Middle East Studies

Pursuing an Honors Thesis in MES

Honors in Middle East Studies

Students may graduate with honors in Middle East Studies by completing an undergraduate honors thesis under the supervision of a primary reader drawn from the Middle East Studies faculty and one additional reader from the Brown or Brown-affiliated faculty. Honors theses are substantial research projects driven by a deep interest in engaging with a selected topic of study. They require a time commitment and coordination between the thesis writer, thesis advisors, and the Director of Undergraduate Studies (DUS) to ensure completion.
Students must declare their intentions to pursue honors by the last day of exam period of their junior year by submitting a thesis prospectus and Capstone Proposal Form to the DUS.
Students must designate a second reader by September 28 of the senior year (or March 1 for mid-year students) and faculty must confirm their willingness to serve in this capacity by sending an email to the DUS. 


To be eligible for honors, students will have earned an ‘A’ (or 'S' with distinction)  in the majority of courses for the concentration. It is expected that honors students will have taken the “Approaches to Middle East Studies” seminar, typically no later than the fall semester of their junior year. Upon acceptance into honors, students may apply for funding from MES to pursue fieldwork relating to their honors thesis project. For more information, see the Funding section of the MES website.

Two semesters of thesis writing, the first in a thesis writing workshop (MES 1971) supervised by the DUS or other MES faculty, followed by a second semester of Independent Study (MES 1970) to complete the thesis under the guidance of the thesis advisor.

Pursuing Honors Candidacy

  • Consult with the DUS regarding requirements, expectations, and supervision
  • Secure faculty advisors (see above) who can commit to supervising your thesis throughout your senior year (it is the student’s responsibility to ensure faculty are not on leave and, if so, that they are committed to continuing to supervise their honors work).
  • Prepare a thesis prospectus.
  • Submit the prospectus to potential advisor(s) and DUS for evaluation of the project.

Thesis Prospectus Guidelines

The thesis prospectus is typically 10–15 pages in length and is due on April 22 of your junior year and for mid-year students, by November 29 of your junior year. A thesis prospectus should include: 

  • Thesis proposal
  • Research plan, including confirmed and potential thesis advisors
  • Proposed thesis outline and chapter/section description
  • A literature review of several pages and an initial bibliography. The bibliography will typically consist of 20-30 primary and secondary sources.

The History Department’s Prospectus Writing Tips is an instructive guide to follow.

Please visit Brown University’s Academic Code page for further guidance on academic norms and integrity.  

Thesis Submission

The final thesis is due by 4 pm ET on April 13 of the spring semester of the senior year (or November 18 for mid-year students). Students are expected to submit a final product to both of their advisors and the DUS by this deadline, and to upload a copy to the Brown Digital Depository; students should email bdr@brown.edu if their department isn’t yet listed on the menu. Thesis advisors must submit Capstone Evaluation Forms to the DUS by April 20 (November 25 for mid-year students). Submitting a thesis by the deadline is essential in order to give advisors, the DUS, and departmental administrators time to read and evaluate the thesis to recommend the student for honors to the CCC by the first Friday of May of the senior year. 

For Thesis Advisors

A thesis project is evaluated by two faculty advisors, one of whom must be an MES or MES-affiliated faculty member. Faculty are expected to engage and evaluate the student’s progress throughout their senior year. If any issues arise, it is imperative that faculty members communicate all potential conflicts with the DUS. Thesis advisors must submit Capstone Evaluation Forms to the DUS by April 20 (November 25 for mid-year students). 

Thesis Writing Guidelines

Middle East Studies theses should be formatted according to the following guidelines:


Title Page (required)

Center the following material on the page:

[Thesis Title]
[Your Name]
Thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Bachelors of Arts
in the Middle East Studies program.
Thesis Advisor: [Advisor’s Name]
[Submission Date]

Abstract Page (required)

  • The abstract should be 300–500 words long and should describe the argument, structure, and contribution of the thesis.
  • You must include index words which are related to the topic and which can be used to find the document when searching the library’s databases. The maximum word count does not include index words. See sample thesis pages for an example.
  • The abstract and index words must fit on one page. Single space if necessary.
  • The abstract page is not counted in page numbering.
  • Abstract paragraphs should be indented. 

Dedication Page (optional)

  • This page and all front matter pages hereafter are numbered with lowercase Roman numerals.
  • The Dedication Page is NOT listed in the Table of Contents.
  • Indent Dedications paragraphs. 

Acknowledgements Page (optional)

  • List the Acknowledgements page in the Table of Contents.
  • Indent Acknowledgements paragraphs.

Table of Contents (required)

  • All pages before the actual thesis itself should be labeled using lowercase Roman numerals (i, ii, iii), while pages within the thesis should be labeled using Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3)
  • Don’t include the dedication in the Table of Contents.
  • Keep Table of Contents consistent. Each major heading should be in all caps and to the left side. Sub-headings should be in upper and lower cases and indented.
  • All entries in the Table of Contents must match their entries in the main text of your thesis, including wording, capitalization, and page numbers.
  • Change page numbers throughout the work to be consistent, especially after formatting changes are made. Make sure such changes are also reflected in the Table of Contents.
  • If your thesis has tables and/or figures, they must be listed within the Table of Contents.

List of Tables (optional)

  • If present, it must be listed in the Table of Contents.
  • Entries must match the caption in the text and include page numbers.

List of Figures (optional)

  • If present, it must be listed in the Table of Contents.
  • Entries must match the caption in the text and include page numbers.


  • Begin each major section on a new page.
  • Headings must be consistent with the Table of Contents.
  • The last line of a paragraph should never begin a new page. There must be at least two full lines of text in a new paragraph in order to avoid moving the text to the next page. Move the whole paragraph to the next page. Many word processing programs can be set to prevent parts of sentences or paragraphs from becoming isolated on the next page (these are called “widows” or “orphans”).
  • Citations should appear in footnotes (not endnotes) and must adhere to Chicago Style.
  • The body of the thesis must be double-spaced throughout; single spacing is permitted, but optional, in the following text:
    • Footnotes
    • Block quotations
    • Table and figures and their captions
    • Bibliography entries (if single spaced, double space between entries)

Table and Figures

  • Figure descriptions should be written directly below the corresponding drawing.
  • Table captions are always written above the table.
  • As noted on the Graduate School website, figures and tables must be uniquely
    numbered in either of the following manners:
    • Consecutive numbering throughout the thesis
    • Combination chapter and figure/table number designation (i.e., Figure 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, etc.)
  • A figure or table may be:
    • Embedded in the text
    • Placed on a separate page following the text in which it is cited
    • At the end of its respective chapter

Works Cited Page

  • Be sure to label the Works Cited page as such. It needs a heading, just like other
    major sections in the thesis.
  • Be sure to include a line space between each entry in the Works Cited.
  • Citations must adhere to Chicago Style.

Fonts and Margins

  • 12 point, double-spaced, Times New Roman
  • Footer: 10 point
  • The left and right margins must be 1 inch for all pages.
  • The first page of the front matter sections and main body sections (with the exception of the copyright page) must have a top margin of 1.75 inches. The top margin of all subsequent pages of each section must have a top margin of 1 inch. For example, the top margin of the first Table of Contents page is 1.75 inches, and the second Table of Contents page is 1 inch; the top margin of the first page of Chapter 1 is 1.75 inches, and the second page of Chapter 1 is 1 inch.
  • To achieve a 1.75 inch top margin on a single page, set all margins at 1 inch for the whole document. Then start typing four lines down from the top of the page. (In a double-spaced document, you would hit the Enter key twice.)
  • Center relative to the text area, i.e., within the margins, not the page edge.

Page Numbers

  • No page prior to the Dedication Page should be numbered.
  • Placement of page numbers should be consistent throughout the thesis.
  • Make page numbering and formatting easier! Create three separate Word documents for your thesis. One should contain pages on which numbers do not appear (Abstract, Title Page, Signature Page, Copyright Page), one should contain pages on which Roman numerals appear, and the third should contain pages on which Arabic numerals appear. Convert these three documents to PDF and then combine them into one PDF file.