Women’s and gender studies majors who have maintained at least a 3.5 grade point average in their WGS major courses and an overall grade point average of 3.25 at Clark are eligible to apply for the honors program in WGS.
Those with lower GPAs can be admitted only through a special petition process requiring the student to submit a written document explaining why their GPA falls below the 3.5 threshold as well as providing a rationale for why the WGS Honors Committee and WGS Program should consider overlooking this factor.
You can achieve honors by successfully completing the honors program, which involves researching, writing, and defending a senior thesis. Writing a senior honors thesis gives you the opportunity to engage in original research and to work closely with a professor on an individual basis.
WGS Honors Committee
The WGS Honors Committee supervises the honors thesis program. This committee is composed of three members of the WGS faculty — the WGS director and two WGS Steering Committee members (the WGS director appoints members of the Honors Committee).
The principal purposes of this committee are to provide:
- A rigorous evaluation of applications for admission to the program.
- Coordination and standardization of procedures.
- A source of information for students and faculty participating in the program.
An accepted application for the honors program does not automatically guarantee the awarding of honors upon graduation from the WGS Program. WGS majors must satisfy a number of requirements during their junior and senior years:
- Find a thesis adviser: During the spring semester of your junior year, you should ask a WGS faculty member to serve as your thesis adviser and discuss potential research topics.
- Select a topic: Many senior honors thesis topics grow out of course or seminar papers written during a student’s junior year. Other topics often emerge from topics covered in courses that students would like to pursue further. You should consider a broad range of topics before deciding on the final topic.
- Submit an application to the Women’s and Gender Studies Program Honors Committee by April 1 of your junior year. The application consists of the following:
- A transcript
- 5-7 page (double spaced) proposal
- An email from a WGS faculty member to the WGS Honors Committee stating that she/he is willing to serve as your thesis adviser
- Register for Women’s and Gender Studies (WGS) 297: If you are accepted into the WGS honors program, you will register for “Senior Honors Thesis” (WGS 297) during the fall and spring semesters of the senior year. This counts for one (1.00) credit each semester for a total of two (2.00) credits. You will receive a grade of Pass/Fail for the fall semester and will receive letter grades for both semesters in May of your senior year. During the fall semester, most of the research should be completed with periodic reviews of data sources and bibliographic materials by your thesis adviser. By Dec. 1, a draft chapter and a detailed outline of the entire thesis must be submitted to your adviser. During the spring semester, you should present chapters or sections of your thesis to your adviser according to a schedule worked out between you and your adviser. By the Monday after spring break, a first draft of your entire thesis must be completed and submitted to your adviser. You are expected to act upon the recommendation of your adviser regarding revisions or additional research for your thesis.
- Oral defense of the thesis: A final draft of the thesis must be completed by April 1. Once the thesis has been reviewed and approved by your adviser, it is submitted to your Honors Thesis Committee. This committee is comprised of three members: the thesis adviser and two WGS affiliated faculty members. The committee may grant honors, high honors, or highest honors, or may decide not to award honors. Students who are accepted into the honors program but whose work does not ultimately meet the criteria for an honors designation will still be eligible for credit either for a semester of Independent Study (WGS 299) or for a senior thesis without honors, depending upon the level of progress. There are also special junctures at which the student may elect to withdraw from the program during their senior year.
Eligible students who are interested in pursuing honors should notify the WGS Program Office during the fall semester of their junior year. The WGS director will meet with prospective candidates to review the honors thesis guidelines and help to identify appropriate thesis advisers.
Students interested in undertaking an honors thesis should complete a research methods course by the fall of their junior year.
Prospective thesis candidates should approach a thesis adviser to discuss possible research topics by early spring of their junior year, and inform the WGS director once a thesis adviser has been identified. The student should begin preparing a research proposal under the guidance of the prospective thesis adviser.
Prospective candidates should present a complete draft of the honors thesis proposal and an Institutional Review Board (IRB) application (if applicable) to their thesis adviser before spring break of their junior year.
Honors thesis applications are due to the WGS Program office by April 1. All honors thesis applications will be reviewed by the WGS Honors Thesis Committee (comprised of the WGS director and two members of the WGS Steering Committee).
Applicants will be informed of the WGS Honors Thesis Committee’s decision before spring advising in early April. In some instances, the committee may suggest that an applicant revise and resubmit the proposal.
Successful applicants must register for WGS 297 Honors for the fall semester of their senior year. The thesis adviser will serve as the supervising faculty for this course.
- Honors thesis proposal:The thesis proposal should include a concise research prospectus and an outline of the proposed thesis chapters. The full proposal should be 3-5 pages (double spaced) in length, and include the following components:
- A clear statement of the central research question to be explored
- A brief literature review. This section should be footnoted or cited in-text, with references to the academic literature on the proposed topic
- An explanation of the research methodology, including a discussion of the proposed methods, anticipated data sources, and/or a description of the research population
- A proposed outline of the thesis chapters, including chapter titles and a brief paragraph describing the contents of each chapter
- A preliminary bibliography indicating the materials already reviewed, as well as a list of documents and materials to be reviewed.
- Email from a WGS faculty member to the WGS Honors Committee stating that he/she is willing to serve as your thesis adviser: The email should be sent from the faculty member directly to the director of WGS. The letter should assess the student’s demonstrated abilities and potential for undertaking successful thesis research, as well as the merits of the research proposal.
- IRB/Human Subjects Application (if applicable): Clark University requires that any student pursuing research that involves human subjects (e.g. interviews, surveys, and some types of participant observations studies) must attain prior approval for the research protocol. Because applications to the IRB can take two to three months, and the IRB committee does not meet during the summer months (June-August), thesis applicants should consider submitting a proposal to the IRB no later than the mid-March meeting in order to have to have time to make revisions and resubmit for approval to begin research.
Students who are approved for the honors thesis in WGS must register for Honors (WGS 297) during the fall and spring semesters of their senior year. This is a one-credit thesis supervision course per semester, with specific requirements and deadlines for successful progression of the honors thesis.
Students who are given permission to conduct an honors thesis but whose work does not ultimately meet the criteria for an honors designation will still be eligible for course credit, and will be graded according to their level of progress in WGS 297.
Students who withdraw from WGS 297, or fail to meet the course requirements will no longer be considered for Honors in WGS.
- WGS 297: Honors (fall semester): WGS 297 is a thesis supervision course intended to provide the student with guidance during the thesis research and writing stages. Most of the research should be completed with periodic reviews of data sources and bibliographic materials by the thesis adviser. A schedule of work and deadlines should be agreed between student and thesis adviser at the beginning of the fall term. Students must submit a draft chapter and a detailed outline of the entire thesis to their adviser by Dec. 1. On this basis, the thesis adviser determines whether or not the student has a reasonable prospect of completing an honors thesis during the spring semester. If the thesis adviser recommends continuation, the student receives a grade of pass for the fall semester and registers for WGS 297 again in the spring. The student receives a letter grade for both semesters upon completion of the honors thesis. Once the student is recommended to continue, two additional readers should be selected. Under very special circumstances a student who has been advised to withdraw can petition the WGS director for reconsideration.
- WGS 297: Honors (spring semester): With a recommendation to continue, students pursuing the honors thesis must register again for WGS 297 for one-credit in the spring semester of their senior year. A schedule of work and deadlines should be agreed upon by the student and thesis adviser. Usually a first draft of the entire thesis would be due by mid-February and a final draft of the entire thesis submitted to the thesis adviser by mid-March. Students are expected to make suggested revisions and carry out additional research as recommended by their thesis adviser. (In the event that the student decides to withdraw from consideration for honors, the student must still complete an extensive written project in order to receive one course credit and a grade.)
- Final draft of the entire thesis to thesis adviser: Students are required to submit a final draft of the full honors thesis to their thesis adviser by the agreed deadline. The thesis adviser may request revisions before submitting to the other two committee members. Once approved by the thesis adviser, a copy of the final draft will be given to the other two committee members.
- Oral thesis defense: Upon delivering the approved draft to the committee members, the student must schedule an hour-long oral defense with the student’s Honors Thesis Committee. The oral defense should take place by the first week in April. The committee will make the final decision about the awarding of honors and inform the WGS director. The student may receive honors, high honors, or highest honors.
- Thesis revisions: The thesis committee may make requests for additional revisions following the oral defense. Revisions are due to the thesis adviser for approval by the agreed date.
- Presentation of the honors thesis at Academic Spree Day: All students writing an honors thesis are strongly encouraged to make an oral or poster presentation of their thesis research at Academic Spree Day. The student and adviser will agree to the format (oral or poster) and title of the presentation. The thesis adviser will register the student as an Academic Spree Day participant.
- Final submission of the honors thesis: A hard copy of the completed honors thesis with final approvals must be submitted to the WGS director by the agreed date (no later than mid-April).
First Honors Thesis in WGS
Anna-Louise Noden ’18 was the first women’s and gender studies major at Clark to complete an honors thesis in that field, for which she received high honors. The title of her thesis is “Bad Behavior: Diagnosing and Treating Nymphomania Across the Female Life Cycle at the Turn of the Twentieth Century.” Her readers were professors Amy Richter, history; Nina Kushner, history; and Kristen Williams, political science.