Thesis Guidelines

General Guidelines

The Honors Thesis is the capstone of your work in the Honors Program, allowing you to focus in-depth on a research question of your own design. The Honors Thesis is completed during two semesters, one for HS390 and another for HS490. By the time you begin HS390, the Honors Pre-Thesis course, you will have had opportunities to think about scholarly questions in many fields, including your major, and you should know what issues and ideas you find most engaging. In HS390 you will work with a faculty advisor and a small cohort of other Honors students to select a topic of importance to you and then complete a thesis proposal, annotated bibliography, and literature review. This process will require your commitment to spending an extensive period of time on background reading and research. In a subsequent semester, you will work closely with a faculty advisor and a small cohort of thesis writing peers in HS490, the Honors Thesis course, as you continue to research your topic and develop and revise your thinking and writing.

The Honors Thesis is not meant to be a test of your long-term intellectual brilliance and maturity. Rather, the greater depth required by the Honors Thesis will contribute to that intellectual maturity, enabling you to pursue significant research questions. What constitutes "greater depth" will vary from discipline to discipline. Generally speaking, however, greater depth requires a more thorough understanding of the field(s) pertaining to your topic—the body of knowledge that scholars and practitioners working in multiple disciplines use to converse with one another. Second, greater depth involves working with primary sources; that is, you are less likely to rely solely on what others have done or said and more likely to focus on your own analysis. Third, in those fields where empirical research is called for, greater depth may mean hands-on involvement with data gathering, using such methods as surveying and interviewing.

Two Paths


A critical/theoretical Honors Thesis is typically 50-60 pages in length, not including your bibliography. The specific questions to be addressed by your thesis will depend on the field and should be identified and discussed with your Thesis Advisor(s). Thorough documentation is expected, and students are responsible for understanding and avoiding plagiarism.


If you are working on a BFA or a capstone project in your major, you may choose to develop this creative project (such as a work of literature, a film, a performance, or a marketing campaign) in connection with your Honors Thesis. In this case the Honors Thesis may be a minimum of 30-pages. The Thesis should be developed during the construction of the project (rather than after its completion), keeping in mind the central problem of how your project is an example of a scholarly question or a response to a scholarly question and thereby analyzing and clarifying problems and issues that you have confronted. The thesis should introduce the creative work and the research methodologies you have employed as well as situate the work within the broader—and perhaps interdisciplinary—scholarly and/or creative context of which it is a part. The Thesis is thus both a critical and self-reflective paper in which you explain the significance of your topic as well as discuss the broader questions that underlie and are raised by your topic and your treatment of it. You should begin by engaging with the key primary and secondary texts of your field of study.

If you decide to combine a 30-page Honors thesis with a creative project you will need to—independently—work with a faculty advisor who can help you with the creative project. The creative project advisor may be the instructor/advisor for the creative project or capstone in your major or Directed Study. Your secondary advisor will participate in your Thesis Proposal Review meeting in the Fall.

NOTE: If you are unable to secure an advisor for your creative project or if—in the case of creative projects that are not BFAs, capstone projects, or Directed Studies—your advisor is unable to attest that the scale is substantially equivalent to such final projects, your Honors Thesis should be the standard 50–60 pages.

Both Paths

The bibliography, normally referencing 25–35 texts, will indicate the place of your work within the field, from a serious scholarly/academic perspective. In addition to considering how your topic connects with related fields of scholarly study you might also consider (a) in what way might the ideas or findings from your work be applied beyond the limitations of your project? And if you are producing a creative piece (b) what were your artistic processes and research methodologies and how do they relate to scholarly inquiry and to the limitations of your project?

The specific questions to be addressed by your thesis will depend on the field and should be identified and discussed with your Thesis Advisor(s).

Steps in the Process

  • Attend HS390 Honors Pre-Thesis Seminar: This seminar is intended to provide tools, theories, and methods to prepare Honors students to write a Thesis. Interdisciplinarity is central to the Honors Program’s mission, and this course encourages methodological experimentation and the intermingling of methods from a diverse array of schools of thought.
    • Choose a Topic: It is often appropriate to expand upon work that has been undertaken within the context of a regular course such as your upper-level IN Seminar.
    • Develop a Draft Proposal: You will work with your professor to develop your proposal and help refine your topic. 
    • Thesis Proposal Review: You will have a formal meeting with the Honors Program Director, your Thesis Advisor, and a second faculty member to discuss your thesis proposal, annotated bibliography, and literature review.
  • Attend HS490 Honors Thesis. 
    • Complete the Honors Thesis: The completed Thesis will be signed by your thesis advisor and submitted to the Honors Program Office by the last day of classes in your final thesis semester (not including summer sessions). Please be sure to consult the Thesis Guidelines and Thesis Templates (Abstract, Title and Approval page templates) available from your thesis advisor or the Honors Program Office. You must submit your Honors Thesis Sharing Agreement, available from your advisor or the Honors Program Office, along with your final thesis.