Honors program

Expectations for the Honors Thesis

An honors thesis is a focused exploration of a research question that synthesizes insight from an original fieldwork experience with an in-depth review of the literature. It must involve at least two semesters of work. For some, the honors thesis will involve planning and employing anthropological field methods to shed light on a research question that they investigate in Gettysburg or nearby. For others, the honors thesis will involve developing a theme explored during a summer field school, a semester or summer abroad, an internship, or a service-learning project. In all cases, the student must expand upon a first-hand experience "in the field" by critically engaging with the appropriate literature.

Although faculty provide crucial guidance, students are expected to show initiative and independence at every stage of bringing the honors thesis to fruition.


Only declared anthropology majors meeting the following criteria can begin work on an anthropology honors thesis: Members of Lambda Alpha, the national anthropology honor society, are automatically eligible. Those who have obtained a GPA of 3.33 in anthropology and a 3.0 overall by the end of their junior year are also eligible. Others who are close to meeting these eligibility requirements and who can demonstrate focus, drive, and a sincere desire to work on an honors thesis can petition the department by the start of the senior year (consult with your advisor). Note that the ultimate decision to award honors is made at the end of the student's senior year and is not an automatic outcome of meeting the eligibility requirements to begin a project. Note also that students who begin their honors thesis before the end of their junior year must nevertheless meet the eligibility requirements by this time in order to proceed (although petitions will be considered).

We encourage students of high academic standing to begin research in conjunction with an off-campus educational experience even if such an experience takes place before their senior year and even if they have not yet taken the methods class. Such off-campus educational experiences include study abroad, participating in a field school, engaging in service learning, or taking part in an internship. Alternatively, students are encouraged to begin research in conjunction with ANTH 323: Field Methods in Cultural Anthropology, even if this is taken before senior year. Finally, students who begin a research project in another class are encouraged to expand on this if they can integrate into it an ethnographic or archaeological component. Note that students who have taken the methods class are permitted to develop a new research topic for their senior honors thesis if they so desire.

  • Students who take the methods class before their senior year:
    If you wish to develop your project into an honors thesis, you will be expected to do more ethnographic research on the same topic during your senior year. You must also do an in-depth literature review.
  • Students who take the methods class in their senior year:
    You can develop the project for this class into an honors thesis. You will be expected to do more intensive fieldwork than required for the course, and to complement fieldwork with a literature review. You can conduct this additional fieldwork during or after the methods class (extending fieldwork into winter break and/or into the early part of the spring semester).
  • Students who devise or discover a research topic while participating in an off-campus experience (field school, studying abroad, engaging in service learning, or taking part in an internship):
    Get in touch with a Gettysburg faculty member as soon as possible if you stumble upon a topic that you think could be developed into an honors thesis. While there, try to use any methodologies that are appropriate and feasible (archaeological methods, participant-observation, interviews, surveys archival/newspaper research, photographs, etc.). Take careful field notes and do not assume that you can rely on your memory. If you have not yet taken a research methods class and are a cultural anthropology students, read a field methods book.

Note: For students doing a cultural anthropology project, we recommend Field Projects in Anthropology: A Student Handbook, 3rd ed., by Julia G. Crane and Michael V. Angrosino (Waveland Press, 1992).

Fall Semester

Students should contact their advisor at the beginning of the fall semester of the senior year to plan work on the honors thesis. During the fall semester, students should plan on working closely with the advisor, including regular consultation in person or electronically, as each student and advisor see fit. Note that it is the student’s responsibility to be in touch with the advisor and meet all deadlines. These deadlines apply:

  • By Monday of Week 2 of classes: Email a one-page statement of the proposed topic to the advisor. The statement should describe the topic and present an individualized plan of work to be completed during the fall semester, including bibliography building, reading, and beginning or continuing field research and data collection, which will lead to the completion of the honors proposal. The student and advisor should meet in Week 2 or 3 of classes to discuss and possibly revise the research topic and work plan.
  • Oct. 1: Present a progress report to the advisor, listing library sources identified, explaining how these generally will be useful to the research project, and reaffirming the research question(s) driving the project. This progress report should be prepared after consulting with the research librarian at Musselman Library who is liaison to the anthropology department, currently Mary Elmquist (melmquis@gettysburg.edu). If using human subjects, at this point the student must also contact Prof. Donna Perry (dperry@gettysburg.edu), who will review the project to determine its status with regard to the ethics of human subjects and ask the student to complete the department’s ethics contract as well as designated CITI modules. In some instances, a student will have to complete an IRB form that undergoes full review by the College’s IRB Committee. Students will be informed of their IRB status within two weeks.
  • Nov. 1: Submit a draft of the final proposal to the advisor, who will work with the student to prepare a final proposal. The draft should include the following sections:
    • Statement of research objectives: Explains what are you going to examine and why it is academically relevant. One page.
    • Statement of methodology and initial data analysis, if applicable: Discusses the fieldwork, data collection, and analysis that you have already completed and/or have yet to complete. Two to three pages.
    • Bibliography: List relevant literature. Note that the full literature review must be completed by early spring. Format the bibliography according to The Chicago Manual of Style. Minimum of fifteen sources; indicate with an asterisk which works you have already read.
    • Timeline for research/analysis and literature review: Conveys in a clear fashion when you will complete the specific steps of the research. The timeline should include what you have already accomplished as well as what you still need to do. Note that students need to schedule ethnographic research, archaeological analysis of data, and literature review so as to complete everything by early March, when the student should plan to begin the write-up process. One page.
  • Nov. 15th: Submit final proposal to advisor. The advisor will then e-mail the proposal and a short statement of endorsement to the other departmental faculty. After submission of the research statement, the departmental faculty will meet with the student as a group. The goals of this meeting are to:
    • Decide whether the project should continue.
    • Discuss the research statement and make suggestions on the research methods, data analysis, and literature review. 
    • Choose a committee of at least two faculty who will work with the student as the student continues the project.

For the remainder of the fall semester and during winter break, students must adhere to the proposed timeline for research and keep in regular contact with their committee members:

  • Students should begin/continue fieldwork or analysis of archaeological data as soon as possible after the fall meeting (if they have not done so already, and when appropriate). Fieldwork and analysis can and should provide an opportunity for the student to revise their research objectives and methods. The student should make changes in consultation with their committee members.
  • Students should simultaneously read relevant literature. Literature should be ongoing and inform, and be informed by, research.

Spring Semester

Students enrolled in ANTH 400: Capstone will set up a meeting with their committee and with the instructor of ANTH 400 by the second full week of classes. The goals of this early-semester meeting are to:

  • Review the work plan of the proposal submitted in November and assess the work completed
  • Decide whether the project should continue and, if yes, adjust the project’s research questions and bibliography as needed
  • Build into the timeline dates for writing up the project. Due dates for the project must coordinate with due dates for Anth 400. In addition, meeting dates must be set up with the committee.

During the semester, the committee will meet regularly with the student in conjunction with the due dates for the written work listed on the Anth 400: Capstone syllabus. The committee members will continue to mentor the student on his/her fieldwork and literature review.

Students will write a thesis of 10,000-12,000 words (not including bibliography).

Students will present their honors thesis to the department on the Wednesday reading day of final exams week, consisting of a 15-minute presentation and 5- to 10-minute question and answer period.

The final honors thesis is due on Thursday morning of final exams week and should be e-mailed as a PDF to the department chair, currently Amy Evrard (aevrard@gettysburg.edu). The anthropology faculty will meet during finals week to determine if honors is to be awarded. All honors theses will be uploaded to The Cupola, pending revisions (if necessary) requested by the faculty.

Receiving Class Credit for Honors Thesis Work:

Fall semester:

Students not enrolled in Anth 323: Field Methods in Cultural Anthropology can, if desired, enroll in an individualized study (ANTH 452) to receive credit while they work on their research statement, conduct fieldwork, and engage in a literature review. This class will be evaluated on an S/U basis (no grade will be given, but the faculty advisor will simply signify if the work was satisfactory or unsatisfactory). The advisor will determine this based on the student's commitment to research (both fieldwork and literature review), their regular communication with the advisor, their willingness to revise and resubmit research objectives and bibliographies that need further development, and the overall quality of the research statement.

Spring semester:

Students will complete their honors thesis in conjunction with Anth 400: Capstone. The grade for the thesis will be determined by the capstone instructor and factored into the capstone class grade according to the grading scale established by the instructor. Students whose work is not deemed worthy of honors can use their thesis as the final project for the capstone seminar, thus receiving credit for their work.


Students are encouraged to seek funding from the college to support their research. Two sources of funding are:

  • Funds for Senior Projects and Student Research
    Funding is available from the Provost’s Office to support students during their senior year or the summer before their senior year. Up to $500 will be awarded. The faculty advisor must apply for these funds, and decisions are made on a case-by-case basis. Talk to your faculty advisor if you are interested, and see the Provost's webpage for more details.
  • Departmental Research Funds
  • Limited departmental funding is available. Information and due dates can be found here.


Revised 9/6/18