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Overview of the All College Thesis

Who can do it?

The All College Thesis experience is open to anyone with a 3.0 GPA and support from faculty.

Why do it?

For many students, the senior thesis is the highlight of their academic career. Preparation for such a project – the research, experimentation, or rehearsals – can focus your interests, provide perspective in your major, develop basic scholarly skills, foster creativity and independent effort, and synthesize your educational experiences in a way that other academic projects do not. As one thesis writer reflects, "the prolonged research in producing an original manuscript has given me a sense of pride and achievement even today, far above the benefits or knowledge gleaned from any one course."

Working on your thesis will provide you with a valuable assessment of your ability to investigate a problem and to do serious writing, research, experimentation, or creative work in your future. Through this work, you can develop the self-knowledge and initiative that are essential for successful graduate study and impressive to future employers. Admissions committees in many graduate or professional schools are especially interested in independent work you have successfully completed. When you are pushed to the limit of your energies and creativity, you will discover new ways of organizing your time and managing stress and long hours of solitary work.

What is it?

The All College Thesis is a three semester long independent project on a subject of your own choosing. While formats differ depending on the discipline, all theses include research into the existing literature on the topic, a written paper, and a public defense. You conduct the research and write the thesis under the direction of a thesis committee, which is composed of a primary advisor and two readers who are experts in your area of research. You can find examples of previous theses in Digital Commons.

Getting started

The sooner you start thinking about your thesis the better off you’ll be. We encourage you to start thinking about potential topics as early as your sophomore year. You’ll also need to be developing relationships with professors who are possible advisors for your project. Even if you are only mulling over the possibility of writing a thesis, start talking to your professors now. They can guide you to the relevant literature, help you focus on a topic, and provide general advice about what writing a thesis in your discipline will entail.

Junior Year

In your junior year, you need to sign up for HONR 396: All College Thesis Proposal for 0-1 credits. This class meets just twice during the semester (at the beginning and at the end). The rest of the time you will be working under the supervision of a faculty member on developing your thesis proposal. Details about what should be included in the Thesis Proposal can be found here. All three members of your faculty committee should read the final draft of your proposal and give their approval.

In rare circumstances, students can take HONR 396 in the fall of their senior year, but the normal course of action is to take it during the junior year.

Summer

Many students use the summer before their senior year to lay the groundwork for their thesis. For example, many students in the natural sciences will use the lab work from their undergraduate research as the basis for their thesis. There are also special thesis fellowships that are available for summer funding. See the details here.

Senior year – writing the thesis

You need to register for the HONR 398: All College Thesis for either the fall or spring semester for 0-4 credits. If your schedule allows, it is generally preferable to take HONR 398 for 4 credits in the fall; in other words, to treat it like a normal course.

Most of the work of the thesis will need to be done before the spring semester begins. Ideally, you will have continued to do some work over the summer and will be ready to hit the ground running in the fall. During the fall semester, you will be working under the direction of your primary advisor with occasional help from your readers. There will be one meeting organized by the Honors Director toward the beginning of the year. Because each discipline is different, there are no standard guidelines for the stages of the thesis. However, you should work with your primary advisor early in the fall to set individual deadlines for the pieces of the project. However, complete drafts of the thesis are due to committee members by mid-March at the latest. If you decide to defend earlier than April, you should give your committee two weeks to read your draft.

Defending your thesis

Towards the beginning of the semester, you should find a date for your thesis defense, which needs to be completed by mid-April. (Only in rare cases are thesis defenses held on Scholarship and Creativity Day.) The thesis defense takes about an hour and should be scheduled in a classroom on campus. All defenses are open to the public. The defense begins with a 20 minute presentation of your research. You may also give a short account of how the project evolved, by reflecting on these questions: What was the original proposal? What difficulties or dead-ends did I encounter along the way? What were the positive surprises or unexpected discoveries? How is the final thesis different from the proposed project? What might I have done differently, if I had the chance to do it again? What are the strengths of the thesis? What are the areas that need more research or thought?

More details about the structure of the public defense can be found here. Once you have scheduled the defense, please fill out the online form, so we can help advertise the defense. The Honors Program will post a schedule of all defenses on the All College Thesis website and add the defense to the Bulletin Board a few days before the event. You are required to alert your department (usually through the department coordinator) by email and paper flyers.

After your defense, your committee will give you revisions to do. Once the revisions are made and the thesis is in its final form, you should collect signatures from your committee. Here is a sample of what the signature page should look like. You will need to prepare an abstract of your thesis, if you have not already done so. You will then submit your abstract and thesis electronically to the library’s Digital Commons (directions here) and in a hard copy to Mary Tamm, Honors Program Coordinator, in Quad 451.

Forms

Throughout the thesis process, there are many forms that need to be filled out. All the forms can be found here.

Timeline

Sophomore Year

Begin thinking about a topic and talking to professors.

Junior Year
  1. Register for HONR 396
  2. Turn in the Departmental Approval Form and the Primary Advisor Statement before you turn in the Proposal
  3. Apply for Summer Thesis Fellowships (due in February)
  4. Turn in the Thesis Proposal by last day of classes (in either fall or spring)
  5. Register for HONR 398 if you are taking it in the fall
Senior Year - Fall
  1. If you haven’t turned in a proposal, October 15 is the absolute deadline. No proposals will be accepted after that date.
  2. Register for HONR 398 if you are taking it in the spring.
Senior Year – Spring
  1. Complete drafts are due to committee members by March 15
  2. All defenses need to be scheduled on or before April 22. The online form should be filled out as soon as you agree on a date with your committee.
  3. The final draft is due on the last day of classes. Please turn in the full draft in hard copy to Mary Tamm, Quad 451. Be sure the copy includes the signature page. Please turn in an abstract page and electronic copy to the library by the last day of classes. Details on how to do this are found here. Questions can be directed to Diana Symons, [email protected]
  4. The All College Thesis Luncheon is held on the Friday before graduation. The Outstanding Thesis Award is presented at the luncheon.