Honors Thesis Guidelines

The Honors Thesis is the culmination of student achievement in the BSU Honors Program, reflecting tremendous effort, creativity and intellectual mastery in support of a meaningful undergraduate research project or creative endeavor. The thesis is required of all Honors Students (Commonwealth and Departmental). Below are answers to some frequently asked questions about completing an honors thesis.

For Students

When do I choose a thesis topic?

First you need to apply and be accepted into departmental honors, whether you have been pursuing Commonwealth Honors already or not. Choose a thesis topic in the semester before you actually begin the thesis. We recommend that you begin thinking about possible thesis topics in your sophomore or early in your junior year. To start, consider questions that have arisen out of courses or experiences that 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, a question suggested in a lecture or discussion—in short, anything within your discipline that interests you a great deal, and about which you can pose a question, is fair game for a thesis topic. 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 a thesis topic by the end of your junior year, at the latest; and you should start the thesis in the first semester of your senior year. If you have other time commitments (student teaching, study abroad, etc.), plan ahead. Your thesis advisor, department honors chair, and the Honors Director/Assistant Director can work with you to develop a plan that accommodates your scheduling needs.

What if no ideas come to me?

Then you are in good company. This is probably the greatest single concern that Honors students express: the fear of not having anything to ask in order to get started. Talk with your professors, review some scholarly articles in your discipline, 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 challenging!!! Do not be discouraged. Please note that you can obtain support for developing a thesis proposal by taking the 1 credit colloquium “Transitioning into Departmental Honors” which is offered every spring.

What do I do next?

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, for this is a partnership. To find a faculty member who shares your academic interests, you should consult with the honors chair for your major and/or review the department’s website.

How do I actually sign up for the thesis?

Before signing up for the thesis you will need to have written a description of your proposed project called a thesis proposal. The thesis proposal is written in consultation with your thesis advisor. You should begin working on your thesis proposal the semester before you plan to register for the thesis. Thesis proposals should include an introduction that provides some background on your thesis topic and explains the significance of the research or creative project. The introduction should clearly state the main goals/aims of your research or creative project. The thesis proposal should also describe the methodology you will use—that is, how will you go about your research. What methods will you use to answer your research question or to inform your creative inquiry? Finally include a reference section –-an alphabetical compilation of the sources you consulted while researching the topic for your proposal. References should be in a format consistent with the style guide agreed upon by you and your advisor. Once the thesis proposal is complete, you will submit it with the online thesis registration form. You submit the thesis registration form either before or in the first week of the semester in which you plan to begin. The Honor’s Center staff will send the form to the registrar who will use it to register you for the thesis as if it were a course. It has a number—normally 485—with the prefix relevant to your major. You earn three credits for the thesis each semester you register for it. Please note that the Honors Advisory Board evaluates all thesis proposals. Thesis proposals lacking information or requiring clarification will be returned to the student for revision.

Can I write a thesis that combines my two majors or my major and my minor?

Yes. A thesis that combines two disciplines is called Interdisciplinary Honors. You can opt to pursue Interdisciplinary Honors if your research spans two disciplines (e.g., a project that combines aspects of Elementary Education and Mathematics). Your thesis mentor can come from either the major or the minor but the reading committee must include faculty from both disciplines. Please note that students who major in a discipline housed in a department without departmental honors (Economics) will complete interdisciplinary honors.

What happens if I want to write my thesis over two semesters?

Departments have different requirements for the thesis; most require a two-semester thesis and some require one and some let you choose which option works best for you. We recommend doing two if possible. This does not mean signing up for one semester of thesis work and taking an incomplete—rather, it means doing three credits of thesis work each of two semesters. You simply register for it again the second semester. Applications for the second semester of a two-semester thesis must include an additional paragraph describing your progress during the first 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.

How is the thesis evaluated?

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.

When do I have to be finished?

You must hand in the final copy to the reading committee the last day of scheduled classes (not including final exam days). Please note that some departments may have earlier deadlines. 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 will often require revisions before awarding Honors. Please note that a public presentation of your thesis work to the department and/or at a conference (on campus, regional, professional, etc.) is expected. The student must include a title page with the thesis (see example) that must be signed by all members of the student’s committee. The faculty signatures represent approval of the thesis.

Once the thesis has been approved, the student is to hand in a hard copy of the signature page to the Honors Center by the last day of finals. The signature page indicates that your honors committee has approved your honors thesis. You are also required to email an electronic version of the completed thesis to the Honors Center. The Honors Center will print out a copy of your thesis to be bound by the library and added to its archive. If you desire additional copies, they can be obtained by paying the binding fee. A digital copy of your thesis will be uploaded to the library’s Virtual Commons so that all may access your work.

Can my thesis work fit into the opportunities of the Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR)?

Both Honors and OUR support undergraduate research in different and complementary ways. While working on your thesis, you can apply for semester grants to defray research expenses during the semester such as supplies, research-related travel, books, microfilms, lab equipment, etc. When presenting your thesis research at a conference, you can apply for a travel grant to pay for travel costs to and at the conference, on the condition that the conference accepts your work for presentation. If you plan to work on your thesis over two semesters, and you are awarded an ATP Summer Research Grant, you can use the ATP Summer Grant as one semester of the thesis, and waive three required Honors credits with the approval of your Department Honors Committee. Using the ATP Summer Grant in this way can allow you to pursue your thesis over the summer while fulfilling part of the requirements for Honors. You can do an ATP Summer Grant as either the first or the second semester of your thesis or in lieu of an honors contract.

The following checklist summarizes steps that you should take when beginning to think about your thesis:

1. ___ Semester before starting thesis: choose a thesis topic and appropriate faculty mentor. Begin work on your thesis proposal.

2. ___ First week of the semester: submit the online thesis registration form: https://bsuform.wufoo.com/forms/honors-thesis-application/ The Honors Center will send your application to the registrar to sign you up for the thesis.

3. _ Before you conduct any research: if you will be working with human or animal subjects in any capacity, you must submit proposals to the Institutional Review Board (IRB). The IRB can be accessed at https://my.bridgew.edu/departments/IRB/SitePages/Home.aspx

4. ___ If this is the second semester of a two-semester thesis, repeat step two at the beginning of that semester. You need to sign up for the thesis each semester in which you expect to work on it. Remember to include a paragraph describing progress made during the first semester.

5. Present your thesis work to the department and/or a campus, regional, or professional conference.

6. Last day of scheduled classes: hand in the final copy of the thesis to the thesis reading committee.

7. Last day of finals: once the thesis has been approved and all committee signatures have been obtained, the student is to pass in a hard copy of the signature page to the Honors Center and email the final copy of the thesis to the Honors Center to print out and submit to the library for binding.

For Faculty

What is my role as the student’s thesis advisor?

Students develop ideas into thesis projects the semester before the thesis begins, and they sign up for the thesis before or during the first two weeks of that semester. You will need to consider whether you have the time to mentor a project, as you will be closely involved with the student for a long time. The thesis can take up to two semesters; can extend into or include an ATP summer grant; and can involve the student in presenting research at conferences, preparing research for publication, and applying to graduate school or other employment. As the student’s thesis advisor, you are in effect signing up to mentor the student in all these potential areas.

A student will come to you with an idea, and your mentoring role begins at that point as you and the student develop that idea into a project. You have far more experience than the student in this process, and so you will have to model the research process, steer the student away from unviable projects, work with the student on finding research materials and generally balance supporting them with letting them experience the turbulence of academic scholarship.

While mentoring the thesis, you should meet with the student at least one hour each week, although your actual time commitment to the project will certainly exceed that. In the beginning of the project, you should set up detailed expectations of what the student should accomplish at key points during the semester, and how those expectations will translate into a grade. If this is one part of a two-semester thesis, you have to provide a grade each semester—not an incomplete. This is why it is important to articulate semester expectations very early in the process.

General expectations for thesis mentors include:

1. Aid student in preparation of research question/problem or creative inquiry.
2. Help student to identify preliminary reading list.
3. Guide students on the outline of a thesis for your discipline –what sections are needed.
4. Set up a timeline with the student for completion of incremental and overall project goals.
5. Meet at least one hour per week to discuss progress, readings, drafts, ongoing goals and problems.
6. Introduce students to research methods, etiquette, procedures, semester and summer grants, and materials specific to the discipline.
7. Advise student on place of student’s research or creative project in his/her general collegiate and career goals.
8. Assist student in identifying faculty to serve on the reading committee.
9. Guide the student in finding appropriate venues for presenting the thesis work.
10. Work to ensure the student is well prepared to present at a public venue.
If students will be working with human or animal subjects in any capacity, they must submit proposals to the Institutional Review Board (IRB) prior to conducting research. The IRB can be accessed at https://my.bridgew.edu/departments/IRB/SitePages/Home.aspx

How does advising a thesis fit into my workload?

A faculty member advising a thesis receives 0.5 credits per student thesis advised per semester. This means that when you mentor six semesters of thesis work, you have accumulated enough for one course release. Additionally, faculty members are able to co-mentor a thesis and in this case, each mentor would split the 0.5 credits, receiving .25 each. Co-mentoring is a good option when the student is completing an interdisciplinary thesis.

What happens when the student finishes?

Students must hand in the final copy to the reading committee the last day of scheduled classes (not including final exam days). This is so that the committee will have time to read the thesis, meet to discuss it and, one hopes, award it Honors. The departmental honors committee determines the members of the reading committee; in some departments the two committees will be the same, and in some departments the reading committee will consist of faculty chosen specifically for content knowledge. This choice is up to the department. Thesis readers do not have to be full-time faculty members.

The reading committee has one week to consider the thesis and decide whether or not to approve it for Departmental Honors. The reading committee may suggest or require changes for approval.

Once the thesis has been approved and the title page has been signed by all committee members, the student is to hand in a hard copy of the signature page to the Honors Center by the last day of finals. The signature page indicates that the honors committee has approved the honors thesis. The student is required to email an electronic version of the completed thesis to Honors Center. The Honors Center will print out a copy of the thesis to be bound by the library and added to its archive. If students desire additional copies, they can be obtained by paying the binding fee. A digital copy of the thesis will be uploaded to the library’s Virtual Commons so that all may access the thesis work.

Additional Resources:

Thesis Database (Intranet)
Thesis Blog Post
Departmental Honors (Intranet)
Honors Thesis Guidelines.pdf
Honors Chairs List
Honors Contract Guidelines
Departmental Honors Application

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