The Women’s Studies Honors Program provides an opportunity for majors to complete a comprehensive, original independent project under the guidance of a Women’s Studies faculty mentor as the culmination to their undergraduate studies. Students should choose topics on which they have already done some academic study. Those interested in pursuing honors should begin to consider it in their sophomore year and discuss their interests with a Women's Studies advisor. Students learn the research and analytical skills necessary to complete an honors thesis in WS 389 (the Junior Honors Seminar) during the winter term of their junior (or in special cases, sophomore) year. The thesis is researched and written in the senior year. Students present their theses orally at the Honors Colloquium held in April each year. The Director of Undergraduate Studies (DUS) serves as the Honors Advisor in Women’s Studies.
The thesis may take a variety of forms, for example: an activism project, a research project, or a creative or performance piece. Whatever the form of the thesis, it must include a piece of scholarly writing that reflects the student’s engagement with Women’s Studies. Given the interdisciplinary nature of Women’s Studies, the honors thesis faculty advisor has the responsibility of determining the appropriate method, length, and format of the thesis, based on disciplinary norms and expectations. These expectations should be established clearly, and the specific plans for the thesis (manner of supervision and form of thesis) should be discussed and agreed upon between the primary faculty advisor and the student early in the process.
Students may review previous WS honors theses in the WS Reading Room in 1122 Lane Hall. The Reading Room is open Monday-Friday, 8:00am — 5:00pm. Titles of recent theses include: "“Reading Text and Image: The Use of Text in Artworks by Carrie Mae Weems and Yong Soon Min,” “Negotiated Bonds: Analyzing the Mother/Daughter Relationship Through the Lens of Disability,” and “From Fag Hags to Gay Best Friends: Understanding Millennial Straight Women’s Heterosexual Authorship, Allyhood, and Friendships with Gay Men."
Only tenure track members of the Women’s Studies faculty may serve as honors thesis advisors in Women’s Studies. On occasion, exceptions to this policy may be made in consultation with the Director of Undergraduate Studies. A Women’s Studies faculty listing can be found by clicking here.
Women's Studies majors who have maintained an overall G.P.A. of at least 3.4 and a 3.5 G.P.A. in Women’s Studies (including the prerequisite) may apply for honors. Applicants must have completed or plan to complete WS 240 (Introduction to Women’s Studies) and WS 330 (Feminist Thought) by the end of their junior year and must demonstrate both the interest and capacity to carry out the comprehensive independent work required to complete an honors thesis.
Students who graduate with Women’s Studies honors will have met all the requirements for the major as well as WS 490, WS 491, and WS 441, WS 442, have a cumulative G.P.A. of at least 3.4 and a 3.5 in Women’s Studies, and will have completed the thesis with an honors notation (adjudicated by the WS Undergraduate Committee). WS 389 Junior Honors Seminar, may meet an elective requirement for the major.
WS 389 Junior Honors Seminar
Students interested in writing an honors thesis normally take WS 389 (Junior Honors Seminar) in the winter term of their junior year. This course, offered winter term only, is designed to help students to develop the research and analytical skills necessary to complete an honors thesis in Women’s Studies. Students in WS 389 learn about research methods, argument formulation, and standards of evidence in different disciplines. The course focuses on helping each student to formulate a thesis topic, conduct a literature review, identify sources, and write a research proposal outlining the problem or hypothesis and research design for the thesis. Through individual meetings, the instructor assists each student in identifying an appropriate faculty member to advise the thesis research and writing during the junior and senior year. Students also read and comment on the research proposals of their peers in the class.
Students who are interested in both doing WS honors AND studying abroad should not do so in the winter of their junior year, when the WS 389 Junior Honors seminar is offered. Students are encouraged to study abroad in the fall of their junior year or the fall of the senior year. Alternately, students who plan early enough may apply to honors and take WS 389 in the winter of their sophomore year. One further possibility for students who plan to do honors theses in two departments is to take the honors research seminar in the other department, in lieu of WS 389.
WS 490, WS 491 Honors Thesis
During the senior year, honors majors register for WS 490 in the fall semester and WS 491 in the winter semester. In these independent study courses, students conduct the research and writing for the thesis under the close supervision of their primary faculty thesis advisor. At the beginning of the fall semester, the student should provide their faculty advisor with a plan of study that includes at least 1) a research proposal, 2) a list of research and writing goals for the fall semester, 3) a research schedule indicating when and how the student will accomplish his/her research and writing goals, and 4) a preliminary bibliography.
In WS 490, the student may receive a letter grade or a "Y" (work in progress) grade until the thesis is completed. In the case of a “Y” grade, the thesis advisor submits a Supplemental Grade Report when the thesis is completed.
WS 441, 442 Seniors Honors Seminar
In the fall and winter semesters of their senior year, all WS honors students will register for one credit of WS 441 and WS 442 (WS Senior Honors Seminar I and II) respectively. This seminar will consist of biweekly meetings with the Director of Undergraduate Studies for all WS Honors students as a group. In this seminar, students will have an opportunity to think about and discuss issues related to conducting independent research. Seminar topics may include all aspects of conducting independent research such as writing a literature review, seeking Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval, working with faculty advisors, collecting data, researching archives, and presenting research findings. This seminar is intended to provide students with support and guidance throughout the process of writing an honors thesis in their senior year. Additionally, students will prepare and practice their oral presentations for the Honors Colloquium in April.
The Women’s Studies department will issue electronic overrides so that students may register for all of the above courses. Students will be notified about their overrides via email.
The Second Reader
The second reader of the thesis is a faculty member chosen jointly by the student and the thesis advisor by the end of the fall semester of the senior year. The second reader need not be affiliated with the Women's Studies department, but his or her area of expertise should be relevant to the thesis topic. The contribution of the second reader may vary, but the student should consult with the second reader while s/he is writing the thesis, and the second reader should comment on thesis drafts as well as contribute to the final evaluation of the thesis.
Joint Honors Thesis in Two Majors
A joint honors thesis is permitted to allow students the opportunity to pursue genuinely interdisciplinary work that bridges two departments, to learn the research methodology and theoretical frameworks of both fields, and to benefit from close mentorship by faculty in two departments. Honors students in Women’s Studies who are pursuing Honors majors in another department may submit a joint thesis for both majors provided that the project meets a several conditions. If you are interested in exploring the possibility of applying to write a joint thesis, please contact Donna Ainsworth (email@example.com) for further information.
Completing The Honors Thesis
The honors thesis is due on April 1. On (or before) this date, students must submit an electronic pdf copy of the thesis to their primary faculty advisor, the second reader, the Director of Undergraduate Studies and to firstname.lastname@example.org and a bound paper copy to the Women's Studies office. The cover page for the thesis should provide the student’s name, thesis title, and primary thesis advisor’s name.
All honors theses are read by three faculty members: the student’s primary faculty thesis advisor, the second reader, and one faculty member from the Women’s Studies Undergraduate Committee. All three readers complete an evaluation form. The faculty members of the Undergraduate Committee determine the final honors designation of "Honors," "High Honors," or "Highest Honors" for each thesis. The Director of Undergraduate Studies will inform the student, the advisor, and the second reader of the honors notation awarded to the thesis. The student’s name, thesis title, and honors notation is then forwarded to the Honors Program.
The honors notation is recorded on the student's diploma and transcript. There will be no notation on the diploma or transcript if the student receives no honors.
A student who is unable to complete the honors thesis must exit the Honors Program by informing the Director of Undergraduate Studies. The student will then be transferred out of Honors to LSA. There are no consequences for exiting the Honors Program. If the student has enrolled in WS 490, WS 441, WS 491 and/or 442, the work for those courses must either be completed or the student must withdraw from the course(s).
How to Apply
- The Women’s Studies honors application.
- A copy of your academic transcript.
- A brief description of your proposed thesis, up to one page. This can be a tentative idea of what you would like to do for your honors thesis.
- A paper you wrote for a class at U-M that represents your best work (minimum of 8 pages in a 12-pt font, double spaced.)
The application for the honors class of 2017 will be available in October 2016.
The application will be reviewed by the faculty members of the Women’s Studies Undergraduate Committee. The student will be notified of the decision within three weeks of submission of the materials.