The Philosophy Honors Program provides majors who have demonstrated academic excellence with the opportunity to engage in a two to three semester program focused on in-depth research, culminating in a written honors thesis. A honors thesis is a sustained examination of a central idea or question, developed under the guidance of a faculty member—thesis advisor. Your thesis should grow out of your personal interests and passion to answer your most pressing question(s). Students wishing to undertake a more intensive and extensive program of study including independent work, seminar/tutorial courses are invited to apply for the honors program.
Interested students are encouraged to speak with the Academic Advisor regarding more information. Eligible students should apply for admissions to the Honors Program before the start of the second semester of their third year. This allows for opportunity to enroll in PHL 375M in the spring semester, PHL 679HA in the fall, and PHL 679HB in their final semester. If this is not possible, students can enroll in PHL 375M and PHL 679HA simultaniously in the fall semester- the first semester of their final year and PHL 679HB in their final semester. The former is the recommended route to take.
Note: Philosophy 679HA/B is taken in addition to the requirements of the major, i.e., these courses do not count toward the required UD elective philosophy hours required for the major; however, PHL 375M may be counted toward major requirements.
- Upper-division standing
- UT GPA of at least 3.0
- Philosophy GPA of a least 3.5
- Strong research and writing skills. Completion of one, preferably two, writing flag courses with a grade of B+ or higher is strongly preferred
- At the time of application, you must have completed at least 9 hours of Philosophy coursework
- Submit an application by the deadline
- Consult the Academic Advisor during the first semester of your third year OR before/during the start of your second semester of your third year
- Find a faculty member who will agree to serve as your Thesis Advisor. Ideally this person should be a professor who shares your particular interests, and one with whom you have already developed a rapport.
- Submit an honors application by the deadline
- Once approval is obtained, the Academic Advisor will reserve you a seat in PHL 679HA. This is the first course of a six-hour class extending over two semesters. It is ultimately the student's responsibility to register for the course.
- It is possible to register for PHL 679HA in the spring semester and PHL 679HB in the fall. Occasionally, a student can enroll in either course over the summer. Students should consult the Academic Advisor.
Guidelines for Honors Thesis
- Both the Thesis Advisor and a second reader must approve the honors thesis.
- The final grade for the final semester of the thesis will not be issued until (1) the thesis advisor and the second reader have approved the thesis and (2) the student has successfully completed the oral defense.
- As a courtesy, students should ask both faculty advisors if they would like a bound or PDF copy of the thesis for their personal records.
- Liberal Arts Honors (LAH) has published a helpful guide for theses, including style and formatting, available here.
- The department does not provide rules for the length of the thesis, but theses are often 40 to 60 pages. Thesis Advisors should explain their expectation for the scope of the student’s written work.
- The first half of the Honors Tutorial Course, PHL 679HA, is often used as a research semester and the second half, PHL 679HB, is often treated as the writing semester.
- Students will be given a grade at the end of each semester.
Requirements for Graduating with Honors:
Students must meet the following requirement to graduate with Honors:
- completion of Major Seminar course PHL 375M, with a grade of at least B
- completion of Honors Tutorial Courses, 679HA and 679HB, with a grade of at least B in both
- satisfactory performance on an oral examination for thesis completed in Philosophy 679HB;
- UT GPA of at least 3.00;
- PHL GPA of at least 3.50 in the coursework required for the major and for honors
Students wishing to start Honors in the Fall semester should submit an application no later than August 1; for Spring semesters- January 1. However, it is strongly recommended for students to submit applications well before these dates to the Academic Advisor, Michelle D. Escalante; email: email@example.com
Departmental Honors FAQ
- What are the performance expectations for an honors thesis?
Faculty members—thesis advisors expect students to do a significant amount of reading. Students will generally be expected to engage with the scholarly tradition. In other words, if a student wants to write a thesis on Plato, they will not only need to read a great deal of Plato’s dialogues (and read them carefully); they would also need to read scholarly literature that has been written about Plato.
Likewise, thesis advisors will have different expectations about what you achieve with your thesis. Again, you should discuss this with your potential thesis advisor before agreeing to work with them, as some faculty will demand more than you may feel capable of achieving. You are expect to produce a thesis that is much more ambitious than anything you would turn in for an undergraduate class.
- Why is the Honors Tutorial course two semesters long?
The first semester of the Honors Tutorial course is generally treated as a “research semester,” in which you will do much of the background research that will prepare you to begin writing the thesis. However, most thesis advisors will expect you to produce some written work during the first semester. Such work may be as little as an outline and a bibliography. It is highly recommended to produce some written work during the first semester. Students will be assessed a grade at the end of each semester, and it is often useful for this purpose to complete a writing project for the first semester. Also, such writing projects will help students to determine what the writing expectations will be during the subsequent semester.
- Why should I write an honors thesis?
The best reason to write an honors thesis is because you feel like it would be a rewarding experience. Writing an honors thesis is hard work, but it is a unique experience to work one on one with a faculty member and to produce advanced writing on a subject of your choosing.
For students intent on applying to graduate school in philosophy, completing an honors thesis and earning Honors will make you a more competitive candidate for admission to a graduate program. It may also yield a writing sample for your graduate school applications.
For students planning to apply to law school, it is unclear how much impact the thesis and the distinction of Honors will have on you chances for admission to a law school. However, these certainly cannot hurt your chances and ought to demonstrate your commitment and work ethic, and, moreover, the experience in completing a thesis will improve many skills that will be important in law school.
Even students entering the workforce after graduation may find a thesis helpful on the job market. Completion of an honors thesis is one of the most signficant academic accomplishments available to an undergraduate and demonstrates a sustained commitment to an independent project over the course of two semesters.
- Who should my thesis advisor be?
Your Thesis Advisor should be a faculty member of the Philosophy Department. Someone with competency in the topic of your thesis. How do you know who has competency in that area? Look on the department website at the faculty page, where the faculty’s specializations are listed.
Ideally, your thesis advisor should be someone you have taken a class with already and have built rapport with. This is one reason it is important to get to know your professors early on in your academic career. Some faculty may be reluctant to work with a student with whom they have had no previous interactions with.
Under Special Circumstances- students can request for their thesis advisor to be from another department. However, the faculty member must demonstrate significant research and teaching interest in Philosophy. Students must make such request in writing to the Academic Advisor. If approved, the second reader must be a faculty member of the Philosophy Department.
- How do I ask a faculty member to be my thesis advisor?
You should approach your prospective thesis advisor with a thesis topic in mind. You should be able to present the topic idea clearly and with reference to work you have already done. Faculty are less likely to sign on as advisor if you come to them unprepared. You should know enough to present a coherent thesis proposal. It’s permissible to present more than one thesis idea to a prospective thesis advisor, but not too many, as that will make you sound indecisive.