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Honors Thesis FAQs

In addition to completing required courses to earn a degree, all students should consider additional activities that will help them expand their skill sets and resumes in ways that will open doors and prepare them for their next chapter.  An Honors thesis is one of many experiential learning activities that students can use to prepare for future opportunities and successes.

Also, a thesis can be fun! Seriously. By fun, a thesis is the kind of fun that results from producing original research. The ability to explore a topic that interests you for multiple semesters allows you to grow intellectually in ways that are not always possible during a single-semester experience.  

A good thesis can strengthen a graduate school application. First, it gives you a story to tell in your personal statement (a typical part of most graduate school applications)--specifically a story about your intellectual interests.  Second, it demonstrates that you can independently tackle complex questions and produce original knowledge. Third, it makes for relevant material in recommendation letters, enabling your advisor to reflect on your potential as an emerging scholar.  Even if you are not considering graduate school, discussing your thesis in a job interview can signal to a potential employer that you possess communication and organizational skills and the ability to work independently.

Research varies widely by individual and discipline. Some faculty will expect you to get involved in an ongoing project and join their current research teams. Others will allow you more freedom in choosing a topic and methodology. In the case of the former, you will need to start talking to faculty. If the latter, talk with faculty, academic advisors and your department chair to help you identify faculty who might be a good resource for helping you identify a topic and possibly even be a good mentor for your project. 

You can also visit the UHP to see a completed thesis in your discipline. Getting a picture of what the final product could look like is helpful. Faculty who have mentored thesis writers in the past will also have copies of their students’ theses.  You can always speak with the Associate Director of Research in the UHP.  The Associate Director of Research is always happy to speak with students interested in learning more about the Honors thesis process. 

This one can be tricky, because many fifth-semester students don't know many faculty from their own departments yet. One important thing to know is that the UD faculty member must be a full-time faculty member.

Here are a few tips.  First, approach faculty you like and ask if they have suggestions. This can even work across departments: electrical engineers know mechanical engineers, chemists know biologists, etc.

Second, ask your department chairperson. The chairperson tends to know those individuals with active research agendas and what their general research areas are.

Third, check the UD department websites for faculty research interests.

Fourth, visit with the Honors Program's Associate Director for Research. The Associate Director knows faculty from every corner of campus as well as which faculty frequently mentor Honors thesis projects across a range of majors.

The chair from your department (which may or may not be the same department as your Honors thesis mentor) decides if thesis research credits meet other curricular requirements within your degree program.  Your academic advisor may also be able to tell you how Honors thesis academic credits fulfill degree requirements.

If you plan to do human subjects research you need approval from UD's Institutional Review Board or the Research Review and Ethics Board in the Psychology Department. Note that human subjects research can include focus groups, surveys, interviews, observations, and examination of private (e.g. medical) records.  If your research is part of an existing faculty project, check with your faculty mentor to see if your human subjects research is covered under their protocol.  If not, you must consult the IRB or RREC should you be considering any type of human subjects research. The best place to start is with the IRB web resource.

If you plan to do research involving vertebrate animals, you must have IACUC approval prior to beginning the study. Check with your Honors thesis mentor to see if  your work is covered under their  protocol.  If it is not, you will need IACUC approval.  The best place to start is the IACUC web resource.

It depends on your research question and project.  In some disciplines the use of surveys or questionnaires is a common research practice.  In others, it is rare.  You and your research mentor should work together to determine whether or not you need to design a survey/questionnaire to complete your research.  

  1. Typically, this would be during the fall of junior year. Your primary goal during this semester is finding an Honors thesis mentor and narrowing down a topic for your thesis. The only thing the UHP needs at this point is your Thesis Intent Document accessible on Porches. This must be submitted by November 10.
  2. If you are an education major and will be student teaching your last semester or will be graduating from UD earlier or later than is typical, please contact the UHP to discuss a timeline appropriate to your situation. 

Typically, this would be spring of your junior year. Your primary goal is moving forward on your thesis research. During this semester, the UHP will ask you to complete a few items that will help facilitate your thesis: 

  1. Attend the Junior Honors Thesis Proposal and Fellowship Request Workshop in January.
  2. Complete CITI Responsible Conduct of Research Training through Isidore 
  3. Submit the Honors Thesis Research Proposal and Fellowship Request, located on Isidore. This is due by the beginning of Spring Break  for all thesis writers. The Proposal tends to be the first time the thesis writer explains the research project, its value, and the methodology for addressing the research. This is also the mechanism by which funds are sought in support of the thesis research.

As far as the UHP is concerned, this is fine. The challenge is finding an Honors thesis mentor that can oversee such a project. One option is for a second faculty member to serve as a consultant, or even a co-mentor.

As far as the UHP is concerned, this is fine. However, this needs to be approached with a great deal of caution. More than passion and intelligence are necessary to complete a thesis. Frequently, thesis writers need to draw on the experiences and background they have from within their discipline. This lack of experience for someone trying to conduct thesis research outside of his or her own program can equate to the need for a significant amount of “catch up” work being necessary before a true contribution to scholarship can be made. A good heuristic is this: if you are well into a minor in the discipline of interest or have a strong existing relationship with your potential thesis mentor prior to thesis discussions, this tends to work; if you need to set up a thesis mentor and topic with no background beyond, perhaps, an introductory course, this type of thesis is ill-advised.

Yes. In many disciplines, the expectation is that you will join a research project that is already in progress. This is frequently true in the sciences and engineering. Your Honors thesis mentor will likely present pieces of on-going projects as potential topics for you to address. Your piece of the research provides the material for your thesis. Moreover, the first couple of chapters of your thesis typically benefit from the project already having a publication history.

Scholarship from the disciplines included in the visual and performing arts has the potential to take on a variety of formats. Should you be studying in one of these disciplines, please work closely with your Honors thesis mentor and the Associate Director of Research of the UHP to define the nature of your thesis project.

Once initiated, thesis work should happen continuously. Work on the thesis during the summer and during a study abroad. There is nothing like uninterrupted study!

Use various methods to keep you on track. For example, post a year-long, wall-size calendar in your home, preferably on a wall that you see every day.  Mark off deadlines in pen including the proposal submission date, gathering data, data analysis, writing literature review, etc.

Have an honest conversation with your thesis mentor about what sort of worker you are. Are you self-paced and need little supervision? Or, do you need firm deadlines and a mentor who holds you accountable?

There will be days when you love your thesis research. When those arrive, stay in the groove and work, work, work. There will be days when you hate your thesis research. On those days, getting a single paragraph written is a win.

Your hard drive will crash. Your original data source will become corrupted. Back up everything.

Don’t diminish your thesis by getting over-committed during your senior year. If graduate or professional school is in the works, the thesis should be your focus. So, learn to say “no” to potential distractions.

The best thesis is a finished thesis.

If all goes well, nothing.

  • Up to $1500 is available through a well-written Honors Thesis Research Proposal and Fellowship Request. Should your proposal be exceptional and meet the requirements of the Palermo Founders Fund, additional support may be available.
  • Some international travel support is available through the Hull International Fellows Fund
  • Ask your Honors thesis mentor and department chair about applying for financial support from other programs on and/or off-campus .
  • If registering for thesis hours takes you over the 18-credit-hour limit in a semester, you will not be charged.

If the conference at which you will be presenting your thesis research happens prior to graduation, the UHP is happy to help your department cover your costs through a one-time award of up to $500.  Contact the UHP for more details on how to apply for this support.

No. However, depending on what you and your Honors thesis mentor decide on as constituting your thesis research, this paper can make excellent resource material - a significant paper in a class may be the start of a great thesis project.

The UHP expects thesis writers to engage in all modes of disseminating scholarship. Scholarship tends to be presented, depending on the discipline, via some combination of the following:  oral presentation, poster presentation, written work.

In March or April each year the UHP hosts the Honors Student Symposium. All thesis writers graduating that calendar year deliver a 12-minute oral presentation. This is followed by a few minutes for question and answer.

The thesis itself is the written work, and represents the culmination of the entire thesis research effort.


Honors Program

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