Honors Thesis Guidelines

Some of what follows was adapted from material created by the Syracuse University Honors Program
and is used here by kind permission of Dr. D. Bruce Carter, Director of Honors at Syracuse University at the time.


Introduction

To graduate from the Honors Program, students must complete an Honors Thesis. The Honors Thesis is the defining experience of an Honors degree and the culmination of an Honors education. The thesis provides the opportunity for a student, working closely with two faculty members, to define and carry through a research or creative project appropriate to the conclusion of a serious and substantial undergraduate program of study. Further, it gives students an opportunity to strengthen their analytical abilities, their research techniques, and their writing skills. By working closely with several faculty members and by exploring a research or creative idea in some depth, students will gain an advanced experience in their discipline.

The thesis is usually in the student's academic major, although it certainly may be informed by the student's other interests and experiences. Students with double majors (or a major and a minor) may do a thesis incorporating both their majors (or their major and their minor) or may do their thesis in only one of their majors, possibly incorporating insights or expertise from their other major (or their minor) into the final work. Again, students produce their Honors thesis by working one-on-one with members of the faculty.

The thesis provides excellent preparation for graduate work and a solid career credential as well. But perhaps its most important satisfactions are inherent. Honors graduates report that the completion of the thesis, though demanding, was their most gratifying undergraduate experience. Rising to the challenge of seeing one's way along the thorny path of inquiry or creativity makes the thesis project immensely rewarding.

Thesis Credits
Honors Program students receive 3 credits for their Honors thesis, through the Independent Study (or departmental honors thesis course) that they take in the semester they complete the thesis. This assures consistency and fairness for both students and faculty.

Bear in mind that this policy applies only to the Independent Study (or departmental honors thesis course) under which the student completes the thesis. If both advisors agree that the student's work preparing for the thesis is worth additional credits, the College permits them to give the student such credits as they deem appropriate along the way (assuming their department chairs agree). Again, however, in the interest of consistency and fairness, we strongly encourage faculty not to take this path. Perhaps more fundamentally, we feel it is important for students to learn, as they mature, that some worthwhile endeavors in real life earn rewards only at their culmination, not necessarily at each step.

Thesis Seminar
To introduce students to the more advanced independent work necessary to complete an Honors thesis, and to get them started on that work, all Honors Program students must take the 1-credit Honors Thesis Seminar (Honors 350) during the first semester of their junior year. The seminar is conducted by the Honors Director and other members of the Honors faculty and meets for an hour a week for 4 or 5 weeks. Students will learn about thesis requirements; will select a primary thesis advisor, typically in their major; and will develop a preliminary thesis plan, thesis proposal, and thesis timetable in conjunction with that advisor.

Thesis Timetable
By preparing a thesis proposal as part of the Honors Thesis Seminar, students will focus the topic of their thesis and plan their study during the first semester of their junior year. They should begin library research in the first semester junior year and continue it into the second semester. The thesis research or creative work should begin in the second semester junior year and continue into the first semester of the senior year. Students should write the first draft of the thesis during the first semester of the senior year and the final version in the second semester of the senior year. For a more detailed timetable, please see below.

Types of Theses
An Honors thesis is a piece of written work. It has at its core student research or a creative project, but it always involves writing that describes and analyzes this research or project. At the same time, writing a thesis is different from writing just another research paper. First, it is a more substantial piece of work, both in terms of effort and length. Bear in mind, however, that there is no standard length for an Honors thesis. The length is appropriate to the area of study and the topic. Still, as a general guideline, it is reasonable to expect the body of a traditional research thesis to be 60-70 pages.

Second, the thesis tackles a problem (or part of a problem) that others have not yet addressed directly or adequately, or it approaches the problem or creeative effort in a new way. Library research into what others have said and done is an essential first step, but the Honors thesis goes beyond this to include a student's own insights and ideas, his or her own creative and critical thinking. What distinguishes an Honors thesis from a research paper that might be written for a regular 3-credit course is the necessity for the student to go beyond what others have written and to think critically about the topic at hand, to bring his or her own ideas to bear on the topic, to reflect on the topic in his or her own way. An Honors thesis is not, however, a Masters thesis or a Ph.D. dissertation. Undergraduates do not have the time or the training to produce an original contribution to the knowledge base of a discipline. Rather, the Honors thesis is a large research or creative project that can be pursued successfully in three-to-four semesters as part of a normal undergraduate course load. We expect that the Honors thesis will exemplify the highest undergraduate standard in its ideas, methodology, accuracy, clarity, reasoning, and presentation.

Students in majors such as drama, art, music, or English Writing Arts may have as the basis of their thesis a work in a medium appropriate for their major. For example, an art student might create an exhibition of original works, a drama major might direct a play, or a writing major might write a short story. Although such a project can form the basis of a thesis, it is not a thesis in and of itself. To be acceptable as a thesis, a creative work must be accompanied by a written analysis, which includes (but is not limited to) a self-critique of the exhibition/performance/story/script/etc., addressing such questions as why the student took the approach he or she did, why he or she selected the particular work or works to be performed, what he or she would do differently (or the same) next time, and so on. Final submission of a creative thesis must include an appropriate hardcopy record of the project, such as a portfolio, audio tape, video tape, CD, or manuscript.

A third type of thesis might be called the Problem-Solving Thesis. Examples of this type of thesis, which may be completed in any major, include the development and (pilot) implementation of educational materials or a training program, the preparation of a public awareness campaign, the design of an advertising campaign, the creation of a computer program or a Web site, or an extensive study for a community client. Again, such a thesis must include a written analysis, as described immediately above, as well as appropriate documentation.

Whichever type of thesis a student chooses, it is essential that he or she select a topic that truly interests them. A topic that does not engage the student will quickly become boring and onerous, a task unpleasant to both the student and advisor -- a task soon avoided and unlikely to be completed.

Selecting a Thesis Topic
Ideally, the thesis topic will be something that interests the student already, perhaps something they've learned in an earlier course, something they've read, or even a hobby. When students have an idea for a project that interests them, they should find an advisor with interest and expertise in that area. Sometimes, however, students don't have a topic in mind. Under those circumstances, it is useful for the student to approach a faculty member whose course interested them and then work out a topic together.

A thesis topic should be neither too broad nor too narrow. A topic that is too broad, such as "Juvenile Delinquency," is simply not doable. What about juvenile delinquency? Juvenile delinquency where? A topic that is too narrow, such as "Police Response to Juvenile Delinquency in Oswego, New York: May, 1997", may not yield enough results for a meaningful analysis. Students need to work with their advisors to select a topic that will result in a thoughtful, credible, high-quality thesis within the timeframe that the student faces.

As we note elsewhere, perhaps the most important factor in completing an Honors thesis is the student's interest. The student needs to be interested in what he or she proposes to study. Nothing will cripple a student's progress more than working on a thesis that does not interest him or her. How do students get into that situation? Often by having a professor persuade them. "Dr. Smith, would you be an advisor on my thesis? It's about toxins in the Oswego River." "Well, I don't know much about toxins in the Oswego River, and besides, I'm kind of busy with my study of sea otters. Say, how about helping me with my study?" So the student signs on, having no knowledge of or interest in sea otters. Where will this thesis go? Probably nowhere, unless the student very quickly gets interested in sea otters. So, we strongly advise students to pick a topic that interests them.

Research or Creative Techniques
Students will normally employ an approach to the Honors thesis that is appropriate to their particular field of study. For example, a student in the sciences could do a project based on laboratory research; a student in the humanities might do library research; a student in the social sciences might conduct survey research, a case study, or content analysis; a student in the fine and performing arts can use a creative work as the basis for the thesis. But no particular approach is required; the method of study is determined by the student and his or her thesis advisors.

Human Subjects Review
College policy requires that students doing research involving human subjects must obtain approval of the College's Human Subjects Committee before conducting that research, in order to assure that the rights of the subjects are protected. Research on human subjects means not only actual testing, but also written surveys and personal interviews. The Committee will need a brief description of the student's research, of who the subjects are, of the potential benefits to the subjects and any potential risks to the subjects, and of how the subjects will be used in the research. Please see Dr. Stephen Wurst of the Psychology Department for guidelines and applications for Human Subjects Committee approval.

Animal Subjects Review
College policy, and state and federal law, require that students doing research involving (non-human) animals must obtain approval from the College's Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee. The Committee requires a formal application procedure for all such projects. Please be aware that each department within the College is licensed only for research on specific animal species. Therefore, students wishing to pursue thesis projects involving animals must use the designated species. It is imperative that a student discuss this with his or her thesis advisors before starting a thesis project. Please see Dr. David Sargent for the guidelines and application forms for the Psychology Department, and Dr. Emily Oaks for the procedures and form for the Biology Department.

Laboratory Space
Students requiring laboratory space for their thesis projects should be aware that most applications for lab space, cages, etc., take 6 weeks or more to process. So it is important for students to submit these applications as soon as the design for their thesis project has been approved by their advisors. Students in Psychology should see Dr. Sargent for applications. Students in Biology should see Dr. Oaks. Students in the other sciences should see their thesis advisors.

Thesis Advisors
Every Honors thesis must be closely guided by two thesis advisors. Students will select their advisors during the first semester of their junior year. Any member of the Oswego faculty may serve as an Honors thesis advisor. For example, a student writing about the development of Zen philosophy in Japan might find thesis advisors in the Philosophy Department and the History Department. Note that the final grade for the thesis is filed with the Registrar's Office by only one advisor, from his or her department, so students may need to pay some attention to which advisor they sign up for Independent Study with. For example, when one advisor is in the History Department and one is in the Philosophy Department, a student who wants History credit for the thesis must sign up for Independent Study with the History advisor. Faculty cannot assign a grade outside their own department.

The student is expected to work closely with both advisors developing ideas, during the research or creative process, and writing the thesis. The advisors read drafts of the thesis, monitor the student's progress, and provide detailed feedback. Typically, an Honors thesis goes through a number of revisions. The student should give the advisors ample time to read and comment on each draft. Students should anticipate that both advisors will have suggestions they want them to act on, changes and revisions they want them to make. Students need to address these suggestions and revisions and be aware that their advisors do not have to accept the thesis until they are satisfied with the work. Creating a thesis is not an assignment that the student simply hands in at the end of the semester and receives a grade for; it is an ongoing, collaborative process between the student and the advisors.

Often, it is easier for the student to choose advisors than it is to select a thesis topic. A student should choose his or her thesis advisors by taking into consideration both the faculty members' expertise and the potential for a close working relationship, because one of the most rewarding features of the Honors thesis is collaboration with one's advisors. Students should ask faculty members whose class has been of special interest and importance to them or whose field of specialization coincides with their own interests. Students should not be reluctant to approach faculty about thesis supervision. Honors graduates tell us that a good advisor-advisee relationship is crucial to producing a thesis of which both the student and the faculty members can be proud.

The student should meet with each thesis advisors on a regular basis (at least once every two weeks, sometimes once a week, depending upon the stage of thesis development) from the time they agree on a thesis topic until the work is complete. The purpose of these meetings is for the student to ask questions and seek advice and for the advisor to give direction and encouragement. Advisors should not simply receive the student's work. He or she should take an active role in the process, offering ideas, helping the student refine and focus her or his interests into a doable thesis project; working with the student to develop a realistic strategy and timetable; and providing resources, analysis, critique, and expertise to ensure the work's successful completion. (Students should note that faculty are likely to be most supportive of students who keep their appointments and do the work they agreed to do. Students who neglect these things may find themselves having to find another advisor.)

Occasionally, a thesis project may require the expertise of a person who is not a full-time faculty member. Such a person may be appointed as a second advisor with the permission of the faculty thesis advisor and the Director of the Honors Program.

Sections of an Honors Thesis
Honors theses consist of eleven sections. They are:

  1. Signature Page
  2. Title Page
  3. Abstract
  4. Table of Contents
  5. Advice to Future Honors Students
  6. Acknowledgments
  7. Author's Reflections
  8. Thesis Body
  9. Footnotes/Endnotes
  10. Bibliography
  11. Appendices (if applicable)

For more information on each thesis section, please refer to the Honors Thesis Manual of Style.

Thesis Body
The core of every Honors thesis is the thesis body, the student's research or creative work. (Note again that the research or creative work forms the basis of the thesis, but is not the entire thesis, which requires additional analysis.) As we indicate in the Manual of Style, the format for the body of a traditional academic, research-based thesis should follow the conventions of the student's discipline. The body will generally include a statement of the problem, a survey of the existing literature, the student's argument (hypothesis), a statement of methodology, the student's findings, and his or her conclusions. In a traditional research thesis, the body of the text generally averages 60-70 pages. In some disciplines, however, such as the natural sciences or mathematics, the thesis body may be shorter; in others, such as the humanities or social sciences, it may be longer.

For a thesis based on a creative work, the student's creation must be described in a thorough essay, usually preceding the creation (or its representation) in the body. The essay should describe the medium, discuss why the student chose this medium (including the advantages and disadvantages of the medium) and this particular subject, describe in some detail the process and influences that led to this creation, and self-critique the student's success in reaching his or her creative goals. In other words, the reader should learn exactly what the student did, why he or she did it, how well -- in the student's opinion -- it turned out, and what he or she would do the same or differently if they did it again. Students should also demonstrate their familiarity with similar work in their field by discussing its historical and/or cultural context. As with a traditional academic thesis, the format of the body should follow the conventions of the student's discipline. Regardless of the medium in which the body of the thesis is produced (written, videotaped, painted, etc.), the student must provide a hardcopy record of the work (such as manuscript, photographs, CDs, or tapes).

Registering for the Honors Thesis
Students register for the Honors thesis in the semester during which it will be completed, typically second semester senior year. Most students receive credit for their thesis work as an Independent Study. To this end, students should pick up an Independent Study form from the Honors Office, fill it out for the appropriate Independent Study (XXX 499, e.g., HIS 499 or BIO 499), and get the form signed by the thesis advisor who will be filing the grade (again, paying attention to which department they want the Independent Study credit from) and by his or her department chair (not by the Honors Director). Students then bring the signed form to the Registrar's Office (301 Culkin Hall).

Some Honors Program students are also enrolled in departmental honors programs. Several of these programs require students to complete a departmental honors thesis and enroll in a special departmental honors thesis course, such as Chemistry 497, History 491, Political Science 490, and Psychology 490. Students in these programs do not have to register for Independent Study; the Honors Program will accept the departmental thesis course in place of the Independent Study. Nor do such students have to write two theses. They may submit the departmental thesis as their Honors Program thesis, providing the copy they submit meets all Honors Program requirements, following the Manual of Style and including the signatures of two advisors.

As we indicated above, in the interest of consistency and fairness, the Honors thesis carries 3 credits.

An important note: Independent Study should be counted as part of the student's normal course load, not as something extra. A student planning on a 15-credit semester should choose four courses plus Independent Study. We have found that students who view Independent Study as something that can be done as an overload, in their spare time, are unlikely to have their thesis completed by graduation. Students should think of their thesis work as part of their regular schedule. The most important thing to remember about the thesis is this: it will take students longer than they think it will. Guaranteed.

Preparing the Final Version
As you can see from the timetable, we recommend that the student give the next-to-last version of the thesis to both advisors by March 1 for May graduates (October 1 for December graduates). Students should use the month of March (October for December graduates) to confer with their thesis advisors to agree on and make necessary revisions.

Documentation
Students may use whatever form of bibliographic and footnote/endnote citation is required by their discipline. This includes Internet and World Wide Web sources. (One guide to citing electronic sources can be found at www.smpcollege.com/online-4styles~help.) The thesis advisors will provide students with the appropriate citation format.

For sources on the Internet or World Wide Web, students should consult a guide to citing on-line sources, available in the College bookstore, or on the Web itself.

Submission of the Thesis to the Honors Program
Once the thesis is complete -- that is, fully revised to the satisfaction of the student and both thesis advisors -- it is the student's responsibility to provide a signature page to his or her advisors. (This page can be obtained in the Honors Program office.) This page must be signed and dated by both advisors, signifying their approval of the thesis. A copy of the final thesis, including the signature page, must then be submitted to the Honors office. It is the student's responsibility, not the advisors', to see that the thesis is submitted. The Honors Director will examine the thesis to ensure that it is complete and consistent with the Manual of Style. If it is, he signs it and sends a letter to the Registrar's Office informing them that the student has completed all his or her Honors Program requirements. If the thesis is not complete or consistent with the Manual of Style, the thesis will be returned to the student for corrections. We recommend that students submit the completed and signed thesis to the Honors office in late April or early May (Late November or early December for December graduates).

Grading
Because it is usually taken as an Independent Study, the thesis receives a letter grade. As we indicated above, one thesis advisor files the grade upon satisfactory completion of the thesis.

For the sake of clarity, fairness, and thoroughness, we encourage both thesis advisors to meet together as a committee with the student at least once a semester, more often if necessary, and certainly just before approving the completed thesis. This is not a defense, but is intended as a discussion to avoid any misunderstandings about what the student must do to successfully complete his or her thesis.

Finally, we urge the primary advisor to consult with the second advisor in the assignment of the student's grade. We hope, of course, that advisors will encourage the student to refine his or her thesis, with their advice and assistance, to the point where it will earn the highest grade.

Incompletes
If the student does not complete the thesis by the end of the semester in which he or she is registered for Independent Study, the student will receive a grade of Incomplete. Once the thesis is completed and the signature page signed by both advisors. the primary advisor should file a Change of Grade form with the Registrar's Office, removing the Incomplete and changing it to a grade. As above, it is the student's responsibility to see that the completed and signed thesis is submitted to the Honors Director, so that he can certify the student for graduation.

Recommended Honors Thesis Timetable

 

Take Honors Thesis Seminar

1st semester junior year

Select your primary advisor

1st semester junior year

Prepare thesis proposal

1st semester junior year

Choose second advisor

1st semester junior year

Begin library research

Start 1st semester junior year, continue in 2nd semester junior year

Do thesis research or creative work

Start 2nd semester junior year, continue in 1st semester senior year

Write first draft of thesis

1st semester senior year

Register for Independent Study

2nd semester senior year (for most students)

Submit next-to-last draft of thesis to both advisors

By March 1 for May graduates (October 1 for December graduates)

Confer with advisors and prepare final version of thesis

During March for May graduates (October for December graduates)

Obtain advisors' signatures on completed thesis

Late April or early May for May graduates (late November or early December for December grads)

Submit completed and signed thesis to Honors office

Late April or early May for May graduates (Late November or early December for December graduates)



Questions and Answers about the Honors Thesis

What discipline should my thesis be in?
In whatever discipline interests you most. Not surprisingly, most students do it in their major (or one of their majors, if they have a double major), but some have done it in their minor, and a few have done it in a different area altogether. Students with double majors sometimes manage to combine them for a thesis, but that isn't necessary.

How do I find a thesis topic?
Again, select something that interests you. Maybe you did some work that grabbed your interest in an earlier course. Maybe a professor said something that caught your interest. Maybe there's something that you've always been interested in. Whichever it is, choose a topic that really interests you, or you won't be motivated to work on it.

What do I do if there's no topic that already interests me?
Find a professor whose work interests you or whose class interests (or interested) you. Tell him or her that you'd like to work on your Honors Thesis with them but don't have any ideas for a topic. Ask if they'll be your thesis advisor and help you. Most will be willing to, but they won't hand you a topic. They'll work with you to come up with one.

So, what do I do first: find an advisor or a topic?
There isn't one answer to that question. If you have an idea for a topic, find an advisor to fit the topic. If you want to work with a particular advisor, work with him or her to develop a topic.

When should I start thinking about my thesis?
You should start working on your thesis -- not just thinking about it -- during the first semester of your junior year. By working on it I mean nailing down a topic and a primary advisor, not merely thinking about these things. And if you wait until your senior year to actually work on it, experience tells me that it will be extremely difficult for you to complete your thesis before you graduate.

Do I have to register for some course?
Yes, your Honors Thesis has to be attached to a course; it can't just be an informal arrangement between you and your thesis advisor. This means, for most students, you must sign up for Independent Study in one of your thesis advisors' departments. So, for example, if you're doing a thesis with someone in the English Department, you'd sign up for ENG 499; if you were working with someone in Business, you'd sign up for BUS 499; and so on. The number 499 is the College's designation for senior-level Independent Study.

You must also sign up for HON 350: Honors Thesis Seminar. This is a 1-credit course in which we try to provide the help, support, and motivation you might need to get moving on your thesis.

When do I take these courses?
Take HON 350 in the Fall semester of your junior year. Take the Independent Study during the semester in which you will complete your thesis, most likely Spring semester of your senior year.

Do I get a letter grade for Honors 350?
No. Honors 350 is graded Satisfactory/ Unsatisfactory.

How many credits do I get for the Honors thesis?
You receive 3 credits of Independent Study for your Honors thesis.

Do I get a letter grade for my thesis?
Yes. Independent Study is letter-graded.

How do I sign up for Independent Study?
Get an Independent Study form from the Honors Office, fill it out, get it signed by the thesis advisor whose department you want the Independent Study credit from and by his or her department chair (NOT by the Honors Director), and bring it to the Registrar's Office.

Should I sign up for Independent Study as an overload -- in addition to my full load of courses?
No! Independent Study IS a course. In fact, it's probably the most work you'll ever do for 3 credits. Approaching thesis work as an overload is detrimental in two ways. First, you just won't have enough time to do it. Second, you'll tend to think of it as something to do in your spare time. Big mistake. Your thesis should be part of your mainstream work and your mainstream thinking.

I have to do a senior research project and paper as a requirement for my major. Do I have to do a thesis too?
No. For example, Chemistry and Psychology each have departmental honors programs and each require an independent research project. Sociology requires an advanced research methods course for all its majors, which sometimes involves an independent research project. Students in English Writing Arts often take senior courses that require major writing projects. You can use the work for these courses -- and others like them -- to form the basis of your Honors Thesis.

What if I can't take HON 350 because I'm studying overseas that semester?
If you know well ahead of time that you're going overseas, take HON 350 in the first semester of your sophomore year. Otherwise, take it in the first semester of your senior year.

OK, I've got a topic and I've got one advisor. Now what?
You need to get one more advisor. As I said above, one who can be helpful to you in the creation of your thesis. Perhaps you've discovered that you need to do some statistical analysis but don't know how to do it. Your second advisor could be someone who can help you with statistics. Or maybe you're a secondary education major with a social science concentrate, and you want to study U.S. internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, and develop a way to teach it to 10th-graders. One advisor could be in history and the other could be a curriculum development specialist from Education.

I understand what you're telling me, but I still can't figure out who to get for my second advisors. What do I do?
That's one of the things your primary thesis advisor is for. And, if all else fails, talk to the Honors Director. We've never had anyone fail to complete a thesis because they couldn't get enough advisors.

My primary advisor and I have come up with a couple of names for the other advisor. How do I get one of them to do it?
Ask them. Explain that you're starting work on your Honors Thesis, tell them about your topic, show them an outline, and tell them you really want to work with them.

I'm not clear on how I work with both these advisors.
There isn't one right way to work with advisors. It's a matter of doing whatever it takes to get the job done -- and done well. But one thing is certain: you should schedule meetings with each of your advisors on a regular basis. An advisor might say to you, "Well, just come back when you've read the first couple of books I've suggested." Resist this temptation. Firmly schedule your next meeting -- no later than the next week or two. This will force you to do the work. Otherwise, September slips into October, October into November -- and, before you know it, it's your senior year and you haven't done any work on your thesis. Then it's late May, and you're trying to get a job -- and still trying desperately to finish up your thesis with several faculty who are trying to grade their finals before they disappear for the summer. The result is that you don't graduate until August -- or December. Don't put yourself in this position: get to work on your thesis soon, give yourself enough time for thesis work during the semester, and meet with each of your advisors regularly and often.

Moreover, as we noted above, for the sake of clarity, fairness, and thoroughness, we encourage both thesis advisors to meet together with you at least once a semester, more often if necessary, and certainly just before approving your completed thesis.

Can't I just work with one advisor and give my thesis to my other advisor when I'm almost done?
No. Both your advisors are there to help you and guide you. It's their job to point you in directions that you might not otherwise have thought to go on your own. They have the right and the responsibility to expect changes and revisions in your thesis. You need to work with them throughout the thesis process. (Not doing so is one of the most common mistakes that students make.) Working with them all along will certainly improve your thesis -- and it will mean that you're not in the position of handing someone (who barely knows you) a thesis to approve that they've never read before -- as you're quite literally trying to graduate and leave Oswego. As I said above, you'll be trying to finish a thesis long distance and over the summer with faculty for whom you aren't a priority, since you never bothered to work with them during the school year. Again as I said above, meet with both your advisors regularly and often.

How long should my thesis be?
There's no set minimum or maximum. However long it takes to adequately cover your topic. Who determines that? Your advisors. Still, a thesis is a major undertaking, so it is reasonable to expect the body of a traditional research thesis to be 60-70 pages.

Does my thesis have to involve a research project? I'm a Writing Arts major. Can't I write a short story?
Your thesis doesn't have to be a research project (although all theses involve some library research). The body of your thesis can be in whatever creative form is appropriate to your topic or major. If you're a Writing Arts major, a short story is great. We've had students use television scripts, newspaper stories, and magazine articles that they've written. Again, whatever your advisor feels is appropriate. Bear in mind however that the creative work, such as a short story, doesn't make up the entire thesis; there are parts to the body of the thesis in addition to the central research or creative work, like a self-reflective discussion of the work. For more information on this, please refer to the Honors Thesis Manual of Style.

I'm a Music major. Does my thesis have to be in writing?
Yes. Remember, a performance can be the central work presented and discussed in the thesis, but the thesis is more than the performance. A thesis includes a discussion of cultural and historical context, a written description of the creative process, and an analysis of the performance. Again, for more information, please refer to the Manual of Style.

How can you document a performance or exhibition as part of your thesis?
You can videotape your performance, or audiotape your recital. You can submit a portfolio of photographs of your art exhibition. A student in Computer Science created an elaborate Web site for his thesis project, then downloaded the code and some screen shots as part of the body of his thesis. Each of these documenting materials must be part of your thesis, either as part of the body or in the Appendix. Again, see the Manual of Style for more information.

Does the Honors Director have to approve my topic or list of advisors? Does he have any say in my thesis grade?
No and no. I don't have any say about topics or grades. They're between you and your advisors. As for who your advisors are, it's important for me to know who your advisors are, but I don't select or approve them. I do, however, sign off on your thesis, certifying that it is complete and has met all the Honors thesis requirements.

Do my advisors have to meet together at any time or can they work separately?
That's up to them. Some advisors are more comfortable meeting together to give you feedback; some prefer to work separately.

It sounds like my advisors are really in charge. How much say do I have in all this?
Your advisors are the people you have to please. But it's still your thesis. If you're uncomfortable with any suggestion either of your advisors make, if you think they expect too much of you, if you don't want to take your thesis in a direction they suggest -- whatever -- discuss it with them. You won't do your best work if your heart's not in it.

It's one month into Spring semester of my senior year, and I've been working on this thesis for over a year. I'm so-o-o bored with it, and I have so many other things to do before I graduate. What do I do?
Everyone -- literally everyone -- who's ever done such a project gets bored with it at some time. A year or more is a long time to think about the same subject. What do you do? Two things, somewhat contradictory. First, find something non-academic to take your mind off your project. Play tennis, read mysteries, learn origami. When I was bogged down with my doctoral dissertation, I started to sculpt with clay. I was terrible at it, but it sure felt good, and it really relieved the stress. Second, keep focused on your thesis. Keep reminding yourself that it's almost over. And remember the perils of not finishing it before your graduate.

I've finished writing my thesis, and my advisors think it's fine. Now what?
Get a Thesis Signature Page from the Honors Program office, and have each of your advisors sign and date it. Then, submit the form and a clean, final copy of your thesis to the Honors office.

Then what happens?
Once I have the signed thesis, I look through it to make sure it's complete and that it's consistent with the Manual of Style. If it is, I sign it. (If it isn't, I give it back to you for corrections.) Then, I send a letter to the Registrar's Office telling them that you've completed all your requirements and are now ready to graduate from SUNY Oswego and the Honors Program.

My advisor told me that I'm done, but I haven't gotten the Signature Page signed or my thesis submitted to the Honors office. Have I graduated anyway?
No. Students at SUNY Oswego must fulfill either General Education requirements or Honors Program requirements. The thesis is part of the Honors requirements. Since the folks in the Registrar's Office understand that you're in the Honors Program, they're waiting for the letter from me telling them that you've met all your graduation requirements. No thesis, no letter. No letter, no graduation. Therefore, no thesis, no graduation.

Will it say "Honors" on my diploma?
Your diploma doesn't even have your major on it, but don't mistake a diploma for a transcript. Your diploma has no official status; it's just the piece of paper that your mom and dad hang on the wall to prove to themselves that you really did it. Your transcript is your official college record. It's what employers and grad schools want to see. It's a record of all your classes, your grades, your overall GPA, your major, and so on. It will say "College Honors Program," and that's where it counts.