To become a candidate for graduation with distinction in philosophy, a student must satisfy the major requirements and must satisfy the further requirements of either the Thesis option or the Coursework option. If a candidate has satisfied both sets of requirements, the student will graduate with whichever is the highest level of distinction earned.


THESIS: Requires 35 hours of philosophy courses (including Phil 492 and 4 other courses at the 300 level or above), a GPA of 3.5 in all philosophy courses, and a written thesis with a grade of A- or above.

Students wishing to pursue this option must have at least a 3.5 GPA in all philosophy courses to begin thesis work, though students may petition the Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Department of Philosophy for an exemption. In order to earn distinction for thesis work, the student must graduate with at least a 3.5 GPA. The student should first approach a potential thesis adviser from one of the department’s professors, associate professors, or assistant professors. This should be someone with whom the student already has a working relationship (typically through coursework). The student should have a preliminary idea of the sort of thesis research he or she would like to conduct. If the professor expresses a preliminary willingness to advise the thesis, the student should prepare a Plan for Thesis Work. The Plan should be 600-800 words. It should include the following information:

  • A tentative project title
  • The name of the proposed thesis adviser
  • The primary area of philosophy (e.g., political philosophy, metaphysics, philosophy of mind, etc.) the project will concern and the particular discussions it will engage
  • A lucid statement of the central claim(s) that the project will defend (bearing in mind that this may change during the course of the project)
  • An overview of the kind of research that will be completed and, as far as they are known, the arguments and considerations that the student hopes to marshal in support of the central claim(s).

The student should submit the Plan for Thesis Work to both the Director of Undergraduate Studies and the proposed adviser. If both approve of the Plan for Thesis Work, the student should register for thesis work (Phil 492) with the selected adviser and meet with that adviser to set up a research schedule. Thesis projects are usually in the 25-30 page range, and occasionally take two semesters to complete. When the thesis adviser decides that the thesis is ready for defense, the department chairperson will appoint a committee of two members of the department (including the thesis adviser). The committee will judge the project’s quality, originality, and impact and assign a grade (which may be different from the grade the student’s thesis adviser assigns for thesis coursework). If the thesis earns a grade of A- or above, distinction will be award as follows:

Thesis Grade A- Distinction
Thesis Grade A High Distinction
Thesis Grade A+ Highest Distinction

As a rough guideline, High Distinction is awarded when committee members feel that the work is of high enough quality that the student should be encouraged to pursue graduate study in philosophy. Highest Distinction is where the work is of such high quality that it would be a shame if the student did not pursue graduate study. Distinction is where the work is of high quality, though not so high as to clearly evidence potential for graduate study.

COURSE WORK: 38 hours of philosophy courses (including eight courses at the 300 level or above) and a 3.5 GPA in all philosophy courses.

The level of distinction will be determined by the Director of Undergraduate Studies on the basis of the student’s Philosophy GPA in the following manner:

GPA 3.5 - 3.69 Distinction
GPA 3.7 – 3.89 High Distinction
GPA 3.9 – 4.0 Highest Distinction