The Honors Program in Middle Eastern Studies involves the writing of a senior thesis.

Writing a thesis provides students with an opportunity to build on knowledge and skills acquired in previous coursework, to work closely with a faculty adviser and at the same time conduct independent research, and to produce a substantial (usually 70-80 pages) text. Preparing a senior thesis is often a rewarding experience, but it is also a challenging one.

In Middle Eastern Studies, students wishing to pursue honors should be able to demonstrate adequate preparation by having completed at least two years’ (or equivalent) study of an appropriate language and other coursework relevant to the topic, normally at least two courses in the department or discipline of the adviser.

According to College legislation, to be eligible to pursue honors students must have a grade point average of at least 3.5 in courses taken for the major above the 100-level. In exceptional cases, students who fall slightly below this minimum requirement may petition for an exemption from it. 

Students who wish to undertake honors work must apply during the spring semester of their junior year. Those students who are overseas during their junior year should take particular note of this requirement. Students accepted to the honors program are strongly encouraged to complete part of their research during the summer before the senior year. Candidates needing to travel in order to complete their research are urged to investigate funding options as soon as possible, and may wish to submit applications for the Jerome A. Schiff Fellowship, administered by the Wellesley College Committee on Curriculum and Academic Planning, or for Student Research Grants, administered through the Office of the Dean of the College.

Procedure for Application

  1. Finding an adviser.
    If you are eligible and wish to apply for admission to the honors program in MES, you must first identify a faculty adviser willing to supervise your work. In most cases, the adviser will be a faculty member with whom you have taken at least two courses, including one in a subject area related to your proposed thesis topic. If you are overseas and wish to pursue honors on your return, you are encouraged to contact your potential adviser by e-mail.
  2. Preparing a prospectus.
    In consultation with your adviser, you should prepare and submit a research prospectus. The prospectus, which should be two to three pages in length, should define and describe the topic of the proposed research and identify the sources and methods by which the applicant intends to address it. Your prospectus should also include a bibliography.
  3. Submitting an application.
    You must submit your prospectus, together with a completed application form and an unofficial copy of your transcript, by 4:00 pm on the last day of classes of the spring semester of your junior year.
  4. Enrollment in MES 360.
    If the Advisory Committee of the Program in Middle Eastern Studies votes to accept your proposal, you should enroll in MES 360 for Semester I of your senior year.
  5. Enrollment in MES 370.
    Admission to MES 370 for Semester II is contingent upon presentation of a substantial chapter by December 1 and its acceptance by the adviser and second reader.
  6. Writing the thesis.
    Students are required to submit a draft of the entire thesis no later than the last Friday before the beginning of spring break. The completion of a complete draft by this date allows time for revisions before the honors thesis is due in mid-April.
  7. Evaluation of the thesis.
    The adviser and two additional faculty members whose areas of expertise are closely related to the topic will read and assess the thesis. The two additional readers will normally be members of the Program in MES. In addition, one tenured faculty member from outside the adviser’s home department will read the thesis and represent the Committee on Curriculum and Academic Planning at the oral defense. If the members of the Examining Committee judge the candidate’s completed thesis to be of high quality, they will recommend that she be awarded Honors in Middle Eastern Studies.

A student who wishes to be admitted to the honors program should discuss her plans with her adviser well before the application is due, and should normally have completed at least two courses within the discipline or department of the adviser.