When Should I Sign Up For My Honors Thesis?

Usually a student signs up for an honors thesis or creative project during the preregistration period of the semester prior to writing the thesis. Begin your planning the semester before you plan to write your thesis: getting a topic in mind, finding a thesis director, and discussing your intentions with your thesis director. This way you will be able to begin your reading during the summer or over winter break. When asked to advise current honors students about the thesis process, graduates repeatedly stress the importance of allowing plenty of time to research and prepare their thesis.

Will the Honors Thesis Count Toward My Major or Minor?

Generally, credit for an honors thesis may apply toward fulfilling requirements for the major, minor or elective. However, you should not assume such credit will be given — secure approval from the chairman of the department involved, and discuss the matter with your academic advisor.

How Do I Find a Topic?

It is important that the topic be of interest to you, since you will be working independently most of the time, without the stimulus of lectures, discussions, and interactions with other students. Topics often are derived from within a student’s major areas, but this is not a requirement. In addition, some departments have set topics or projects for honors theses/creative projects. You should familiarize yourself with your departmental regulations by consulting with your major advisor or department head.

A recent Honors Scholar who was a mathematics major deliberately chose to work within her history minor, as she wanted “one last chance” to work in history before entering a career focusing on mathematics and statistics. If you finish a favorite course and wish that you had had more time to investigate a particular aspect of that course, you may decide to turn that desire into a topic for your honors thesis/project. Or perhaps you have only a vague sense of what your topic might be, but you definitely know whom you would like as your thesis director — if so, you should make an appointment with your prospective thesis director, who may suggest areas for your consideration.

How Do I Find a Thesis Director?

If possible, select someone you know and with whom you feel comfortable. If you cannot think of someone in that category whose expertise seems to fit with the kind of topic you are considering, ask for suggestions from the department involved, from other professors, or from someone in that category whose judgment you trust. In addition, some departments assign professors to advise honors theses in order to equalize the workload, thereby eliminating your choice of thesis director.

How Often Will I Meet with My Thesis Director?

Although the number of meetings will vary depending on the nature of your project, you and your thesis director should work out a mutually satisfactory schedule of appointments at which you can discuss your work in progress. Quite often, directing an honors thesis is not part of your professor’s regular teaching assignment, but is extra work which he or she undertakes, so be considerate by following your agreed-upon schedule and consulting with your thesis director if you need to make changes. Out of courtesy, try to submit your completed thesis to your thesis director two to three weeks before finals week of the semester in which you expect to graduate.

Is It “Legal” To Rework an Old Paper or Project?

A thesis which builds on work already done can be a fine piece of work, developing work already done into a more complete form. However, you may not simply recycle, with minor additions or changes, a paper you have already completed. A student who merely proposes to add a different introduction, a longer conclusion, or a few more examples or illustrations to an already existing paper is not proposing anything that could be considered the culmination of an honors education.

What If I Do Not Finish My Honors Thesis in One Semester?

If a student does not complete her thesis during the semester in which she is enrolled in honors thesis, but is making satisfactory progress, her thesis director may submit a “Z” grade. The “Z” will be on the record until the thesis is completed during the next semester, when it will be replaced with the student’s permanent grade.

Throughout the thesis process, it is your responsibility to ascertain that all steps have been carried out. This includes notifying the Honors Director of your plans to graduate, making sure your thesis is delivered to the Honors Director, and meeting all honors requirements.

If you have additional questions, consult the Honors Director.

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