Honors Program

The Honors Program in Linguistics gives outstanding senior majors an opportunity to design and carry out a research project on a topic of their choice, under close supervision of faculty. Participation in the Program is by invitation of the Department. The research project culminates in a senior thesis which, together with the student's record in linguistics and related courses, forms the basis for faculty decisions on the award of departmental honors.

Invitation to the Honors Program

The Director of Undergraduate Studies, acting on behalf of the Department, invites students to the Honors Program in the summer before their senior year. The selection criteria are:

  1. An overall GPA of 3.3 or higher.
  2. Completion by the end of the junior year of all of the prerequisites and core courses in linguistics, i.e., Linguistics 250, 260, 270 and the 3 basic 300-levels.
  3. A GPA in Linguistics courses of 3.5 or higher. Students who fall short of these standards but are highly motivated to write a senior thesis may apply for an invitation to do so to the Director of Undergraduate Studies.

Structure of the Honors Program

Honors Candidates must complete two additional courses in linguistics beyond those required for the major, in which they undertake the research and writing of a thesis. These courses may be selected from any of the following:

  1. Linguistics 398
  2. Linguistics 399
  3. Any 400-level course.

Guidelines for an Honors Thesis

The thesis must constitute an original contribution to linguistic knowledge and must consist substantially of independent research performed by the candidate. A paper that reviews and summarizes a body of literature on a particular topic will not merit honors, unless it arrives at an especially novel and provocative synthesis of ideas. The mere collection of data without some application or interpretation of the data will also not qualify as an honors thesis. Careful preparation of the thesis is essential. The thesis must include the following:

  • A title page
  • Table of contents
  • Acknowledgments
  • A one-page summary
  • Text, arranged in major sections and subsections, as appropriate.
  • Endnotes (if footnotes are not entered on text pages)
  • References

The document must be typed and carefully proofread. Endnotes (or footnotes) and references must be prepared using the LSA style sheet.

The Award of Departmental Honors

Completion of the Honors Program is necessary to be eligible for departmental honors, but it does not assure such an award. The committee on Undergraduate Honors and Awards makes final recommendations on departmental honors, and its recommendations are subject to final approval by the CAS committee on Superior Students and Honors. The departmental committee considers the following criteria in its deliberations:

  1. Two faculty readers should find the candidate's thesis to be of very high quality, according to the guidelines set forth in section III above. Of the two readers, one must be a member of the Northwestern Linguistics Faculty and the other must be approved in consultation with the Director of Undergraduate Studies. Members of the Committee may serve as readers. At least one reader must be a faculty member who did not serve as the student's immediate supervisor.

Each reader must submit a written evaluation to the department committee based on careful examination of the thesis and a recommendation regarding the award of honors. The evaluation must describe the original contribution of the work and comment on its strengths and weaknesses.

The decision of the readers is final. In case of a division of opinion, a third faculty reader will be recruited and the majority decision will be accepted.

  1. The candidate should have maintained a minimum GPA of 3.5 in linguistics courses offered for the major.
  2. The minimum GPA requirements may be relaxed if the thesis is judged to be of extraordinarily high quality.

A majority vote of the Committee is required to recommend honors. The Committee's vote on each candidate accompanies its recommendations to the CAS committee on Superior Students and Honors.