Thesis/Honors Thesis

AVC Thesis: History and Criticism Track

A thesis in the history and criticism track of Art and Visual Culture has the following characteristics regarding the project, the process, and the product. All of these factors may contribute to the final grade.

  • An AVC thesis is a research project that the student designs to address a question of interest, bringing critical analysis to visual material.  As the research progresses, the research questions and shape of the project may change.
  • An AVC thesis is an opportunity for creative thinking, for the continuing development of an independent voice, and for taking intellectual risks.
  • An AVC thesis attends critically to scholarly work and research that is relevant to the thesis.  The student shapes the project in relation to extant literature and making a distinctive contribution to the relevant field(s) of study.  An AVC thesis makes clear how the student enters and contributes to scholarly conversations in progress.
  • An AVC thesis requires students to select appropriate methods and gather evidence to address their research question(s), with attention to relevant details and context. An AVC thesis may involve both traditional scholarly research and imaginative use of sources, including outreach to artists, critics, historians, scholars, or architects.
  • An AVC thesis requires students to engage in ethical practices and to understand the political significance and moral implications of what they say and write.
  • An AVC thesis requires the construction of well-organized, effective arguments. Writing should be carefully organized, with structural integrity both within and across chapters.
  • An AVC thesis requires participation in a collaborative process with the thesis advisor. Thesis writing is a difficult process.  Students are expected to meet regularly with the advisor, to provide and discuss drafts, to keep appointments, and to meet agreed-upon deadlines.  Students should reflect critically on the comments they receive from their advisor, and should demonstrate initiative and independence during the project.
  • The AVC thesis requires attention to form, grammar, and mechanics as well as to content.  Writing should be grammatically correct and carefully edited.  Students should attend to the mechanics of the thesis, including style, grammar, citations, formatting, and the documentation of illustrations.  Advisors typically suggest using The Chicago Manual of Style, with footnotes rather than parenthetical references.  Insertion of images, the relationship between text and images, and/or the use of illustration lists should be reviewed with the advisor.

Honors Theses

Receipt of Honors in the history and criticism track of Art and Visual Culture is a special distinction reserved for those students who have completed a thesis project with certain distinguishing characteristics and features. The student must demonstrate a high level of self-motivation, independence, and continuous engagement in the project over the entire two semesters, and the thesis project should be exemplary in its design, methodological rigor, and creativity.  The thesis and oral examination should use scholarship within, and as relevant outside, the study of art and visual culture to advance our understanding of an important topic. The final thesis must develop the necessary background, theories and/or methods for the project and the thesis should include a thorough discussion and citation of relevant, published literature. Students must exhibit comprehension of the debates related to their topic and successfully articulate how their work contributes to the scholarly conversation.  Approach, process, thesis product, and oral examination all are important factors in a decision of whether to award Honors. The oral examination panel members, who may consult with the advisor, have final authority for judging whether the student has satisfactorily met the criteria for receipt of Honors.

Each academic program at Bates maintains its own policies and procedures for determining students’ candidacy for honors in the major.  In Art and Visual Culture, students seeking to apply for honors candidacy must clearly indicate this intention after consultation with their major advisor in the semester before beginning the thesis. Students must also have preliminary support at that time from their planned thesis advisor. Students are responsible for submitting the completed Honors Thesis Intention Form to the Department Chair by noon on the Friday of the last day of classes in the winter term of the junior year.  (December graduates must submit the Honors Thesis Intention Form by the second Friday of the fall semester prior to their final year).

Students will also indicate the intention to pursue honors when submitting a proposal for a two-semester thesis proposal by the September deadline listed above.

The AVC faculty in the history and criticism track studies the proposal submitted with honors candidacy in mind.  The chair returns a formal letter of review to the student applicant. That letter of review will either:

  • reject the proposal for honors consideration;
  • provide the student with the opportunity to revise and resubmit the proposal for honors consideration;
  • preliminarily accept the proposal for honors consideration, contingent on approval of two chapters submitted to the department in the first semester;
  • or preliminarily accept the proposal, pending approval of the student’s advisor in January.

Students must have made considerable progress on the thesis in the fall semester to be put forward for honors in January. The thesis advisor, in consultation with other members of the AVC faculty, has the authority to withdraw the student from the Honors program at any time prior to the submission deadline for the written thesis.

Students seeking to apply for honors in two majors must adhere to the honors policies and procedures of both AVC and the other department or program. Further information about College-wide honors guidelines may be found at Further questions about honors candidacy and the honors process in AVG may be directed to the Department Chair.