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Student Research

Abroad at the Diet Library in Japan

An undergraduate research project allows you to explore a topic in more depth than regular coursework allows. It can also result in a polished, substantial essay to submit as a writing sample if, for example, you’re considering graduate school. In Japanese Studies, you can conduct a research project as an independent study or an Honors thesis. (All majors who do not write an Honors Thesis will conduct a research project in the capstone Advanced Seminar.)

You can also participate in a faculty member's research project through the support of grants such as the Chappell Fellowships.

W&M supports student research though a number of programs, including the Monroe Scholar Program. There are also national and international fellowships available for study and research in Japan. Check the Japanese Government Scholarships for more information.

Getting Started

A research project begins with identifying and investigating your interests. Perhaps you wrote a paper for a regular course; your instructor recognized it as promising and you want to expand on it—that might be a good candidate for a research project.  It's also important to consider if you have the time to devote to an independent study. Typically, each credit of research requires 6 hours per week, including reading, thinking, and writing, as well as meeting with your advisor.

Any core faculty in Japanese Studies may serve as advisor.  Contact the faculty member you wish to work with and arrange to meet for a preliminary discussion.  Bring to that meeting a clear idea of your research topic and a list of proposed readings (or screenings, etc.). Plan ahead: consider contacting a prospective advisor the semester before your proposed project.

Independent Study

An Independent Study in Japanese Studies (JAPN 411) allows accomplished students to undertake a semester-long tutorial on a topic agreed by the student and instructor and approved in advance. JAPN 411 is open to declared majors who have at least a 3.0 GPA in the major. Students may count only one Independent Study toward the major.

Submit a written proposal by the Friday before the start of the semester of the proposed study. The proposal should state your research question, why it interests you, and the expected outcome (e.g., a 20-page research paper, an annotated bibliography, etc.), as well as a bibliography and an outline of readings and meeting times. Academic credits vary based on the number of pages of writing completed: as a rough guide, we expect at least 7 pages for 1 credit, 14 for 2, and 20 for 3.

Honors Thesis

The Departmental Honors Program allows seniors to conduct a yearlong research project and complete a substantial work of scholarship, working closely with an advisor. 

Discuss your ideas for a thesis with a member of the Japanese Studies core faculty during spring semester of your junior year. You can apply for an Honors Fellowship through the Charles Center to fund research during the summer before your senior year. You will then register for Honors for Fall and Spring of your senior year, for a total of 6 credits that count towards your major. Throughout senior year, you will work with your advisor to complete your thesis. At the end of the year, you will defend your thesis in a research symposium.

Below we highlight some recent research projects by students in Japanese Studies.

Sample Honors Theses

Nic Querolo, "Reconstructing a National Silhouette: Avant-Garde Fashion and Perceptions of the Japanese Body" (2016)

Elizabeth Denny, "Songs of Love and Revolution: Performing Gender, Reforming Heterosexuality, and Escaping Domesticity in the Musicals of the Takarazuka Revue" (2014).

Audrey Anderson, "Japanese Architectural Values through Time: Frank Lloyd Wright's Usonian House and the Creation of a Modern Japanese-Usonian Hybrid" (2008).

Peter Luebke, "Overcoming Postmodernity: Modernity, The Pacific War, and the Postwar Manga of Mizuki Shigeru, Kobayashi Yoshinori and Maruo Suehiro" (2005).

Sample Honors Fellowships

Anastasia Rivera, "Keitai Shōsetsu: The Media Creation of Modern Identity" (Summer 2016)

Nic Querolo, "Rei Kawakubo and Tokyo's Post-Nuclear Chic" (Summer 2015)

Isabel Bush, "Once Upon the Internet: Modern Folklore in Japan" (Summer 2014)

Elizabeth Denny, "Performing Gender in Modern Japan: The Takarazuka Revue" (Summer 2013)

Sample Monroe Projects

Pam Kennedy, "Shock the Masses! An Exploration of Japanese Public Reaction to the Novels of Hitomi Kanehara" (2009).

Mara Rosenkrantz, "Japanese Cultural Color: Emotion Associations and Their Expression in Anime" (2008).

Meera Fickling, "A Case Study of the Social Structure of Japanese University Clubs Using the Keio University Women's Chorus" (2007).

Other Sample Research Projects

Students presented their research on Japan one year after the triple disaster of March 1, 2011 at our conference, Japan Responds. Read the full story.

Professor Rachel DiNitto and William & Mary alum Peter C. Luebke ('05) teamed up to research representations of the Asia-Pacific War in the manga of cult artist Maruo Suehiro. The project grew out of Peter's honors thesis on three Japanese manga artists who deal with the war. The resulting article, "Maruo Suehiro's 'Planet of the Jap': Revanchist Fantasy or War Critique?" appeared in the journal Japanese Studies 31.2 (September 2011) and the anthology Manga and the Representation of Japanese History (Routledge, 2015).