Honors in Science and Society
For students interested in pursuing honors, meeting with Joan Richards, Professor of History and Director of Science and Technology Studies, is recommended. Her office hours can be found here.
The opportunity to pursue honors in Science and Society is a privilege. Students are selected to become honors candidates based on a number of criteria, including: standing and grades in the concentration; support of a faculty advisor; submission and approval of a proposed project.
Students must apply to become an honors candidate by the end of the semester before they begin their thesis work, ordinarily at the end of the sixth semester. Students who are abroad in their sixth semester may apply by the end of the second week of the seventh semester instead.
To be eligible to apply for honors, students must:
- Be in good standing
- Have completed at least two thirds of the concentration requirements by the application deadline
- Have earned a majority of “A” grades in the concentration. Classes taken S/NC will count as qualifying towards that majority if they are marked “S with distinction” or are accompanied by a Course Performance Report indicating that had the student taken the course for a grade, the grade would have been an “A.”
To pursue honors candidacy, eligible students will:
- Secure a faculty advisor and discuss plans for the proposed thesis project with the advisor well before the established application deadline. How do you find an advisor? The prior question is, what is your thesis topic? You may have a very specific idea or it may be vague. A thesis advisor will guide you in either case. You may have met a faculty member in a class and you can approach her or him for further discussions. Or you may know of other possibilities via word of mouth or from suggestions made by your concentration advisor. In either case, read up on their work and go talk to them. DO NOT LEAVE THIS UNTIL THE LAST MINUTE. Most faculty limit the number of theses they advise in any one year, so you should be setting this up during your junior year.
- Prepare a thesis proposal of approximately 10 pages according to the Guidelines for Proposals outlined by the Program in Science and Society (see below) and outlining the major research questions and methods to be used.
- Submit an application form and proposal to the Director of the Program in Science and Technology Studies by the established application deadline.
To determine the roster of honors candidates, the Director of the Program in Science and Technology Studies will review student proposals and completed applications and notify students whether they have been accepted into the Honors Program by the end of the third week of the semester in which the student is to begin the thesis project.
Once accepted as honors candidates, students will pursue a course of study that goes beyond what is expected of a regular concentrator. This includes:
- Enrolling in 2 independent study courses with your thesis advisor: SCSO 1970 (Fall) and SCSO 1971 (Spring). These may be taken for a grade or S/NC.
- Regular meetings with the faculty advisor & drafts turned in at established intervals during the year.
- Consulting with your primary thesis advisor to identify a second reader. The second reader should complement the advisor in some way. For example, if the advisor is not a member of the Steering Committee or an Affiliate of the STS Program (see the “Faculty” section of our website), then the second reader ought to fill that gap, or vice versa. A second reader can be more or less involved in thesis production, but should offer input and guidance throughout the project.
- Submission of final thesis—in physical form and as a PDF—to the thesis advisor, second reader, and Director of Science and Technology Studies no later than April 15 for May graduates and November 15 for December graduates.
- Presentation of the thesis in a public defense. Generally, the student prepares a half hour power point presentation that summarizes the topic, sources, methods, and conclusions of the thesis. The student is responsible for setting a date, finding a room, making sure all need AV equipment is there and working. After the presentation there is time for questions and comments from the audience. At a minimum, the thesis advisor, the second reader, and the SCSO concentration advisors must attend. It is more fun if other faculty and students come as well. Bring your friends. Sometimes parents or other relatives come. Try to raise an audience of 10 or so, to make it a fun event. To find a room, ask your advisor for help in finding a departmental space they can reserve. Or, the STS administrative assistant can help reserve a space. Or, find a dorm lounge. Use departmental and STS listservs to advertise the defense. Ask your friends and family to come. Make a poster and put it up in strategic locations.
All students who satisfactorily complete SCSO 1970 and SCSO 1971 will receive course credit for their thesis work. In order to receive Honors in Science and Society, however, several additional criteria must be met. Upon submission of the thesis, the student must:
- Have remained in good academic standing throughout the academic year.
- Have had no violations of the Academic Code of Conduct during honors candidacy
- Have completed all requirements for the concentration
- Have produced a thesis that meets the expectations for honors work established by the Program in Science and Technology Studies:
- The thesis must be more than a synthesis of or report on existing scholarship. It must advance an original argument or analysis, either by presenting new sources or data or by bringing a new interpretation to bear on known sources.
- While the thesis make take a variety of forms, including a paper modeled on a journal article (suggested length of 15-40 pages, depending on discipline), website, documentary film, or other project, we expect high quality execution of the writing or creative work and consistent and complete documentation of sources.
- Deliver the thesis to the advisor, second reader, and Director of Science and Technology Studies in hard and digital copy by the established deadlines.
While the primary advisor will determine the grades for SCSO 1970 & 1971, the final determination of Honors will be made by the second reader and the concentration advisors for Science and Technology Studies. Each of the two thesis readers will also submit a final written evaluation of the thesis to the Director of STS.
A proposal of approximately 5-10 pages crafted in consultation with your thesis advisor will help you define what you are doing (and why).
Some of the issues it should address are:
- The topic/question you want to pursue and why it is interesting/important
- Existing scholarship: who else has written about this topic and what is the 'state of the question'?
- Your approach: how is what you are doing different from existing scholarship? Are you examining/collecting new material? Reinterpreting known material by asking new questions? What makes this a Science and Society thesis and not a project that could easily be done in another discipline?
- Methodology: how will you answer this question (in less than one year while in residence at Brown!)? What theoretical frameworks, research methodologies, etc., will you use to answer your questions?
- Sources: what materials/evidence will you use in answering your question?
- Initial bibliography