approved for acceptance into the Honors Program by the Departmental faculty. Completion of the program requires:
- 3-6 credit hours in ANTH 4998 (Honors Research, select the section under your adviser’s name), evaluated by the Honors Thesis Adviser, generally in the fall semester of the student’s senior year. If the student plans to graduate in December, they may take 4998 in the spring semester.
- 3-6 credit hours in ANTH 4999 (Honors Thesis), evaluated by Honors Thesis Adviser, generally in the spring semester of the student’s senior year. If the student is planning to graduate in December, they may take 4999 in the fall.
- Submission of a written thesis, evaluated by the student's Honors Committee.
- Oral presentation of the thesis (15-20 mins.), which includes invited guests and members of the department, evaluated by the student's Honors Committee.
- Oral examination (defense) of the thesis, administered by the student's Honors Committee, usually after the public presentation.
The honors thesis hours are expected to be in excess of the 30 hours required for the Major in Anthropology and are typically done in the student’s senior year. This timeline may be modified after consultation with the thesis adviser, Departmental Director of the Honors Program, and Faculty approval.
Students meeting these requirements receive Honors or High Honors in Anthropology, depending on the quality of their thesis, grades in anthropology courses, and examination results. Successful Departmental Honors students will receive a Vanderbilt diploma that records Honors or High Honors in Anthropology.
Application to the program
The first step is the formulation of a thesis topic in consultation with an appropriate faculty member within the Department of Anthropology who will serve as Honors Thesis Adviser. In consultation with the Adviser, the student should write a 3-5 page (double-spaced) description of the proposed Honors Thesis, including a title, general outline, timeline of completion, and at least 12 citations. This description, with the signatures of the student and Adviser, should be submitted to the Director of the Departmental Honors Program or Director of Undergraduate Studies. The Director of the Departmental Honors Program will submit the proposal and student's academic file to the Departmental Faculty for approval. If the application is approved, the student will then be authorized to enroll in ANTH 4998 for 3-6 hours (under consultation with the thesis adviser), which should be done through the Department Administrator. The proposal is due to the Director of the Honors Program by November 15 or March 15 of the student's junior year. If the dates fall on a weekend, it is due on the following Monday.
Formation of the honors committee
Once approved, the student will then form their Honors Committee, which consists of three to four faculty members selected by the student in consultation with their Honors Adviser. The Honors Committee includes the Faculty Adviser, the Director of the Department Honors Program, and one additional faculty member from the Department of Anthropology. Students may opt to include an additional faculty member from the Department of Anthropology, a faculty member from another Department at Vanderbilt, or a faculty member from accredited anthropology departments at other colleges and universities outside Vanderbilt University subject to approval by the Director of the Departmental Honors Program. In such cases where three other faculty members serve on the student's Departmental Honors Committee, the Director of the Departmental Honors Program will serve as a non-voting ex officio member. The student must submit the signatures of committee to the Director of the Departmental Honors Program no later than the second week of the first semester of the student's senior year.
Honors students will complete ANTH 4998 (Honors Research) and 4999 (Honors Thesis Writing) for a total of 6 to 12 credit hours (3 to 6 hours each semester). Enrollment in these courses is to be done through the Department Administrator, specifying the number of hours. These hours will be devoted to the research and preparation of their thesis and completion of the presentation and oral defense. At the end of the fall or spring semester (depending on when the student is enrolled in the courses), student work must be approved by the Honors Committee before the student enrolls in ANTH 4999. These research hours are expected to be in addition to the 30 hours required for the Major in Anthropology.
If a student decides to opt out partway through the Honors Program, they may retroactively convert the ANTH 4998 (Honors Research) credit hours to ANTH 3850 or 3851 (Independent Research), with approval of the thesis committee and Director of Undergraduate Studies.
The Honors Thesis is an original work based upon the results of the student's independent research. The topic and length must be determined under the direction of the student's faculty advisor and in consultation with the Director of the Departmental Honors Program. Undergraduate Honors Theses in the Department of Anthropology typically range between 50 and 75 double-spaced pages in length, with images, tables, and bibliography included. Previous theses are available for guidance. The entire first draft of the thesis must be completed and turned in to Honors Committee members by November 1 in the fall semester and March 15 for the spring. The revised draft is due by December 1 for the fall and April 15 for the spring. The presentation and defense should be completed before the end of classes. The final thesis in digital form must be submitted to the Department Administrator no later than the last day of final exams. Failure to meet these deadlines will result in removal of the student from the Departmental Honors Program
Honors thesis presentation & oral examination
The written thesis is given to the Honors Committee, which appraises the student's written work and determines if the student is prepared to present and defend. Through consultation with the committee and department faculty, the student will present the findings of their research for 15-20 minutes to the committee and to members of the University community, followed by a short question and answer session with the audience. Immediately following the presentation, the Honors Committee administers an oral examination in which the student will defend their thesis to the committee alone. The committee will then deliberate without the student and assess the thesis among the following four options:1) High Honors, reserved for those who demonstrate exemplary aptitude both in the content of their research as well as their presentation and defense; 2) Honors, for those who satisfactorily complete the Honors requirements; 3) successful completion of independent research, but no Honors; and 4) no Honors and no credit for independent research.
The Anthropology Department has many seniors completing theses during the 2021-2022 academic year, who can be viewed HERE.