African American Studies

Fulfilling the Research Requirement - Honors Guidelines

Undertaking a research project using the tools that you have learned through your interdisciplinary coursework is an important part of achieving a degree in African American Studies. The African American Studies Program requires all of its majors to undertake at least one substantial research project under faculty supervision before graduation. Students may satisfy the research requirement in one of three ways: 

1. Senior Essay: A senior essay is a one-semester independent research project undertaken under the supervision of a faculty member. Students who plan to write an essay must apply to the program by the last day of classes in their junior year (the form can be downloaded on the next page).  Students who are approved will sign up with a faculty member for AFAM 401 in the fall of their senior year. They must also fill out an individual research tutorial form, which must be signed by both the project advisor and the chair of the program. Senior essays are substantial research papers of at least 15 pages in length. In exceptional circumstances, a senior essay may be undertaken in the spring, as AFAM 402. 

2. Seminars: Students may enroll in a 300-level African American Studies seminar and arrange with the instructor to write a research paper related to the course that will meet the research requirement. Research requirement papers must be at minimum 15 pages in length, and typically range from 20-25 pages in length. These research papers must be written in courses cross-listed with African American Studies except under exceptional circumstances. 

3. Senior Honors Thesis: An Honors thesis is a year-long independent research project undertaken during a student's senior year.  In order to eligible to apply to write an Honors thesis, students must have a B+ average in all their AFAM courses.  Those eligible students who wish to write a thesis must apply to the Program by the last day of classes in their junior year (the form can be downloaded on the next page). The students must present a proposal that contains the following three items: a) a description of the project to be undertaken, including the key research questions the student will pursue; b) a paragraph describing the methodology the student will employ; and c) a brief bibliography of some of the key primary and secondary works the student will consult.  If the proposal is approved, the student will be assigned a thesis supervisor, and will enroll in a senior thesis tutorial (AFAM 409) in the fall of his or her senior year.  In order to be in good standing, and to be allowed to enroll in the continuation of the senior thesis tutorial in the spring semester (AFAM 410), all students must submit a fifteen-page writing sample to the Honors Coordinator of the AFAM Program by the first Monday after Thanksgiving break. 

Thesis writers must fill out all forms required for the honors program. Thesis writers produce a substantial work of original research, normally from 80 to 120 pages in length. Theses are due at the Honors deadline in early April.  Theses are read by two African American Studies Program faculty members (the tutor does not serve as a thesis reader). Thesis writers who receive Honors or High Honors on their thesis graduate with Honors in African American Studies. Students may also choose to do a senior honors artistic project under the guidance of an AFAM faculty member, if appropriate. 

* Note: Students wishing to write Honors for General Scholarship must also follow the same process of application as those writing Honors in AFAM, and the same schedule (the proposals are due on the last day of classes at the end of the spring semester in the junior year). 

* Note: Any work submitted to fulfill the research requirement, whether thesis, essay, or seminar paper, must receive a grade of B- or better. Once a student has completed the research requirement, he or she should fill out the research requirement form, which must be signed by both the project supervisor and the major advisor. The research requirement form is available in the African American Studies Program office.