The Honors Program



Updated May 2023

           This sheet provides you with information about the steps you will follow in writing your senior thesis, the advisor system, and deadlines.

We advise you to read the ORC sections on "The Honors Program" and "Honors in the Major," along with our Department-specific criteria. From the College's point of view, writing a thesis means applying to that department's "honors program."  At the time of application, you must have a college-wide average of B and a B average in the courses of your Russian major. Your grade for honors work—normally the grade assigned in Russian 87—must be a B+ or higher to meet the College's requirements. 

A thesis accepted by the department signifies completion of the College's honors program, and this is noted on your transcript.  High Honors is reserved for particularly outstanding work. Note that to be considered for High Honors the thesis must involve substantial use of primary and secondary sources in languages other than English.

THESIS ADVISORS. You will need to choose a faculty advisor to oversee your work. Depending on your topic, you may need more than one advisor. For EEER Area Studies theses, this will almost always hold true.  One faculty member will serve as the principal advisor, and the other(s) as secondary advisors. The chair will give you an outline of the responsibilities of a secondary advisor and will communicate directly with the secondary advisor about these guidelines.  If the principal advisor is outside the EEER Department, there must be a secondary advisor within the department. Normally a visiting professor cannot serve as an advisor.

READERS OF YOUR THESIS.  We encourage you to share your work-in-progress with your peers and faculty at all times. The comments you receive may prove very helpful to your writing.

There are three occasions, however, when you must present your work to the EEER Department as a whole:

  • the faculty will review your thesis proposal in November of senior year
  • the faculty will review a full draft of the thesis during the first week of May
  • the faculty will attend your oral presentation in May, and will read the final, bound thesis.


I. FIRST MEETING: JUNIOR SPRING. By the first week in May of your junior year, you must meet with the EEER department chair to discuss your plans for a thesis.  By the end of spring term, you should meet with any potential thesis advisor(s) to discuss your project. You should be able to talk about the direction you anticipate your project will take. If you are off campus, you can communicate with the chair and potential advisors by zoom, e-mail, or telephone.

Double check at this time to make sure that you are on track to complete the course requirements for the EEER major.  If you have any doubts, consult the chair immediately.

Over the summer between junior and senior year, you should read widely in your topic area. This is a useful time to build erudition in your subject, and to eliminate topics that are likely to result in dead-ends: questions that are too large (what influence did the Classics have on Ukrainian literature?); questions that cannot be answered, either because of the way they are formulated (are Petrushevskaia's male characters more important than her female characters?) or because there is not enough available information (did a complete copy of the second volume of Dead Souls survive?); and non-questions ("Tolstoy's rewriting of the Gospels" is a topic, but not a question).

II. PRELIMINARY THESIS PROPOSAL and ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY: due Monday of the 3rd week of Fall term classes

Please submit your preliminary thesis proposal to your primary advisor and the department chair. 

The proposal should be roughly 750 to 1000 words. The preliminary proposal may take the form of questions you intend to address in your thesis. It should cover the following points:  What is the rationale of your project? Why is your topic important? How are you going to approach your problem conceptually (or theoretically)?

At the end of this proposal you should include an annotated bibliography of 4-5 important secondary sources, such as critical works on the specific texts you are studying (this may be a book or an article) or general critical works (either a book or an article). For each of the 4-5 entries you should write one thoughtful paragraph explaining why this work may be important in defining your thesis topic.  If you have read works that you do not find relevant and will likely be excluding from your research, it is still appropriate to include these as entries.

At this time reconfirm with any secondary advisors that they remain available to work with you and report the results of your conversations to your primary advisor.  Throughout your senior year, it will be your responsibility to remain in touch with your secondary advisor(s).

Outcome: The preliminary thesis proposal is not submitted to a vote.  At their discretion, the chair and principal advisor may share your proposal with other faculty to elicit comments.  Only in rare cases will the chair and your advisor request that you resubmit the preliminary thesis proposal.  Normally you will simply be asked to incorporate any suggestions they have into your formal thesis proposal.

III. FORMAL THESIS PROPOSAL: due Monday of the seventh week of Fall classes  

The thesis proposal must be signed by your advisor(s) and submitted to the EEER Department faculty for approval.  The narrative part of the proposal should be roughly 750 to 1250 words. Show a draft to your advisors, the chair, and fellow students.

            Effective proposals are clear and precise.

            You must have a working title.

            Your first paragraph should state the topic as clearly as possible, including the works you plan to analyze. Define the problem you will study. Why is it important to undertake the subject?

            The middle paragraphs should go into some detail about the questions you intend to ask and the approaches you will use to address them. What is the rationale of your approach?  If you are clear about your methodological orientation, describe it here.  You should also include here a sense of the reading you still need to do to address your topic (e.g. any primary texts; background reading in given theories; reading about alternative theories on your topic, if they exist; as well as historical background on a given period, criticism of a given author, her/his other works etc.).  In this section you should give a preliminary outline of your chapter divisions.

            A concluding paragraph could state some things you hope to find or to get out of the work.  If you have no idea what you will find, say so -- it's only a proposal.

A bibliography must be appended to the thesis proposal. It should include all primary and secondary works that you intend to use, whether you have read them or not.  This bibliography need not be annotated.

Outcome: The EEER Department faculty will evaluate your proposal.  The possible results are 1) your proposal is passed; 2) the Department asks you to resubmit your proposal before the end of Fall term; 3) in rare events, the Department may find that your proposal cannot yield a good thesis and will reject it.  In all these cases, the chair and advisor will convey to you any useful specific suggestions from faculty members.

IV. Research and Writing

Winter Quarter

If your proposal is accepted, you will devise a research and writing plan in conjunction with your advisor and submit it by the end of the Fall Quarter examination period. You will spend the Winter and Spring quarters researching, writing, and revising your thesis. Most students sign up for an independent study (Russian 85 or 86) in the Winter. Students should submit a partial draft with bibliography by February 15 and meet with their advisors to review the work plan and next steps. By the final day of the Winter Quarter exam period, thesis writers will submit all completed work on the thesis to their advisor, and they will receive a letter grade for the Independent Study

Spring Quarter

V. Thesis Draft Submission (normally the second week of Spring Quarter) You will present your thesis advisor with a full draft of your thesis so that they are able to comment thoroughly and return your draft to you for revision. This draft will understandably be a rough draft, but it will present your complete argument. Your advisor will meet with you and provide written feedback by April 22. Your final draft should be submitted to your advisor for circulation to the faculty by May 6. All department faculty have ten days to read, comment, and request final revisions.

VI.  ORAL DEFENSE OF YOUR THESIS: (normally the third week of May) You will give a 20-minute presentation of your thesis to the Russian Department faculty, outside advisors, and guests. You should present 1) your thesis's central question and an overview of your argument; 2) a summary of your most compelling evidence, or a case study that illustrates some major part of your argument. Remember that you are giving a talk (like a TEDTalk), not reading an academic paper.  Your presentation will be followed by 10-15 minutes of questions.

Senior Winter:

            Enroll in RUSS 85 or RUSS 86

            Feb. 15 Partial Draft submitted to adviser

            Final Day of Winter Exams: All completed work submitted to adviser

Senior Spring:

            Enroll in RUSS 87. 

           Second week of quarter: Full draft due to advisor

            April 20 Advisor meeting and feedback on draft

            May 6 Thesis circulated to department faculty

            Third week of May. Oral presentation. IN 2023: Thursday, May 23

            Monday of 9th week of classes.  Final copies of thesis due.


Junior Year Spring:

Meet with the Chair and any potential advisors to discuss your topic.

Make sure that you qualify to do a College Honors program.

Make sure that you will be fulfilling EEER major requirements by graduation.

Senior Fall:

            Monday of 3rd week of classes. Submit Preliminary Thesis Proposal and Annotated Bibliography. IN 2023: SEPTEMBER 25

Monday of 7th week of classes. Submit formal thesis proposal.

                  IN 2023: OCTOBER 23                       

Senior Winter:

            Enroll in RUSS 85.

            Remember to stay in touch with all your advisors.

Senior Spring:

            Enroll in RUSS 87.

            Complete the writing of your thesis.

            May 6 Full draft of thesis due to the department

            May 15 Department faculty return feedback

Third week of May. Oral presentation of thesis.

IN 2024: WEEK OF MAY 23

            Final bound copies of thesis due.

                        IN 2024: MAY 28