Honors in Anthropology

Outstanding senior majors in Anthropology may be selected by the department for possible participation in the Emory College Honors Program. As determined by the College Honors Committee, a student must have a GPA of 3.5 to be eligible for the program. The department will review the list of eligible majors in the second semester of their junior year and will contact those students considered to be qualified to complete an honor's project in Anthropology.

Candidates will pursue research under the direction of a faculty committee, write and defend an honors thesis, enroll in the Honors sequence (495A, 495BW), and take a graduate course. Students must also maintain at least a 3.5 overall and major GPA throughout their senior year in order to graduate with honors.

Want to learn more about Honors in Anthropology? Please check out the Q&A below, or contact either the Undergraduate Coordinator Heather Carpenter, or the Anthropology Honors Program Coordinator Dr. Debra Vidali, for more information. You may also learn more about Emory College honors requirements on the Emory College Honors Program webpage.

Sample Biological Anthropology Proposal

Sample Cultural Anthropology Proposal

Anthropology Honors Theses 1983-2021

Ready to apply?  Application for Honors in Anthropology (PDF)

 

Anthropology Honors Program Q&A

What are the requirements of the honors program in Anthropology?
How do I apply?
What is the role of the honors advisor? Who can serve as my advisor?
Who can serve on my committee?
What makes a thesis anthropological?
How do I find an advisor?

How do I decide on a topic?
How many pages is an honors thesis?
Can my project be completed in a non-traditional format (ie something other than a written paper)?

Who is the Faculty Honors Coordinator and what is their role?
Who is the Staff Honors Coordinator and what is their role?
What is the timeline for the Anthropology Honors Program?

What is the time commitment for honors students?
What are the 495A and 495BW classes?
How do credits and grading work for 495A and 495BW?
What does an honors defense look like?
What are the levels of honors?
I plan to graduate in December of my senior year.  Can I still participate in the Honors Program?
I plan to take a fifth year.  Can I do the honors thesis in my fourth year?
I plan to study abroad in fall of my senior year.  Can I still participate in the Honors Program?
What is IRB approval and do I need it?
Who can help honors students with research preparation and data organization?
Is there funding available for honors research?
Can I see a copy of previously written honors theses in Anthropology?

 

What are the requirements of the honors program in Anthropology?

Candidates will pursue research under the direction of a faculty committee, write and defend an honors thesis, enroll in the Honors sequence (495A, 495BW), and take a graduate course.  Students must also maintain at least a 3.5 overall and major GPA throughout their senior year in order to graduate with honors.

 

How do I apply?

The application process takes place in spring semester of the junior year.  Invitations to apply to the honors program will be sent out to all eligible Anthropology majors in January, and applications are due in March.  In order to apply, students must first identify a faculty member who will serve as their honors advisor, and work with that advisor to develop a proposed honors project.  The application consists of a one page description of the proposed project, a cover sheet signed by the prospective honors advisor, and a writing sample.  Completed applications will be reviewed by the honors committee, and decisions communicated via email in late March to early April.

 

What is the role of the honors advisor?  Who can serve as my advisor?

Each honors student works closely throughout the year with your advisor to develop the research question, research strategy, literature review, data collection strategies, and, ultimately, the production of your thesis. Close and regular communication between advisor and advisee is critical for the success of your project. Your advisor may be either from inside the department or outside the department, but should be able to direct you in writing an anthropology honors thesis. If you are considering an advisor outside the Anthropology department, please check with the Anthropology Honors Coordinator in advance to confirm whether they can be approved. More details on advisor and committee requirements are available on the College Honors Program website: http://catalog.college.emory.edu/academic/honors-program/honors-faq.html#faq6.

 

Who can serve on my committee?

Your committee must include at least three “core” members. Core committee members must be regular Emory University faculty members from any school or unit (meaning Emory faculty outside the College may serve in this capacity, including Oxford College faculty). At least one member must be from within the Anthropology department. If you are pursuing the Religion and Anthropology joint major, you must have at least one committee member from Anthropology and one from Religion.

You may have additional committee members, including faculty from other universities, beyond the required three core members. Only core members vote on level of honors. Your advisor counts as one of the three “core” members (see question above for more about advisors). More details on advisor and committee requirements are available on the College Honors Program website: http://catalog.college.emory.edu/academic/honors-program/honors-faq.html#faq6.

 

What makes a thesis anthropological?

Anthropologists study all aspects of human life. Our methods and topics are as diverse as humanity itself, but anthropologists are united in a commitment to holistic and empirically-grounded approaches to the human experience. We use ethnographic, computational, digital, archaeological, comparative and experimental research methods to explore a broad range of human conditions, past and present. In recent years, honors students have employed a wide range of methods: including interviews, focus groups, participant-observation, surveys, media/document analysis, mathematical modeling, and statistical analysis. 

 

How do I find an advisor? 

Potential advisors may be faculty you have taken a course with, faculty who do research on a topic you are interested in, or faculty who have a methodological approach that resonates with you.  You can read more details about our faculty research interests on our faculty profile pages (click on their name and then the “research” tab).  Once you find someone you are interested in working with, send them an email.  Have a topic or two in mind that you are thinking about, and start a conversation. It is good to go in with some idea of what you are interested in, but they can help you hone in on a more solid research question.  They may refer you to other faculty and this can be very helpful.

 

How do I decide on a topic?

In considering topics, consider: What question interests me enough to spend a year trying to answer it? What primary sources will I use (and have access to)?  What is feasible?  What is interesting to my potential advisor?  You could start by going back through old essays or research for classes you enjoyed and finding topics in which you want to dive deeper (and then the faculty who taught that course might be a good person to ask to be your advisor).  Keep in mind that many students don’t start out with a clear research project in mind.  You may prefer to start by finding a faculty member you would like to work with as your thesis advisor (see above), and then asking them to help you think through possible project ideas.

Also, it could be helpful to check out this list of honors theses produced in recent years.  Looking at this list of topics (and the names of the advisors that supervised them) may be helpful in identifying an advisor.  You can also access full text of many past honors theses at https://etd.library.emory.edu/.  Click the "Search Go" icon at the top right, then filter School for “Emory College” and department for “Anthropology”.  If you choose to filter by Committee Member, note they may show up as "First Last"; "Last, First"; and "Dr. First Last", so you'll need to filter multiple times.

 

How many pages is an honors thesis?

This should be worked out with your advisor, but plan for approximately 60-100 pages.

 

Can my project be completed in a non-traditional format (ie something other than a written paper)?

Non-traditional, experimental, multi-modal and multi-genre forms of scholarly production and publishing are increasingly prevalent in the field of anthropology.  With the support and approval of an appropriate faculty member and the Anthropology Faculty Honors Coordinator, a student may satisfy the honors thesis requirement in our department by producing a conventional written thesis combined with another scholarly genre recognized within the discipline of anthropology (film, museum display/installation, web-based, sonic production, theater/performance, etc.).  Students should note that in addition to their non-traditional project, they will be required to submit an accompanying text that supplies an anthropological context for the work.

Students who wish to apply to the Honors program with a “non-traditional” project (that is, one that will not be pursued and presented primarily through text) must submit a proposal to the Honors coordinator and have the support and approval of the coordinator and an appropriate faculty member. The proposal should contain the following sections:

  • The outline of the anthropological scope of the project and identification of particular questions to be engaged
  • A rationale for why the non-traditional approach is appropriate, given the questions to be explored
  • A timeline for the project

If you are thinking about a non-traditional project, please reach out to the Anthropology Faculty Honors Coordinator as early as possible to discuss this option further.

 

Who is the Faculty Honors Coordinator and what is their role?

The Faculty Coordinator of the Honors Program in Anthropology is Dr. Debra Vidali. Dr. Vidali is a sociocultural anthropologist, linguistic anthropologist, and theater-maker. Her work focuses on: civic engagement, social justice & human rights, experimental modes of knowledge production, media, and Indigenous sovereignty. Her role is to guide you through the process and structure of the honors program, to help keep you on track with the timing of various components of your thesis, to identify additional resources on campus that can support your research, and to provide a thoughtful space and intellectual community for dialogue about your project and about the process of research.

 

Who is the Staff Honors Coordinator and what is their role?

The Anthropology Undergraduate Program Coordinator, Heather Carpenter, serves as the staff coordinator for the Honors Program in Anthropology.  Her role is to manage the administrative side of the honors program, which includes the application process, enrollment in the honors course, scheduling group meetings and thesis defenses, tracking honors student progress, and communication with applicants, students, and the College Honors office.  The Undergraduate Program Coordinator is a good first contact for questions about honors program requirements, eligibility, deadlines, or other questions that arise.

 

What is the timeline for the Anthropology Honors Program?

Students apply and are admitted to the Anthropology Honors Program in spring of their junior year.  Some students go ahead and begin research over the summer, although most wait until fall term. Students who plan to conduct any research involving human subjects should work with their faculty advisors to submit an Institutional Review Board (IRB) application at the end of the spring term or over the summer, before beginning research. 

In the fall term of the senior year, students complete the bulk of their research and write the literature review portion of the thesis.  Students are enrolled in ANT 495A, and may enroll in their graduate course in either the fall or spring term.

In the spring term of the senior year, students complete their research and writing by around mid-March, and defend their theses by the end of March / first week in April.  Students are enrolled in ANT 495BW and receive continued writing credit for their thesis work.

 

What is the time commitment for honors students?

The best way to think about the time commitment is to note the number of credit hours received for participating in the honors program. As an honors student, you would take 495A (3 credit hours) in the fall and 495BW (4 credit hours) in the spring. Since 1 credit hour is awarded for 3 hours/week of class time, you can plan to spend approximately 9 hours per week working towards your honors thesis in the fall. The spring course is a writing course and worth 4 credits, so you could be working approximately 12 hours/week on writing and completing your thesis. However, note that theses are defended at the end of March and final submission is in early April, which means that the work in the spring term is frontloaded toward the beginning and middle of the semester.  On the plus side, your thesis will be completely finished weeks before your other finals for the spring term.

The honors “classes” (495A and 495BW) meet about once every 2 weeks to once per month and are designed to facilitate your progress through the honors program (rather than provide extra work), so the time commitment tends to be fluid. The honors program is very self-driven, so you would set the research/writing schedule that works best for you in collaboration with your advisor. With good work ethic and time management, students have successfully balanced the Honors Program with studying for and taking graduate entrance exams, completing graduate school applications, job interviews, and the many other exciting transitions that occur in senior year.  While many students do take relatively full course loads in addition to completing the thesis, it could be a good idea to try to take more of your courses in the fall with a lighter load in the spring if possible.

 

What are the 495A and 495BW classes?

The honors course sequence is constituted by a series of meetings with the Honors Coordinator and Undergraduate Coordinator and/or with other faculty and staff resources on campus. The purpose of this course is fourfold:

  • To support you in navigating academic and administrative structures, including following departmental and College policies, procedures, and timelines and working effectively with your advisor to complete the thesis;
  • To scaffold the research process in a way that helps you to manage your time over the course of the year;
  • To explore and discuss key components of the thesis process such as conducting a literature review, encountering research dilemmas (ethical, methodological, etc), preparing for the defense, etc.; and
  • To offer you a chance to learn from and support your peers as you share your research and research experiences.

The faculty honors coordinator will offer you feedback on the writing of this thesis, however you will need to be in close contact with your advisor to determine the structure, content, and style of the thesis.

 

How do credits and grading work for 495A and 495BW?

Both courses count toward your overall degree requirements and toward your GPA.  They may also be counted as electives toward the Anthropology major, within the limit of 2 total directed reading/research courses (which include ANT 397R and 497R).  ANT 495A is a 3 credit course.  ANT 495BW is a 4 credit course and counts for continued writing (WRT) credit.  If you plan to underload in your final semester, you may request less than 4 honors credits.  Your grade in the course reflects your work moving toward completion of the thesis, not the level of honors received on the completed thesis.

 

What does an honors defense look like?

You will meet with your committee members at a mutually agreed upon time.  Your advisor will facilitate the meeting.  The defense usually takes 1 hour, though rooms are typically reserved for 1.5 hours.  You should plan to present (with Powerpoint or other visual media) for approximately 15 minutes.  Your committee will then spend the next 20-30 minutes asking you questions (for example, about your findings, your methodological decisions, the limitations of your research, your mode of representing it, etc).  You will then be asked to leave the room and they will discuss the results of your research and determine whether you have passed and the level of honors awarded (Honors, High Honors, Highest Honors). 

 

What are the levels of honors?

Per the Emory College Honors webpage:

Honors (cum laude) represents satisfactory completion of the program, with an overall average of 3.50.

High Honors (magna cum laude) represents completion of the program with outstanding performance, including an overall average of 3.50 and a thesis of quality sufficient for oral presentation to scholars in the candidate's field.

Highest Honors (summa cum laude) represents completion of the program with exceptional performance, including an overall average of 3.50 and a thesis of a quality suitable for publication.

 

I plan to graduate in December of my senior year.  Can I still participate in the Honors Program?

Yes, but you need to plan ahead and contact the Honors Coordinator early in the fall of your junior year.  Students must be enrolled in honors for 2 semesters with senior status, so you would begin the program in January of the year you plan to graduate. This means you would need to begin the application process no later than September of the year before you plan to graduate, to allow time to find an advisor, develop a project, be admitted to the program, and apply for IRB (if needed for your project) in that fall term so that you can begin research in January.  The fall deadline for honors applications is September 30th.

If you will reach official “senior” status before your next-to-last fall semester, it may also be possible to complete the honors program on the regular fall-spring timeline, one year early (leaving one more fall semester before graduation after completing honors).  This would allow you the benefit of completing the honors thesis along with a cohort of other students. In this case, you would need to submit your application by the normal deadline for rising seniors (mid-March). 

 

I plan to take a fifth year.  Can I do the honors thesis in my fourth year?

Most likely not.  The College Honors Program sees the honors thesis as being intended for completion in a student’s final year of enrollment, and tends to deny this request.  If you feel that you have a strong case for why you should complete the thesis in your fourth year instead of your fifth, please contact the Honors Coordinator.

 

I plan to study abroad in fall of my senior year.  Can I still participate in the Honors Program?

Yes, though you need to be sure you have a clear plan developed with your advisor in advance, and be in agreement about how and how often you will check in while you are abroad.  You should also discuss your plans with the Honors Coordinator to determine what type of progress you will be expected to make on your thesis while you are abroad (students enrolled in 495A are typically expected to complete the literature review portion of the thesis).

 

What is IRB approval and do I need it? 

If your project involves human subjects, then you will need to obtain approval from the Institutional Review Board (IRB) before beginning your research.  http://www.irb.emory.edu/forms/review/index.html The IRB application process can take a couple of months, so you definitely want to complete it in the summer before you begin your honors project.  Keep in mind that faculty can be more difficult to reach over the summer, so you should talk with your advisor about IRB before the end of the spring term.  Once you are admitted into the honors program, you will receive some resources to help you get started with the IRB process, but your advisor will likely be your best resource.

 

Who can help honors students with research preparation and data organization?

Besides your honors thesis advisor and committee members, you can find support from the helpful subject librarians at the Woodruff Library.  Our Anthropology Librarian, Dr. Lori Jahnke, is an excellent resource for Honors students!  You can reference her research guide, and/or schedule an individual consultation to help you make the most effective use of library resources. Another library resource is Dr. Melissa Hackman, Sociology subject librarian, who is very helpful with questions related to data analysis / coding software (like MAXQDA). 

 

Is there funding available for honors research?

While many honors projects do not involve significant cost, there are some funding opportunities available for students whose projects require additional funding support or include travel.

Independent Research Grant through the Undergraduate Research Programs office (deadline mid-April for summer funding, mid-Sept for fall funding)
Undergraduate Global Research Fellowship through the Halle Institute for Global Research and the Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry (note the deadline for this application is usually early February, so you would need to have your project idea together early)
CMBC Undergraduate Fellowship through the Center for Mind, Brain, and Culture (apply by March 15)
Rose Library Awards for archival research, including the Currey Travel Award (pre-research) and Alan Rackoff Prize for projects completed using Rose Library source materials. (apply by April 30)

 

Can I see a copy of previously written honors theses in Anthropology?

Yes! A list of anthropology honors theses produced in recent years is available on the Anthropology Honors website.  You can also access full text of many past honors theses at https://etd.library.emory.edu/.  Click the "Search Go" icon at the top right, then filter School for “Emory College” and department for “Anthropology”.  If you choose to filter by Committee Member, note they may show up as "First Last"; "Last, First"; and "Dr. First Last", so you'll need to filter multiple times.