Guidelines for Preparation and Presentation of an Honors Thesis
A senior honors thesis may be a student’s senior project for her major discipline or may be a separate project. The recipient of the Russell Scholar Award may use her project to fulfill the senior honors thesis requirement.
To qualify for the honors degree, the senior thesis must meet the following criteria:
It must be an original work, and not just a summary of another’s work.
It must be interdisciplinary – i.e., it should make use of sources, theories and / or models from multiple disciplines. The student’s examining committee should include members of relevant disciplines when possible.
Honors thesis proposals that take the form of research papers must have all of the following:
a thorough and interdisciplinary literature review that includes scholarly sources,
a clear thesis statement,
thorough and substantiated analysis that makes connections to prior scholarly research,
professional writing, with correct grammar, spelling and punctuation,
and clear documentation of sources within the text and a careful and correct bibliography,
Honors thesis proposals for creative works will clearly be more varied. However, creative projects must show the following:
that artistic or creative problems have been solved thoughtfully and professionally,
that the application of research and analysis is evident in the project,
and that the project meets expectations applied to professionals in the field.
At the thesis defense, the student should be prepared to explain how her reading and reflection within multiple disciplines has influenced her final creative output.
A student who plans to write an honors thesis must consult with the supervising professor in developing the proposal and throughout the writing process. She should submit multiple drafts to the supervisor and to other members of the thesis committee as they or the supervisor requests. The student must distribute
a copy of the final draft to each member of the committee at least one week
prior to the defense.
The thesis defense
The honors thesis defense must be separate from any departmental senior project presentation. It must be schedule at least two weeks in advance.
At the thesis defense, the student should begin with a brief presentation of her project. Most of the defense will consist of questions from the honors thesis committee.
The student must be prepared to explain her research methods and conclusions to a general audience. She must be able to explain models or theories used in her research and to explain the interdisciplinary connections made within the thesis.
If the interdisciplinary examining committee determines that the completed project (including the student’s oral presentation) is “excellent” (A quality) or “very good” (B quality) when judged against the standards for honors theses, that student successfully passes this final requirement for the honors degree.
The examining committee may decide that the student’s work needs revision before it meets the high standards for the honors degree. If so, the committee should set a deadline for thesis revisions and review. The committee need not require a second thesis defense but may do so at its discretion.
The examining committee may decide that the student’s work does not meet the high standards for the honors degree.
The decision of the examining committee should be reported to Martha Walker, the Director of the Global Honors Scholars Program.
The honors degree vs. distinction in one’s major and/or senior project grades
A Senior Global Honors Scholar may pass her senior honors project and receive the honors degree without being awarded “with distinction” in her particular major. (Likewise, students who are not Honor Scholars may receive the designation “with distinction.”) The Honors Degree reflects a student’s success across the liberal arts curriculum (as does initiation into Phi Beta Kappa). “With distinction” is awarded by the Major faculty, according to criteria set by the discipline.
A successful (“A” or “B”) senior honors project need not reflect — or restrict — a senior’s grade in her Majors Seminar or Senior project/senior exercise. As much as possible the senior honors project should be evaluated as a free-standing piece of work, assessed by an interdisciplinary examining committee. The degree to which that same project fulfills requirements in the Major is, again, determined by faculty within that Major. Similarly, grades in credit-bearing Majors Seminars and for Majors projects may reflect a variety of criteria determined, again, by faculty within that major.
To illustrate this distinction, the interdisciplinary honors project examining committee may determine that a senior honors project does not pass (“C+” level work or below). However, that same student may be awarded a higher grade by her Major faculty for her Senior Seminar course. Likewise, the interdisciplinary honors project examining committee may determine that a senior honors project does pass, but the faculty within that student’s Major may determine to award a lower grade for her Senior Seminar course.