Graduation with Distinction

The department offers an intensive and personalized graduation with distinction program to qualified seniors. Admission to the program requires:

  • 3.0 GPA overall and a 3.3 grade point average in the major, both of which must be maintained to graduation
  • Enrollment in the senior seminars, Cultural Anthropology 489S and Cultural Anthropology 499S, in the fall and spring of their senior year, where they will learn about research methods and prepare a thesis
  • Senior thesis on a topic of a student’s own choice in close collaboration with members of the Cultural Anthropology faculty is required.

Qualified juniors will be notified each year by the director of undergraduate studies about their eligibility.

As you may know, thesis writers enroll in a required two-semester senior seminar (CA498S and 499S), open only to those students who qualify by virtue of a 3.0 GPA in their overall academic record and a 3.3 GPA in the major. You must complete both terms of the course to receive credit.  Students who wish to exit the Senior Seminar Distinction Program sequence after completion of 489S, must petition the course instructor, their advisor and the DUS.  The student will be given course credit and a final grade given the instructor, their advisor and the DUS determine the student has done adequate work. When you enroll in the seminar you will work closely with the instructor as well as with a primary faculty advisor to design an independent program of original research culminating in a senior thesis.  Students who successfully complete the thesis, and maintain their requisite GPAs, will graduate with distinction.
 
Students writing theses in the department work on a broad range of issues, including health care; migration and refugees; gender and sexuality; photography and material culture; social media and politics  – all grounded in a particular ethnographic or geopolitical context.  For some students, ethnographic research lies at the core of this project.  Others may choose to work chiefly with documents (popular or mass media, photography, film, digital texts, social networks, etc.).  Some students conduct thesis research over the previous summer (this may entail seeking human subjects approval through the IRB, institutional review board).  Others base their study on a prior study abroad experience, fieldwork methods project, or final paper for a CA class.  Alternately, you may certainly choose to work on something completely new. We encourage you to discuss your ideas with professors who know your work and can help you think realistically about the feasibility of the research (in the case of ethnography, this may entail seeking human subjects approval through the IRB, institutional review board). The senior thesis is a chance for you to put your classroom studies to work on something you care deeply about.  Many writers attest that the experience is among the most rewarding in the course of their college career. 
 
If you are interested in writing a thesis and taking the requisite courses (CulAnth 498S and 499S), please submit the following materials (hard copy, in box) to Rebecca Stein (rlstein@duke.edu) by the Friday before fall semester advising begins:
 

  1. 500 word proposal that outlines the direction of the thesis including topic; central research question; possible findings or hypothesis about the material; designation of the fieldwork site (where relevant) or primary materials that will be used as the basis of this analysis.  Please indicate whether your research will be based on ethnography.  (As such, it will require human subjects approval through the IRB, institutional review board.  See below for IRB deadlines*.)
  2.  Provisional bibliography of 10 works (essays or books) that will be drawn on during this project.
  3.  Name and signature of the Cultural Anthropology faculty member who has agreed to direct your thesis and mentor you during the writing process.
  4.  Reference from a Cultural Anthropology faculty member attesting to your preparedness to carry out the thesis (someone other than your advisor for the thesis).  The faculty member can e-mail this reference to Rebecca Stein (rlstein@duke.edu).
  5.  If you have any questions about this process, you may email  Rebecca Stein (rlstein@duke.edu) or contact Pat Bodager (684-5012, pbodager@duke.edu ). Additional information about departmental Graduation with Distinction can be found in the Undergraduate Bulletin.


*Note that students who are using fieldwork as the basis of their thesis should begin the process of seeking human subjects approval through the IRB, institutional review board, in the spring and summer prior to their senior year.  This approval must be approved by final fall registration drop/add. Funding for summer fieldwork is available through the Undergraduate Research Support Office.

The student forms a supervisory committee for the thesis during the fall of the senior year. It should consist of three faculty members who offer the student advice and support in preparing the thesis. At least two of the members must be faculty from the Cultural Anthropology department. Due in April of the senior year, the thesis must be judged to be of at least B+ quality by the student’s supervisory committee to receive distinction. In addition, the student must pass an oral examination on the thesis, which is given upon its completion by the supervisory committee.