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Frequently Asked Questions

How do I choose a topic?

Normally you will choose a project in your own academic major(s). (Occasionally someone writes a thesis in an area other than his/her major, but it is difficult to do significant work in an area in which the student has little training.) In choosing a topic, you might ask yourself three simple questions:
1. What do I want to know badly enough to go through the often time-consuming, frustrating, and joyful process of finding out?
2. Am I qualified – do I have enough background in theory, languages, laboratory techniques, quantitative skills, history – to pursue this topic?
3. Is the topic significant, yet limited enough to manage in three semesters of work? In answering these questions, don’t be afraid to contact faculty; they can help direct you to the relevant literature, help you articulate your research question, and steer you away from poor topics.

How do I choose an advisor?

There are two main ways to choose an advisor to assist you in your work:
1. You may join a professor in research which he or she is already engaged in. Thus, you and your advisor form a research partnership, sharing ideas and background knowledge. However, it is very important that the thesis work be your own work, in which you have generated the research question and the method of inquiry, as well as the analysis of the results.
2. You may choose a professor who works in your area of interest, but is not working on the same topic. In this situation, you will be working independently, although the thesis advisor will still be a vital resource.

If a project topic emerges from your research, but you do not know a faculty member who would be suitable as an advisor, contact the chair of the appropriate department to assist you in identifying faculty members who might supervise your work. If the department chair is unable to help, contact the Honors Director.

What should I expect from my faculty advisor?

You may expect that the faculty member who agrees to be your primary advisor will help you to accomplish the following tasks:
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 the final draft by reading your thesis drafts carefully, critically, and in time for you to make final revisions and
6. helping you prepare for the defense.
In a recent survey of thesis writers, 75% found their primary advisor to be very helpful and supportive, the top category. The majority of thesis writers met with their primary advisor more than fifteen times to discuss the thesis.

What happens if I start the thesis but am not able to finish it?

If you sign up for the HONR 396: All College Thesis Proposal and then decide not to complete the process, the course will be dropped from your transcript after you inform the Honors Director.

If you are enrolled in HONR 398: All College Thesis and decide not to complete the project, you must let the Honors Director know before March 1, if you want a permanent drop from the transcript. Depending on the circumstances, and with the approval of your primary advisor, it is possible that the credits can be converted from thesis credits to an ILP.