Skip to main content

Special Studies & Honors Thesis

Independent Studies

Independent studies courses (FREN 395, ITAL 395, PORT 396, or SPAN 395) allow students to undertake research on topics that are not available through normal course offerings. Independent studies courses may not be offered simply because a student cannot get into a class or due to difficulties a student may have in their scheduling of classes. Interested students must:

  1. Develop an idea for studying a topic not covered in an existing course or one that extends a topic already studied.
  2. Identify a faculty member (tenured/tenure- or teaching-track) who is willing to serve as the professor for the independent studies course. Should a student need help in finding a professor, the language advisor may be able to provide assistance.
  3. Draft a project proposal that will give the faculty member a starting point from which to negotiate course requirements. Please note that faculty members are not required to advise independent studies projects and may be unavailable due to other commitments, even if they are excited about your topic.

The steps outlined above should occur before the end of the semester prior to enrollment in the independent studies course.

The steps in the approval process are as follows:

  1. The student develops a Learning Contract (in consultation with the professor), which includes the topics and readings to be covered, the dates by which readings and written work must be completed, and the frequency of required meetings. The contract should also describe the assessment procedures and criteria for determining the student’s final grade. Because an Independent Studies course is an upper-level course, there should be a substantial writing component.
  2. The student uses the forms/contracts link below to fill out an embedded form for the Independent Studies Learning Contract.
  3. The student then saves that form as a pdf so that they may upload it to the University’s centralized website: OCLM. (Instructions provided at form link below).  Once the contract is uploaded, it will be routed automatically to the professor and departmental coordinator for signatures and then to the Student Services Manager who will register the student for the requested Independent Studies course.

Requests for independent study courses must be submitted by no later than the end of the first week of classes.

Note: A faculty member may enroll a maximum of 2 students in an independent study course, and offer a maximum of two different independent study courses in a given semester.

BA with Honors

The Bachelor of Arts with Honors or with Highest Honors indicates that the student is academically superior and has carried out independent research and writing of high quality. For those planning to pursue a higher degree in French, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, or a related field, it provides early experience on how to prepare a thesis and an oral defense, both of which are integral parts of graduate studies in the humanities. Majors who have a cumulative grade point average of 3.3 or higher and a 3.5 or higher in their major courses, and who have the commitment and dedication to undertake independent work, are encouraged to apply for admission to the honors component of the major. One of the readers may also be an advanced Graduate Teaching Fellow with interest and experience in the general area of the student’s topic.

Applying to the Major with Honors

  1. Toward the end of the junior year, the applicant should speak with the language advisor for their major concerning eligibility and the appropriateness of the degree with honors. If recommended to pursue honors work, the language advisor will also discuss with the student the proposed research project and identify for the student the members of the faculty who are most likely to be qualified to direct their research and writing. Students who are studying abroad during the spring semester of their junior year should contact the language advisor via email.
  2. The student should then discuss the nature and scope of the proposed project with the potential director. Once the director is determined, the student and the director should identify two additional faculty members to serve as readers. One of the additional readers may be selected from a department other than Romance Studies.
  3. The faculty member who has agreed to direct the honors thesis should complete the Learning Contract for Honors, including signatures and the date, submit it to Sheena Melton ( by no later than the Friday of the first week of classes. Ms. Melton will, in turn, ask the Director of Undergraduate Studies to review the materials and consider approval. If approval is granted, Ms. Melton will create the course and enroll the student.
  1. Specific course work for the Major with Honors will consist of enrollment in a special topics course in language of your major (French, Italian, Portuguese or Spanish 691H in the fall semester, and 692H in the spring semester.) Students who intend to graduate in December would adjust the scheduling of these courses in order to allow for completion of the honors project in December.
  2. The student should prepare a 5-page proposal and bibliography stating as specifically as possible the nature of the project to be undertaken by no later than the third week of classes of the semester in which the student is enrolled in 691H. The director and the student will develop together a plan for the project that includes independent research and discussion in the 691H special topics course during the first semester, and the writing and revising of the thesis for 692H during the second semester. The work in these two courses should result in the production of an essay of a length appropriate to the scope and nature of the project, usually 30-40 double-spaced pages. The MLA Handbook provides guidelines for acceptable form.
  3. At the beginning of the semester in which the student is enrolled in 692H, their should invite the two additional faculty members to serve as readers for the essay and participate in the oral examination. Each faculty member should be given a copy of the original proposal, and should be asked if he or she would like to receive parts of the thesis as it is written, only the first draft, or only the final draft (see The Honors Essay and Oral Examination below).
  4. Given the fact that both faculty and student schedules become difficult toward the end of the semester, the student is strongly encouraged to schedule the date and time of the oral examination (see The Honors Essay and Oral Examination below) early in the semester.
  1. The honors thesis may be written either in the language of the major or in English. A suggested schedule of submissions of parts of the essay to the thesis director as they are written, a completed first draft by the middle of March, and a final draft for submission to all readers by April 1, but no later than ten days before the scheduled oral examination.
  2. An oral examination must take place by the deadline established by the Honors Office, usually approximately two weeks before the end of classes. The committee composed of the thesis director and the two readers will conduct the examination, although any interested member of the department may attend and participate in the discussion. On the basis of the thesis and the examination, the committee will decide if the thesis is acceptable as is or suggest revisions. The committee will also recommend the candidate for graduation with Honors or Highest Honors, depending on the student’s overall academic record and the quality of the student’s independent research and thesis.
  3. On the basis of the work completed, the thesis director will assign a letter grade for 691H that will be included on the standard course grade roll for the course.
  1. The thesis director will convey the committee’s recommendation to the Director of Undergraduate Studies, who will then complete the form provided by the Dean of Honors for the submission of information on all candidates for honors, and send it to the Dean of Honors by the announced deadline.
  2. The thesis director should also ensure that a temporary grade of SP for the first semester of senior honors thesis work be removed from the student’s record. A temporary grade of IN should not be used for the first semester of senior honors thesis work, except when extraordinary life circumstances prevent a student from completing course requirements. Faculty that intend to assign a temporary grade of IN for the second semester of senior honors thesis coursework should first contact the Director of Undergraduate Studies, who in turn will seek prior approval by the Associate Dean for Honors.
  3. Students who graduate with honors are given a special cord for graduation. Students will be notified by their thesis director when and where to pick up the honors cords.
  4. Students are required to submit the thesis in PDF format via the Carolina Digital Repository (CDR) by the last day of classes in the semester in which they complete the thesis coursework. The University Library will catalog electronic theses and make them available to the public. For detailed instructions on how to submit completed theses, see Senior Honors Thesis Guidelines.