Earn Honors in Philosophy

Students majoring in philosophy have the opportunity to graduate with honors in the major. In order to be admitted to the departmental honors program, a student must have taken and passed three courses required for the philosophy major. In order to graduate with honors in the philosophy major, a student must: 

  1. Complete the regular requirements for the major with a grade-point average (GPA) of at least 3.40 in philosophy courses
  2. Write an honors thesis under the direction of a faculty member

The honors thesis is a more in-depth research paper than one you might write as a final paper for a course or seminar, and the topic and advisor depend on your philosophical interests. Your first step in preparing to write the thesis is to consider the area or topic and possible advisor for your thesis, and to talk with that faculty member. Typically the student will settle on the advisor and topic sometime in their junior year and will often be working on it over the summer before senior year after discussion with the advisor on a research and writing plan. Our faculty have a broad range of backgrounds that can accommodate almost any student’s interests.

To earn thesis-related credit while working on the thesis, the student registers for PHIL:3950 Readings in Philosophy, choosing their honors thesis advisor as the Instructor for the course. This is for 3 credits and typically will be taken twice. Often this is both semesters in senior year or occasionally second semester junior/first semester senior year.

The department also requires that the student defend the honors thesis before a committee. This should be discussed with the advisor in terms of committee membership and a target time interval for scheduling the defense.

Note that honors in the major is distinct from university honors. You can do either one independently, or both. However, the honors thesis counts towards university honors as writing the thesis satisfies the 12 “experiential learning” credits required for university honors.

Honors in the Major Official Defense Form (pdf)


This is a picture of Carrie Figdor

Carrie Figdor

Director of Undergraduate Studies

University of Iowa Honors Program

In addition to honors in the major, students may pursue honors study and activities through membership in the University of Iowa Honors Program. University honors students must maintain a 3.33 grade-point average, complete 12 semester hours of coursework designated as honors courses, and complete 12 semester hours of an experiential learning project. Visit Honors at Iowa to learn about the university's honors program.

NOTE: Membership in the UI Honors Program is not required to earn honors in the major.