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American Studies Senior Honors Thesis

The goal of an American Studies senior thesis is to write a paper that, with revision, could potentially be submitted for publication in an academic journal. This means, at a minimum, that the paper makes an original contribution to the existing scholarship in an area and uses primary sources. While such manuscripts are usually 30-50 pages long, depending on the field, one should not focus on length. (Indeed, a scholar usually finds that good papers have to be shortened and shortened again before they can be published). Rather, you should focus on doing enough primary research to provide a compelling answer to a well-defined research question that gains its importance through contributing to the field of “American Studies,” broadly defined. It should make an original argument.

This means, among other things, that you will need to find a model for the type of paper you are trying to write. A model paper does not have to be on the topic you are studying. The most useful models are in one’s field, use a methodology similar to the one’s own, and illustrate what it means to have a good introduction, literature review, and analysis. It is particularly important to find a model when writing in an interdisciplinary field like American Studies, because historians, literary scholars, and social scientists all organize these sections of their papers differently.

Undergraduates learn over the years to write “one draft wonders.” In such an endeavor, one keeps a paper in one’s head and writes it shortly before it is due. Step One is to realize that you will be writing at least three “drafts” of your honors thesis. This is because in a major research project you typically learn the point of your argument as you write, meaning as you explore the nuances of your data. 

Before you leave for summer vacation you will need to be well started on your thesis. This means that by the end of the sixth week of the spring quarter of junior year you should submit to the program director a thesis topic that outlines the area you want to study and revise potential research questions in this area. You should include a preliminary bibliography that reflects a fairly thorough search of books and journal articles in your topic area. You should outline a methodology for studying your research question. In order to complete this assignment you will need, most importantly, an ADVISOR. You need to start that courtship process early.

Finally, the advisor should be prepared to provide the program director with an evaluation of a students' request for research funds.

Previous American Studies Thesis Topics






Brown Maddie 2023 How the Imagination of Nineteenth-Century Newspapers Made Abortion Gothic Julia Stern
Carter Dori-Taylor 2023

Numbers, Power and Panethnicity:  How Filipinx American and Asian American Community Organizers Mobilize the 2020 Census

Michael Rodirguez-Muniz

Chun Alex 2023 Interactive Intimacy:  Tracing how Queer Asian/American OnlyFans Performers Negotiate their Manufactured Identities Steven Thrasher, Raymond San Diego
Eraso Sunnie 2023 STAR a Thesis on Ornamentalism as Theory and Performance Practice Around Gwen Stefani's Harajuku Girls Cristal Chanelle Truscott
Herscowitz Eva 2023 "I'm a Junkie:" Countercultural Writing, Protest Culture, and the Development of a Dissident Identity at the Lexington Narcotic Farm Michael Allen
Thesis Titles 1976-2022 undergraduate/major-info/amst_thesis_1976-2022.docx

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Frequently Asked Questions

What are the requirements of the American Studies thesis?

During the two-quarter Senior Project Seminar, each student is responsible for producing a 30-50 page thesis based in original primary and secondary source research that makes an original argument and is grounded in relevant scholarship. Students choose their own topics in consultation with the instructor as well as the program director.

May I combine the American Studies thesis with a thesis in another major?

In certain cases, students who are combining a major in American Studies with a major in another field that also requires a senior research seminar may arrange to fulfill their Senior Project  Seminar requirement in a combined, but expanded, project. To be eligible for WCAS Honors with a dual, or interdisciplinary thesis, there are a few extra steps to take. For more information, consult the Weinberg guidelines.

Are there research funds to support travel or other research expenses for the thesis?

Yes! Check out the following link for both WCAS and university-wide sources of research funding