Global Studies majors who wish to graduate from UNC-Chapel Hill with honors or highest honors must complete a senior honors thesis. Junior Global Studies majors with a minimum GPA in the major of 3.5 and cumulative GPA of 3.3 are eligible to apply (see eligibility note below). We reserve the right after the first semester of the thesis writing program to decide that it is not appropriate for students to complete and defend the honors thesis. This may be because the student has been unable to invest the proper amount of time and commitment to the thesis writing process itself or because the student’s overall academic performance fails to meet expectations for honors graduates.
You must enroll in GLBL 691H during the fall of your senior year (fall 2020), unless you are abroad that semester. In that case, you may petition the director of undergraduate studies to waive enrollment in GLBL 691H. Unless you receive permission to do so, you will not be able to complete a thesis in GLBL. Students will then enroll in GLBL 692H in the Spring of 2021 and defend their thesis in that semester.
Students who successfully complete a senior honors thesis will have the designation “honors” or “highest honors” printed beside their names in the Commencement bulletin and recorded on their diplomas and transcripts.
Learn more about the honors thesis below.
Applying To The Honors Seminar
The first task for a prospective honors student is to identify a thesis topic. Students are encouraged to consider integrating a study abroad into honors work, as it provides an excellent opportunity for research that can be used for an honors thesis.
Once a topic has been chosen, the next step is to identify a POTENTIAL thesis adviser. Any member of the UNC-Chapel Hill faculty is eligible to serve as a thesis adviser, as are retired faculty and post-doctoral fellows. Graduate students cannot serve as advisers. While the thesis adviser may come from any department at UNC, the adviser’s area of expertise should be consistent with the topic of the student’s thesis. Our joint faculty and our affiliate faculty represent a broad range of global expertise. The Center for Global Initiatives maintains a searchable database of faculty with international research experience. You do not need your identified faculty member to have agreed to serve as your adviser at this point.
Once a topic and adviser have been identified, the prospective honors student must submit a two–three page prospectus in the spring of their junior year.
In writing the prospectus, students should include the following:
- A brief description of the general theme or topic about which you are interested in writing. Please indicate both a geographical/country focus, as well as a substantive one. It will be worth thinking about what question you are trying to answer or puzzle you are trying to solve.
- A brief discussion of the genesis of your interest in the topic. Was it a course you took? A study abroad experience? Some combination?
- If possible, a brief discussion of what kinds of sources you intend to rely upon and whether you want to interview people relevant to the subject matter.
- Identify two faculty members (including your thesis adviser) who you know work on issues related to your thesis topic. Neither of the faculty members need to have agreed yet to serve as readers before you submit your prospectus. If you have not already taken courses with a professor whose expertise meshes with your area of interest, keep in mind that all departments maintain websites that include lists of faculty members and their research interests.
To submit an application to begin the honors thesis process in Fall 2020, please review and complete the Fall 2020 Senior Honors Thesis Application. All applications must be received by the end of day on Friday, April 3rd.
If you are accepted into the honors program, you will need to then submit an academic advising worksheet updated through the end of the Spring 2019 semester so that we can verify your in-major GPA. We will not add you to GLBL 691H, the first semester of the mandatory honors thesis sequence, until we have received this document.
Honors Carolina offers financial awards to support senior honors thesis research. There are two funding cycles per year, with proposal deadlines in Fall and Spring. The March funding cycle makes funding awards to students whose projects are sufficiently well-planned that they could begin work over the summer before their senior year. Award funds may be used to support any legitimate cost directly connected to the undertaking of the honors project. Students must meet the honors minimum cumulative GPA requirement of 3.3 to apply for an award. Projects with an international dimension may qualify for a supplemental award of up to $500 from the Center for Global Initiatives.
Please check the Honors Carolina website for more information.
Funding is also available through the Office for Undergraduate Research.
Honors Thesis And Time Commitment
An honors thesis is a substantial piece of original research; in other words, students are engaged in creating their own academic scholarship. The intent of the thesis is to pose and answer a unique research question, or to shed new light on a topic that has previously received scholarly attention. Writing an honors thesis is a substantial time commitment. Most theses run 60–100+ pages and cite 20–50+ sources, so on top of the writing, there is a substantial amount of background research that goes into the thesis. The thesis process may also involve travel, interviews, or other data collection and analysis, depending on a student’s topic and methodology. Therefore, writing an honors thesis is something students need to be 100 percent committed to doing. It also requires excellent time management skills and discipline, as it is a very self-directed process. Prospective honors students are encouraged to look at theses from past years to get an idea of what the final product encompasses. Past theses are housed in the suite of the curriculum in Global Studies and are also available at the North Carolina Collection in Wilson Library. Abstracts of recent theses are available via the Honors Program’s archive.
Each year, the Douglas Eyre Prize is awarded to the author of the best Global Studies thesis.
- Click here to read the 2019 winning thesis, “Working to Heal White Supremacy: Spiritual Ontologies and Anti-Racism Activism” by Sunny Osment
- Click here to read the 2018 winning thesis, “Building Walls and Breaking Laws: An Analysis of the European Union’s Failure to Address the Migrant Crisis” by Allyson Barkley
- Click here to read the 2017 winning thesis, “Resistance and Resilience: Grassroots Peace Activism in Colombia” by Manuela Nivia
The Honors Seminar
The year-long honors seminar is composed of two 3-credit courses: GLBL 691H (taken in the spring of students’ junior year) and GLBL 692H (taken in the fall of students’ senior year). Students receive three hours of major credit (as either a theme or area course) for GLBL 692H. GLBL 691H only counts as elective credit. The seminar director expects each student to produce a rough draft of about two-thirds of the thesis in the first semester. The second semester will be devoted to finishing the rough draft, rewriting, and finalizing the thesis, as well as preparing for the oral defense of the thesis. The oral defense must be completed by early April for May graduates; the exact deadline will be provided to students enrolled in the seminar. The defense will take place before the student’s honors committee, composed of his or her adviser and a second reader. The committee will determine whether the student should receive highest honors, honors, or course credit only.
Students who wish to write a senior honors thesis must have a GPA of 3.5 or higher in the major and a cumulative GPA of 3.3 or higher. Students with cumulative GPAs below 3.3 but for whom it is mathematically possible to achieve a 3.3 by the end of the first semester of the honors seminar may be allowed to provisionally enroll in GLBL 691H. These students must petition the Assistant Dean for Honors, Dr. Mitch Prinstein, for permission to enroll in the seminar. If a student’s cumulative GPA drops below 3.3 or if a provisional student fails to meet the 3.3 standard at the close of the semester in which GLBL 691H is taken, that student will not be allowed to enroll in GLBL 692H and will not be eligible to graduate with honors. This is a university-wide rule, and there are no exceptions. Such students will receive course credit for the work completed, and may be allowed to continue their projects as independent study, with the approval of the Global Studies Director of Undergraduate Studies.
Honors Thesis Repository
Click HERE for information about past honors theses.
To submit an application to begin the honors thesis process in Fall 2020, please review and complete the Fall 2020 Senior Honors Thesis Application. All applications must be received by the end of day on Friday, April 3, 2020.
For further information, contact Dr. Jonathan Weiler, Director of Undergraduate Studies.