The Honors Thesis Track—Your Capstone culminates in your Honors thesis. Regardless of the nature of the Capstone work, the thesis is an academic product, written according to the standards of your major. As such, the thesis always involves research. The amount of research, how much is required, and when it is conducted will vary by field and by the individual Capstone efforts. Even when the Capstone experience has followed a nontraditional path (e.g., an internship, a series of lesson plans, a collection of artwork), the thesis requires a lesser but still appropriate degree of traditional academic research. Some of this research may occur while you are wrestling with the work itself, in the effort to perform that work at the highest and most current level. Some of it might occur during the thesis-writing semester(s) as you become an active participant in the professional discourse about your topic. The honors theses housed in the on-line Repository will provide examples of the range of approaches available to you for your thesis. Use the past theses to see the scope and shape of work done in your discipline and to whet your appetite.
The Honors thesis is ultimately a demonstration of the “scholar” in “citizen scholar”:
- the work often begins in the third year with preliminary research or exploration under the guidance of your thesis advisor;
- the thesis (obviously, like the Capstone) must be in your major, unless approved by the Dean of the Honors College;
- if your major requires a thesis (as does International Studies), the SMBHC accepts that thesis as satisfying our honors thesis requirement;
- in some majors (English and History, for example) your individual thesis can fulfill the capstone/research experience required of the major;
- you should plan on enrolling in an appropriate course for your thesis-writing; you will earn honors credit for this coursework, probably three to six hours depending on the field; the length of the thesis will vary from 30 to 100 pages depending on your major. A student in the sciences, having spent much time in the laboratory, may write a thesis of about 30 pages; a student in the humanities or social sciences may write one of about 60 to 100 pages;
- if the core of your Capstone experience was a creation of some outcome appropriate to your field (e.g., a collection of short stories, a recital, a semester’s lesson plans), your thesis provides the academic discourse that grounds that work in your understanding of the challenges and potentials of the field at this time;
- the student must defend the thesis before a committee of three people: the thesis advisor, another faculty member from the student’s major department (chosen by the student and the thesis advisor), and another professor designated by the Honors College Dean. A final copy of the thesis should be provided to the committee members at least two weeks prior to the date for which the defense is scheduled and no later than April 1 (if a spring graduate) to provide them time to read and respond to it before the thesis defense;
- the thesis must be defended no later than the last day of classes in the spring semester if the student expects to participate in the Honors Commissioning ceremony.* It is usually written during the student’s last semester on campus, but may be written whenever the Capstone is complete and the student is ready to write the thesis.
*Occasionally, students complete the thesis requirements in the summer after graduation, but only with prior approval of the thesis adviser and the Honors College. Students who finish in the summer are not eligible to participate in the commissioning ceremony.
The Honors Practicum Track—Your capstone may culminate in your Honors practicum. Whereas the Honors thesis entails a one-on-one experience between you and your thesis advisor, the Honors practicum track embodies you and a group of your honors peers, engaging in a research question with one another and overseen by a practicum advisor. Many disciplines (such as chemical engineering, civil engineering, the Center for Manufacturing Excellence) require a concerted team effort, and that is how you should think of the Honors practicum. In other cases, you may engage with a research question raised by a professor or developed by you and your honors peers.
The Honors practicum is ultimately a demonstration of the “scholar” in “citizen scholars”:
- the practicum should be in your major, unless you have joined an inter-disciplinary team led by an advisor from another major;
- if your major requires a group senior design project (as do many engineering majors), the SMBHC accepts that experience in written form to satisfy our honors practicum requirement;
- you should plan on enrolling in an appropriate course or courses for your practicum; you will earn honors credit for this coursework, probably three to six hours depending on the field;
- the length of the written component of the practicum will vary depending on your major and the portion of your assignment. A student in the sciences, having spent much time in the laboratory, may write up their practicum experience in about 30 pages; a student in the social sciences or other areas may write one from 50 to 75 pages;
- the student(s) must defend the practicum before a committee of three people: the advisor, another faculty member from the department producing the practicum (chosen by the student and the advisor), and another professor designated by the Honors College Dean. A final copy of the written portion of the practicum should be provided to the committee members at least two weeks prior to the date for which the defense is scheduled and no later than April 1 (if a spring graduate) to provide them time to read and respond to it before the practicum defense*;
- the practicum must be defended no later than the last day of classes in the semester the student expects to graduate. It is usually written during the student’s last semester on campus, but may be written whenever the Capstone is complete and the student is ready to write.
*the practicum team may present at some public forum venue in lieu of defending the practicum before a committee of three people. This option is at the discretion of each individual practicum advisor and his or her department.
Visit here to see commonly-used courses for Capstone and Thesis credit.
Writing the senior thesis or practicum can be a very rewarding and enjoyable task. However, it is not a task that you can wait until the last minute to begin and expect favorable results. Thus, you should begin thinking about and preparing for the writing of your thesis early. Discuss with your research advisor the best way to translate your research into a thesis. You should be particularly clear about what your advisor expects as far as grading criteria, rough drafts, and deadlines. It is your responsibility to meet with your advisor frequently to exchange ideas and review your progress.
Grades – If you are receiving course credit for the research or thesis, you will be earning a grade. Therefore, you should have a clear understanding from your professor about the grading criteria.