Honors Theses

Linguistics 99

Senior Tutorial Linguistics 99 is a full course intended for the researching and writing of an honors thesis, under the supervision of a faculty member. (Recall furthermore that Honors students are expected to begin exploring possible thesis topics during Linguistics 98b, the spring semester Junior Year Tutorial.) Final responsibility for assigning the thesis advisor rests with the Head Tutor, although every effort is made to accommodate students’ wishes in this respect.

Thesis Guidelines

Due Date

The deadline for submission of the senior thesis is 5 p.m. on the last weekday before the beginning of spring recess. Extensions are granted only under the most extreme circumstances.


The thesis should be submitted in PDF format via email to both the Head Tutor and the Assistant Head Tutor. No hard copy is required for submission.

Once grades have been assigned, any thesis receiving a Summa or Magna grade must be printed and given to the Assistant Head Tutor for submission to the Harvard Archives. The thesis should be printed one-sided on 8½” x 11” paper that is acid-free, alkaline-buffered, and durable (available at any office supply or print/copy services store). The left margin should be set at 1.5 inches and the right, top, and bottom margins should be set at one inch. The thesis must be unbound.


The thesis should be roughly 50-70 pages. Although many students find it more difficult to produce a coherent, concise study than a longer, less carefully-edited version, the former is strongly encouraged.


Please use footnotes (rather than endnotes) if possible.


The thesis should include the following:

  • Title Page
  • Acknowledgements (optional)
  • Table of Contents: A list of the names of chapters with the appropriate page numbers.
  • Abstract: A one-page synopsis of the problem addressed, providing the context of the research as well as the conclusion and possible implications.
  • Footnotes
  • References: A list of reference materials utilized in the researching and writing of the thesis

For formatting, follow the Language style sheet.


Title each section and subsection (if applicable). At the beginning of each major discussion, tell the reader what the section is about. Examples that illustrate your description, as well as derivations that illustrate your analysis, are extremely useful; often a single example can be clearer than pages of difficult exposition. Number the examples. Give titles to formal rules (“Rule 51” does not provide the reader with much information when it is referred to 20 pages later), and when you give a formal rule, always give an informal prose description as well. Tables to organize results are also very useful.

Evaluation of Honors Theses

Each thesis is evaluated by three faculty readers, including the primary thesis advisor. If students have received substantial supervision or advice from scholars other than their advisors, they should inform the Head Tutor so that these scholars can be considered for inclusion on the committee of readers. Responsibility for the appointment of the committee, however, rests with the Head Tutor’s Office. Honors theses are graded by the Department on the following scale: Summa, Summa-, Magna+, Magna, Magna-, Cum+, Cum, No Credit.

General guidelines for a Summa

A Summa thesis should be both original/creative and technically superb. It is generally equivalent to or better than what one would expect from an M.A. thesis.

General guidelines for a Magna

A Magna thesis should be a solid piece of work although it may lack somewhat in originality. Magnas have sometimes been awarded because the thesis clearly reflects an enormous amount of work, even though the results may be somewhat disappointing. A Magna generally corresponds to an A/A-, while a Summa corresponds to an A+.