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Senior Essay Guidelines

A senior essay is required in one of the three options within the Near Eastern Studies major, Comparative Civilizations. It is an option in the other degree options to fulfill graduation requirements. The essay is normally written during the student's senior year to gain experience in researching and writing a major paper.


First the student must seek a faculty member to be a supervisor for the senior essay. The supervisor must be a regular faculty member in MELC, a Teaching Professor with a Ph.D., or a faculty member with an adjunct appointment in MELC. The faculty page of the MELC website lists the possible supervisors. Ideally, a student should work with a professor whose classes the student has taken and whose area of research interests the student. Students should seek out faculty early (quarters ahead) to secure a supervisor and to begin talking about a direction for the essay.

Essay Topic

The essay topic must fall within the areas of research of the supervising professor. This may mean that the student will have to alter or change the topic idea depending on who ends up as the supervising professor. Completing supervised readings prior to the senior essay quarter assists in narrowing and settling on a topic that is both of interest to the student and within the faculty supervisor's field of research.

The essay can be a new topic on which the student has never written, or it can be a topic inspired by a paper that the student has written for an earlier course. However, the senior essay must be more than a modest revision of an earlier paper. If developed from an earlier essay or research paper, the senior essay must represent significant new work and development beyond the earlier product. A copy of any earlier paper that provided the inspiration for the senior essay must be turned in with the senior essay.

Preparatory Readings/Research

The student is strongly advised to enroll in NEAR E 490 (Supervised Study) or NEAR E 499 (Undergraduate Research) prior to writing the essay to best prepare to write the essay. These studies must be contracted with a faculty member as well.


During the quarter in which the essay will be written, the student will enroll in NEAR E 498 for 5 credits with the faculty supervisor. To enroll in the course, the student and supervisor must fill out a Senior Essay Form. The form should indicate all the agreed-upon requirements* (see below) and be signed by both the student and the faculty supervisor. The completed form should be submitted to the NELC main office in Denny Hall, Room 220 or emailed to MELC staff will forward the student's information to Humanities Academic Services who will enter the registration for the appropriate credits.

The supervisor and student must agree in writing on:

  1.  a topic and methodology to be followed when writing the essay
  2. a regular meeting schedule, during the senior essay quarter
  3. style format (MLA, Chicago, etc.)
  4. essay length
  5. the due date for the final version of the essay

The essay should be between 20-30 pages in length. However, the required length can vary based on whether research is completed in translation or from the original text. Students should check with their faculty supervisor. If a student is completing an Honors thesis in place of the Senior Essay, then the requirements should be significantly greater, as determined by the supervising professor.

The senior essay must go through at least one rewriting. A first draft must be submitted to the faculty supervisor for comment and correction no later than three weeks before the agreed upon due date for the final version.

A copy of the final version of the paper must be submitted to the MELC main office to be kept in the collection of senior essays. Reference to authorship can be eliminated if requested.

Senior Essay Guidelines and Approval Form (PDF)