Judaic Studies

Honors Thesis

Learn more about the requirements, process, and timeline of an Judaic Studies honors thesis.

For thousands of years, Jews, their religion, their history, and their culture have been the subject of significant scholarly attention. We encourage you to make your own contribution to this tradition by doing original research on some aspect of Judaic Studies and writing an honors thesis.

An Outstanding Record

To do this, you will need to be a concentrator in JS with an outstanding record (A- average) in JS courses and you will be expected to write a full academic paper of some 35,000-55,000 words based on your own original work. As in all research, you will need to invest your time in planning, reading, thinking, and writing.

Thesis Director

Before you embark on the project, discuss it with the Concentration Adviser, to make sure that it is the right choice for you. Do this in your sixth semester. With the help of the C.A. identify a faculty member who will work with you as you write your thesis. Like everything else, research skills need to be learned, and your thesis director is there to help you learn them.


Together with your director, you will think about a topic that really interests you and begin to hone it into a research project. You will also choose a second reader for your paper, who, though less involved than your director, will help you by bringing you different perspectives – and different research skills. By the end of the sixth semester, you should be set, with a topic, list of primary sources, basic bibliography, and plan of research and writing. You will submit these for approval in a formal thesis proposal early in the seventh semester.

Reading, Research and Writing

Then it’s up to you! Independent reading and research are what it is all about. You will meet with your director on a regular basis to make sure that you are on track and to help you learn the tricks of our trade (what we call, critical research methodology and a logical research strategy). Once you are ready to write, your director will help you plan your thesis and work with you on each chapter in turn. All told, research and writing will take you two semesters.

At the end of the process, you will have written a genuine piece of scholarship. Based on original research and the close reading of primary sources, your thesis will present an argument based on your own analysis and will engage an ongoing debate or discussion in the field you have chosen. You will be able to demonstrate your knowledge of the major research done in that field until now and identify your own contribution. Clearly and precisely written, the final thesis should also have a complete scientific apparatus – citations and a full bibliography – and so can take its place in the research library of the field.


Once it has been accepted and graded by your director and the second reader, your thesis will be discussed by the faculty members of the Judaic Studies Program as they vote on granting you Honors. It will then be published on the Program’s website and made available to a wide audience of scholars and interested readers. On Degree Day, you will be a member of a select group of students awarded BA with Honors. Congratulations!


Sixth Semester: Planning and Organization

  1. Speak to J.S. Concentration Adviser about writing an honors thesis.
  2. Find a thesis director and, in consultation, choose a topic and plan the contours of the project.
  3. Choose a second reader.
  4. By the end of the semester, submit a thesis information form, with brief details of your project, countersigned by director and second reader.

Seventh Semester: Research and Reading

  1. Enroll in JUDS 1975.
  2. Write a thesis proposal (1,500-2,000) words to be submitted by the end of week three.
  3. Formally enroll in Honors Program by the end of week four.
  4. Research and reading – regular meetings with director.

Eighth Semester: Research and Writing

  1. Enroll in JUDS 1976
  2. Complete research and reading early in the semester.
  3. Consult with adviser about writing plan.
  4. Write the director, holding regular meetings with adviser (and also second reader) to discuss drafts.
  5. Submit thesis no later than April 15 for May graduates and November 15 for December completers.

For further details, consult the detailed description of the JS Honors Program in the section on the Judaic Studies concentration in the University Bulletin.