The Honors Program in anthropology provides students with the opportunity to conduct significant independent research on a topic of their choice. Typically, a student will propose a research focus in consultation with a member of the faculty who agrees to serve as the project advisor.
Late in the student's junior year or early in the senior year, she or he submits a brief description of the honors project to the department. This synopsis outlines the central question being addressed, what methods will be used in conducting the study and how the thesis will be organized. All anthropology faculty not on leave at the time of the proposal's submission review the document and decide whether it will be approved or declined based on the proposal's intellectual merit and feasibility. The Department also considers the student's past classroom performance, demonstrated motivation in pursuit of excellence and organizational skills.
After the project is approved, the student builds an honors committee consisting of the advisor and one other faculty member who need not be an anthropologist. The student's senior year is spent conducting the research and writing their honors thesis, although both processes may well have begun in previous years.
The thesis is read by the two members of the honors committee as well as a third person who is an expert in the field addressed by the thesis but who is not a part of the Kenyon faculty. An oral thesis defense, involving the student and the three readers, takes place near the end of the spring semester. The readers then determine whether to award no honors, Honors, High Honors, or Highest Honors to the thesis based on the written document and the student's defense of his/her work. Please consult the description of the anthropology Honors Program available in the departmental office in Palme House or in the course catalog.
Requirements: GPA 3.33 overall; 3.5 in the major. A student may petition to have these prerequisites waived.
Classes: All students pursuing honors take ANTH 498 during the fall and spring semesters of their senior year.
Due date: Honors theses are due in the anthropology department office on April 1 or the closest Monday after that date. The thesis defense is scheduled for a time after April 1 that is convenient for the student and the readers.
The department will then approve (or decline to approve) the honors research on the basis of the proposal's merit itself, the student's past classroom performance, motivation to excellence and demonstration of the organizational skills required for successful completion. In consultation with the project advisor, the student will then build an honors committee consisting of two members of the anthropology faculty (including the advisor), one member from another department on campus and one member from another institution of higher education (chosen by the advisor). The student will then spend their senior year conducting the necessary research and writing an honors thesis. The thesis is finally defended orally before the honors committee, the members of which then determine whether to award no honors, honors, high honors, or highest honors.
We hope the following guidelines will help you in deciding whether or not to pursue honors in anthropology at Kenyon. We have a growing list of honors theses on file in the departmental office. We are proud of them and encourage you to look through them. Many of the authors have moved on to graduate study in anthropology and related fields, and we expect many of you will do so as well.
The College has determined that students must have an overall GPA of at least 3.20 in order to pursue departmental honors as a senior. The department further requires that any student wishing to conduct honors work must have a departmental GPA of no less than 3.50. We are aware that some students don't realize their full potential in the first two years of their collegiate experience. Accordingly, both the college and the department will allow you to petition to do honors if you fail to meet these criteria.
Students approved for participation in the honors program enroll in two semesters of independent study (ANTH 497, 498: Senior Honors), with their project advisor submitting the grades for each term. Any student who resigns from the honors program at any point in time can still receive credit for the work they've already completed, reported as ANTH 493, 494: Individual Study. Similarly, a student who does not successfully defend the thesis will nevertheless receive credit under the ANTH 493, 494 designation.
We suggest that anyone planning to undertake an honors project consider the following before writing a proposal:
Your proposal should be submitted in the spring of the junior year, although we will entertain proposals in the first two weeks of the senior year. Students who are planning to study abroad during their junior year and who expect to pursue honors based on independent study conducted in that context are strongly encouraged to discuss their plans with a relevant member of the faculty prior to their departure.
First and foremost, the proposal should clearly define the research question. Second, it should describe the method of data collection, historical research, and/or theoretical examination. Ideally, an explicit theoretical orientation will guide your analysis. Third, the proposal should include an initial bibliography demonstrating a literature adequate for dealing with the issue at hand. We are not looking for a tome; two or three pages of text should be sufficient in most instances.
A successful honors thesis is the result of effective organization and sustained effort on the part of the student and the committee. Consequently, the department encourages you to meet with your project advisor during the first week of your senior year and establish a schedule of goals and accompanying deadlines for their attainment. Some of you will have original materials collected in the field or data available for secondary analysis; others will be relying solely on library research. Obviously, then, there is no way that the department can construct a single schedule appropriate to every honors student's work. But, in general, we suggest the following:
Whenever possible, your research should be completed by the beginning of the spring semester. That will leave you the remainder of the year to write up the results in a timely manner. In the past, we have found that it is not unreasonable to expect a student to complete the bulk of the library research and write the introductory chapter(s) during the fall term.
Schedule regular monthly (or bi-weekly) meetings with your advisor. The first meetings may well be of the "this is what I read" or "this is what is perplexing me" variety. You will find that simply meeting with your advisor and discussing your analysis will help you to unpack your ideas more easily. It can also keep you from becoming unknowingly derailed. Keep a thick skin in that regard. When a faculty member says "How in the world did you get that idea?", it is an opportunity for you to further refine your understanding before you ever put your fingers to the keyboard.
In your initial meetings, you and your advisor should agree not only on what the deadlines will be, but also on what constitutes unacceptable work. Once you set your deadlines, meet them. In general, neither faculty nor students are well-served by a last minute submission of an unseen "completed" project. For that reason, some of us have had a stringent policy on missed deadlines (e.g., miss one deadline and you get a warning; miss two and you forfeit your honors).
Copies of the completed thesis must be submitted to each member of the committee. In addition, you must present one copy each to the department and to the College library. The final draft of your thesis must conform to the format and style guidelines established by the library (see Guidelines for Preparation of the Library Copy of Honors Theses, available at the Olin Library).
Plan to have the thesis completed a full three weeks before the scheduled date of the defense. That will give all the members of the committee ample time to read the thesis as a whole and make helpful suggestions regarding your preparation for defense. Defenses are typically scheduled for the middle of April.
Having completed the written work, you are required to discuss your ideas and approach in an oral defense of the thesis. The oral defense is attended by all the members of your committee, including the outside examiner. This session typically lasts approximately ninety minutes.
The defense begins with a brief statement (about five minutes) from you about your honors work. Because everyone in attendance has read the thesis, there is no need to reiterate your argument at this point. Instead, students take this opportunity to make a personal statement about their motivations for the study and the significance honors work has had for their intellectual or personal growth.
The remainder of the defense is taken up with questions from the committee. You will be asked to defend particular points in the written work, justify the approach you took in the thesis as a whole, and consider implications of your work that extend beyond the thesis itself. At an appropriate point, the advisor will close the discussion. You will then be asked to leave the room briefly so that the committee can evaluate your thesis and defense and determine the outcome of your work. You will then be called back into the room to learn the results of the committee's deliberation.
If a schedule is agreed upon and adhered to by both faculty and students, the possibility of not passing the oral defense is virtually nil. The following questions will be considered in deciding on the level of honors:
In general, higher levels of honors are reserved for students who show particular sophistication and creativity in the development of the thesis and demonstrate unusually high command of the issues and material in the oral defense.