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Senior Thesis Program

UCSD distinguishes between Latin Honors (cum laude, magna cum laude, suma cum laude), based entirely on grade point average, and Departmental Honors (with distinction, high distinction, highest distinction), awarded by departments.

In Anthropology both GPA and the quality of a student’s senior thesis are taken into consideration in awarding English honors. A senior thesis is required in order to be considered for departmental honors. Additionally, successful participation in the senior thesis program places students in a more favorable position to be nominated for the outstanding graduating senior award in their major: Washburn, Adams, and Hallowell awards for excellence in Biological, Archeological and Sociocultural Anthropology (see Awards page).

Students are admitted to the Senior Thesis program by invitation of the faculty during the Spring quarter of their junior year. Eligibility for the program requires the student to have by the end of the junior year (1) completed eight upper-division courses, including the core sequence, and (2) achieved grade point averages of at least 3.9 in the anthropology concentration major (overall GPA will also be considered). Outstanding junior students, who do not meet all the criteria for automatic invitation to the program, but have already established some research experience with a regular faculty member of our department, may also be considered for invitation to the program, if spaces are available.

The senior thesis is prepared during two successive quarters (Fall and Winter) of a major’s senior year, and can count as two of the four unit upper-division elective courses required for a major (total of twelve upper-division courses are required for a degree). Students can enroll in a recommended (not required) third quarter (ANTH 198) to delve into each other’s completed theses and selected background references, as well as learn research presentation skills.

ANTH 196A (Fall quarter): Students participate in a weekly seminar with their peers taught by the Director of Undergraduate Studies (DUS). They select a research topic and write a research proposal. Students who receive a B+ or better are invited to continue working on their chosen topic with their individual faculty adviser.

ANTH 196B (Winter quarter): Independent preparation of senior thesis under the supervision of the faculty adviser. Thesis is due at the end of the quarter. Students who complete their theses successfully are invited to join the Spring quarter course. The DUS and the individual faculty supervisors will advise the department’s faculty on the merit of the thesis for departmental honors.

Recommended ANTH 198 (Spring quarter): This is a weekly seminar taught by the DUS where students discuss their research findings and selected background literature with their peers. Students learn how to turn their theses into presentations and are given the opportunity to present at multiple venues (such as Undergraduate Research Conference, Department Colloquium, high school outreach). For more information on special studies courses (ANTH 198, etc) see the general catalog and the department’s website.

As early as possible in their junior year, students interested in research and in the honors thesis program are encouraged to identify one or two potential faculty mentors who specialize in their general area of interest. Students who wish to be considered for the senior thesis program should notify the department’s undergraduate adviser during the winter quarter prior to the senior year. It is expected that by then, outstanding students interested in pursuing a senior thesis have already taken relevant courses offered by faculty with expertise in shared areas of interest.

The honors thesis program is intense and demanding. However, it benefits students as follows:

  • Improves chances of receiving English Honors and Departmental Awards
  • Enriches Curriculum Vitae for professional pursuits after graduation
  • Allows students to work one-on-one with individual faculty members, building current and future mentorships
  • Gives opportunity for productive, interdisciplinary exchange with peers in other subfields of anthropology
  • Provides a supportive, well-structured environment in which to conduct research in-depth in a topic of interest
  • Develops students’ research skills, applicable at the postgraduate and professional level
  • Enhances excellent oral and written communication skills for a variety of audiences
  • Offers an opportunity to bond with other high-achieving anthropologists through teamwork
  • Helps decide whether research is of interest for paths after graduation
  • Creates a solid foundation of knowledge for students pursuing graduate studies