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Primary Advisors and Readers

Here are some useful links for faculty who are advising theses. Please feel free to contact the Honors Director if you have any questions or concerns about your duties and responsibilities as an advisor or reader. Thanks to all the faculty who advise theses – the Honors Program appreciates the time and effort you give. Please do not hesitate to contact the Honors Director if you have any questions or concerns.

Duties and Responsibilities of the Primary Advisor

The primary advisor bears the bulk of the thesis advising duties. You will be the main contact with the student and responsible for filling out the various forms. Given the variety of the methods of different disciplines, there is no standard guidelines for what a good thesis looks like. The Honors Program encourages you to take a look at previous theses in your discipline, especially if you haven’t supervised a thesis recently. You can find recent theses here here.

According to a recent survey of thesis writers, 75% of students found their thesis advisors very helpful and supportive. Over half of the students met with their primary advisor at least fifteen times to discuss the thesis. And over 80% strongly agreed that they received the support they need from their faculty members.

As the primary advisor, you are responsible for helping the student accomplish the following tasks in a timely manner:
1. developing a research plan and understanding of research methodology, including the use of special techniques or equipment,
2. doing an adequate literature search and developing a bibliography,
3. limiting the topic,
4. achieving a good outline, organization, and style,
5. preparing for the final draft by reading the thesis drafts carefully and critically, and
6. leading the public defense.

Duties and Responsibilities of the Reader

The duties and the responsibilities of the reader are less onerous than those of the primary advisor. Frequently, readers are chosen because their research interests differ from the primary advisor, but overlap with the student’s research. In these cases, the reader is expected to provide expert guidance on those parts of the project with which she is most familiar.

The following tasks are required of all thesis readers:
1. The reader must carefully read and provide feedback on the Thesis Proposal.
2. The reader must carefully and critically read the final draft of the thesis in time for the defense.
3. The reader must attend the defense and participate in the evaluation of the project.

The Honors Program encourages the readers to go beyond these requirements. We know from student surveys that many thesis writers wished for more contact with their readers.


While we have done as much as we can to streamline the process, there are still a number of forms associated with the thesis. All the forms can be filled out online here.


Summer fellowships are available for rising seniors who want to work on their thesis over the summer. Details about the fellowships can be found here [link].

Each year, the Honors Program and the Libraries present the Outstanding Thesis Award. This $500 cash award is given to the student who has written the best thesis of the year. The cash award is generously sponsored by the libraries. If you have a student who you think has written a great thesis, please consider nominating her or him. Academic Affairs acknowledges the faculty advisor's efforts with a $500 stipend, which can be used for books or travel. The award will be presented at the Honors Luncheon.


Here is a brief timeline for when faculty forms are due:

With the Thesis Proposal:

The Departmental Approval Form and the Primary Advisor’s Statement

Spring of Junior Year:

Application for Summer Fellowships (advisors must submit a letter)

Senior Year: