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Undergraduate Program

Senior Thesis

A Senior Honors thesis is an extended paper (approx. 60-80 pages) on a selected topic, which you examine in detail. You take this as a year long, two-credit course. Topics can develop from field research you conducted during a Public Anthropology seminar, during Study Abroad, or during summer research. Alternatively, you can develop a topic from one that attracted you during a regular Anthropology course, and you can pursue it through library research alone. Examples of past topics include the construction of post-Soviet Georgian national identity through place and ceremonial practice; concepts of masculinity among male long-distance runners; contrasting representations of Egypt and the rest of Africa in the MFA and the Field Museum; the construction of "organic" among northeastern US organic farmers; the changing significance of mbira music for education in Zimbabwe; and an ethnography of historical reenactment in the Boston Tea Party Museum ship.

In order to register for a senior honors thesis, you must be on the Dean's List twice before your senior year and must have approval from your major department. You should also have some previous experience of the topic you select, for example by having taken a course related to your topic. It is also preferable for at least one Anthropology faculty member to have some expertise relating to your topic.

Remember, Tufts' Academic Resource Center has general information and provides support for thesis writers.

If you plan to conduct summer field research, please review the guidelines below:

Fall of Junior Year

  • Identify a general topic.
  • Choose a primary thesis advisor in Anthropology. This need not be your major advisor. Work with him or her as you make the following steps.
  • Begin to compile (and read through) a list of readings that you and your advisor have identified.
  • Identify a specific thesis topic
  • Research funding sources. Such sources at Tufts include the Dean's Research Fund, Citizenship and Public Service, and (for research abroad) the Borghesani Memorial Prize.
  • Begin to identify your methods. What will you be doing, and where? To whom will you speak? What kinds of questions will you ask? Which activities will you observe? In which activities will you engage as a participant?
  • With the guidance of your primary thesis advisor, write proposals for funding and submit them by the appropriate deadlines.

Spring of Junior Year

  • Working with your primary thesis advisor, select a second advisor (one advisor must be from Anthropology).
  • With the guidance and feedback of your advisors, write your research protocol and informed consent forms for Tufts' Institutional Review Board (IRB) for research on human subjects. For the IRB research protocol form, write a more detailed description of your thesis topic and methods, identifying any ways in which these could potentially harm your informants, and identifying protections that you will put in place to minimize any such harm.
  • When your primary advisor has approved your protocol and consent forms, submit them by the IRB's March deadline.
  • Register for Anthropology 199.

Summer before Senior Year

Conduct your field research, making sure you obtain the informed consent of your informants.
Continue your reading and add to your reading list.

If you do NOT plan to conduct summer field research, please review the guidelines below:

Spring of Junior Year

  • Know what your general topic will be.
  • Select a primary thesis advisor in Anthropology. This can be any Anthropology faculty member, and need not be your major advisor.
  • Begin to compile (and begin to read through) a list of readings that you and your advisor have identified.
  • Register for Anthropology 199.
  • Working with your primary thesis advisor, select a second advisor (one advisor must be from Anthropology).

Summer before Senior Year

  • Continue to read and add to your reading list.
  • Identify a specific thesis topic.

Senior Year:

Fall of Senior Year

  • Complete your research.
  • Begin organizing and outlining your thesis chapters.
  • Begin your writing
  • Meet periodically with your thesis advisors.
  • Schedule a meeting with your thesis advisors before November 15.
  • One week before the meeting, give each of your advisors a one-paragraph statement of your thesis topic, plus your chapter outlines and your list of readings.
  • At the meeting, your advisors will "fine tune"  your thesis statement and will agree upon a schedule for the completion of your thesis.
  • File the Honors Thesis Candidate Form by 15 November, in Dowling Hall.

Spring of Senior Year

  • Meet regularly (at least every two weeks) with your primary thesis advisor.
  • Meet periodically with your second advisor.
  • Give a complete first draft to your primary thesis advisor, ideally before Spring Break.
  • Your second advisor may see later drafts, as you and they consider appropriate.
  • Schedule the defense of your thesis for late April or early May.
  • Submit your final draft to your advisors at least one week before your defense.

Your Thesis Defense:

Although this is called a "defense," it does not mean that you will be attacked! It will typically last from approximately one hour to ninety minutes. This is the structure of most thesis defenses:

  • You will give a five-minute statement on your thesis. Try to address the following questions: What was your goal? What were your main challenges, and how did you address them? How were your ideas and methods modified as your research unfolded? Which parts of your research and your thesis are you most proud of? What would you do differently if you were to go through this process again?
  • Your thesis advisors will ask you questions about your research and your thesis.
  • Your primary advisor will ask you to leave the room while your advisors discuss your level of thesis honors and your grade.
  • Your advisors will assign you one of the following levels of thesis honors: no honors; honors; high honors; highest honors.
  • Your advisors will also assign you a letter grade-i.e. A, A-, B+, B, etc.
  • Your primary advisor will call you back into the room and inform you of your level of honors and your letter grade.
  • Your advisors will give you any revisions they want you to make before submitting the bound copy of your thesis.

After your Defense

  • Your primary thesis advisor will file the Recommendation for Thesis Honors form.
  • Make any final revisions stipulated by your advisors.
  • Submit the official bound copy to the Tisch library and to the Anthropology department. Give more simply bound copies to your thesis advisors.
  • Your thesis honors will be announced at the Commencement ceremony.