Theater Studies, in the Department of Theater and Dance, maintains an honors program for select, advanced students. This program allows qualified senior majors in Theater the opportunity to design and pursue a substantial independent research project under faculty supervision. "Research" can be defined as traditional scholarship, or artistic research in the form of a design, directing, acting, applied theater, or other project.

Honors study requires work that extends beyond ordinary course requirements and ordinary standards of performance -- this is an invitation to venture into professional research.  Interested students, who must maintain a qualifying grade-point average, must apply to the Theater Studies Academic Committee for project approval, then, then, if approved, meet internal and external deadlines during the process of study and writing, a process that spans the entire senior year and more. Ultimately, they must produce a substantive written account of research (although the project need not center in writing), and be evaluated by a faculty panel. If successfully completed, the honors thesis will be maintained in the Emory library, and the student will be celebrated in a special ceremony for an invited audience of family at graduation. The successful studen's diploma will specify the degree of honors achieved.

An alternative to honors study is Advanced Directed Study (see the course catalogue, Theater Studies 497R): this is a different opportunity to pursue independent research in the senior year. Advanced Directed Study is similar to the honors project, but faculty approval is less stringently tied to grade-point average, there is less attention to the written account of research, and the course is graded by a single instructor rather than a faculty panel. Also, obviously, a student who successfully completes an Advanced Directed Study will receive a grade, but will not graduate with designated honors. Some projects benefit from the increased flexibility of the Advanced Directed Study.


All Theater Studies majors with a cumulative average of 3.50 at the end of their first three years are eligible to apply for Honors or Advanced Directed Study. (All Emory grades are considered in the calculation of the cumulative GPA for example, all Emory College of Arts and Sciences and Business School grades are considered in the calculation of the cumulative GPA for Business School students who pursue honors in a major in the College.) Students whose GPA has fallen below 3.5 are still eligible to apply for Advanced Directed Study, or they may petition for an exception to the honors GPA requirement to the Theater Studies Academic Committee; if approved by the Committee, their petition can go on to the College Honors Council. Contact Elizabeth Fricker (efricke@learnlink.emory.edu)  for more information about the petitioning process.

Please note that students, however ambitious, may pursue honors in only one major or joint major.


Spring and Summer of the Junior Year

Eligible students, during the spring of their junior year, should think carefully about their research ambitions. By the end of April, those who wish to pursue honors or Advanced Directed Study should gather: a) a college transcript; b) a representative sample of your academic writing; c) the names of two faculty members who know you and your work; and d) a proposal for a research project, submitting them to the Academic Degree Coordinator and the Chair of the Theater Studies Academic Committee-currently John Ward and Michael Evenden, respectively.

The Academic Committee will then evaluate the application by the end of the academic year. The proposals that are provisionally approved will be assigned an initial advisor, and the student will be given the summer to refine and specify the proposal, checking in with the initial advisor at least twice: once before the end of the spring term, and then again before the beginning of the ensuing fall term-- although of course we recommend communicating with the initial advisor as your proposal develops.

Late Summer/ Early Fall of the Senior Year

By the fall term of your senior year, we expect your proposal to have matured. By the first day of classes, you must have met with your initial advisor, and must submit an updated honors or Advanced Directed Study proposal.  This proposal is expected to include: a) a specific research hypothesis or question; b) a step-by-step general plan for exploring your question; c) a clear indication of the resources needed. We also strongly encourage you, especially those applying for honors, to submit: d) an initial proposal for the general shape of the written thesis-number of chapters with their respective topics, forms the record of your work will take (this might include, in addition to the written thesis, a work or rehearsal journal, digital recording of a performances, digital images, a performance script, surveys and statistics summaries of their results, tables or spreadsheets of data, or other forms that your research goals suggest).  This updated proposal, too, goes to the Academic Degree Coordinator and Chair of the Academic Committee. The Committee will then evaluate the proposals and approve, disapprove, or approve them on condition, and assign you an official Thesis Adviser or Study Director.

Advanced Directed Study

The Advanced Directed Study, once approved by the Academic Committee, will be structured by the student and her Study Director as the particular project suggests, on the model of a research tutorial. We strongly encourage the creation of written standards for the evaluation and grading of the project, and refer you to the standards and processes of the honors program as a possible model.    


If your honors proposal is approved, you will need to apply yourself to two simultaneous processes:

  • The College Honors Program procedures, which include attendance at mandatory meetings and following various procedures for preparing a thesis, arranging your evaluation panel, and submitting the thesis, all according to Honors Program dictates.  Please follow without fail the instructions of the College Honors Committee.
  • The Theater Studies honors process, which consists of:

Fall Term Of The Senior Year

  • Regular meetings with your official thesis adviser throughout the year.
  • Selection of an Honors Thesis Committee.  This must include your Honors Adviser, one faculty member from outside Theater Studies (this may not be a faculty member in Dance), and one member from Theater Studies who teaches in the literature/history/criticism area of the department-currently, this would mean Michael Evenden or Donald McManus.
  • Enrollment in the major's senior seminar, Aesthetics and Criticism of Theater (Theater Studies 490), in the fall term of your senior year.
    • Consult with your adviser and the instructor of Aesthetics and Criticism to link your term paper for the course with your written research for your thesis; usually, the term paper serves as a first approach to the first thesis chapter.
    • You will be required to provide a substantial bibliography for your research by mid-October.
    • So you will end the fall term with at least a bibliography, a version of your first chapter, and a number of meetings with your Adviser already accomplished.

Spring Term of the Senior Year

  • Continue regular meetings with your Honors Adviser.
  • Enroll in Honors Study in Theater, Theater Studies 495, usually for four hours of credit. This spring course will include weekly meetings with the Honors Coordinator/Chair of the Academic Committee and all current honors students; it is through this course that you will receive credit for your project and thesis.
    • At the end of January, you will submit a polished draft of your initial research chapter(s) to your Honors Adviser and the literature/history criticism specialist on your Honors Thesis Committee. Be prepared to accept notes and undertake rewrites on this section as part of your ongoing progress.
    • February and March will be intense months in the completion and writing up of your project.
    • The thesis must be completed according to the Theater Studies Style Sheet, which is based on the Turabian Manual/ Chicago Manual of Style, and the College Honors Committee's style instructions.
    • We recommend that by three weeks before the end of the spring term, you complete your thesis in polished, presentable, and final form, copy it, submit it to your Committee members, and arrange the time and place for your thesis defense.

Defense and Submission of the Honors Thesis

  • The traditional term "defense" should not be misunderstood-the purpose of this meeting is for you to present your research, summarizing and demonstrating your points in any way appropriate to your topic (presentations have included informal discussion, Powerpoint lectures, live performance-demonstrations, video demonstrations, and more). You must arrange for all media needs and practice with them on site before your defense, of course. Following your presentation-normally about twenty minutes long or so-your committee will ask questions to test your reasoning and knowledge of your subject and to inquire about the implications of your research. They will then confer privately, and invite you back into the room for the panel's decision. The honors defense normally takes about ninety minutes. (Please note that it is normal for students to be required by the honors panel to do some polishing or even modest rewriting of some portions of the thesis before its final submission. Check with your adviser for the procedure for getting your final rewrites approved.)
    • A student who receives honors is eligible for one of three designations:
      • Honors (cum laude) indicates maintaining a 3.50 grade average and a completion of the departmental honors program, including a satisfactory project and thesis consistent with unusually complete undergraduate or graduate research;
      • High Honors (magna cum laude) represents completion of the departmental honors program with outstanding performance, including an overall grade average of 3.50 and a project and thesis of quality sufficient for oral presentation to scholars in the candidate's field.
      • Highest Honors (summa cum laude) represents completion of the departmental honors program with exceptional performance, including an overall grade average of 3.50 and a project and thesis of a quality suitable for some form of professional publication.
      • N.B.: As these descriptions suggest, there is no correlation between Honors, High Honors and Highest honors with everyday marks of, say, A, B, or C. On the contrary, honors are awarded to students who have completed work that excels ordinary undergraduate course achievement. These designations are to acknowledge degrees of accomplishment, all within a category of clear excellence.
      • Having presented the thesis, make any final revisions your committee requires.
      • Get these revisions approved by your adviser by at least one day before the submission due date.
      • Submit the revised thesis electronically, according to College Honors Program procedures.
      • If you do not complete the project, or are not awarded honors for your effort, you must still submit a final paper for the four credit hours of Honors Study for which you have enrolled. You will be graded by your Adviser.
      • For those who are awarded honors, follow the College Honors Committee instruction for attending the Honors Ceremony graduation weekend and being publicly honored for your achievement.