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Honors Thesis

The Honors Thesis is the capstone of a student's curricular experience within the Honors Program. Our two-semester model has produced excellent results and an extremely high completion rate.


The honors thesis is perhaps the single largest project that an honors student will undertake during their undergraduate studies. Completion of such a project focuses student interests, provides perspective in their chosen major, develops basic scholarly skills, fosters creativity and independent effort, and brings the educational experiences together in a way that other academic projects do not. In addition to independent work, the project also involves close associations between the student and faculty members, particularly with the professor supervising the research work. Such sustained interaction contributes greatly to the overall quality of the experience. The Honors Program also encourages student writers and artists to develop honors thesis projects. Proposals for creative arts and performance projects will naturally be somewhat different from proposals in scholarly and scientific fields.


Honors theses come in various formats but all include a formal written component and formal oral presentation.

  • Research paper (approx. 15-25 pages): An academic paper in which the student investigates a specific theory, axiom or thesis in their field by using reliable methods to analyze first-hand data from experiments and surveys. It may include laboratory or field-work and/or research including human subjects (with a guidance of an adviser trained in human subject research and formal approval of the research project).
  • Scholarly paper (approx. 25-35 pages): A paper that uses primary and secondary published sources to formulate a thesis question and make a creative and sound contribution to the literature. The paper may be a review and synthesis of the literature or a paper with an original thesis.
  • Business plan (approx. 20 pages): Students conceptualize a business and create marketing plans, financial reports, and implementation strategies for said business. Students interested in entrepreneuriship often choose this format.
  • Pedagogy (approx. 20 pages): Students create an instructional "unit" which includes: (1) an overview of the intended audience, specific topics, and essential questions that help to frame the learning that students expect to deliver; (2) daily lesson plans (including objectives, materials, instructional methods, and assessments); and (3) a formal reflection paper that discusses what students learned through organizing and perhaps teaching this unit as well as the uncertainties regarding its design and implementation.
  • Performance or artistic display (approx. 12-15 pages): Students (primarily those from the Theatre and Music majors) organize a performance presentation or a display of their creative artistry (e.g., dance, music, and voice recitals, art, film, theatrical performance). This option will include an additional formal reflection paper. 
  • Portfolio (approx. 12-15 pages): Students (primarily those from Fine Arts majors) will provide a visual compilation or display of their artistry. This option also includes an additional formal reflection paper.


The presentation is approximately fifteen to twenty minutes in duration and followed by a question and answer session with the committee and or audience. The formal oral presentation should draw upon the informative and persuasive speaking skills you have developed in the Honors seminars. You will need to pay particular attention to:

  • Writing, reviewing, and revising a complete sentence outline of your presentation;
  • Developing a much shorter "bare bones" outline for the actual extemporaneous presentation;
  • Introducing the presentation in a way that captures audience attention and interest, and previews the main points
  • Developing a main body that presents key points (ideas) and perspectives, analysis, arguments, and results;
  • Focusing on a delivery that is well-organized and clearly presented; and
  • Ending with a summary and conclusion.

Using PowerPoint is acceptable so long as the presentation is formal, extemporaneous, and adheres to the presentation guidelines. 


Preparation for the Honors Thesis begins during the spring semester of a student's junior year by taking HONR 498 (Honors Capstone Seminar) or an approved equivalent. Students use this time to 1) explore potential thesis topics; 2) identify a thesis advisor; 3) conduct an extensive literature search; and 4) complete an Honors Senior Thesis Proposal form. Research – whether in the library, via internship or in a laboratory – typically continues through the summer. Students then register for HONR 499 (Honors Senior Thesis) or an approved equivalent the Fall of their senior year.

Students seeking to substitute a seminar or course, (i.e., MUSC 399, CBAD 497) for Honors 498, must meet the following conditions, which will also allow the substituting course to be made into an Honors course, by the last day of examinations of the semester the substitution is made:

  1. Produce 18 (1-2 page) reader summary/responses to peer-reviewed articles on the research theme or topic of their choice
  2. Complete a 2-page Thesis Proposal Form, signed off by their thesis adviser
  3. Register to present their research in the Undergraduate Research Competition
  4. Complete a 5-6 page bibliographic overview of the literature reviewed

Students seeking to substitute a seminar or course, (i.e., MUSC 399, CBAD 497) for Honors 499, must meet the Honors Thesis requirements by the last day of examinations of the semester the substitution is made. See "Honors Thesis Criteria" below: