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Requirements & Courses

Past Senior Projects:
Students are welcome to read
any past Senior Special Projects
and Senior Honors Theses,
which are kept in the American
Studies office. Contact:
Cynthia Sanders at 617.627.2311. 

Capstone/Thesis

The Senior Special Project (SSP)

The Senior Special Project (SSP) gives American Studies seniors the opportunity to pursue a semester-long project that integrates or expands upon their course of study, and expresses the culmination of their engagement with themes of Race, Colonialism, and Diaspora. The SSP will result in a research paper of 35 pages (minimum) which may include other media (e.g. a film, play, artwork, photography, musical production). SSPs can only be completed in the Fall semester of a student's senior year. Students who are approved to undertake SSPs register for AMER198, although there is not a course which meets under this rubric. Instead, each SSP-writer works closely and regularly with an advisor who is an American Studies Faculty or affiliate. The due date for the SSP will be determined by the advisor in consultation with the student (typically just prior to or during the final exam period). After submitting the SSP, the student will participate in an SSP "defense" that includes the advisor and a second reader. The defense is a formal presentation of the SSP research and results, followed by a question-and-answer period and some discussion, and then deliberation among the committee members (the advisor and second reader) about the grade for the SSP (AMER198). Students who successfully complete the SSP will earn credit equivalent to one course (3 semester hour units).

The Senior Honors Thesis (HT)

The Senior Honors Thesis (HT) gives American Studies seniors the opportunity to pursue a year-long research project that integrates or expands upon their course of study, and expresses the culmination of their studies within the major. The subject and scope of the HT are substantially greater than those of the SSP. Although the exact length and structure of the HT will be determined in consultation with the student's advisor, HTs are typically about 75 pages in length. The Senior Honors Thesis is especially recommended for students who anticipate applying for Graduate Study in American Studies, Ethnic Studies, or RCD-style tracks after graduation. Students who are approved to undertake HTs register for AMER199, although there is not a course which meets under this rubric. Instead, each HT-writer works closely and regularly with an advisor who is an American Studies Faculty or affiliate. Students undertaking a thesis must submit a Thesis Honors Candidate Form to Student Services in Dowling Hall within the first six weeks of the fall semester (deadline is usually mid-October). In December, a student's progress on the HT will be assessed by the advisor and the AMER Track Steering Committee or Director. Students who have made significant progress in both research and writing will be approved to register for AMER199 for the spring semester. The due date for the HT will be determined by the advisor in consultation with the student (typically mid- April). After submitting the HT, the student will participate in a final examination called a "defense" which includes a formal presentation of the HT research and results, a question-and-answer period and some discussion, and then deliberation among the committee members (the advisor and a second reader; an optional third reader may participate) about the grade for the HT (AMER199 – both semesters) and potential for thesis honors. The defense must take place prior to the first day of final examinations (the deadline by which the advisor must submit the HT grade to the degree audit coordinator in Dowling Hall). Students who successfully complete and defend the HT will earn credit equivalent to two courses (six semester hour units).

Students wishing to pursue an HT must be in good academic standing, have a GPA of 3.4 or above, and have been on the Dean's List at least two times prior to the senior year. With the support of an advisor, students who have not earned a 3.4 may petition the American Studies Steering Committee for permission to undertake an HT.

Approval Process

Proposal Stage: In spring semester of junior year, students hoping to undertake an SSP or HT should consult with their major advisors about possible topics and research plans. By Friday, May 1, 2020 at 5pm, all prospective SSP and HT writers, including those studying abroad, must submit a 2-page prospectus that incorporates the following elements:

  • SSP/HT working title
  • 1-page description of the SSP/HT topic, including a relevant thesis, with the understanding that this thesis might evolve as the SSP/HT develops
  • list of relevant coursework
  • annotated bibliography including 5 sources
  • signature of project advisor (must be an American Studies core faculty or affiliate)
  • concentration checklist, signed by student’s major advisor

The Proposal should be double-spaced, Times New Roman 12-point font, in a word attachment. Students should submit their prospectuses electronically to the Chair of RCD, the Track Director and the Department Administrator.

Proposals will be reviewed by the Chair of RCD and the Track Director. By May 15, 2020, SSP/HT students will be notified whether their proposal has been accepted. This means that students can proceed with their SSP/HT during the 2020-2021 Academic Year.

IRB Approval Process: Students who anticipate conducting interviews of any sort (including ethnographies or oral histories) must submit their prospectus to the IRB office (Institutional Review Board for Social, Behavioral & Educational Research) for guidance on whether IRB approval must be sought by the end of April 2020. If the IRB staff determines clearance is needed, a student must submit a complete IRB application over the summer, and have received approval to proceed with the project from the IRB office no later than the proposal due date of Friday September 11, 2020. Assistance for determining whether a project is likely to require IRB approval is readily available. Students can begin by contacting the IRB office staff (currently Lara Sloboda; Ashley Hicks) via email or drop-in at 20 Professor's Row.

Fall Course Registration: By the first Friday of classes of the senior year (September 11, 2020), all SSP/HT writers must register for one of the following courses: AMER198 for SSP, AMER199 for HT.

Annotated Bibliography: By Friday, September 18, 2020, all students approved for SSP/HT must submit an annotated bibliography that pertains to their project. The annotated bibliography should be signed and approved by the project advisor. The annotated bibliography should use Chicago Manual of Style formatting, and it should include the following:

  • SSP/HT working title
  • Thesis Statement at the top of the first page of the annotated bibliography.
  • annotated research bibliography of primary and secondary sources (at least 8 sources – 4 primary sources, 4 secondary sources)
  • detailed schedule for completion
  • signature of the project advisor (must be an American Studies core faculty or affiliate) and at the name of at least one additional committee member (second reader)
  • evidence of IRB approval (if needed)

Students should submit their proposals electronically to the Track Director and the Department administrator. Students will receive comments on their annotated bibliography from the track director, in partnership with the faculty advisor, by Friday October 2, 2020.

Mandatory Research Workshop: During the Fall Semester, 2020, students are required to attend a workshop with library staff, Tufts IRB, and the American Studies Track director. Students who fail to attend this workshop will be denied permission to proceed with their SSP/HT project. The workshop is tentatively scheduled for the week of September 21, 2020.

Resources:

RCD Chair: Kendra Field
AMER Track Director: Kerri Greenidge
AMER Administrator: Cynthia Sanders
IRB Staff: IRB Website
Student Life: Senior Honors Thesis Website - be sure to check out the policies and procedures, timeline, and advice for student tabs

Summary of Important Dates:

Friday, May 1, 2020 SSP/HT Proposal must be submitted to RCD Chair, American Studies Track Director, Administrator, and IRB Office (if the student plans to conduct interviews or ethnographic research)
Friday, May 15, 2020 RCD Chair and American Studies Track Director will grant or deny approval to proceed with SSP/HT during 2020-2021 Academic Year.
Friday, Sept. 11, 2020 Students approved to proceed with the SSP/HT must register for the appropriate course (AMER198 for SSP), (AMER199 for HT). Students denied permission to proceed must register for an alternate course (additional Integrative Seminar or elective)
Friday, Sept. 18, 2020 All Students approved to proceed with the SSP/HT must submit an annotated bibliography, signed by the project advisor, to the American Studies Track Director and the Department Administrator.
Week of Sept. 21, 2020 All Students approved to proceed with the SSP/HT must attend a mandatory workshop with library staff, Tufts IRB, and the American Studies Track Director. This workshop provides information on research, archival materials, standard requirements for citation, and the IRB process, which is required for projects that engage with interviews and/or ethnographic research.
Friday, October 2, 2020 All Students will be given their annotated bibliography with suggestions and/or comments from the project advisor and the track director.
Friday, Oct. 9, 2020** Senior Honors Thesis Candidate Declaration Form due to Student Services, Dowling Hall ** est. date
Friday, Nov. 20, 2020 Senior Honors Thesis Writers submit written progress report, signed by Thesis advisor, to RCD Chair, American Studies Track Directory, and Department Administrator.
December 14 - 17, 2020 SSP due date and defense. American Studies Faculty Committee and director will consult with HT advisors, based on submitted progress reports, to determine eligibility to continue with projects during the spring semester.
January 25, 2021 Students approved to proceed with the HT must register for AMER199. Students denied permission to proceed must register for an alternate course (additional integrative seminar or elective)
April 17 – May 6, 2020 HT due date and defense
Friday, May 6, 2020 Final day for HT advisors to submit grades and recommendations for thesis honors to the degree audit coordinator in Dowling Hall.
Friday, May 13, 2020 Final day to submit your HT to the American Studies administrator and to Tufts Digital Archives.