Honors Thesis (HONR 398)

What is it?

An Honors Thesis is a limited study examining a student's own researchable hypothesis in consultation with one or more department members. Students closely work with a faculty research supervisor from the psychology department in writing a thesis, conducting research, or executing a creative project. Students planning on signing up for an honors senior project should contact a faculty research advisor and decide on a general topic of interest during the previous spring semester. It is also strongly suggested that students formulate a research question and conduct preliminary research prior to the beginning of the fall semester. Throughout the fall, the student and faculty supervisor will meet regularly and evaluate the progress of the project. By mid-March, the student submits a final draft of written work to the department defense committee. A public defense is held by late April of the senior year.

What are the benefits?

For many students, the senior honors thesis has been the most important experience of their college careers. Preparation of such a project 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.

Besides independent work, the project also involves close associations with faculty members, particularly with the professor supervising your work. Such sustained interaction contributes greatly to the quality of the experience.

Working on your thesis will provide you with a valuable assessment of your ability to investigate a problem and to do serious writing, research, and experimentation. Through this work, you can develop the self-knowledge and initiative that are essential for successful graduate study. Admissions committees in many graduate or professional schools are especially interested in independent work you have successfully completed. At the same time, 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.

Students who earn an “A” on the honors thesis graduate with “Distinction in Psychology.”

Who is eligible?

Any student at the College of Saint Benedict or Saint John's University may choose to write a Senior Honors Thesis, regardless of whether the student is a member of the Honors Program, if the student has the agreement of three professors in his or her department and the approval of the department chair.

Enrollment is open to junior and senior psychology majors who have been admitted to the major, and have completed at least 20 credits in psychology. Students must also complete research methods and Honors 396 (project proposal).

What do I need to do to take advantage of this opportunity?

Sample timeline for completing an honors thesis research project in psychology:

Fall of junior year:

  • Find a faculty advisor (you will want to do this as early as possible as faculty members can only take on a few students).

Spring of junior year:

  • Work with your faculty advisor to formulate research idea
  • Register for HONR 396, Thesis Proposal, and begin working on your proposal.

Summer before senior year:

  • Develop your research idea through extensive reading of the related literature.

Fall of senior year:

  • Register for HONR 398, Honors Thesis.
  • Find two readers to serve on your thesis committee.
  • Finish thesis proposal.
  • Plan study.
  • Conduct study.

Spring of senior year:

  • Finish gathering data.
  • Analyze data.
  • Write paper.
  • Defend thesis for committee.

How is an Honors Thesis different from a Senior Thesis?

Although an Honors Thesis and a Senior Thesis both involve extensive research on an original research question and both fulfill the capstone requirement, the two opportunities have some key differences.

  • An Honor’s Thesis is through the honors department and completing the project with an “A” allows a student to graduate with distinction in the major. A Senior Thesis is through the department alone and is not associated with this graduation honor.
  • Students completing an Honors Thesis need to have a faculty supervisor and two faculty readers for their project. Students completing a Senior Thesis require only a single faculty supervisor.
  • Honors Thesis students are required to formally defend their thesis to their committee. This is not a requirement for the Senior Thesis although often students completing both types of projects make other presentations at small conferences such as MUPC or Scholarship and Creativity Day.

Click here to see the deadlines and requirements for both an Honors Thesis and a Senior Thesis.