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Honors Thesis


An honors thesis is a year-long project for which students, who have demonstrated academic excellence, conduct in-depth research on a topic of their own choosing. Topics have ranged from purely linguistic concerns to those that cross over to fields such as political science, education, cognitive psychology, the biological sciences, and women’s and gender studies. Students are advised to begin their planning for the honors program as early as possible in their studies in order to meet the requirements of the program. Copies of recently completed honors projects are available in the library and in the department.

General Requirements

Seniors must fulfill the following requirements for admission to the honors program in the Macalester College Department of Linguistics:

  • Overall grade point average (GPA) equal to or greater than 3.30
  • GPA in Linguistics coursework of at least 3.50
  • A written proposal submitted by May 1 of the junior year. The honors topic should be one that was previously explored in a class assignment (such as a homework or term paper). Exceptions may be made in certain circumstances; please consult with the department chair.

Please note:   Candidates will be approved by the faculty adviser, in consultation with the department chair.  Satisfying the requirements for honors does not guarantee that your project will be approved.


Note: when due dates fall on a weekend, the deadline will be the following Monday.

May 1 (of applicant’s junior year):  A two- to three-page proposal is due. The proposal should state the nature of the thesis, and the student’s background for pursuing the project. The proposal must be submitted to the department chair and the advisor.

A successful proposal should include the following:

  • a  description of the project
  • information on the methods of research
  • description, preferably with examples or sample wordlists, of the types of data that will be collected or elicited
  • summary of work already completed toward completion of the project
  • at least one paragraph indicating  the relevance of the project to the student’s academic development and/or personal career
  • a timetable for research and writing of the project
  • nomination of a primary faculty advisor
  • a bibliography

October 1: A progress report (with a bibliography) must be submitted to the advisor.

November 1: In consultation with the faculty advisor, the student must identify two additional faculty members to be on the Honors Examination Committee.  One faculty member may be from an institution other than Macalester College.

December 1:  An eight- to ten-page draft of the thesis must be submitted to the primary advisor and committee members.  The faculty will consider the quality and progress of the work and determine, in a timely manner, whether the project should be allowed to continue.

January 31: The honors advisor submits to the chair the names of students who are approved to continue work on the honors thesis.

April 1: The completed thesis should be submitted to the members of the student’s Honors Examination Committee. A date for the oral examination will typically be set at this time.

April 20: The honors advisor will inform the Dean of Academic Programs whether or not the student will be graduating with honors.

The Oral Exam

When the honors thesis is completed, the student, along with the three member Honors Examination Committee, will decide on a date for the oral examination.   During the oral examination, the student will present the thesis project for approximately 20-30 minutes.  This will be followed by a question and answer session and discussion of the project.  The oral exam will not exceed 90 minutes.  At the conclusion of the oral examination, the committee may accept the thesis, reject the thesis, or ask that the thesis be further revised and resubmitted.

Independent Study Credit

Honors students must register for independent study credit during the terms in which they are working on their project.  Typically, this will be two to four credits.