Guidelines for Honors

in German

Students considering Honors should consult the College Catalog, where procedures and expectations for Honors (e.g. the committee, the oral defense) are specified.

To be considered for Honors in German, graduating seniors, in addition to meeting the College’s general requirements for Honors, must

  • have a GPA of at least 3.5 in the major and 3.0 overall. (Note: students who do not meet these GPA requirements may petition the tenured and tenure-track members of the German faculty in writing to have it waived.)

  • complete an Independent Study project that results in a high caliber thesis.

  • present and defend their work before an Honors Committee and members of the public.

  • be a student in good standing at the College.

Getting started: Identify a topic and complete an independent study

  • Consult the College guidelines for independent studies. 

  • In collaboration with a faculty member in German, propose a topic for a one-semester German 490 that could be developed into an Honors thesis. This may be an extension of a paper or project completed in either a 400-level German course or in German 450 (the senior seminar). If you wish to complete a project that is independent of previous coursework in German, a two-semester German 490 is appropriate. In that case, you should consult with a faculty member about advising the project as early as possible (ideally, in the spring or summer prior to the senior year).

  • Collaborate with your faculty project advisor on a clear set of expectations in terms of how often you meet and your individual work schedule, including deadlines.

  • Once you have identified a topic and an advisor, you will develop a description of your project and a proposed bibliography, both of which must be submitted to the Registrar’s Office along with the Independent Study Application (you can download it here).  

The Honors Thesis

  • To receive Honors, you must develop a substantial research project within an independent study course that results in a high caliber thesis. The thesis must include an original argument that demonstrates critical engagement with primary and secondary sources. Primary sources should be cited in their language of initial publication with translations as appropriate given the makeup of the committee. 

  • The thesis should be no shorter than 30 pages and no longer than 50 pages of text (not including front matter or bibliography).

  • In consultation with your project advisor, you may choose to write the thesis in German or English. Using both German and English is possible, but you must provide a written rationale and plan for doing so.

The Oral Defense

  • Candidates for Honors in German will be examined on their thesis topic and are expected to demonstrate a full understanding of all aspects of their research and its implications. Honors is awarded for high quality work showing initiative and enterprise in the performance of research, a compelling and original thesis, and a clear and persuasive presentation of the project.

  • Candidates will defend their thesis before the Honors Committee during reading days or the final exam period of the spring semester. The committee will be made up of the tenured and tenure-track faculty in German (excluding the project advisor) and one member from outside the German program.

  • The advisor will schedule the oral defense in consultation with the Honors Committee. The oral defense is announced to the public one week in advance and will not exceed two hours.

Procedures for the Oral Defense

  • The advisor introduces the candidate who will give a formal presentation (15 minutes) of the project, research process, and outcomes. The presentation is followed by a question-and-answer period with members of the public. The project advisor may be present but is not involved in the oral defense of the project. After the general question period finishes, everyone is excused except for the members of the Honors Committee, the candidate, and the advisor. The committee members then ask the candidate questions about their project.

  • Once the question period with the committee is over, the student is excused, and the Honors Committee may ask questions of the advisor. The committee determines whether the thesis and defense deserve Honors.

  • The Honors Committee will make one of three recommendations: Honors, No Honors, or Honors Pending Revision. Honors will be awarded by the examining committee for projects that demonstrate originality, intellectual engagement, and depth of understanding.

  • The candidate returns to the room and is informed of the committee’s recommendation. If revisions are required, the student will resubmit the thesis to the advisor within one week. Honors will not be finalized until the revisions have been submitted and approved by the Project Advisor.

  • The student must file one paper copy and one electronic copy of the thesis as well as a signed release form with the College Archives in Shadek Fackenthal Library. Instructions and a downloadable release form are available here

Note: Although a successful thesis and defense are required for Honors, they are not the only requirements. If, at any time, the German faculty has concerns regarding the performance of the student in their courses, they may decide not to grant Honors to the student. This will be communicated to the student and project advisor in writing.


Fall Semester: Student consults with a faculty member in German on Honors protocols and timeline. In some cases, students enroll in the first of a two-semester German 490 with the project advisor.

Spring Semester: Student enrolls in German 490 with the project advisor.

February: Honors committee is formed and a date for the defense is secured.

Last week of March: Candidate submits to the Honors Committee for feedback a preliminary draft of a significant part of the thesis, which must include 1) an abstract of the project with thesis statement; 2) a bibliography: 3) 10 pages of text from the thesis.

Two weeks prior to the scheduled oral examination (mid-April): A final draft of the thesis is submitted to the Honors Committee; date and procedures for defense are confirmed in writing; an invitation to the presentation is sent to the campus community.

End of April-early May: Oral defense takes place by the last day of final exams.