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Senior Theses and Honors

Conducting original research is central to the field of Anthropology. By undertaking original research in Anthropology students develop core skills in critical thinking, research, and written and oral communication. These skills, rooted in the holistic discipline of Anthropology, are widely applicable regardless of your career choice.

Original research for the Senior Thesis may be based on library, laboratory, or field research on a topic that the student has chosen in consultation with their faculty adviser. The Senior Thesis is an opportunity for students to explore a topic of their interest in Anthropology.

Majors with an interest in pursuing original research in anthropology during their senior year identify a thesis topic and advisor during their junior year and submit an application to write a senior thesis to the Honors Coordinator by spring of junior year. The thesis requires:

398 may be counted toward the 300-level requirements for the major. 399 is in addition to the 300-level requirements for the major

Honors in Anthropology

Students interested in pursuing honors in Anthropology are required to (1) prepare a 1-2 page project proposal and (2) secure a project advisor during their junior year. The proposal and an email from the advisor attesting to their work with the student should be sent to the Honors Coordinator, Prof. Erin Waxenbaum (, by July 1 of the student’s junior year.

Students who write a thesis and whose theses and grades meet university criteria are recommended to the college for graduation with honors.
Eligibility for honors includes:

Honors and awards

Students who prepare an outstanding honors thesis will be nominated for honors in anthropology to the Weinberg College Committee on Undergraduate Academic Excellence, which has the final authority to grant the honors degree. All students writing an honors thesis are also eligible for following departmental awards:

This prize honors Professor Emeritus Oswald Werner’s research, teaching, fieldwork training and administrative contributions. He was a faculty member for 35 years, a department chair, founder, and director of the Northwestern University Ethnographic Field School, and an ardent supporter of undergraduate research.

This prize recognizes outstanding research that matters to the communities in which the researcher works, addressing important social issues and helping to foster change. The award was established in 2005 with funding from the "Friends of Anthropology at Northwestern" (FAN) Alumni Group.

This prize honors the life and legacy of Professor Elizabeth Brumfiel (1945-2012). Professor Brumfiel was a leading scholar of Aztec archaeology who brought the study of social and economic inequality to the forefront of archaeological research. She was on the NU Anthropology faculty from 2003 to 2012 and served as the President of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) from 2003-2005.  This award was established in her memory in 2012. 

See a list of award-winners who have won scholarships and other prizes.

The Honors Coordinator for Anthropology is:
Prof. Erin Waxenbaum