The Honors Program



            This sheet provides you with information about the steps you will follow in writing your senior thesis, the advisor system, and deadlines.

We advise you to read the ORC sections on "The Honors Program" and  "Honors in the Major," along with our Department-specific criteria. From the College's point of view, writing a thesis means applying to that department's "honors program."  At the time of application, you must have a college-wide average of B and a B average in the courses of your Russian major. Your grade for honors work—normally the grade assigned in Russian 87—must be a B+ or higher to meet the College's requirements.  A thesis accepted by the department signifies completion of the College's honors program, and this is noted on your transcript.  High Honors is reserved for particularly outstanding work, and can be awarded only after nomination by a faculty member or members, and by vote of the entire department.

THESIS ADVISORS. You will need to choose a faculty advisor to oversee your work. Depending on your topic, you may need more than one advisor. For Russian Area Studies theses, this will almost always hold true.  One faculty member will serve as the principal advisor, and any others as secondary advisors. Normally a visiting professor cannot serve as an advisor. The chair will give you an outline of the responsibilities of a secondary advisor, and will communicate directly with the secondary advisor about these guidelines.  If the principal advisor is outside the Russian Department, there must be a secondary advisor within the department.

READERS OF YOUR THESIS.  We encourage you to share your work-in-progress with your peers and faculty at all times.  The comments you receive may prove very helpful to your writing.

There are three occasions, however, when you must present your work to the Russian Department as a whole.  The entire faculty will review your thesis proposal in November  of senior year, will attend your oral presentation in May, and will read the final, bound thesis.


I. FIRST MEETING: JUNIOR SPRING. By the first week in May of your junior year, you must meet with the chair to discuss your plans for a thesis.  By the end of spring term, you should meet with any potential thesis advisor(s) to discuss your project. You should be able to talk about the direction you anticipate your project will take. If you are off campus, you can communicate with the chair and potential advisors by e-mail or telephone.

Double check at this time to make sure that you are on track to complete the course requirements for the Russian major.  If you have any doubts, consult the chair immediately.

Over the summer between junior and senior year, you should read widely in your topic area. This is a useful time to build erudition in your subject, and to eliminate topics that are likely to result in dead-ends: questions that are too large (what influence did the Classics have on Russian literature?); questions that cannot be answered, either because of the way they are formulated (are Petrushevskaia's male characters more important than her female characters?) or because there is not enough available information (did a complete copy of the second volume of Dead Souls survive?); and non-questions ("Tolstoy's rewriting of the Gospels" is a topic, but not a question).


Please submit your preliminary thesis proposal to your primary advisor and the department chair. 

The proposal should be roughly 750 to 1000 words. The preliminary proposal may take the form of questions you intend to address in your thesis. It should cover the following points:  What is the rationale of your project? Why is your topic important? How are you going to approach your problem conceptually (or theoretically)?

At the end of this proposal you should include an annotated bibliography of 4-5 important secondary sources, such as critical works on the specific texts you are studying (this may be a book or an article) or general critical works (either a book or an article). For each of the 4-5 entries you should write one thoughtful paragraph explaining why this work may be important in defining your thesis topic.  If you have read works that you do not find relevant and will likely be excluding from your research, it is still appropriate to include these as entries.

At this time reconfirm with any secondary advisors that they remain available to work with you, and report the results of your conversations to your primary advisor.  Throughout your senior year, it will be your responsibility to remain in touch with your secondary advisor(s).

Outcome: The preliminary thesis proposal is not submitted to a vote.  At their discretion, the chair and principal advisor may share your proposal with other faculty to elicit comments.  Only in rare cases will the chair and your advisor request that you resubmit the preliminary thesis proposal.  Normally you will simply be asked to incorporate any suggestions they have into your formal thesis proposal.

III. FORMAL THESIS PROPOSAL:  due Monday of the seventh week of classes 

The thesis proposal must be signed by your advisor(s) and submitted to the Russian Department faculty for approval.  The narrative part of the proposal should be roughly 750 to 1250 words. Show a draft to your advisors, the chair, and fellow students.

            Effective proposals are clear and precise.

            You must have a working title.

            Your first paragraph should state the topic as clearly as possible, including the works you plan to analyze. Define the problem you will study. Why is it important to undertake the subject?

            The middle paragraphs should go into some detail about the questions you intend to ask and the approaches you will use to address them. What is the rationale of your approach?  If you are clear about your methodological orientation, describe it here.  You should also include here a sense of the reading you still need to do to address your topic (e.g. any primary texts; background reading in given theories; reading about alternative theories on your topic, if they exist; as well as historical background on a given period, criticism of a given author, her/his other works etc.).  In this section you should give a preliminary outline of your chapter divisions.

            A concluding paragraph could state some things you hope to find or to get out of the work.  If you have no idea what you will find, say so -- it's only a proposal.

A bibliography must be appended to the thesis proposal. It should include all primary and secondary works that you intend to use, whether you have read them or not.  This bibliography need not be annotated.

Outcome: The Russian Department faculty will evaluate your proposal.  The possible results are 1) your proposal is passed; 2) the Department asks you to resubmit your proposal before the end of Fall term; 3) in rare events, the Department may find that your proposal cannot yield a good thesis, and will reject it.  In all these cases, the chair and advisor will convey to you any useful specific suggestions from faculty members.

If your proposal is accepted, you will spend the Winter and Spring quarters researching and writing your thesis.  You will sign up for Russian 87 in the Spring.  This course fulfills the College's culminating experience requirement.  Most students sign up for an independent study (Russian 85) in the Winter.

IV.  ORAL DEFENSE OF YOUR THESIS: (normally the third week of May) You will give a 20-minute presentation of your thesis to the Russian Department faculty, outside advisors, and guests.  Your presentation will be followed by 10 minutes of questions.

Outcome: This is not a moment for evaluation, but an opportunity to share your work.

V. SUBMISSION OF FINAL THESIS. Four bound copies of your thesis are due on Monday of the 9th week of Spring Term.  The Russian Department will pay for these four copies. Two are for your advisors. You may personally give your advisors these copies.  The other two should be given to the Department administrative office for distribution. These will be used in the short run by Department faculty.  At the end of the term one will be sent to Rauner Archives, and the other retained in the Department for the edification and awe of those behind you. You must pay for any additional copies.

Outcome: The Russian Department faculty will read and discuss your thesis.  The judgment of any secondary advisors outside the Department will be solicited.  The faculty may 1) award you Honors; 2) award you High Honors; 3) conclude that the thesis does not constitute satisfactory honors work. Awards of Honors and High Honors are noted on the transcript. Failure to complete an honors program (failure to have the thesis accepted) is not noted on the transcript. High Honors are rarely awarded.


Junior Year Spring:

Meet with the Chair and any potential advisors to discuss your topic.

Make sure that you qualify to do a College Honors program.

Make sure that you will be fulfilling Russian major requirements by graduation.

Senior Fall:

            Monday of 3rd week of classes. Submit Preliminary Thesis Proposal and Annotated Bibliography.         IN 2021: SEPTEMBER 2

Monday of 7th week of classes. Submit formal thesis proposal.

                           IN 2021: OCTOBER 25                       

Senior Winter:

            Enroll in RUSS 85.

            Remember to stay in touch with all your advisors.

Senior Spring:

            Enroll in RUSS 87.

            Complete the writing of your thesis.

            Third week of May. Oral presentation. IN 2022: WEEK OF MAY 16–20

            Monday of 9th week of classes.  Final copies of thesis due.

                                                IN 2022: MAY 23