Honors Program

French Studies Honors Program

The French Honors Program is intended for students who have excelled in their French concentration coursework and who seek to pursue during their senior year an independent research-based inquiry into a particular set of texts or questions (literary, historical, cultural, theoretical or linguistic) under the supervision of a thesis advisor.

Eligibility and Application Procedure

A candidate for honors in French Studies will ideally have received no grade lower than an "A" in courses taken for her/his concentration. Exceptions to this policy must be approved by the Department. Courses taken S/NC may count towards the Honors Concentration if accompanied by a brief report (Course Performance Report) from the instructor attesting to performance equivalent to an A-grade.  The candidate must be in good standing, and have completed at least two-thirds of the courses required for the concentration (6 courses) by the application deadline.

Applications for admission to the Honors Program are submitted by September 26 in the student’s seventh semester. This means that the candidate should ideally begin to think of his/her thesis project, and establish contact with a potential thesis advisor by the end of the spring semester of their junior year or in the first weeks of the fall semester of their senior year. Students generally choose as advisor a faculty member with whom they have taken a class, but they are also encouraged to contact others whose specialization aligns with their interests. If in doubt, the honors advisor can be consulted for suggestions of an appropriate advisor. (Note that faculty may not be easy to contact over the summer. Students are thus advised to seek contact during the academic year.) For the application (form available below), the student will provide a brief thesis proposal (1 or 2 paragraphs in French presenting the object of study and intended approach). The application must also feature a thesis title, the name and signature of the thesis advisor, and two recommendations from French Studies faculty. Upon admission, the student will also choose a second reader.

Students applying for admission to the Honors Program must submit a completed application to the French Studies Honors/Concentration Advisor by September 26. Recommendation forms are to be filled out by members of the French Studies faculty who have close knowledge of the student's work, preferably through a course taken by the student during her/his sophomore or junior year. Please submit these forms to your recommenders no later than September 18. They will then be forwarded to the Honors Advisor (Thangam Ravindranathan) who, after reviewing the complete application along with the student's transcript(s), will make a determination about admission to the Honors Program.

If accepted, this application allows the student to pursue the Honors Thesis Project. Honors is officially granted only when the student's two readers approve the completed thesis.


Students pursuing honors in French Studies must take a minimum of twelve courses. In addition to the standard requirement of ten courses, FREN 1980 (Senior Thesis) is to be taken both semesters. This independent study is designed for the student to devote time to thesis research and writing under the supervision of a thesis advisor.

The student is expected to work in close consultation with his/her thesis advisor and to respect deadlines for completion of the outline, drafts, and the final version of the thesis, which at the latest must be submitted by the end of the week after Spring Recess (see deadlines below). It is expected that the student and the thesis advisor will establish a schedule and meet on a regular basis through the entire year. (Meetings once every two weeks on average, particularly during the spring semester, are encouraged). The second reader may or may not be from the Department of French Studies, and may be consulted less frequently during the earlier stages of the research/writing, according to their availability and the student’s needs. However, the student is expected to share at least one advanced draft with the second reader before the final submission.   

The final complete version of the thesis must be submitted by April 16. Students should submit one copy to each reader and one electronic and one hard copy of the thesis to the Concentration advisor.  

Work submitted after the final submission deadline will not be accepted for Honors. In such cases, a grade will be given for the Senior Thesis course, but Honors cannot be awarded. 

The Senior Thesis

Theses ordinarily range from 50 to 80 pages and are written in French. Topics, approach, and precise calendar of work should be decided in close consultation with the thesis advisor. Students are encouraged to consult previous French Honors theses to get a sense of the range of projects that are possible.

The Research Essay: The thesis is usually a research-based essay dealing with primary sources (literary works, historical archives, etc.) consulted and cited in the original French. A meritorious Honors thesis will be written in competent and precise language and evince meaningful internal structure and coherence. It will formulate precisely its framing questions and provide textual support for its propositions while making clear their furthest stakes. While students are encouraged to cultivate the originality of their own questions or perspectives, they are also expected to be in productive dialogue with scholarship in the field. Accordingly, to be awarded Honors, a thesis will demonstrate a consistent citation style and clear and correct attribution of all terms and ideas not the student’s own.

For citation styles (MLA being the most common in French Studies) students may consult the Writing Center’s guidelines:  http://www.brown.edu/Student_Services/Writing_Center/resources_writers/citing_sources.html)

Students may consult Brown University’s Academic Code here: http://www.brown.edu/Administration/Dean_of_the_College/curriculum/academic_code.php

The Translation Thesis: Students may alternatively choose to undertake for their Honors thesis a work of translation. This choice must be made with prudence and in close consultation with the thesis advisor, so that there is agreement on the difficulty level of the chosen text, the argument for translating it, and expected standards of ambitiousness and precision in the translation. Usually the translation will be from French to English, though the case may be made on the rare occasion for translation from English to French. Students may choose to translate a whole work, select excerpts, or a series of texts (as in the case of poems or shorter narratives). In all cases, a translation thesis must, to qualify for French Honors, include a critical introduction or preface (a minimum of 10 pages) in which the translator demonstrates advanced knowledge of the place of the chosen text in its original cultural and literary context, engages reasonably with scholarship pertaining to the original text, and shows a mature understanding of the stakes and debates of translation as a practice.

Honors students will be invited to present their work to members of the Department and fellow and potential French concentrators at the end of term sometime after the April final submission date.

Calendar of Deadlines:

Precise details regarding deadlines and nature/length of submissions must be established clearly between the student and his/her advisor. Suggested deadlines for major stages are as follows:

  • Submission of Applications to Honors Program - - September 26
  • Rough outline of thesis due to thesis advisor by the first week of November
  • First portion of written work due to thesis advisor (minimum of 20 pages) by mid-December
  • Submission of full draft to both readers by March 10
  • Completed thesis submitted to both readers by April 16 

Useful Writing and Editing Tools for Honors Thesis Writers

  • How to Write a BA Thesis: A Practical Guide from Your First Ideas to Your Finished Paper by Charles Lipson
    • Full text via Brown Library
    • Online summary
  • The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr.
  • Antidote V.8 (French spell checker and grammar tool – advised as a supplement to a good dictionary):


  • For guidance in how best to use Brown’s library and academic research tools, students are encouraged to seek a meeting with Subject Librarian for French and Francophone Studies Dominique Coulombe: http://libguides.brown.edu/profile.php?uid=59801