Research Project

Research Project
Image courtesy of Alexis Nicholson.

NELC majors are required to elaborate a substantial Research Project during their fourth year. In most cases, students choose to write a BA thesis, in the form of an original academic essay of approximately 30-50 pages. Upon agreement with instructors and the DUS, the NELC Major Research Project also allows for less traditional forms of knowledge production, such as (but not exclusively limited to) artistic expressions supported by a research question, various forms of research-oriented endeavors using computational methods (including Geographic Information Systems), etc. The BA paper can be used in graduate school applications, or as part of job application portfolios. Recent NELC graduates have been able to publish their papers, or deliver versions of their work at conferences.

Timeline

The process of declaring a paper topic and choosing an adviser begins in the third year. The timeline below assumes a Spring Quarter graduation. Students who expect to graduate in other quarters should consult the Director of Undergraduate Studies.

Year 3: Spring Quarter

NELC majors in their third year should discuss possible topics for their Research Project with NELC faculty members with whom they have worked or who have expertise in their topic. This may grow out of a paper written from a course or may be an entirely new project.

After choosing a topic and narrowing down its focus, students are responsible to request a member of the NELC faculty to serve as their research adviser, who will help them further conceive the scope and aims of the project and provide guidance about methods and sources for carrying out their research.

Students must formally file the Research Topic Registration Form [HR1] with their faculty adviser’s signature with the NELC department office before the end of their third year (by Monday of tenth week of Spring Quarter).

Students are encouraged to begin the reading/research for the BA Paper in the summer before their fourth year. There are also funding opportunities for travel and research. 

Year 4: Autumn Quarter

Students are required to register with the Director of Undergraduate Studies for the Research Colloquium (NEHC 29899) in Autumn Quarter of their fourth year on a P/F basis. The Research Colloquium is a workshop course designed to survey the fields represented by NELC and to assist students in researching and finalizing their Research Projects. The course is run by a BA preceptors, typically an advanced PhD students in NELC. Preceptors work closely with students and their faculty advisers to assist in all aspects of conceiving, researching, and writing the paper. A passing grade (P) for the Research Colloquium depends on full attendance and participation throughout the quarter.

Year 4: Winter Quarter

NELC majors are strongly encouraged to register with the Director of Undergraduate Studies for the optional one-quarter independent study Research Project (NEHC 29995) that will allow time in their schedules over Winter Quarter to write and revise their projects under the guidance of their BA preceptor. Students will receive a quality grade for this course, equivalent to the final grade for their Research Project, reported in the Spring Quarter.

Year 4: Spring Quarter

The completed Research Project must be submitted to the NELC Office by Monday of third week in Spring Quarter. For theses, students should submit two bound hard copies and one pdf of the paper; for digital projects and other non-traditional projects, students are responsible to discuss in advance with their faculty adviser and the Department Administrator the format under which their work should be submitted. The Department Administrator will distribute the Research Projects to the faculty adviser. Students who fail to meet the deadline will not be eligible for honors and may not be able to graduate in that quarter.

The faculty adviser will grade the Project and submit grades and honors recommendations to the Director of Undergraduate Studies by Monday of fifth week in Spring Quarter.

The DUS will submit papers to be considered for Honors to the Humanities Collegiate Division Master with a letter of support.

Students have the option of publishing their paper on the NELC website.

Double Majors

Students intending to double major may, with the permission of the NELC Director of Undergraduate Studies, write a single Research Project that is designed to meet the requirements of both majors, provided that the faculty research adviser is a member of the NELC faculty. Students who wish to work with a faculty research adviser outside of NELC should consult with the Director of Graduate Studies and petition the Department in order to do so.

Approval from the Directors of Undergraduate Studies of both programs is required. A consent form, to be signed by the Directors of Undergraduate Studies, is available from the College adviser. It must be completed and returned to the College adviser by the end of Autumn Quarter of the student’s year of graduation.

Research Funding

Students are encouraged to begin the reading and research for their Research Project in the summer before their fourth year. Research grants are available to undergraduates. Please discuss the availability of grants with the Department Administrator and/or Director of Undergraduate Studies early in the third year and visit the department website for updated information.

NELC is a participant in the PRISM program and majors are encouraged to apply for PRISM grants.

The Justin Palmer Prize

The department awards the Justin Palmer Prize annually to the Research project judged to be the most outstanding. The Director of Undergraduate Studies makes this determination in consultation with the Department Chair and faculty members. This monetary prize is made possible by a generous gift from the family of Justin Palmer, AB’04, who completed a minor in NELC. Past winners of the Justin Palmer Prize include:

  • 2019 Zachary Spitz
  • 2018 Darren Wan Jian Yong
  • 2017 Rivka Baker Keusch
  • 2016 Nicholas Posegay
  • 2015 Jane Gordon
  • 2014 Paige Paulsen
  • 2013 Joanna Derman
  • 2012 Matti Emily Barzilai
  • 2011 Michelle Quay
  • 2010 Benjamin Halbig
  • 2009 Jessica Marie Dragon
  • 2008 Rachel Elizabeth Lev
  • 2007 Austin O’Malley


NELC Majors are also encouraged to apply to the Center for Middle Eastern Studies for its Undergraduate Essay prize. This prize is awarded for (1) the best term/course paper and (2) the best BA Thesis written by a student in any department at the University of Chicago on a topic focused on the Near East/Middle East. 

Recent Research Projects

2018-2019

Leyla Abdella,Cultural and Political Responses to Contemporary Increased Censorship in Ethiopia (Adviser: Orit Bashkin)

Eric Aupperle, Prisons, Prisoners, and Outlaws in UR III Society and Economy (Adviser: Christopher Woods)

Gabriel Davis, FALLOUT: Morocco, the OAU, Algeria, and the Crisis of Western Sahara (Adviser: Orit Bashkin)

Averell Jones, Al-Talib: Recorded music by Averell Jones (Adviser: Lakhdar Choudar)

Tristan Kitch, Lost and Found: The Appearance of the Ottoman Past in Modern Turkish Policymaking (Adviser: Kağan Arık)

Meredith Mackall, Community, Individuality, and Respect: Using Best Practices in Refugee Resettlement to Analyze Sirat

Chicago’s Methods of Syrian Refugee Resettlement (Adviser: Ghenwa Hayek)

Sarah McKissock, Thirty-One Beautiful Green Trees: A new translation and analysis (Advisers: Kay Heikkinen and Noha Forster)

James McLellan, Crossing The Bridge: Reading We Crossed A Bridge And It Trembled: Voices From Syria as a Humanizing Text  (Adviser: Ghenwa Hayek)

Daniel Morrison, New Analyses of Iranian Revolutionary Art (Adviser: Alireza Doostdar)

Elliette Oliver, "Provinicial" Egypt: An analysis of Mortuary Evidence from the Naga Ed-Deir Cemeteries (Adviser: Nadine Moeller)

William Patterson  "Shaping Mandatory Iraq: Reexamining the Mosul Question and the role played by British oil interests in the creation of Iraq’s northern frontier" (Adviser: Orit Bashkin)

Olivia Rosenzweig, Explaining the Construction of Middle Eastern Jewish Identity: An Analysis of Three Exceptional Women in Modern History (Adviser: Orit Bashkin)

Zachary Spitz, “We Should Employ the Same Weapons as Our Opponents”: The Origins of Zionist Eugenics, 1900–1940 (Adviser: Orit Bashkin)

Sarah Wang, Nativist “Universalism”: Syrian Refugees and the EU’s Exclusionary Human Rights (Adviser: Orit Bashkin)

Andrea Yener, Twitter content trends are not associated with political uprisings in the Middle East (Adviser: Ghenwa Hayek)

2017-2018

Musaab Bashir, Apostasy and Religious Freedom: Examining the Role of Islamic Law under the Sudanese Legal System (Advisor: Fred Donner)

Jesse Claflin, Democractic Confederalism in Northern Syria: An Opportunity to Investigate the Tension between the Nation-State and Democracy (Adviser: Orit Bashkin)

Sam Hoffman, Komplo: An investigation of the cultural and political significance of conspiracy theories in the Republic of Turkey (Adviser: Orit Bashkin)

Theo Knights, The Bare Life of the Dersimli: Otuz Sekiz as a Laboratory for the Turkish State of Exception (Adviser: John Woods)

Katherine McFarlin, Making Her Count: Seshat and the Professionalization of Scribal Duties (Adviser: Janet Johnson)

Andrew Mines, Generating State Authority Through Spectacles of Violence: Mapping ISIS's Video Propaganda Strategy (Adviser: John Woods)

Lauren Poulson, The Archaeological Project in the Republic of Turkey: From Ataturk to Erdogan (Adviser: James Osborne)

Julia Ullman, What makes one Haggadoh different from all other Haggadot? (Adviser: Simeon Chavel)

Darren Wan Jian Yong, Learning to Read Persian after the Persianate: The Politics and Poetics of Classicism in Colonial Bombay, 1870–1900 (Adviser: John Woods)

Houze Wang, The Myth of the Jamalī Sultans:The façade and the interior of late Fatimid statecraft, ca. 1073-1131 (Adviser: Paul Walker)

2016-2017

Olivia Adams, A mission of justice,” a Charismatic Authority: An analysis of Amina Wadud, scholar-activism, and Islam’s crisis of authority (Adviser: Ahmed El Shamsy)

Rivka Baker Keusch, Erasing The Green Line with Green Paper: How Jewish Federations Fund Israeli Settlements in the West Bank (Adviser: Orit Bashkin)

Elysa Bryen, Between Two Countries : How International Interests Fracture the Arab and Chaldean American Communities in Metro-Detroit (Adviser: John Woods)

Rolland Long, The Social Organization of the Libyans in Third Intermediate Period Egypt (Adviser: Nadine Moeller)

Abdurrahman Muhammad, al-Muqaddima al-Waghlīsiyya: A Translation Project (Adviser: Ahmed El Shamsy)

Cara Piraino, "Omanis being Omanis, there aren’t going to be any problems": Youth in Muscat and the Aging Renaissance (Adviser: Ahmed El Shamsy)

Brooke Provinchain, Navigating the National: Understanding the Intentions of the Jordanian Olympic Committee Under the Hashemite Monarchy (Adviser: Ahmed El Shamsy)

Michael Siedlecki, The Networks of the Kassite Brewers of Ur (Adviser: Susanne Paulus)

Amelia Soth, The Author as Murderer in Hassan Blasim’s The Corpse Exhibition: Towards a New Tradition of Writing about Violence (Adviser: Ghenwa Hayek)

2015-2016

Maverick Blanton, Colonizing the Classroom: French Language Education in the Moroccan Protectorate (Adviser: Ahmed El Shamsy)

Antonio Cruz-Uribe, Talking to the Gods; Divine Communication and the Hittites (Adviser: Theo van den Hout)

Michael Goodyear, Minority and Imperial Policy: The Armenians in the Byzantine World, 867-1071 (Adviser: Walter Kaegi, History/The Oriental Institute)

Hoda Katebi, Now Trending: The Politics of Fashion in Modern-Day Iran (Adviser: Alireza Doostdar, The Divinity School)

Jade Kreuger, The Gendering of Transitional Justice: A Critical Analysis of the Progression of Women's Rights in Lebanon and its Implications (Adviser: Ghenwa Hayek)

Clay Olsen, Conspiracy Theory, Conspiracy Fact: Defining the Deep State (Adviser: Ahmed El Shamsy)

Nicholas Posegay, To Belabor the Points:The Influence of Arabic on Babylonian Hebrew Vocalization (Adviser: Fred Donner)

Tyler Roeder, The Lives of Scholars in the Neo-Assyrian State Bureaucracy (Adviser: John Wee)

Joshua Silver, Determining How to Teach Arabic Amid Conflicting Perspectives: An Investigation into the History, Methodologies, and Dialects Used in the Arabic Language Classroom in America (Adviser: Noha Forster)

Michael Viola, Beyond the Amarna Letters:Realism’s Implications for the Foreign Policy of the Egyptian New Kingdom (Adviser: Brian Muhs)