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University Honors Program

What to know before pursuing an Honors Thesis

By Grace DiPierro

One of the perks of being in the Honors Program is that students have the opportunity to complete an Honors thesis. The Honors thesis is essentially a research project or creative endeavor that students can pursue with the help of a thesis advisor. Students can choose practically any topic of interest to explore in an Honors Thesis – the options are limitless - and students from all majors complete one. Planning an Honors thesis can be daunting, so this article will outline a few tips for those who are interested but are not sure where to start.

Why should I pursue an Honors thesis?

There are many benefits in writing an Honors thesis. One practical reason is that you can earn credit toward your degree as well as toward your Honors credit requirements. There are a series of classes that accompany a thesis that are meant to guide students as they navigate their projects. You will be able to expand your skill sets in writing, data collection, designing a project and much more depending on what your project looks like.

Additionally, if you are thinking about going to graduate school or something similar, having research experience as an undergraduate gives you a huge advantage. Not only can you figure out if research is for you, but it can also enhance your graduate applications. Furthermore, working closely with a faculty mentor can give you a potential contact for a letter of recommendation.

Lastly, a thesis can be very rewarding and fun! It may not be your favorite thing at all times, but being able to work on something you are interested in, complete an original project, and share it with others makes the whole process worthwhile. 

What is the general timeline of an Honors thesis?

Students can start preparing for an Honors thesis during the fall semester of their junior year. Students fill out a Thesis Intent Document around the beginning of November, so by this time you should have identified an Honors Thesis Faculty Mentor as well as some idea of the topic you want to pursue. Your project does not have to be set in stone at this point, you just need to have a general idea of what you want to do. During the second semester junior year, students create a proposal outlining the plan, any requested funding, and a timeline of the thesis in more concrete terms.

After your proposal is approved, this is when you really start delving into your project. The first semester of senior year is spent researching and preparing your project materials. Students will work with their advisors to nail down the specifics, but most Honors students prepare a manuscript and eventually present their work at the Honors Student Symposium as well as Stander Symposium during their last semester at UD.

How do I find a thesis mentor?

Your thesis mentor needs to be a full-time faculty member who has scholarly expertise in your Honors thesis subject. Mentors are usually part of the thesis writer’s department, but it is possible to write one outside your major! The role of your advisor is to mentor you, provide feedback and progress reports, and grade your final project.

When thinking about who will be your thesis mentor, you can start by approaching a professor that you like for suggestions. They may be able to refer you to someone. The department chair and UD’s website are also useful resources for finding research interests. The Honors Program Associate Director for Research can also direct you to someone who has been involved in a thesis project before and could be a potential mentor for you. 

How do I pick a topic?

The nature of an Honors thesis varies by individual and discipline, so your project may not look exactly like everyone else’s, which is okay! Sometimes students can come up with their own projects, or you can get involved with an ongoing project that your faculty mentor is already working on. A good place to start is by looking at faculty’s current research interests and see if any of those align with your own. You will want a mentor who is doing similar research to the work you want to do so that they can properly advise you.

What advice is there for someone who wants to complete a thesis?

The Honors thesis is something that requires constant and consistent work. In other words, it’s not something that you want to procrastinate and start working on a month before everything is due. One helpful tip would be setting up a weekly, bi-weekly or even monthly meeting with your advisor to review your progress and stay on track. This is helpful because it helps students set deadlines with their advisor and motivates them to pace their work over the course of a few months. If you are someone who can set deadlines for yourself, that works, too!

When you start your project you should also set expectations with your advisor. How much supervision do you need? Have you done research before or do you need to learn from your advisor? How available are they to assist you when you have questions? These questions are important to discuss when you start your thesis to ensure that you and your mentor are on the same page.

An Honors thesis will take a good amount of time out of your schedule, so try not to overcommit yourself during your last semesters on campus. Allow yourself plenty of time to write a good, quality thesis, especially if you anticipate applying to graduate school or jobs for after graduation. 

Where can I find more information?

If you are interested in an Honors thesis and have more questions, reach out to the Honors Program! There is also information on the Honors Program’s website, with frequently asked questions linked here:

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