Macalester College Honors Program is facilitated by the Dean of Academic Programs. The program is designed to enable seniors with demonstrated ability to undertake substantial independent work that culminates in a project of exceptionally high quality. The Geography Department participates in the honors program. Eligibility requirements, application procedures and specific project expectations for the geography department are outlined on this page. Students interested in pursuing an Honors Project are encouraged to consult with their academic advisor early in their junior year.

Honors Projects

Geography Honors Project Guidelines

1. Students must maintain a minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.3 and have officially declared a major in Geography. An Honors Project will not replace the senior capstone experience required of all graduates of Macalester College.

2. By the first week of their senior year at the latest, a student should submit a written proposal to their Advisor. In the early fall of each year the Geography Department faculty will meet to review proposals. Each student will be notified, in a timely fashion, whether or not his/her proposal has been approved, requires revisions before approval, or is denied.

Proposals must include the following:

  • An explanation of the topic and nature of the project
  • A research question
  • The proposed methodology for examining the question
  • Major sources to be examined
  • A proposed thesis committee of three (with at least two Macalester geography faculty) as well as at least two alternate committee members.

Criteria for Approval:

Factors to be considered include pertinence of the topic, the plan for research, methodology proposed to carry out the research, course preparation of the student, and the form of the research project. It must have the potential to demonstrate independent critical thought and original research. Above all, the project must reflect an original approach to a significant theme within the discipline of geography. The proposal should be 3-6 pages in length.

3. Independent Study Credits
The Department recommends that students undertaking Honors Projects register for an Independent course (Geog 614) of 4 credits each semester they are working on their projects (first and second semester senior year). In some instances it may be appropriate to use a geography senior seminar to work on part of an honors thesis (but only in cases where this has been approved by the instructor). We expect that the Honors project will account for 4 – 8 credits (only four of these credits can count towards an individual student’s major in Geography). Part of the independent study will involve mandatory attendance at a bi-weekly colloquium for all honors students during the fall semester.

4. Final Thesis
A substantial written thesis demonstrates independent critical thought and original research. It differs from a senior research paper in its depth, breadth and substance. The maximum length for an honors thesis in geography is 25,000 words (including references and notes). Examples of past honors theses in Geography may be found on the digital commons.

5. Evaluation Process
A committee of three will evaluate each Honors project, at least two of whom will be Geography Department faculty. The committee will read the Honors Thesis and engage the student in an oral defense of her/his project. The committee will decide whether to recognize the student’s work with “Honors”. The individual project advisor will be responsible for assigning the student a final grade for her/his independent study.

6. Project Timeline and Due Dates

Junior Year

  • Explore honors topics
  • Discuss project with advisor
  • Potentially apply for student-faculty collaborative research support (deadline in early February)
  • Submit a project proposal if you plan to undertake research over the summer
  • Seek approval from the Institutional Review Board (IRB) if you plan to work with human subjects.
  • Summer prior to senior year: Conduct research if approved by department

Senior Year

  • End of the first week of school: Final deadline to submit an Honors Project Proposal to department chair. At its first or second September department meeting, the Geography faculty will review submitted proposal(s) and decide which proposal(s) are approved to proceed.

The Honors Calendar is determined by Academic Programs.  Refer to the calendar for all due dates and deadlines throughout the academic year.

Final Paper Format:

  1. Submit three (3) original final copies to the Academic Programs Administrative Assistant. (Copies are for: student, advisor, and department.) For assistance
    with copying, please see Laura Kigin, Geography Department Coordinator.
  2. All final copies must be appropriate for binding. Therefore, please adhere to a 1 ¼ inch left margin and a 1 inch right, top and bottom margin.
  3. Supply the Academic Programs Administrative Assistant with the mailing address where you would like your final copy sent.