Honors Program

Graduating with Departmental Honors in Chinese or Japanese

Qualified EALL majors are encouraged to enroll in the departmental honors program, consisting of one additional credit of research leading to a thesis or an equivalent summative project. The honors program aims to develop high-level skills of analysis, argument, and expression through the preparation of individual research projects using primary materials and materials delivered in the target language.

Instead of a thesis, the project may consist of another comparable type of intellectual or creative product that synthesizes language and culture skills, and other knowledge about culture and history of the target area. It may be approved on a case by case basis. Possible creative or interpretive projects may include, but not limited to, developing a translation from Japanese or Chinese into English with critical summary, video production, or other forms of creative expression that provide evidence that the student has acquired competent knowledge of the language, culture, and history.

Admission to the Honors Program

Admission to the honors program is based on the evaluation of the following criteria: an overall QPA of 3.5 or above in the major, a QPA of 3.0 overall, and a submission of a 500-word proposal to the mentoring faculty by May 31 of the year prior to graduation. The proposal should describe the nature of the project, the thesis (or the creative content), the methodology proposed to achieve the goal, a bibliography, a schedule, and anticipated intellectual gain of the final project. If approved by the mentoring faculty, the student will work together with the faculty member to devise a plan of the project, such as developing a suitable bibliography, making a schedule for completion, doing background reading or investigation, and so on, during the summer months. Any full-time EALL faculty may serve as the mentoring faculty.

Once the proposal is approved and the student is admitted to the honors program, honors students must identify and select thesis defense committee members (two, in addition to the mentoring faculty member) within two weeks.

Fall term

During the fall term, the student will enroll in CHIN/JPNSE 1901 Independent Study as appropriate for one credit under the faculty mentor. The student will meet the supervising faculty regularly to develop and implement the plan for the final project. The student will continue to read in the topic area, develop the outline of the thesis, and work on such areas as framing the thesis, argumentation, finding and using appropriate evidence, and drawing conclusions.

Spring term

In the spring term, the student will enroll in a capstone course as appropriate (CHIN 1999 or JPNSE 1999) and continue to work on the project, with the guidance of the original mentoring faculty and the capstone faculty. The student will develop a final paper containing original research that is 40 to 50 pages long, demonstrating familiarity with the literature, the ability to read in the target language (such as using non-trivial target language sources), the ability to use documents and other forms of primary evidence, a high level of writing skills, and the ability to construct a complex argument. The final product for an original or creative endeavor will be determined on the case by case basis.

The student will make a public presentation to present the findings (or the creative content) and will orally defend the thesis before a committee of the supervising faculty and two other faculty members. The student must provide the committee with the draft of the thesis at least two weeks prior to the defense. The defense must be held at least one week prior to the submission deadline for capstone project final papers. The student must earn a grade of B or better in the capstone course to graduate with honors.

Language Proficiency

In addition to the above-mentioned requirements, the student must show competence in both speaking and reading skills in the appropriate language. The student should arrange for an assessment of oral language proficiency, e.g., an advisory or official OPI test for speaking. The student must have shown to have a minimum proficiency of Intermediate Mid for Japanese honor students and Advanced Low for Chinese honor students to graduate with honors. In addition, the student must show competence in reading by taking a test administered by the department and earn a passing grade.


The timeline for departmental honors may not be changed because the capstone course is offered only in the spring term. Rare exceptions may be granted by the Department.

BPhil Students

Students who complete a BPhil (https://www.frederickhonors.pitt.edu/bphil) may use their BPhil honors thesis in lieu of a Departmental Honors thesis, and use the BPhil defense in lieu of an EALL honors thesis defense, provided that the mentoring EALL faculty member is a member of the BPhil Defense Committee. BPhil students are still required to present their thesis at REALL DEALL.

Past Honors Students and Their Thesis Titles

April 2022

Austin Rosenkrans, "Addressing the Problem of Pitch: The Efficacy of Voice Recordings on Pitch Accent and Pronunciation in JFL Learners" (Supervised by Stephen Luft)

April 2021

Esther Lui, "Telling the China Story: Roots of Tianxia Discourse in River Elegy” (Supervised by Kun Qian)

December 2020

Brett Mohar, "Improving Japanese-English Translation: Concrete Solutions for Translating Mimetic Expressions, Culturally Specific Items, and Other Issues, with an English Translation of Otsuichi’s Shortstory 'Yuko'" (Supervised by Hiroshi Nara)

April 2019

Brandon Yee, "Chinese Character Acquisition among Chinese as a Foreign Language Learners: Teaching and Learning Strategies and the Implications of Orthographic and Morphological Awareness with Visual Chunking and Radical Awareness" (Supervised by Yi Xu)

Grace Chilson, "Subtitling as an Imperfect Art: Issues in Translating the Language of Kimi no Na wa" (Supervised by Elizabeth Oyler)