Senior Thesis Guidelines

What we study

Majors in Classical and Medieval Studies study the ancient world of Greece and Rome (3000 BCE- 200 CE), the late antique world of the Mediterranean Basin (100 BCE- 500 CE) and/or the medieval worlds of Europe (500 CE-1500 CE). The scope of our study is broad chronologically, and geographically. For the purposes of your thesis, you must choose a topic that pertains to a specific time and place.

How we study

Since classicists and medievalists study every feature of the ancient and medieval worlds, they use a variety of methods to understand materials from these worlds—for example, epigraphy to read inscriptions on stone, archaeology to understand urban design and household size. They also employ methods from the fields of history, art history, religion, anthropology, and literary studies to name a few. As you consider what topic to pursue, you should also consider what ancient or medieval material you will study and what methods you will need to do so.


In order to begin the research process, we advise each major to submit the following material in the semester prior to the semester of thesis writing. Your pre-proposal will become the proposal you submit to the program for review. You may work with any member of CMS on your pre-proposal. Many of you will complete this work over the summer if you want to write your thesis in the fall of your senior year. The following offers you concrete steps to follow.

Topic Statement
Your Topic Statement should identify a preliminary research question and the ancient or medieval material you will use. At this point, your question is likely to be tentative and may change as you become more familiar with scholarship in the field. At this point in your research, you are engaged in the process of narrowing your area of interest to a pointed question. For example, if you want to write on Roman comedy, you should read a few recent and general books on Roman comedy as well several plays of Plautus and Terence (in translation). After completing this reading, you may decide that slaves play an interesting and important role in comedy. In this case, you will want read scholarship that specifically treats slaves in comedy and you will want to select a few plays in which a slave plays an important role. At this point, you will want to narrow your focus further and try to develop a preliminary research question. For example, you might consider why slaves in comedy tend to be male not female, or whether the representation of slaves on the Roman stage tells us anything about Roman attitudes towards slavery or about slaves’ lives.

Annotated Bibliography
Attach an Annotated Bibliography, consisting of condensed (not superficial) summaries of four to six scholarly reference works, books, articles, and/or primary documents specifically pertinent to your topic. Give full bibliographic citations for each source.  Annotations identify the writer’s purpose, central question or problem, main argument, and note the kind of evidence or strategy used to arrive at that conclusion. Indicate the applicability of each work to your research.  This bibliography will eventually become part of your thesis proposal, namely your review of scholarly literature described below. Therefore choose relevant and seminal works.

Content of a Classical and Medieval Studies THESIS PROPOSAL

A proposal develops and formalizes the ideas and work you completed in your pre-proposal, whether you shared your pre-proposal with a faculty member or not. A strong proposal identifies the value of the project as a Classical and Medieval Studies thesis and reflects the program’s guidelines for research in the field. It provides a helpful “road¬ map” for sustaining the student’s research and writing. What follows are a few specific instructions regarding content of a thesis proposal. Please attend carefully to each of them.

The thesis proposal should include:

  1. STATEMENT: A clear statement of the problem proposed for study and the specific research question(s) to be addressed.
  2. MATERIALS: Description of the materials to be used in the research (e.g., literary texts, visual material, etc.), as well as their location and/or availability.
  3. SCHOLARLY LITERATURE: Discussion of relevant scholarly literatures. The proposal should demonstrate clearly that germane scholarship has been reviewed. You should include brief discussions of the most useful accounts of the issue, major disagreements or outstanding questions in the literature, or how your questions fit into the existing literature.
  4. METHODOLOGY: Detailed discussion of the methodology, explaining the suitability of your methods to your research problem. What analytical approach will you use to examine your topic? How will this approach help best to address the research questions and primary material you select?

Here is an example of an honors thesis proposal from 2009 that the CMS faculty found particularly good – to view click here. Try to emulate this proposal in clarity and depth.

All majors in CMS must submit a thesis proposal on the dates listed below during the semester in which they expect to write their thesis. Proposals will be reviewed on the next day. On Tuesday afternoon , the chairperson will tell students whether their proposal has been approved and who their advisor will be. If a proposal is not accepted, students will be asked to revise it by the following Friday or to delay their thesis until the following semester. All theses will be ONE-semester theses except honor theses.

Please submit your thesis proposal by sending a copy of it by email to the Chair of CMS by Friday of the second week of the semester in which you are writing.

Specific dates for majors in the class of 2015
For Fall:  September 8, 2014 (9/8/2014)
For Winter:  January 12, 2015 (1/12/2015)

These guidelines have been adapted from The Program in Women and Gender Studies with permission of Professor Leslie Hill.

Pre-Proposals for Honors Thesis in Classical & Medieval Study

Pre-proposal must be submitted by 5:00 pm on Wednesday of the third Week of Short Term in your Junior Year. If you are studying abroad, the burden is on you to meet this deadline. Submit proposals as attachments to an email to the chair of the Classical and Medieval Studies Program.