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Honors Program

The Women’s Studies and Gender and Health Honors Program provides an opportunity for majors to complete a comprehensive, original independent project under the guidance of a Women’s Studies faculty mentor as the culmination to their undergraduate studies. Students should choose topics on which they have already done some academic study. Those interested in pursuing honors should begin to consider it in their sophomore year and discuss their interests with a Women's Studies advisor. Students learn the research and analytical skills necessary to complete an honors thesis in WS 389 (the Junior Honors Seminar) during the winter term of their junior (or in special cases, sophomore) year. The thesis is researched and written in the senior year. Students present their theses orally at the Honors Colloquium held in April. The Director of Undergraduate Studies (DUS) serves as the Honors Advisor in Women’s Studies.

The Honors Thesis

The thesis may take a variety of forms, for example: an activism project, a research project, or a creative or performance piece. Whatever the form of the thesis, it must include a piece of scholarly writing that reflects the student’s engagement with Women’s Studies. Given the interdisciplinary nature of Women’s Studies and Gender and Health, the honors thesis faculty advisor has the responsibility of determining the appropriate method, length, and format of the thesis, based on disciplinary norms and expectations. These expectations should be established clearly, and the specific plans for the thesis (manner of supervision and form of thesis) should be discussed and agreed upon between the primary faculty advisor and the student early in the process.

Students may review previous WS honors theses in the WS Reading Room in 1122 Lane Hall. The Reading Room is open Monday-Friday, 8:00am — 5:00pm. 

Titles of recent theses include: "Masc4masc vs. Masc4mascara: An exploration of queer male students' sexual and gender identity construction at the University of Michigan," "Feminizing Fear: Investigating the Intersections of Paranoia, Empathy, and Sex," "A Fighting Chance: Protest Letters as Resistance to Eugenic Sterilization in Mid-Twentieth-Century California."

The application is due on Monday, Nov. 12, 2018. Link to application

An Honors Information Session will be held in October.

Titles of previous honors theses are found here.

Only tenure track members of the Women’s Studies faculty may serve as honors thesis advisors in Women’s Studies. On occasion, exceptions to this policy may be made in consultation with the Director of Undergraduate Studies. Women’s Studies faculty listing.

Photo: Honors class of 2017


Women's Studies and Gender and Health majors who have maintained an overall G.P.A. of at least 3.4 and a 3.5 G.P.A. in Women’s Studies (including the prerequisite) may apply for honors. Women's Studies applicants must have completed or plan to complete WS 240 (Introduction to Women’s Studies) and WS 330 (Feminist Thought) by the end of their junior year; Gender and Health applicants must have completed or plan to complete WS 220/Nursing 220 (Perspectives in Women's Health) and either WS 330 (Feminist Thought) or WS 331 (Feminist Theoretical Perspectives in Gender and Health) by the end of their junior year. All students must demonstrate both the interest and capacity to carry out the comprehensive independent work required to complete an honors thesis.

Students who graduate with Women’s Studies or Gender and Health honors will have met all the requirements for the major, as well as:

  • Have taken WS 490, 491 and WS 441, 442
  • Have a cumulative G.P.A. of at least 3.4 and a 3.5 in Women’s Studies
  • Have completed the thesis with an honors notation (adjudicated by the WS Undergraduate Committee) 

Note that WS 389 (Junior Honors Seminar) may meet an elective requirement for the major.

WS 389 Junior Honors Seminar

Students interested in writing an honors thesis normally take WS 389 (Junior Honors Seminar) in the winter term of their junior year. This course, offered winter term only, is designed to help students to develop the research and analytical skills necessary to complete an honors thesis in Women’s Studies. Students in WS 389 learn about research methods, argument formulation, and standards of evidence in different disciplines. The course focuses on helping each student to formulate a thesis topic, conduct a literature review, identify sources, and write a research proposal outlining the problem or hypothesis and research design for the thesis. Through individual meetings, the instructor assists each student in identifying an appropriate faculty member to advise the thesis research and writing during the junior and senior year. Students also read and comment on the research proposals of their peers in the class.  WS 389 is the only Women's Studies/Gender and Health honors thesis course that counts for the major.  It may count as either an elective or for practicum credit.  

Study Abroad

Students who are interested in both doing honors AND studying abroad should not do so in the winter of their junior year, when the WS 389 Junior Honors seminar is offered. Students are encouraged to study abroad in the fall of their junior year or the fall of the senior year. Alternately, students who plan early enough may apply to honors and take WS 389 in the winter of their sophomore year. One further possibility for students who plan to do honors theses in two departments is to take the honors research seminar in the other department, in lieu of WS 389.

WS 490, WS 491 Honors Thesis

During the senior year, honors majors register for WS 490 in the fall semester and WS 491 in the winter semester. In these independent study courses, students conduct the research and writing for the thesis under the close supervision of their primary faculty thesis advisor. At the beginning of the fall semester, the student should provide their faculty advisor with a plan of study that includes at least 1) a research proposal, 2) a list of research and writing goals for the fall semester, 3) a research schedule indicating when and how the student will accomplish his/her research and writing goals, and 4) a preliminary bibliography.

In WS 490, the student may receive a letter grade or a "Y" (work in progress) grade until the thesis is completed. In the case of a “Y” grade, the thesis advisor submits a Supplemental Grade Report when the thesis is completed.

WS 441, 442 Seniors Honors Seminar

In the fall and winter semesters of their senior year, all honors students will register for one credit of WS 441 and WS 442 (WS Senior Honors Seminar I and II), respectively. This seminar will consist of biweekly meetings with the Director of Undergraduate Studies for all WS and G&H Honors students as a group. In this seminar, students will have an opportunity to think about and discuss issues related to conducting independent research. Seminar topics may include all aspects of conducting independent research such as writing a literature review, seeking Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval, working with faculty advisors, collecting data, researching archives, and presenting research findings. This seminar is intended to provide students with support and guidance throughout the process of writing an honors thesis in their senior year. Additionally, students will prepare and practice their oral presentations for the Honors Colloquium in April.

The Women’s Studies department will issue electronic overrides so that students may register for all of the above courses. Students will be notified about their overrides via email.

The Second Reader

The second reader of the thesis is a faculty member chosen jointly by the student and the thesis advisor by the end of the fall semester of the senior year. The second reader need not be affiliated with the Women's Studies department, but his or her area of expertise should be relevant to the thesis topic. The contribution of the second reader may vary, but the student should consult with the second reader while s/he is writing the thesis, and the second reader should comment on thesis drafts as well as contribute to the final evaluation of the thesis.

Joint Honors Thesis in Two Majors

A joint honors thesis is permitted to allow students the opportunity to pursue genuinely interdisciplinary work that bridges two departments, to learn the research methodology and theoretical frameworks of both fields, and to benefit from close mentorship by faculty in two departments. Honors students in Women’s Studies who are pursuing Honors majors in another department may submit a joint thesis for both majors provided that the project meets several conditions. If you are interested in exploring the possibility of applying to write a joint thesis, please contact Donna Ainsworth for further information.

Completing The Honors Thesis

The honors thesis is due in early April. Please use 12 point font, preferably Times, standard margins, and consistent citation format. On or before the deadline students must submit an electronic pdf copy of the thesis to their primary faculty advisor, the second reader, the Director of Undergraduate Studies and to and a bound paper copy to the Women's Studies office. The cover page for the thesis should provide the student’s name, thesis title, and primary thesis advisor’s name. 

All honors theses are read by three faculty members: the student’s primary faculty thesis advisor, the second reader, and one faculty member from the Women’s Studies Undergraduate Committee. All three readers complete an evaluation form. The faculty members of the  Undergraduate Committee determine the final honors designation of "Honors," "High Honors," or "Highest Honors" for each thesis. The Director of Undergraduate Studies will inform the student, the advisor, and the second reader of the honors notation awarded to the thesis. The student’s name, thesis title, and honors notation is then forwarded to the Honors Program.

The honors notation is recorded on the student's diploma and transcript. There will be no notation on the diploma or transcript if the student receives no honors.

Exiting Honors

A student who is unable to complete the honors thesis must exit the Honors Program by informing the Director of Undergraduate Studies. The student will then be transferred out of Honors to LSA. There are no consequences for exiting the Honors Program. If the student has enrolled in WS 441, WS 442, WS 490 and/or 491, the work for those courses must either be completed or the student must withdraw from the course(s).