An Honors thesis is an original, independent undergraduate research project undertaken under the guidance of a faculty mentor and culminating in a significant research paper. It is intended to be a personalized research experience in which a student explores a concept or a problem in the discipline, sub-discipline, or area of concentration in anthropology while incorporating the knowledge or investigative techniques learned during their undergraduate career. It is expected that the student obtain a level of depth within the topic equivalent to a point between a large undergraduate research paper and a Master's thesis, not less than 50 pages and not to exceed 150 pages. Not only should the thesis synthesize and build upon existing scholarship, but it should also further the discipline's understanding of the subject in some way. The thesis process demands three semesters.  

Students should begin thinking about their Honors thesis as early as possible. Admission to the Honors Program should be sought in the first semester of junior year (or once 60 credits have been completed). By the second semester of the junior year (or the academic year prior to anticipated graduation), a student should identify a potential Honors Thesis Advisor and a thesis topic. An Honors Thesis Advisor can be any full-time anthropology department faculty and should be someone with whom one has taken a course and/or whose research background matches or complements the student’s research interests.

Completing an Honors thesis provides a student an opportunity to design a unique project that will challenge the student to reflect upon their education and to present their work to a group of faculty. The thesis will be the culmination of a student’s undergraduate work and a bridge to their future career or academic life. Discovering new knowledge and turning it into a thesis can be tremendously exhilarating, but it demands a serious commitment and investment of time and energy.


  • A thesis is a fantastic opportunity to develop discipline-specific research and communication abilities.
  • Writing a thesis tests and strengthens abilities to employ initiative, to focus, to be persistent, and to manage time well.
  • A thesis is exceptionally good preparation for graduate or professional school or a career that utilizes anthropological knowledge and skills.
  • The thesis can provide entrée to academic and/or professional research. Completing a thesis speaks to one’s abilities to work on and complete significant projects independently in an organized, timely, and scholarly manner.
  • For graduate schools and professional settings, a completed thesis testifies to a student’s range of abilities such as research skills, writing, problem solving, time management, and meeting deadlines.
  • Faculty members who serve as Honors Thesis Advisors and Committee Members are in a position to write strong letters of recommendation for graduate schools or employment.
  • In the course of thesis work, a student might expand their network by connecting with prominent scholars working in the field or make contacts leading to research assistantships or summer employment.


The anthropology Honors Program is designed to be accomplished over three semesters. A student wanting to write an Honors thesis MUST begin research and the application process no later than their junior year. In this program, a student works individually with an anthropology faculty member of their choosing (the Honors Thesis Advisor) to establish:

1)      A research design

2)      A structured schedule or timeline to completion including proposal and final thesis defense, and

3)      A committee of experts, including at least two UMD faculty members or affiliates, in the field of research


To be considered for admission into the Department of Anthropology Honors Program, the ANTH major must have:

  • Completed 60 credits
  • An overall G.P.A. of at least 3.0
  • A G.P.A. of at least 3.5 in all Anthropology courses


The Undergraduate Advisor will send out emails to students who meet or exceed the above qualifications at the end of each Spring semester. Students who are interested will attend the Honors orientation meeting held the first month of the Fall semester. At that time, each student will be given an Honors program packet that includes the necessary forms, instructions, deadlines, and expectations. At this point, a student may apply to the Honors Program and must secure a faculty member to serve as their Honors Thesis Advisor. Honors Planning Form 1 must be filled out and submitted to the Undergraduate Advisor.


Students are required to take the following sequence of courses:

  • ANTH485: Honors Research Preparation (3 credits)
  • ANTH486: Honors Research and Proposal (3 credits)
  • ANTH487: Honors Thesis Writing and Defense (3 credits)

Honors candidates must take the preparation course ANTH485 the first term, the research course ANTH486 the second term, and the thesis writing and defense course ANTH487 during the third and final term. All of the courses are taken under the direction of the Honors Thesis Advisor.  

A student must have a GPA of 3.5 or higher in the Honors courses to remain in the Honors Program.


ANTH485: Honors Research Preparation is an independent study course during which the Honors candidate will work with their Honors Thesis Advisor to establish not only the structure of the thesis and timeline, but also the formation of Thesis Review Committee.

The Thesis Review Committee, including the Honors Thesis Advisor, must consist of a minimum of three experts in the various topics structuring the thesis. Moreover, the Thesis Review Committee must include at least one member affiliated with the Department of Anthropology. The third member may be external to the University. Each Thesis Review Committee member must sign the Departmental Honors Program Form 2 confirming their participation on the committee and agreeing to the procedures and responsibilities of Thesis Review Committee members.

When the committee is in place the student will prepare, under the direction of their Honors Thesis Advisor, a research proposal clearly stating a research problem, questions, theoretical perspective and a methodology to address the research problem and questions. The proposal will be presented to the Thesis Review Committee for input and approval.


A draft of the proposal must be submitted at the end of ANTH485 to qualify to register for ANTH486. The proposal MUST be defended by the beginning of ANTH486.  

Prior to the proposal defense, the student must provide the Thesis Review Committee a copy of the proposal. The Thesis Review Committee must be give at least two weeks to read, review, and provide comments. If the Thesis Review Committee agrees that the proposal is ready to defend, the student will schedule a meeting with the full Thesis Review Committee to discuss/defend the proposal in order to progress to the research and thesis writing phase of the program (Departmental Honors Form 3).

The proposal must be an explicit and clear research design between 15 and 20 pages in length that discusses:

  • ·a specific research topic or problem in the discipline/sub-discipline
  • a hypothesis/theoretical perspective employed to solve or explore the problem
  • a set of research questions
  • a literature review
  • a detailed methods section
  • a time-line for completion of thesis
  • a schedule of research and writing

The proposal will be considered a “Pass” (P = meets expectations) or “No Pass” (NP = does not meet expectations) by consensus of the Thesis Review Committee. If the proposal is graded a “Pass”, the student moves to the thesis research and writing phase and towards completion. If the proposal is graded a “NP”, the student has 4 weeks to make necessary changes and re-submit/defend.


The completed thesis requires approval from the Honors Thesis Advisor prior to being distributed to the Thesis Review Committee. Please note that a student must give the committee a minimum of three weeks to read, review, and provide feedback on the thesis. The student will then present and defend their thesis to the entire Thesis Review Committee. The student and Honors Thesis Advisor must prepare and plan to allow time for review, the defense, and post-defense edits and possible re-writes (see program schedule below).

 A student earns a “Pass” (P = meets expectations) or “No Pass” (NP = does not meet expectations). Students who receive a “NP” for the defense will be afforded one additional opportunity to defend based upon the recommendations of the Thesis Review Committee (Departmental Honors Form 4).

A student that does not complete the necessary re-writes and/or edits prior to graduation will not receive credit nor recognition of being in the Honors program.  


·         Semester 1 (Fall, 60 credits completed/Junior Year):

  • Attend Honors Meeting/Orientation
  • Meet with the Undergraduate Advisor prior to undertaking Honors Program
  • Gain approval of Faculty member to act as Honors Thesis Advisor
  • Apply to enter the Honors Program with Honors Planning Form 1


·         Semester 2 (Spring, Junior Year):

  • Register for ANTH485: Honors Thesis Preparation
  • Thesis Review Committee Formed by semester’s end
  • Begin IRB process (if needed)
  • Proposal defense option 1- by semester’s end


·         Semester 3: (Fall, Senior Year)

  • Proposal defense option 2 – first weeks of semester
  • Register for ANTH486: Honors Research and Proposal
  • Conduct research for thesis
  • Complete application for National Science Foundation: Graduate Research Fellowship
  • Begin writing thesis drafts/chapters as semester progresses


·         Semester 4: (Spring, Senior Year)

  • Register for ANTH487: Honors Thesis Writing and Defense
  • Writing/Revising thesis draft(s)
  • Defend Thesis by April 15th
  • Hand in Edits/Re-Writes by May 10th

Honors Thesis Form 1: Planning Form

Honors Thesis Form 2: ANTH486 Entrance Form

Honors Thesis Form 3: ANTH487 Entrance Form

Honors Thesis Form 4: Honors Thesis Defense Form

Anthropology Senior Thesis Program


Students who do not meet the criteria for admission to the department’s honors program can still have the opportunity to develop a senior research thesis. The process of enrolling in and completing the senior research thesis program is the same as described above for the honors program (please review). Additionally, the following conditions apply:


  • Overall G.P.A. may be less than 3.0
  • G.P.A. in major courses may be less than 3.5

The student is required to enroll in the following courses:

  • ANTH476: Senior Research (3 credits)
  • ANTH477: Senior Thesis (3 credits)

For additional information pertaining to either the Departmental Honors Program or the Senior Research Thesis Program, contact the Director of the Departmental Honors Program:


Dr. Stephen Brighton
0132 Woods Hall
Phone: 301.405.3700
Fax: 301.314.8305

sbrighto [at] umd [dot] edu

Honors College Research Grant

Attention Departmental Honors students!

Apply for the Honors College Research Grant

The Honors Research Grant Program supports the research efforts of students in the departmental and college Honors programs. Students may apply for grants up to $500.00 for any legitimate purpose that would enhance their research efforts. For example, grant money could be used toward travel to conferences or special research collections or for the purchase of equipment unique to the student’s project not covered by a mentor’s grant. Generally, grant money is not awarded for the purchase of common laboratory equipment. A student may receive the award once.

For more information and the application, click here. Applications are due February 26.