AFAM Honors Thesis Guidelines

General Information

Please note​ that these Guidelines are intended to complement “The Jellybean Papers” available at​ That document represents the University requirements for ​all Honors candidates​. 

An Honors thesis at Wesleyan represents a very serious endeavor that will produce an original work of scholarship based on extensive independent research and fashioned through deliberate methodological and theoretical choices.  Sources might include media, textual, ethnographic, and other materials.  It will be evaluated with the rigor reserved for this level of scholarship. 

The advisor works to guide the writer, but not direct them. The writer bears responsibility for determining the pace of the research and writing, although they may ask the advisor for help in establishing milestones throughout the project.  The writer and advisor will determine how they will structure their interactions, although the writer bears ultimate responsibility for maintaining the pace of the project’s progress. 

Honors theses ideally range from 60 to 90 pages in length.  


Candidates must apply to write an Honors thesis by February 1st.  The application consists of a 2-3 page proposal, to be sent to the Department Chair and Administrative Assistant.  The proposal should be a description of the intellectual problem of the thesis and the method to be used (whether it will be historical, ethnographic, etc.).  Please see sample successful proposals HERE

The proposal should include a bibliography, a list of courses the candidate has taken that are pertinent to the topic, and a list of three faculty members, including but not limited to those in African American Studies, in order of preference, who would make good thesis tutors. Students must meet with at least one faculty member so as to get feedback on the project before submitting the proposal.

As the candidate considers the names of faculty members to place on the list, the candidate should know two things.  First, most faculty prefer to work with candidates who have taken at least one course with them.  Others may require coursework on the topic to be investigated.  Second, it is the policy of the Department of African American Studies that no faculty member is permitted to supervise more than two Honors theses in a year.

The faculty will read the proposals, determine which theses will move forward with which faculty, and may reject some proposals (for reasons such as feasibility). Candidates will be informed of the results by late-April.

Writers are recommended to examine previous theses completed in the department to discern some of what the work entails. These can be found on the WesScholar repository online at 


Junior Year


Identify a thesis topic, work on proposal, identify and meet with a faculty member.


Consider possible student fellowships for your project.  You will find a partial list at the bottom of this document.  Check them for their deadlines and what application materials are necessary for each of them.

February 1

Submit proposal to the Department Chair and Administrative Assistant


Department will inform student of their application results.  Those approved should arrange a meeting with their supervisor to establish a work schedule for the summer.

Senior Year


Writers pursue research during the summer.  


During Drop/Add, students will register for AFAM 409.  The student will review “The Jellybean Papers” carefully for important information regarding all steps of their project. 

All thesis writers must either schedule a meeting with a research librarian or attend one of the workshops provided by Olin Library. 


By the end of the Reading period, students must submit a completed chapter of their thesis to their thesis supervisor.  The supervisor will give this chapter to a committee of faculty members from the Department who will read and evaluate it to determine whether the project should continue as a thesis, or end as a senior essay.  If it ends as an essay, then the student must add a fourth class to her or his schedule in place of the second thesis tutorial.


If the committee determines the Honors thesis should continue, the student will enroll in AFAM 410 during Drop/Add.


The completed thesis is due no later than the date given for thesis submission in “The Jellybean Papers.”  Please follow carefully the directions governing submission.

The thesis will be read by two faculty members who will evaluate it.  The advisor will communicate the result of the evaluation to the writer several weeks after the submission deadline. 


Writing a thesis can be the culmination of the liberal arts experience.  All members of the faculty enjoy working with students in this endeavor because of the intellectual insights and growth the thesis affords.  It is an opportunity to draw together strands of earlier work and/or explore entirely new horizons.  Please let us know how we can help you to make the most of this experience.

Note Especially for AFAM Minors

Frequently, AFAM Minors switch to AFAM Major in their Junior or Senior year.  If you are thinking of doing this, you should consult with your Major Advisor to see what course work you need to undertake to do this, and you should be aware of the deadlines above in case you are also thinking of undertaking an Honors thesis in AFAM.

Undergraduate Science Research Fellowships at Wesleyan

Other Undergraduate Science Research Fellowships at Wesleyan 

College of Integrative Sciences Research Fellowships

College of the Environment Research Fellowships

Quantitative Analysis Center Summer Apprenticeship Program

Psychology Research Labs

McNair & Mellon Mays Fellowships

Digital Scholarship Fellowships Program 

Davenport Study Grants

Center for the Humanities Student Fellowships