What are Honors courses?
What are Honors colloquia?
How does credit for the Fall Book Club work?
What is an Honors contract?
What is an Honors thesis?
When do I choose a thesis topic?
What if no ideas come to me?
I have a topic. What do I do next?
How do I actually sign up for the thesis?
What if I want to write my thesis over two semesters?
Can I incorporate my thesis into an ATP Summer Grant?
How is the thesis evaluated?
When do I have to be finished?
Honors courses are specially-designed sections of regular 100-200 level courses. Most fulfill Core Curriculum credit and thereby impose no additional requirements for graduation. These courses offer small class sizes (capped at 15 students), more active discussion, greater student and faculty interaction, more challenging material, and often an emphasis on writing and oral presentation. Honors courses change every semester, but are always offered across a variety of disciplines.
Honors colloquia carry one academic credit, meet once a week for 50 minutes, and culminate in a paper or scientific project that provides the major part of the grade. Minimum enrollment in each colloquium is two and the maximum is 12. Although most colloquia stand on their own, some are attached to regularly offered courses that form part of the student's normal program. Colloquia do not carry core curriculum credit, but offer intense study in a wide range of topics not usually found at this level.
Students who sign up for and attend the annual Fall Book Club will receive a waiver for one Honors credit. This credit is applied to the initial 12 Honors credits required of Honors students. Students can participate in multiple Fall Book Clubs and receive multiple credits.
All Departments except Psychology require students to complete an Honors Contract as part of their Honors requirements. Psychology requires the completion of three one-credit honors thesis colloquia. For the contract, students during their junior year and their instructors, devise an advanced project within a 300 to 400 level course in the student's major that emphasizes independent research on a particular subject. The student then completes this special advanced project, under the instructor's direction, in conjunction with the course. Honors contract forms must be completed and brought to the Honors Center during the first two weeks of the semester.
As a junior or senior, students research and write an honors thesis (earning three credits for "XXXX485 Honors Thesis") under the direction of a faculty member on a one-on-one basis; this can be done for either one or two semesters. (We encourage two semesters, but students should discuss this with their Departmental Honors Chair and thesis adviser. Note that some departments require a two-semester thesis). Whether the thesis qualifies the student to graduate with honors will be determined by the departmental honors committee or, where appropriate, by the student's interdisciplinary honors committee. For many students, the honors thesis is the intellectual high point of the undergraduate experience - fascinating and exciting in its own right, and valuable as a preparation for graduate school or professional employment.
Choose a thesis topic in the semester before you actually begin the thesis. We recommend that you begin thinking about possible thesis topics early in your junior year. Consider what problems or questions have arisen out of your courses or which experiences you would want to pursue in a sustained academic manner. This can be an idea growing out of a course paper or project, a directed study, or a question suggested in a lecture or discussion. The topic can be anything within your discipline that interests you a great deal and about which you can pose a question. You can use your Honors Contract as a way to explore a potential thesis topic, but you do not have to do so. You should have finalized the thesis topic at the latest by the end of your junior year, and should start the work ideally during your junior year or the first semester of your senior year. If you have foreseeable scheduling conflicts, plan ahead. For instance, if you know you will be doing student teaching during one semester of your senior year, you probably do not want to plan writing your thesis at that time as well. If you plan to study abroad one semester, factor that in as well. Your thesis advisor, the Department Honors Chair, and the Honors Director/Assistant Director can work with you to develop a plan that accommodates your scheduling needs.
Don't worry! You are in good company. This is probably the greatest single anxiety that Honors students express: the fear of not having anything to ask in order to get started. Talk with your professors, brainstorm with them and with other students and friends, meet with faculty in your discipline who mentor undergraduate research projects regularly, and meet with the Honors Director or Assistant Director. This is supposed to be hard! Do not be discouraged.
Find a faculty advisor to mentor the thesis. Again, you should do this in the semester before you actually begin the thesis. Ideally, you would develop and refine your topic with the advisor, and you would seek out an advisor whose expertise lies in the general area you want to explore. For instance, students interested in Russian history would not seek out a British historian to mentor the thesis. Find a faculty member who shares your academic interests and with whom you can work for a considerable length of time. You do not have to be friends, but you will need to be compatible partners, for this is a partnership. To find a faculty member who shares your academic interests, you can consult with your Department Honors Chair.
You fill out the thesis registration form either before or during the first two weeks of the semester in which you plan to begin. This requires a description of your proposed project (written in consultation with your thesis advisor) as well as the signature of your thesis advisor, the Department Honors Chair, and the Honors Director/Assistant Director. Once you have all the relevant signatures, bring it to the Honors Center. Then, give a copy to each signatory, take the form to the registrar and use it to register for the thesis as if it were a course. It has a number - 485 - with the prefix relevant to your major. So if you were a Chemistry major, you would register for CHEM 485. You earn three credits for the thesis each semester you register for it.
We recommend doing the thesis over two semesters if you have the time for it. Departments have different requirements for the thesis; some require a two semester thesis and some require one and some let you choose which option works best for you. This does not mean signing up for one semester of thesis work and taking an incomplete the second - rather, it means doing three credits of thesis work each of two semesters. You simply register for it again the second semester. You need to work out with your thesis advisor exactly what each of you expects you to accomplish over each semester, both for your own time management and the grade you will receive.
The Adrian Tinsley Program and the Office of Undergraduate Research offer Semester Grants and Summer Grants to help defray research-related expenses. If you are awarded an ATP Summer Grant and the research you are pursuing is part of your Honors thesis, you can fill out an application to waive three credits of your Honors thesis requirements. If you have any questions about ATP Grants, contact the Office of Undergraduate Research.
Your thesis advisor assigns a grade as in any other course. When you finish the thesis, your thesis goes to a faculty reading committee constituted in different ways for each department. Your Department Honors Chair can tell you how the process works in your particular department. This committee ultimately decides whether the thesis earns Honors credit or not. While working on the thesis, you should meet with your thesis advisor at least one hour each week.
You must hand in the final copy to the reading committee the last day of scheduled classes (not including final exam days) although this varies by department. This is so that the committee will have time to read the thesis, meet to discuss it, and one hopes, award it Honors. The committee may require revisions before awarding Honors, and you should check with your Department Honors Chair to determine if this is the case. Once the thesis has been approved for Departmental Honors, the student has three bound copies of the thesis made: one for the student, one for the faculty advisor, and one for the Honors Center. You can visit the Print Shop to bind your thesis.
Last Modified: April 11, 2011