The Department of Philosophy, in conjunction with the Honors Program, recognizes outstanding accomplishment among philosophy majors by recommending their degrees be awarded with honors (cum laude, magna cum laude, or summa cum laude). The Honors Program’s awards are based on four factors: a student’s overall GPA; GPA in the student’s major subject (philosophy); a senior honors thesis; and an oral examination. The thesis is written in close conjunction with an advisor from the student’s major department, and assessed by a committee that usually consists of three people: the student’s advisor, the Departmental Honors Representative, and the Honors Representative from another department. (In exceptional circumstances, a fourth faculty member may be added to the committee.) The same committee conducts the oral examination.
To register for Honors thesis hours you will need to fill out the Department contract for PHIL 4950, available here. Note that registering for PHIL 4950 is optional; you can defend your thesis and graduate with honors without doing so.
Factors Considered in Awarding Honors:
- Overall academic record. The guidelines for awarding degrees with honors are as follows: cum laude 3.3. GPA or better, magna cum laude 3.5 GPA or better, summa cum laude 3.8 GPA or better. These are merely guidelines and there are exceptions. If you are interested in working for honors in philosophy and have some doubts about whether your academic record makes you eligible, you should contact the Departmental Honors Representative or speak to someone in the Honors Program Office.
- Academic record in philosophy. As in 1.
- Senior honors thesis. Typically, your honors thesis is completed during your last semester in residence. Its magnitude is approximately that of a high-quality term paper at the 4000 level. In preparing and writing the paper, you must work under the close supervision of a faculty advisor of your choosing. The advisor will provide advice and criticism. You must consult with your advisor periodically; this is a requirement. You should not attempt to write a senior thesis without such consultation.
The thesis should demonstrate abilities in research and in critical thinking, and it should reveal acquaintance with and understanding of the relevant work in philosophy (and, when the topic of the thesis is interdisciplinary, of relevant work of other disciplines). The thesis must be well-written in terms of grammar, organization, and literary skill. The committee must judge it to be at least the equivalent of an “A” paper in an advanced philosophy course.
If you are interested in pursuing an honors degree, you should begin work on your honors thesis as soon as possible. You should choose a faculty advisor and a topic well in advance of the start of your graduation semester, since completed honors theses must be handed in to the Honors Program Office and to your honors committee members mid-way through your final semester (usually in late November and late March).
- Oral examination. Your thesis committee, which consists of your thesis advisor (Philosophy Department), the Philosophy Honors Representative, and the Honors Representative from another department (and, occasionally, a fourth faculty member) also conducts your oral examination. The exam lasts for approximately one hour. Your honors thesis will provide the focus of your oral examination, but the committee may also examine you on issues they think will border on or are raised by your thesis. Your advisor and the Departmental Honors Representative will be happy to answer any questions you may have about the procedure.
When your examination is over you will be excused, and your committee will discuss its proposed recommendation to the Honors Program Council. This may be “no honors”, cum laude (with honors), magna cum laude (with great honors), or summa cum laude (with highest honors). The Council will meet a few days later to review your academic record and consider the committee’s recommendation. The Honors Program Council then makes the final determination. Awards are posted (usually the next day) at the Honors Program Office in Norlin M-400.
Please note that a degree with honors is an award, not an automatic title conferred on everyone who undertakes to complete the requirements for graduation with honors. Not to receive that award is no stigma. You should note, too, that your receiving credit for PHIL 4950 is not contingent on your being awarded honors. If you complete the paper, you will receive 3 hours of credit and a grade.
Procedures and Checklist for Philosophy Honors Candidates
- First step. As early as possible in your next-to-last semester, meet with the Departmental Honors Representatives to discuss qualification, procedures, tentative proposals for thesis topic, possible thesis advisor, and any other questions you may have.
- Consult with Thesis Advisor. Immediately thereafter, consult a faculty member in Philosophy—usually one from whom you have taken one or more courses and with whom you would like to work—regarding your thesis topic, to see if he or she is willing to supervise your thesis.
- Honors Thesis Credit (Optional). Pre-register (December/April) for PHIL 4950 (3 credit hours) for your last semester in college. If work is completed, credit and grade will be given regardless of the honors decision.
- Honors Program Office. Early in your final semester (February/September) register your candidacy with the Honors Program Office (Norlin M-400, 492-6617) and obtain their deadlines and requirements for candidates. You must submit a prospectus to the Honors Program Office.
- Advance Arrangements with Honors Committee. Early in your final semester, submit an updated copy of your transcript (available from the Registrar’s Office in Regent) and a copy of your Honors Program candidacy to the Departmental Honors Representative and to your advisor. Decide with the Departmental Honors Representative on the third member of your honors committee, who must be the Honors Representative of another department, and secure their consent to serve. At this time (early in your final semester) also discuss a date and time for your honors oral examination (usually given in early April or late November) with each of the members of your committee. It is important to arrange this early because it may be difficult to find a time when all three members are available.
- Submit Honors Thesis. At least 10 days prior to the scheduled oral examination, deliver a copy of your completed honors thesis to each member of the committee, along with an updated photocopy of your transcript, and a reminder of the date, place, and time of the oral examination. Hand-carry your thesis to the faculty mailboxes; do not send it through campus mail. A copy of your thesis must also be submitted to the Honors Program Office at this time.
- Oral examination. See above.
- Begin the procedure outlined here as early as possible.
- Work with a departmental advisor on your thesis.
- Arrange for your committee and oral examination well in advance.
- Register with the Honors Program Office and learn their deadlines and requirements.
- Turn in honors and take the oral examination.
- Remember that you are entirely responsible for following the above instructions and for meeting all deadlines.
Copies of this outline are available in the Philosophy Department Office, Hellems 167. If you have any questions, please visit or phone the Departmental Honors Representative for Philosophy during their office hours (this information is available from the Philosophy Office, Hellems 167, 492-3173). You should also contact the Honors Program Office, Norlin M-400, 492-6617.