Honors in Classics – Senior Honors Thesis
Students who have majors in Classics may approach the Director of Undergraduate Studies, or any member of the Classics Department faculty, to discuss the option of writing a senior honors thesis. This may be done at any time. That said, work toward the writing of a thesis must begin at the latest during the second semester of the student’s junior year. At that point, the student should have a GPA of 3.65, both overall, and in the major.
The core idea of producing a senior thesis is that the student will gain experience conducting scholarly research in Classics at a professional level. Therefore, this paper should be a substantial piece of work, demonstrating a significant grasp of what scholarship is, and how it works. It is expected that students will engage in a sophisticated manner with the primary sources, and likewise with the modern scholarship on his or her topic. There is no required length for the thesis. This will vary, from project to project, depending upon the nature of the topic selected. Nonetheless, theses should be substantial enough that they require something on the order of 30 pages, and probably more, of writing.
Once a student has decided that she or he would like to write a thesis, a topic of research must be decided upon. The student, again during the second term of her or his junior year, will discuss possible topics with departmental faculty. The Director of Undergraduate Studies can help, both in discovering a topic, and in selecting the member of the faculty best suited to be the student’s thesis advisor. Students are welcome (and advised) to approach other professors for help in this process. With assistance, then, the student should isolate his or her topic, and should begin the reading about that topic. This process should occur over the course of the second term of the junior year, and then during the summer prior to the senior year. That will allow the student to enter the senior year with a growing knowledge about, and understanding of, the chosen topic of research.
During the senior year, the student should register for CLASS-UA 295 in the fall term, and CLASS-UA 297 in the spring term. Each of these may be taken as a 4-point or as a 2-point course, depending upon the student’s needs and circumstances. This can be discussed with the Director of Undergraduate Studies, so as to tailor these courses to the individual student’s needs and circumstances. The faculty member guiding the student in these two courses will be the chosen thesis advisor. The advisor and the student, under the rubric of these courses, should meet regularly (preferably once a week), to discuss the student’s progress with reading and thinking about the topic at hand.
The student, in consultation with the thesis advisor (though the Director of Undergraduate Studies, and other faculty members can also be involved), should select another professor to be the second reader of the thesis. This person can work with the student from the early stages of the project, or can also simply read the completed version of the project. In any case, there must ultimately be one faculty reader in addition to the advisor.
Roughly by mid-November of the senior year, at the very latest, the student should have read enough, and thought enough, to be able to start writing. It is expected that a final polished version of the thesis will be complete by the penultimate week of April. The paper will be read by the thesis advisor and the chosen second faculty reader. These two, in consultation, will assign a grade to the thesis. In order to graduate with honors, the paper must earn, from these readers, a grade of at least A-. The grade of A- means that the student will graduate with honors. A grade of A causes the student to graduate with high honors. In the case that the paper does not earn a grade at this level, the student cannot be graduated with honors. Thus, it is imperative that at all stages of the work on this project, the student and her or his faculty advisor remain in close contact regarding the progress and quality of the student’s work.
The Classics Department asks that each writer of a senior honors thesis participate in the Undergraduate Research Conference, which is typically held in late April or early May of each academic year. This involves a presentation of ca. 5-10 minutes, detailing the main questions and results of the project. For further information about this event, please consult: https://cas.nyu.edu/undergraduate-research/undergraduate-research-conference.html
Finally, the Classics Department holds, at the end of every academic year, an event celebrating the accomplishments of all members of the department. We ask our honors thesis writers to present, at this meeting, the results of their work. Again, this involves an oral presentation of about five minutes.