Guidelines and Procedures for Undergraduate Honors in Anthropology

Cornell Anthropology offers a supportive honors program that helps students prepare for, design, conduct, and write up anthropological research. Our courses help you imagine your topic and design an appropriate methodology for conducting your honors research; we strongly recommend you take one or more methods courses before conducting your honors research. Your faculty advisor and honors thesis advisor help you design your research and apply for funding and approval for research with human participants [see Institutional Review Board]. Our honors workshops guide you through all stages of thesis writing.

We encourage you to identify an appropriate topic for a thesis by discussing it with your faculty advisor and other professors with relevant expertise. A Cornell anthropologist (which may be a faculty member in the department or in the graduate field of Anthropology) must agree to supervise your research and serve as your thesis advisor.

Admission to the Honors Program requires an overall GPA of 3.3 or greater and a 3.5 GPA in the major. In addition, the student should have no outstanding Incompletes in courses for the Major (provisional admission with Incompletes is possible at the discretion of the DUS). Under special circumstances, a student with an overall GPA of 3.0 may petition for admittance to the Program.  

Apply in the second semester of junior year (requests for late admission may be considered, but in no case later than the second week of the first semester of the senior year). Complete and submit the Honors Program Application.

Honors in Anthropology are awarded for excellence in the major, which includes overall GPA and the completion of an honors thesis.


Honors Research Timeline

Junior year – Fall semester: take a methods course, discuss possible research topics with advisor and other faculty members in your area of interest.

Junior year – Spring semester: identify a research topic and thesis faculty advisor, apply for research funding, apply for IRB approval, apply for admittance to the honors program.

Summer before your senior year: Conduct research

Senior year: Write your thesis with support from the honors workshops and thesis advisor.

  • Fall semester: Enroll in ANTHR 4983, Honors Thesis Research (3 credits) with your thesis advisor, and ANTHR 4991, Honors Workshop I (1 credit)
  • Spring semester: Enroll in ANTHR 4984, Honors Thesis Write-up (3 credits) with your thesis advisor and ANTHR 4992, Honors Workshop II (2 credits).



Students write the honors thesis over two-semesters involving eight credits of coursework. During their first semester of Honors work, students register for (1) Anthropology 4983, Honors Thesis Research (3 credits) with their thesis advisor and (2) Anthropology 4991, Honors Workshop I (1 credit). During their second semester of Honors work, students typically register for (1) Anthropology 4984, Honors Thesis Write-up (2 credits) with their thesis advisor and (2) Anthropology 4992, Honors Workshop II (2 credits).

The thesis advisor is responsible for guiding the scholarly development of the thesis. We encourage students to meet weekly with their thesis advisor and discuss thesis progress.

The honors workshop provides additional support and structure for your writing goals. The honors workshop will help you develop a feasible timeline toward completion of the thesis and will provide a context for sharing ideas and feedback (both editorial and substantive) as your thesis progresses.

  • ANTHR 4983 (3 credits; Letter only) will consist of research work supervised by the thesis advisor, concentrating on determination of the major issues to be addressed by the thesis, preparation of literature reviews, analysis of data, and the like. The thesis advisor will assign the grade for this course.
  • ANTHR 4991 (1 credit; S/U only) will consist of several mandatory meetings of all thesis writers with the Honors Chair. These sessions will inform students about the standard thesis production timetable, format and content expectations, and deadlines; expose students to standard reference sources; and introduce students to each other’s projects. The Chair of the Honors Committee will assign the grade for this course.
  • ANTHR 4984 (2 credits; Letter only) consists of final write-up of the thesis under the direct supervision of the thesis advisor, who will assign the grade for this course.
  • ANTHR 4992 (2 credit; Letter only) will consist of weekly, seminar-style meetings of all thesis writers until mid-semester, under the direction of the Honors Chair. This second semester concentrates on preparation of a full draft of the thesis by mid-semester, with ample time left for revisions prior to submission. Group meetings will concentrate on collective reviewing of the work of other students, presentation of research, and the like.

Only Anthropology 4984 and 4992 can be used to count toward the minimum hours for completion of the Anthropology major.

Students who do not follow the typical Fall-research/Spring-writing pattern (e.g., those students who elect to finish their thesis in the Fall, or those who elect to complete the entire process in one semester) should consult with the Chair of the Honors Committee and their thesis advisor to work out a plan of study. Typically, these will involve the student’s integration at some level into the Honors Workshop offered during the semesters a student is working on a thesis.

Submission and Evaluation

Each thesis will be evaluated by the student’s thesis advisor, the Chair of the Honors Committee, and one additional faculty member. Submission of a thesis does not guarantee an Honors degree. Each faculty reader will submit an evaluation of the thesis and a recommendation for a grade for Anthropology 4984, although the thesis advisor ultimately awards the grade.

At least three copies of a final draft of the thesis must be submitted to the thesis advisor no later than the Monday of the 13th week of classes of the semester in which the student expects to graduate. The thesis should be a complete draft at this point, with illustrations, citations, and bibliography. Citations should follow the style of the American Anthropologist; other formatting considerations (e.g., footnotes versus endnotes) should be worked out in consultation with the thesis advisor. The thesis advisor will distribute copies to the other readers and may schedule a conference in which the readers discuss the thesis with the student.

The student may wish to revise the draft in light of the discussion, and readers may wish to see the revisions before submitting their evaluations and grade recommendations; the thesis advisor will coordinate these arrangements. A final, inexpensively bound, copy of the thesis, signed on the title page by the thesis advisor, must be submitted to the Chair of the Honors Committee no later than the Friday of the week following the last week of classes.

All faculty recommendations are due on that day as well. The student’s major advisor, the thesis advisor, the Chair of the Honors Committee, and any other faculty thesis reader will make recommendations about whether Honors should be awarded, and if so at what level. This recommendation is based on the student’s overall performance; that is, the criteria include, but are not limited to, the thesis. Possible recommendations are: no honors, Honors (cum laude), High Honors (magna cum laude), and Highest Honors (summa cum laude). In any case in which there is substantial disagreement among the recommendations, the Chair of the Honors Committee will seek to resolve the disagreement in whatever manner seems most appropriate and fair. The Chair of the Honors Committee will notify the entire faculty of tentative Honors recommendations before they are transmitted to the Dean.

Students have the right to appeal any recommendation concerning Honors that they feel is inappropriate. Procedures for such appeal can be worked out on an ad hoc basis by the Chair of the Honors Committee and the Chair of the Department.

At least one copy of each Honors thesis will be retained by the department and filed in some convenient place for the guidance of future Honors candidates.