Steps to Complete an Honors Thesis/Capstone

When beginning the Honors Thesis/Capstone, you should follow these steps:

  1. Choose and meet with a supervising professor.
  2. Investigate Honors 410 (Honors Internship), Honors 313 (Research and Writing), and other support.
  3. Prepare thesis/capstone proposal (includes creative arts and performance projects).
  4. Secure proposal approvals and signatures from the supervising professor and the Honors Director.
  5. Enroll in Honors 400 (or, if you are a Howard Hughes Research Scholar, take BIOL 402) the semester in which the Honors Thesis is written.

Step 1  Choose and meet with a supervising professor

The student is responsible for selecting the professor who will supervise the Honors Thesis/Capstone Project. The professor’s research specialties should be connected to the student’s area of interest and potential Honors Thesis/Capstone topic. It is advisable to choose a person for whom the student has performed successfully in more than one course. The student should have a specific topic in mind before conferring with the professor. Since the Honors Thesis is basically an independent study, the student will need to convince the potential supervising professor that he/she understands the major field and has done sufficient preliminary research on the topic. Please furnish your advisor with the Faculty Information Sheet (yellow insert).

NOTE: The person who serves as the supervisor also assigns the letter grade to the project.

Step 2  Investigate Honors 410, Honors 313, and Additional Support

Honors 410 – The Honors Internship enables you to work independently with a professor for academic credit. An Honors Internship can be a medium for doing research that helps clarify the direction and content of your Honors Thesis/Capstone Experience. As with the thesis, you need to arrange the terms of an internship directly with a professor. It is recommended that the internship be taken one or two semesters prior to Completing the Capstone. The Honors Internship should be preceded by an explicit and fairly detailed contract between the student and advisor. The contract should explain the goals of the internship, the methodology to be followed, and should include a detailed plan of study.

Honors 313 – Research and Writing is another option to help you write your Honors Thesis. Ideally, students enroll in Honors 313 the semester before they actually enroll in Honors 400. This class is a rigorous seminar restricted to 12 students. Honors 313 is designed to help the student focus his/her research problem, prepare a coherent proposal, and begin drafting the thesis itself. The course operates as a workshop that uses student proposals and drafts to discuss effective research approaches and thesis writing. The instructor in Honors 313 is a technical advisor whose goal is to help students articulate research problems, clarify thesis directions, and communicate research results in effective written form.

NOTE: Honors 313 does not count toward general education or Honors certification credit.

Additional Support can be obtained through an individual consultation with a reference librarian. You should contact the New Library reference desk (646-5292) to discuss how a reference librarian can assist you in locating and accessing information pertinent to your research. This consultation is also highly encouraged in Honors 313. 

Step 3  Prepare Thesis Proposal

Proposal content and focus will vary from one discipline to another. You should discuss the protocols of proposal writing in your field with faculty members in that discipline. The proposal needs to contain a clear delineation of a research topic and a concise outline of the research methodology or approach. It should be evident in the proposal that the research goal is an original one. Other research or scholarship that relates to your thesis focus should be cited in the proposal as well. Proposals should be clearly written in acceptable, grammatical English and accessible to literate non-specialists.

Although the format of the proposal will vary from one discipline to another, all proposals should contain the following items:

  • Introduction, including relevant background information and your reason for choosing this research project.
  • Detailed statement of the problem you propose to investigate. (It is often helpful to formulate this in terms of a question)
  • Review of literature. Discuss the results of previous research in this area and how your research will contribute to knowledge in this area.
  • Statement of hypothesis (if relevant). State the research hypothesis or the research questions and objectives of the thesis.
  • Explanation of the research methodology or procedure you propose to follow in your research. This might also include a brief explanation of the sources you intend to use. If your project includes experimental or statistical research, give a detailed description of your proposed research strategy, or include examples of any data-collection instruments you plan to use.
  • A statement of the significance of your research. This statement should make it clear why your research will result in an original contribution.
  • A preliminary bibliography.

Creative Arts and Performance Projects

The Honors Program 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. Nevertheless, like other thesis proposals, arts proposals should contain a clear statement of the project, a plan for its development, and a tentative plan for the exhibition, reading, or performance of the thesis. Creative arts students will be given an opportunity to present their work at the Undergraduate Research and Creative Arts Symposium. Honors Thesis students in the area of creative writing will submit their written work as the Thesis. In the case of visual or performance arts projects, a written report explaining the project and a photographic record will be submitted.

Although the format of the proposal will vary depending on the medium involved, all creative arts proposals should contain the following:

  • A description of the project and the concept(s) underlying it.
  • A description of the significance of the project; i.e., what is the artist trying to accomplish?
  • A statement of the methodology or the significance of the medium (if appropriate).
  • A preliminary bibliography (if appropriate).

Step 4  Secure Proposal Approval

Both the supervising professor and the Honors Director must approve the proposal. Approval for the project is required before the student formally registers for Honors 400. For the acceptance of a Fall Honors Thesis, approval must be obtained by the prior April 30th. For acceptance of the Spring Honors Project, approval for the proposal must be obtained by the prior November 30th.

Step 5  Enroll in Honors 400

To write the Honors Thesis, the student must enroll in Honors 400. A special studies permit must be signed by all parties to complete registration for Honors 400. The thesis is an independent study, and there must be close interaction between professor and student, as well as a very clear understanding about expectations for performance. The supervising professor is solely responsible for assigning grades in Honors 400. Upon satisfactory completion of the thesis, the student must provide a bound copy of the thesis to the Honors Program.

While writing your thesis, please follow the format described here

Honors theses and thesis proposals that have been written over the past several years, covering many subject areas, are available for review in the Conroy Honors Center, Room 104.