Skip to main content

Honors Program

The Senior Honors Program Asian Studies

The Senior Honors Program is for outstanding ASP majors who wish to take on the challenge of actively investigating and writing about Asia. In three years of classroom learning, students will have acquired a great deal of information and a variety of interpretive skills. But for those with a passionate interest in how Asia-related knowledge is “made,” there is no substitute for actually doing a sustained piece of research and writing. The Senior Honors Program is for students who want to do original research and fashion their own analysis. 

The rewards they reap are many: the chance to work closely with a faculty advisor, to craft an original research project, to sample the pleasures of sustained intellectual study, and to sharpen their skills in writing and research. Students who have participated in the program in the past have consistently viewed the Honors experience as the most exciting and rewarding intellectual experience of their college years. We hope you will take the time to think about the program, contemplate your interests and ambitions, and apply.

The Honors Program

Students recommended for departmental honors must have completed with distinction the courses taken within the major and also complete an honors thesis. Generally, this means a cumulative GPA above 3.5, although qualities such as imagination, analytical acuity, verbal fluency, and personal initiative also matter. The program normally requires students to take three quarters of Independent Study (399) with one or more faculty members in their senior year. However, in special circumstances such as when a student conducts summer research abroad or expects to complete course in March, exceptions may be made. These courses will count as credits toward the major in the relevant category (e.g. 2 quarters of Independent Study in Political Science counts as two social science major credits while one Independent Study in Religion counts as a humanities major credit. These will also count as relevant distribution credits should you still need any.)

The honors project must result in a research report, thesis, or other tangible record; course work alone, such as completion of 400-level courses, is not sufficient. The honors program is administered by the ASP Honors Committee, which is composed of the Director of ASP (Chair) and one other member, appointed by the ASP Director. The program’s undergraduate honors committee will submit successful theses in May to the Weinberg College Committee on Superior Students and Honors. Students are proposed for honors by the faculty adviser, who writes a letter describing and evaluating the student project.

2017-2018 Honors Program Deadlines

Applying for the Honors Program

Students in residence on the Evanston campus should submit a brief research proposal to the ASP Office by the end of the first week of the spring quarter. Students who are currently studying abroad are encouraged to apply by this deadline, but will be given an extra two weeks to submit their proposals. Students interested in applying to the Honors Program for the 2018-2019 academic year should therefore submit their proposal to the Associate Director, Bianca R Jimenez, by Monday, April 09, 2018. The Honors Committee will notify students of admission in time to register for a 399 for the fall quarter.

Writing a Research Proposal

Topic: Before they can begin, students will need to choose a topic, one that will hold their interest over the long haul. Think of the problems that have gotten under your skin in previous classes. What issues have interested you most? Do you have any special language skills? What kinds of materials do you most enjoy working with? Do you feel a special affinity with a particular place or epoch? What sort of question would you like to answer? Needless to say, the project should have something to do with the study of Asia.

Advisor: All students must secure, in advance, the agreement of a faculty member to act as their advisor. This faculty member should be knowledgeable in the student’s area of interest. After having given some thought to potential topics, students should approach a prospective advisor and work with her or him to define a compelling, but workable project.

Statement: Based on this process of thinking, reading, and discussion, students should prepare a short (2-page) statement outlining their proposed topic. It is important to prepare as concise and coherent a statement as possible at this preliminary stage. Be sure to identify a specific problem or question the thesis will address. Indicate the sources that will be brought to bear on this problem. If possible, set your approach within the context of what other scholars working in related areas have written. A short bibliography is often helpful. Your objective is to demonstrate that you have begun to think through the research process, that you have acquainted yourself with your material and are aware of the issues at stake in your project. The proposal should also speak to your abilities, drawing attention to relevant course work, previous research experience, language skills, or other factors relevant to the project. Be certain to include the name of a proposed advisor. No one will be admitted to the seminar without faculty sponsorship.

Cover: Proposals shall have a cover sheet indicating the following:

Students Abroad

Students who go abroad during their junior year may discover that they are interested in joining the Honors program while abroad. Students in this position should write to the Committee as soon as possible and do their best to prepare a full proposal and identify a potential faculty advisor. While realize that it is difficult to prepare a strong proposal while overseas, it is still important to have contacted the potential advisor and secured a commitment from that person to work with the student on the proposed project. Returning students should then contact the advisor and the Committee as soon as they arrive on campus in the fall. 

The 399 Independent Study

The 399 Independent Study is normally a three-quarter sequence taken in the senior year in which honors candidates prepare a thesis and meet regularly with the supervising faculty member(s). Subjects for discussion include methodology, approaches to primary and secondary sources, problems of objectivity and subjectivity, and the use of narrative, data, and analysis. In the fall, the student may complete a variety of short assignments relevant to their topic, as well as a revised and expanded thesis proposal. In the winter, the student begins to submit drafts of chapters for comment and revision. Students will receive "K" grades at the end of the fall and winter quarters and then three letter grades at the end of the spring quarter; these three letter grades need not be the same.

The Honors Project

A thesis is an analysis based on a student’s individual research using primary materials that makes some original contribution to the field. Since ASP is an interdisciplinary major, this can take a number of different forms. Most common is the research paper, i.e. Thesis A thesis will almost invariably include: 1) an introduction to set out the problem, limit the scope of the inquiry, and position the thesis in relation to the current state of opinion on the topic, 2) a set of chapters to present and analyze the relevant sources, and 3) a conclusion to summarize these findings and suggest future avenues of research. Theses in such disciplines as History, Art History, Religion, and Political Science are typically 40-60 pages in length and include a thorough bibliography.

The final version is due several weeks prior to the end of the spring quarter. The student submits three bound copies: one for his or her advisor, one for another Program reader for the thesis, and one for the department’s files. Costs incurred for printing shall be borne by the student. The thesis must include a title page, acknowledgments, a one-page summary with five keywords, the core text, endnotes (or footnotes), and a bibliography. The thesis must be carefully proofread and the references prepared carefully and in a consistent style.

Undergraduate Research Grants

The Undergraduate Research Grants Committee awards up to $3000 for research/creative projects during the summer. Under a WCAS program to support undergraduate research, students can apply for grants, up to $500, to subsidize travel to research sites, purchase books, photocopy in archives, etc.

The Recommendation for Honors

Completion of the 399 seminar does not assure the granting of Honors. The Honors Committee makes a recommendation on Honors, and its recommendation is subject to approval by the WCAS Committee on Superior Students and Honors. The departmental Honors Committee uses the following criteria in its deliberations:

  1. Two readers of the thesis must judge it to be of very high quality. One will be the faculty advisor; the other is another AMES professor. In all cases, both readers must submit a written evaluation of the thesis, explaining their recommendation for (or against) the granting of Honors, and commenting on the originality and quality of the work. In cases where there is a division of opinion a member of the departmental Honors Committee will report on the thesis as well.
  2. The candidate should have a minimum GPA of 3.5 in major courses.
  3. Exceptions will be made to the minimum GPA requirement in item 2 the thesis is judged to be of extraordinarily high quality.

A positive vote of the Honors Committee then ensures a recommendation for Honors, and the candidate’s name is forwarded to the WCAS Committee on Superior Students which makes the final determination of honors.

Questions and Further Information

If you have any questions about the program, or simply wish to discuss possible topics, feel free to contact the Chair of the ASP Honors Committee, Rajeev Kinra.

Back to top