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Honors Degree in Philosophy

Requirements for Departmental Honors Degree in Philosophy

If you are interested in an Honors Degree in Philosophy see the Departmental Honors Advisor after reading through the requirements below. Also consider applying for UROP (Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program) to get paid for your research. While you're at it, check out theUndergraduate Research Scholar Desination.

Earning an Honors Degree in Philosophy involves meeting all the ordinary requirements for the Major in Philosophy plus five further requirements. The five further requirements are as follows:

  1. Satisfactory completion of the Honors core coursework requirement (three courses), plus four additional Honors elective courses. For information on satisfying this requirement, you should deal directly with the people at the Honors College.
  2. Completion of four philosophy courses at the 5000-level with a grade of B+ or better, and with at least one course each in Area I, Area II, and Area III as specified in the requirements for the Philosophy major. The Advanced Course Requirement for the ordinary Philosophy degree requires satisfactory completion of three 5000-level courses in any Area, so this requirement for the Honors degree differs from that one in adding one additional advanced course, a demand to take a broad variety of Philosophy courses, and an expectation of high-level performance in each of these courses. (Taking these advanced courses for the Honors degree in Philosophy will also satisfy the Advanced Course Requirement for the ordinary Philosophy degree, so the total number of advanced courses for the Honors degree in Philosophy is four courses, not seven.)

    Alternatively, students may substitute a graduate-level Philosophy course (6000- or 7000-level), completed with a grade of B or better, for a 5000-level course. If a student substitutes one or more graduate-level classes in this fashion, the student's total set of coursework must still include four courses at the 5000-level or higher, with one each in Area I, Area II, and Area III. You will need instructor permission to register for any graduate level course. Bear in mind that, in typical cases, you will have better luck getting permission if you have already taken an undergraduate course with the instructor in question — and done very well. The Honors College will also count any graduate-level course toward its requirement of four Honors elective courses as noted in section 1 above.

    In no case will an independent study, at either undergraduate or graduate levels, be allowed to count toward this requirement.

  3. Satisfactory completion of an Honors Thesis. Completing the thesis will require you to do each of the following:


  4. The very first step is to attend an Honors College Thesis Information Session or meet individually with the Honors College Associate Dean. Contact the Honors College for a schedule of sessions or to set up an appointment.

    Find a faculty member in the Department of Philosophy who is willing to serve as your Thesis Supervisor. Finding a supervisor is your responsibility, not the responsibility of the Department of Philosophy, nor the Honors Program. Here are some rules of thumb that may help you find a Thesis Supervisor:


     Typically, this faculty member will be someone whose research overlaps your proposed Thesis topic.

     Typically, this faculty member will be someone with whom you have already established rapport — perhaps you have earned a top grade in a course with this professor, or served as her/his research assistant, or some such. The point is that the faculty member needs some basis for judging you an appropriate student for whom to serve as a mentor.

     Build relationships with your professors:  introduce yourself; be a regular participant in class; use office hours; and so on. These relationships will serve you not merely in finding a Thesis Supervisor, but in getting strong letters of recommendation when applying to grad school.


    Register for Phil 4999 (3 units of "Honors Thesis Project") in the academic year in which you are completing your Thesis. You will need to enroll using a section number assigned for the faculty member who is supervising your thesis. When the time comes, you will need to get the section number and code used to register for these units from the department.

    Complete your manuscript — at a satisfactory level of quality. This will be a substantial research paper. You should think of the workload as comparable to a rigorous, upper-division course. And you should think of the resulting paper as needing to be a significantly higher quality product than an excellent term paper. A three member committee (consisting of your Thesis Supervisor, the Departmental Honors Advisor, and the Department Chair) will judge whether your paper is of satisfactory quality.

    Though standards of quality are determined by the three member departmental committee (as noted in c above), the Honors Program imposes various additional requirements relating to formatting, deadlines, and the like. So be sure to consult with them in conjunction with your work on the manuscript.

  5. An overall GPA of at least 3.5. This applies to all coursework.


 A course planner that can help you map out a path to the Honors degree in Philosophy can be downloaded here.

As you can see, earning an Honors Degree involves significantly more work than for a regular degree. Why then bother? There are numerous benefits, including (among others):

 Developing advanced research skills.

 Improving your writing skills.

 Becoming an expert in a philosophical topic.

 Achieving a more complete educational experience.

 Enhancing your ability to be accepted in a top graduate program: Admissions committees recognize the above virtues. Furthermore, you will be in a better position to get strong letters of recommendation. And you will have a polished writing sample ready to submit.

For further information about the honors degree, please contact either the Departmental Honors Advisor or the Philosophy Department at 801-581-8161.

Last Updated: 1/24/17