Honors Thesis and Undergraduate Prizes
We envision the honors thesis as an intellectually challenging and rewarding experience, a capstone to four years of undergraduate studies. The honors thesis ought to be an original contribution in the field chosen by the student, though the research, writing, and critical thinking skills honed through the project bear fruits whatever the professional path the student takes in the future. To write an honors thesis is not a requirement—it is a choice. LAIC professors (or LAIC-affiliated Barnard professors) support students by helping them to shape their research topic and providing constant advising during the research and redaction period. Please contact the Director of Undergraduate Studies if you are interested in proposing an honors thesis.
Choosing a Topic and Finding an Advisor in the Junior Year
By the end of their junior year, students should begin to consider the possibility of writing an honors thesis in their senior year. The topic and themes of the honors usually originate in a course taken at LAIC or during study abroad. Students ought to consult with faculty members that are in dialogue with the desired theme of research in order to discuss their project and to determine the appropriate advisor. You can view the profile of LAIC professors and affiliated Barnard professors in our faculty webpage. Please select a faculty advisor from among LAIC’s professors or Barnard’s Department of Spanish and Latin American Cultures professors who are also LAIC “affiliated professors.” Other LAIC “affiliated professors” and lecturers cannot be your sole advisor, though they can serve as co-advisors. Students can schedule a meeting (or, if the student is studying abroad, a Skype or Zoom conversation) with the Director of Undergraduate Studies to discuss possible thesis topics, faculty advisors, and related questions.
By May, 15th of their junior year, students send a thesis proposal to the DUS. The proposal includes the title and abstract, the name of the proposed advisor, and other relevant information. If students want to pursue some research during the summer, it is possible to apply for funds from Columbia College, from General Studies, and from LAIC. Students should include a budget with their thesis proposal if they are requesting departmental funds.
The Honors Thesis and the Senior Seminar
The senior seminar is a thematic research course required of all LAIC majors in their senior year. Students who wish to write an honors thesis develop the fall semester’s senior seminar research essay into a larger thesis project over the course of the spring semester. Thesis writers should remain in constant communication both with the instructor of the senior seminar and with their thesis advisors over the course of the fall semester. More information about the senior seminar is available here.
In the spring semester, thesis writers enroll in a supervised independent study (either SPAN 3997 or SPAN 3998) with their advisor. The independent study will be considered completed only once the student has submitted the honors thesis; it will then count as a 3 points course and will figure among elective courses for the purposes of the major. The thesis advisor submits the letter grade for the independent study.
By April 15th of their senior year, students complete and present their honors thesis for the honors and prizes. They submit it in three hard copies, respecting the formatting specifications provided below.
By May 1st, the honors thesis committee (the LAIC DUS plus one or two additional LAIC faculty members) shares substantive feedback to students about their projects and makes recommendations to departmental colleagues concerning honors and prizes. The committee will provide publishing options to students whose work has resulted in a highly original scholarship piece.
An example of a LAIC honors thesis that turned into a peer-reviewed publication can be found here. To have a sense of the diversity of possible thesis topics, you might consider the three (wonderful) theses filed in spring 2020:
Rowan Gossett: “Mujeres Mapuche y el Movimiento Feminista: Avances y límites de los discursos recientes de la emancipación femenina en Chile”
Zachary Kahn: “Política cultural cubana a través del cine: institucionalizar lo independiente”
Elizabeth Phillips: “Memoria y monumentos en España después de la Guerra Civil: un análisis de la exposición ‘Fake Games’, el Valle de Los Caídos y la Ley de Memoria Histórica"
And here are two (excellent) theses filed in spring 2021:
Ezequiel N. González Camaño: “Cuerpos de tierra: Carla Maldonado y reflexiones desde lo eco-performático"
Maximillian Calleo: “La expresión e identidad LGBTQ+ en la República Dominicana: un análisis de Saunatopía, un trabajo queer emergente”
The honors thesis length should be approximately 40-50 pages. The main text should be double spaced; extended in-text quotations and all footnotes should be single spaced. Do not right justify the text. All pages should have one-inch margins all around and a header with the author’s last name and the page number. Please use either MLA or Chicago-style formatting. Whatever your choose, please be consistent.
Include a cover page with the following information centered on the page: the author’s full name, the title of the thesis, and the name of the advisor.
The faculty also awards two prizes every year.
- Susan Huntington Vernon Prize: Established in 1941 by a member of the noted family of New York Hispanophiles, it is given to the Columbia College senior major who has demonstrated excellence in the study of Latin American and Iberian Cultures.
- Dr. Antonio G. Mier Prize: Awarded for excellence in Hispanic Studies to a major degree candidate in the School of General Studies at Columbia University.