Thesis Information

Q: Can I write a thesis toward my degree?
A: Yes. The Department of Asian Studies offers students the option of pursuing a degree with Honors in Asian Studies, Chinese, or Japanese through writing an honors thesis. Honors theses allow students a unique opportunity to undertake an examination of topics and texts with a greater depth than regular courses allow.  The great majority of students who undertake the challenge of writing an honors thesis find it to be one of their most rewarding academic experiences at Williams.

Q: What preparations do I need in order to write an honors thesis?
A: Students interested in pursuing a degree with Honors should begin thinking about their thesis topic and materials as early as possible. This is particularly true for students who need to gather materials or conduct research abroad, as this will typically take place during their junior year or the summer between their junior and senior years. It is the responsibility of the student to approach faculty members to inquire about their willingness to serve as a thesis advisor. Ideally, students should have previously taken a course with that faculty member in an area related to the subject matter of the thesis. Faculty members will usually only advise a single thesis per year, and never more than two, with students who first approach the faculty member about serving as advisor being given priority. It is recommended that students approach the faculty members with whom they are interested in working for their thesis by the end of the fall semester of their junior year.

Q: Which course do I pre-register for when I decide to write a thesis?
A: Students must submit a proposal to the Department Chair and their intended advisor before they pre-register for senior year courses in the spring of their junior year. The proposal should include a statement of the topic, a general description of the types of materials available for study and how the study will be carried out, and the name of the faculty member who will serve as advisor. If the department approves the thesis proposal, the student should enroll in ASST 493-W31-494, CHIN 493-W31-494, or JAPN 493-W31-494, depending on their major track. Please note that admission to the honors thesis program will normally be limited to students with a consistent record of honors-level work, as indicated by at least a B+ average in their courses for the major.

Q: How long should the thesis be and what other requirements are there?
A: The honors thesis in Asian Studies is intended to be a rigorous and original scholarly work of approximately 80 to 120 pages that makes use of both primary and secondary sources. Students pursuing honors in Chinese or Japanese are further required to make substantial use of sources in that language that have not been translated into English. Theses in Asian Studies will typically be analytic in nature. Theses in Chinese and Japanese can be either primarily analytic or focus on translation. In the latter case, the student, in consultation with his or her advisor, should select a work or set of works of a length that will result in approximately 60 to 80 pages of double-spaced English text when translated. Students pursuing the option of a translation thesis are required to produce polished translations with substantial scholarly annotations. They should also include an analytic section of at least forty pages that involves a scholarly discussion of the translated works, a discussion of particular issues in the process of translation of these works, or both.

Q: What is the timeline for writing the thesis?
A: Students will typically meet with their advisor once a week at a set time other than office hours. The advisor will present the student with a set of deadlines for different stages in the thesis, ranging from a bibliography to the final draft. While these deadlines will vary for different advisors and theses, two deadlines will apply to all theses, whether analytic or translation. 1) Students must submit a finished first chapter or substantial section of polished translation by the last day of the first semester reading period. If the student misses this deadline, he or she will not be allowed to continue the thesis. 2) The finished thesis is due to the advisor by 4:00 pm on the Monday two weeks after the last day of Spring Recess. The student should submit three copies of the thesis at this time. There will be no extensions.

Q: What will happen after I submit my finished thesis to the advisor?
A: The Department will assign two readers, separate from the advisor, to each thesis. The readers will give a written assessment of the thesis that will be an important factor in the final determination of the student’s grades for the thesis and what honors designation, if any, will be given. These written comments will be shared with the student. Within two weeks after submission, the department will schedule an oral defense. This will be a one to one-and-a-half hour session in which the student will give a public presentation of his or her thesis to members of the Department of Asian Studies and invited guests followed by a question and answer period. A final, corrected copy of the thesis must be submitted to the Technical Services Department of Sawyer Library by 4:00 P.M. on the last day of the final examination period.

In order to qualify for Honors, the Department must agree that the student has earned two semester grades of B+ or higher, based on his or her thesis and oral defense. Students whose thesis and defense are deemed by the Department to be of exceptional merit will be awarded Highest Honors. A letter from the Department Chair will inform students of these decisions.

Q: What topics have been explored in senior theses in the past?
A: The following honors theses have been completed in our department within the last few years, which deal with Chinese-related topics.

Q: Can 493-W31-494 courses be used to replace any of the required courses for the major?  
A:  No. Please note that these courses are to be taken in addition to the regular eleven required courses. They cannot be used to replace any of those courses.

Year Title Author Major Advisor
2012 “Transformations of the Chinese Public Sphere: Media in the Age of Weibo” Adam Century Asian Studies C. Nugent
2012 “Remembering the Cultural Revolution: Wang Xiaobo’s Conception” Nina Piazza Chinese L. Yu
2011 “Imaginings of ethnicity in Shen Congwen’s short stories” Kirsten C. Johnson Chinese C. Nugent
2010 “Wu Nianzhen’s Seize the springtime” Ryan M. Glassett Chinese C. Nugent
2010 “Metacognitive and socioaffective strategies of self-regulation in a study abroad context : a case study of American learners of Mandarin Chinese” Patricia B. Cho Asian Studies C. Chang
2009 “Studying abroad, serving home : shifting perceptions of study abroad in the modern era” Evan J. Weintraub Chinese C. Nugent
2006 “Stone treasure mountain legends and Jianchuan carpentry tales : folktales and ethnic minorities in modern China” Jessica Marinaccio Chinese C. Nugent
2006 “Desire and the city : Sex and the city and the impact of popular media in the People’s Republic of China” Estalyn S. Marquis Chinese C. Nugent
2006 “An investigation of third culture kids from the International School of Beijing as compared to students educated in the United States of America” Tiffany Wan-Chung Chao Asian Studies S. Wong