What to Expect
Early in the fall semester of your junior year is when you want to begin thinking about doing an honors project. This may seem a little early, but the best honors projects, and the best honors experiences, are those that allow plenty of time to think, explore, research and revise. Starting early lets you be prepared for two important deadlines in the spring semester: submitting your application in mid-February deadline for the Charles Center Summer Honors Research Fellowship, and the mid-April deadline to submit your completed formal proposal to the FMST faculty and the Charles Center. The Charles Center will enroll you in FMST 495 in the fall, and FMST 496 in the Spring.
Once your proposal is accepted, you and your advisor will map the road ahead. You can expect to work on your thesis over the summer between junior and senior years—doing research, getting to know your primary material and understanding how it fits in critical and historical contexts. Over the fall you will build your outline and begin writing, checking in regularly with your advisor; a good rule of thumb is to have twenty pages done by the end of term. You should aim to finish a draft by late February, which will give you and your advisor time to revise and maybe rethink some material before you submit it in mid-April. Your paper will be read by two other faculty members, one in FMST and one outside the program; near the end of classes they and your advisor will meet with you for a formal oral defense (discussion, really). On the basis of your writing and how you talk about your project you will be granted honors, and you will receive grades for both FMST 495 and 496.
Step by Step
First, find a topic.
- A good research topic brings critical questions to particular texts. It is focused enough to be developed over at least eight months of work, and expansive enough to engage larger issues in a meaningful way. So your first goal will be to work up some topic ideas that intrigue you, and find the material that you want to work with (films, TV, photography, games, documentary/DIY videos, etc.), that best addresses the topics you are interested in. And finally, you should give some thought to what kind of scholarship you want to do.
- Often the best place to begin this process is with the classes you have taken. A paper you wrote, for instance, or material you studied in a course that caught your interest but didn’t go far enough: these are good starting points for a thesis topic.
- Begin with faculty you know; someone, for instance, who taught the class that sparked your topic idea, or who you just feel comfortable talking with. Or contact the Director. Any of us in the program will be able to help you sort out your thinking.
- Whomever you talk with will want to know what it is you want to work on, and why you find it interesting. You don’t need an elevator pitch, and won’t be expected to have a full-blown prospectus, just ideas for topic, method and texts. Maybe you’ll have two or three related topics. As faculty, we need to hear this so we can decide if we’re the right person to advise you. If we think you would fit better with someone else, or for other reasons we can’t take an advisee on, we might suggest another faculty member.
- A note: advisors for an FMST honors project need not be core faculty in the program. If you want to work with someone in, say, Modern Languages, History or English, that is fine if they are comfortable advising you on a film and media project.
- February 15: The Charles Center offers up to $5,000 Summer Honors Research Fellowships. If you are interested in applying for these, let your advisor know up front. They have specific requirements for the proposal. You can find them, and information about the Fellowships, here.
- You need not apply for the summer research grant.
- Mid April (this date will vary according to the calendar): All honors applicants, including those who apply for Charles Center funding, are required to submit more extensive proposals for review by the FMST affiliated faculty.
- This includes a five-page prose abstract that details what you want to do, what material you want to work with, how you will pursue your goals, and how it contributes to the study of film and media. You will also need to supply an annotated bibliography of 5-7 key secondary and critical texts (articles, books), a more expansive bibliography of all the material you anticipate using, and a work plan (basically a timeline) showing how and when you will get the work done.
Once the FMST faculty accept the proposal, you will be able to submit the Application for Department Honors to the Charles Center, which will enroll you in FMST 495 for the fall semester and, in the spring, FMST 496.
Over the year you will work closely with your advisor, meeting regularly, submitting reports and drafts, to prepare your final draft for submission in mid-April (the Charles Center will establish the due date). A committee of three faculty (your advisor and two others, chosen by the Director in consultation with your advisor) will read your work, and then meet with you in a “defense,” where you will have a chance to present and talk about what you learned. The committee will decide if you will receive “Honors” in FMST, and with your advisor assign you grades for 495 & 496.
Production ProjectsLargely you should follow the same process outlined above, and meet the same deadlines. There are, however a few different expectations.
- You will be expected to produce a substantial final production project, including, but not limited to, a short film, a multimedia performance, or a script, etc. Along with this, you will include an account of your work on the project, and a critical reflection on its significance within the appropriate media context of the project, themes, and issues.
- Depending on the project, a defense may include a screening or performance, as well as a discussion with the committee. These may take place at different times. You will be evaluated on all aspects of your project (creative product, critical reflection, and defense).