School of Humanities

Honours in Classics and Ancient History

Further information


Staff/Student Research Seminars


Faculty Honours Policy

Information on:

Honours programs are available to both full-time and part-time students. UWA general policy on admission into Honours, and on the structure and assessment of honours programs, is available here.

Honours programs in Classics and Ancient History at UWA follow the undergraduate major and offer flexibility to match the interests of individual students while requiring some knowledge of at least one ancient language and a basic knowledge of the history of the Classical world.

There follow some key points, plus the assessment guidelines, for the Honours courses in Classics and Ancient History.

  1. Prerequisites
  2. Honours co-ordinator
  3. Structure
  4. Supervision
  5. Assessment
  6. Criteria
  7. Notes


To see the current entry requirements for Honours in Classics and Ancient History please refer to the Honours specialisations on the Future Students Website.

If you do not meet the standard requirements you may apply for admission to honours, but will need to make a special case.

Students intending to take a seminar in Latin or Greek are required to have completed four units in the relevant language and are strongly advised to have completed some units of the other language as well.


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Honours Co-ordinator

The Honours Co-ordinator is Dr Lara O'Sullivan, who is available to assist you in deciding whether to apply for acceptance as an Honours student. You should arrange to talk with her in the first half of the semester before you wish to begin your Honours programme. She will discuss with you such matters as possible honours seminars and an appropriate supervisor for your dissertation. Final arrangements will be confirmed in writing before you formally begin your honours programme.

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For all students, whether specialising in Ancient History or the Classical Languages, the same basic pattern applies. The course is divided into three essential components, including a combination of coursework seminars, a dissertation, and both core and elective seminars. These all combine to make a total of 48 points:

Honours dissertation (24 points)
CLAN4140 Dissertation 1 (12 points)
CLAN4141 Dissertation 2 (12 points)

Core seminars (12 points) take BOTH
CLAN4101 Researching the Classical World 1: Problems & Resources
CLAN4102 Researching the Classical World 2: The Research Seminar in Practice

Elective seminars (12 points) take two of:
CLAN4103 Ancient Greek Language and Literature
CLAN4104 Latin Language and Literature
CLAN4105 Literature, Narrative, History
CLAN4106 Material Culture

The Honours dissertation is a major research task. It is a piece of formally written work usually between 12 and 18,000 words in length, and is intended to show your mastery of the conventions of scholarship in this area. You will be assigned a supervisor at the beginning of your course, and in consultation with him or her, you will define the topic in the first half of your enrolment in the first dissertation unit. You will divide the topic into chapters (usually three or four) and meet regularly (usually fortnightly) to discuss progress. The supervisor will read drafts, and ensure that the first chapter is acceptable in format, adequately referenced and bibliographically competent. The latter part of the dissertation will be more the responsibility of the student, although the supervisor will normally have read and commented on the entire work. It is not expected that the dissertation will be a major contribution to the discipline nor necessarily show new ideas (though the student will be expected to display independence of thought). What is expected is a thorough and lively treatment of the subject, properly and consistently referenced and equipped with a full, accurate bibliography.

The submitted dissertation must also adhere to our guidelines for presentation.

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As is noted above, you will have a supervisor appointed at the start of your course. He or she will have primary responsibility for your dissertation. You should meet regularly and should feel at liberty to raise any concern you have about your research progress.  Any difficulties you encounter with the seminars should be taken up with the staff members teaching them. If there are problems you cannot resolve with your supervisor or seminar teachers, you should see the Honours Coordinator.

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UWA grading for Honours is as follows: 80% and above for H1, 70-79% for H2A, 60-69% for H2B and 50-59% for H3. That means in practice that marks are averaged out and weighted according to the points for each component (ie. the dissertation counts for 50% of the aggregate score, and three of the seminars 16.7% each, since 'Researching the Classical World 2' is marked on a pass/fail basis only). All written work is double marked (and marked blind). The marks are then averaged out unless (which is rarely the case) there is a divergence of more than 5% or the marks given straddle a borderline (eg. 78% and 81%); then a third assessor is used to adjudicate. Dissertations are marked by an internal examiner (other than the supervisor) and an invited examiner from another university, who is asked to submit a brief report. Again, a third assessor would be called upon if there is serious divergence.

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Criteria of honours dissertation assessment

The following criteria should be read in the context of the overall University criteria for assessment of Honours dissertations (see the UWA Honours policy appendices): they are seen as applying those general principles to this particular discipline.

To achieve first class Honours level (80% and above) a dissertation must display the following qualities:

It must show familiarity with the relevant primary evidence, which may be literary, epigraphic, papyrological, numismatic or archaeological [1]. It must be alert to the implications of the evidence and display analytic skill. Mere exposition of the sources is not sufficient.

It must show awareness of all the important secondary literature (in English) [2], and deploy it critically. Simply quoting modern authority is not sufficient for first class Honours. Students must point out what is important and formative, and be prepared to criticise views with which they disagree.

It must be properly documented, i.e. equipped with footnotes giving references to sources and relevant literature, together with subsidiary argumentation (ideally there should be a dialogue between text and footnotes). The style of reference should be consistent, and the cumulative bibliography accurate.

Its exposition should be clear and grammatically accurate, the arguments cogent and presented in logical sequence.

Its conclusions need not be strikingly novel, but it must show independence of thought and critical control of detail.

These are minimum requirements for a score over 80%. For an excellent first (high 80s and above) students will need to show additional qualities, such as impressively original thought, exceptionally logical argumentation, unusually exhaustive command of bibliography or stylistic panache (extremely successful dissertations tend to show most, or all, of these qualities--'sed rara avis in terris').

Dissertations falling in the H2A range (70-79%):

The criteria are those of first class dissertations, but not all may be adequately addressed. For instance, some material evidence may be omitted or misinterpreted, some basic literature omitted. The argumentation may be less than coherent at times, the referencing inconsistent. But it is essential that the evidence is properly controlled, and used directly (not via second-hand quotations), and students must show awareness of its wider implications.

Dissertations falling in the H2B range (60-69%):

Dissertations so classified will tend to fall short in several of the categories. Such works may be bibliographically limited, imperfectly footnoted. The exposition may be clumsy, the conclusions derivative. However, the sources must be analysed independently and display direct acquaintance, and the presentation must be the student's own (ie not a series of quotations from the secondary literature).

Dissertations falling in the H3 range (50-59%):

Dissertations so classified will have major faults. They may be methodologically flawed, show no knowledge of critical evidence, follow modern authorities slavishly or quote sources at second hand. They must, however, present an adequate coverage of the subject and sustain a relevant, coherent exposition with some attempt at footnoting. Otherwise an Honours grade cannot be justified.

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1. It is understood that students will not necessarily have the skills for independent textual criticism or linguistic interpretation, and some of the evidence may be contained in publications which are not accessible in Australia and cannot be acquired during the period of candidature. None the less students should do everything they can to ensure that they have access to English translations of the principal sources and are aware of the interpretative difficulties they involve. The supervisor will have given direction in these matters.

2. Knowledge of material in languages other than English will be highly regarded.

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