The Writing Center • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Honors Theses

What this handout is about.

Writing a senior honors thesis, or any major research essay, can seem daunting at first. A thesis requires a reflective, multi-stage writing process. This handout will walk you through those stages. It is targeted at students in the humanities and social sciences, since their theses tend to involve more writing than projects in the hard sciences. Yet all thesis writers may find the organizational strategies helpful.


What is an honors thesis.

That depends quite a bit on your field of study. However, all honors theses have at least two things in common:

  • They are based on students’ original research.
  • They take the form of a written manuscript, which presents the findings of that research. In the humanities, theses average 50-75 pages in length and consist of two or more chapters. In the social sciences, the manuscript may be shorter, depending on whether the project involves more quantitative than qualitative research. In the hard sciences, the manuscript may be shorter still, often taking the form of a sophisticated laboratory report.

Who can write an honors thesis?

In general, students who are at the end of their junior year, have an overall 3.2 GPA, and meet their departmental requirements can write a senior thesis. For information about your eligibility, contact:

  • UNC Honors Program
  • Your departmental administrators of undergraduate studies/honors

Why write an honors thesis?

Satisfy your intellectual curiosity This is the most compelling reason to write a thesis. Whether it’s the short stories of Flannery O’Connor or the challenges of urban poverty, you’ve studied topics in college that really piqued your interest. Now’s your chance to follow your passions, explore further, and contribute some original ideas and research in your field.

Develop transferable skills Whether you choose to stay in your field of study or not, the process of developing and crafting a feasible research project will hone skills that will serve you well in almost any future job. After all, most jobs require some form of problem solving and oral and written communication. Writing an honors thesis requires that you:

  • ask smart questions
  • acquire the investigative instincts needed to find answers
  • navigate libraries, laboratories, archives, databases, and other research venues
  • develop the flexibility to redirect your research if your initial plan flops
  • master the art of time management
  • hone your argumentation skills
  • organize a lengthy piece of writing
  • polish your oral communication skills by presenting and defending your project to faculty and peers

Work closely with faculty mentors At large research universities like Carolina, you’ve likely taken classes where you barely got to know your instructor. Writing a thesis offers the opportunity to work one-on-one with a with faculty adviser. Such mentors can enrich your intellectual development and later serve as invaluable references for graduate school and employment.

Open windows into future professions An honors thesis will give you a taste of what it’s like to do research in your field. Even if you’re a sociology major, you may not really know what it’s like to be a sociologist. Writing a sociology thesis would open a window into that world. It also might help you decide whether to pursue that field in graduate school or in your future career.

How do you write an honors thesis?

Get an idea of what’s expected.

It’s a good idea to review some of the honors theses other students have submitted to get a sense of what an honors thesis might look like and what kinds of things might be appropriate topics. Look for examples from the previous year in the Carolina Digital Repository. You may also be able to find past theses collected in your major department or at the North Carolina Collection in Wilson Library. Pay special attention to theses written by students who share your major.

Choose a topic

Ideally, you should start thinking about topics early in your junior year, so you can begin your research and writing quickly during your senior year. (Many departments require that you submit a proposal for an honors thesis project during the spring of your junior year.)

How should you choose a topic?

  • Read widely in the fields that interest you. Make a habit of browsing professional journals to survey the “hot” areas of research and to familiarize yourself with your field’s stylistic conventions. (You’ll find the most recent issues of the major professional journals in the periodicals reading room on the first floor of Davis Library).
  • Set up appointments to talk with faculty in your field. This is a good idea, since you’ll eventually need to select an advisor and a second reader. Faculty also can help you start narrowing down potential topics.
  • Look at honors theses from the past. The North Carolina Collection in Wilson Library holds UNC honors theses. To get a sense of the typical scope of a thesis, take a look at a sampling from your field.

What makes a good topic?

  • It’s fascinating. Above all, choose something that grips your imagination. If you don’t, the chances are good that you’ll struggle to finish.
  • It’s doable. Even if a topic interests you, it won’t work out unless you have access to the materials you need to research it. Also be sure that your topic is narrow enough. Let’s take an example: Say you’re interested in the efforts to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s and early 1980s. That’s a big topic that probably can’t be adequately covered in a single thesis. You need to find a case study within that larger topic. For example, maybe you’re particularly interested in the states that did not ratify the ERA. Of those states, perhaps you’ll select North Carolina, since you’ll have ready access to local research materials. And maybe you want to focus primarily on the ERA’s opponents. Beyond that, maybe you’re particularly interested in female opponents of the ERA. Now you’ve got a much more manageable topic: Women in North Carolina Who Opposed the ERA in the 1970s and 1980s.
  • It contains a question. There’s a big difference between having a topic and having a guiding research question. Taking the above topic, perhaps your main question is: Why did some women in North Carolina oppose the ERA? You will, of course, generate other questions: Who were the most outspoken opponents? White women? Middle-class women? How did they oppose the ERA? Public protests? Legislative petitions? etc. etc. Yet it’s good to start with a guiding question that will focus your research.

Goal-setting and time management

The senior year is an exceptionally busy time for college students. In addition to the usual load of courses and jobs, seniors have the daunting task of applying for jobs and/or graduate school. These demands are angst producing and time consuming If that scenario sounds familiar, don’t panic! Do start strategizing about how to make a time for your thesis. You may need to take a lighter course load or eliminate extracurricular activities. Even if the thesis is the only thing on your plate, you still need to make a systematic schedule for yourself. Most departments require that you take a class that guides you through the honors project, so deadlines likely will be set for you. Still, you should set your own goals for meeting those deadlines. Here are a few suggestions for goal setting and time management:

Start early. Keep in mind that many departments will require that you turn in your thesis sometime in early April, so don’t count on having the entire spring semester to finish your work. Ideally, you’ll start the research process the semester or summer before your senior year so that the writing process can begin early in the fall. Some goal-setting will be done for you if you are taking a required class that guides you through the honors project. But any substantive research project requires a clear timetable.

Set clear goals in making a timetable. Find out the final deadline for turning in your project to your department. Working backwards from that deadline, figure out how much time you can allow for the various stages of production.

Here is a sample timetable. Use it, however, with two caveats in mind:

  • The timetable for your thesis might look very different depending on your departmental requirements.
  • You may not wish to proceed through these stages in a linear fashion. You may want to revise chapter one before you write chapter two. Or you might want to write your introduction last, not first. This sample is designed simply to help you start thinking about how to customize your own schedule.

Sample timetable

Avoid falling into the trap of procrastination. Once you’ve set goals for yourself, stick to them! For some tips on how to do this, see our handout on procrastination .

Consistent production

It’s a good idea to try to squeeze in a bit of thesis work every day—even if it’s just fifteen minutes of journaling or brainstorming about your topic. Or maybe you’ll spend that fifteen minutes taking notes on a book. The important thing is to accomplish a bit of active production (i.e., putting words on paper) for your thesis every day. That way, you develop good writing habits that will help you keep your project moving forward.

Make yourself accountable to someone other than yourself

Since most of you will be taking a required thesis seminar, you will have deadlines. Yet you might want to form a writing group or enlist a peer reader, some person or people who can help you stick to your goals. Moreover, if your advisor encourages you to work mostly independently, don’t be afraid to ask them to set up periodic meetings at which you’ll turn in installments of your project.

Brainstorming and freewriting

One of the biggest challenges of a lengthy writing project is keeping the creative juices flowing. Here’s where freewriting can help. Try keeping a small notebook handy where you jot down stray ideas that pop into your head. Or schedule time to freewrite. You may find that such exercises “free” you up to articulate your argument and generate new ideas. Here are some questions to stimulate freewriting.

Questions for basic brainstorming at the beginning of your project:

  • What do I already know about this topic?
  • Why do I care about this topic?
  • Why is this topic important to people other than myself
  • What more do I want to learn about this topic?
  • What is the main question that I am trying to answer?
  • Where can I look for additional information?
  • Who is my audience and how can I reach them?
  • How will my work inform my larger field of study?
  • What’s the main goal of my research project?

Questions for reflection throughout your project:

  • What’s my main argument? How has it changed since I began the project?
  • What’s the most important evidence that I have in support of my “big point”?
  • What questions do my sources not answer?
  • How does my case study inform or challenge my field writ large?
  • Does my project reinforce or contradict noted scholars in my field? How?
  • What is the most surprising finding of my research?
  • What is the most frustrating part of this project?
  • What is the most rewarding part of this project?
  • What will be my work’s most important contribution?

Research and note-taking

In conducting research, you will need to find both primary sources (“firsthand” sources that come directly from the period/events/people you are studying) and secondary sources (“secondhand” sources that are filtered through the interpretations of experts in your field.) The nature of your research will vary tremendously, depending on what field you’re in. For some general suggestions on finding sources, consult the UNC Libraries tutorials . Whatever the exact nature of the research you’re conducting, you’ll be taking lots of notes and should reflect critically on how you do that. Too often it’s assumed that the research phase of a project involves very little substantive writing (i.e., writing that involves thinking). We sit down with our research materials and plunder them for basic facts and useful quotations. That mechanical type of information-recording is important. But a more thoughtful type of writing and analytical thinking is also essential at this stage. Some general guidelines for note-taking:

First of all, develop a research system. There are lots of ways to take and organize your notes. Whether you choose to use note cards, computer databases, or notebooks, follow two cardinal rules:

  • Make careful distinctions between direct quotations and your paraphrasing! This is critical if you want to be sure to avoid accidentally plagiarizing someone else’s work. For more on this, see our handout on plagiarism .
  • Record full citations for each source. Don’t get lazy here! It will be far more difficult to find the proper citation later than to write it down now.

Keeping those rules in mind, here’s a template for the types of information that your note cards/legal pad sheets/computer files should include for each of your sources:

Abbreviated subject heading: Include two or three words to remind you of what this sources is about (this shorthand categorization is essential for the later sorting of your sources).

Complete bibliographic citation:

  • author, title, publisher, copyright date, and page numbers for published works
  • box and folder numbers and document descriptions for archival sources
  • complete web page title, author, address, and date accessed for online sources

Notes on facts, quotations, and arguments: Depending on the type of source you’re using, the content of your notes will vary. If, for example, you’re using US Census data, then you’ll mainly be writing down statistics and numbers. If you’re looking at someone else’s diary, you might jot down a number of quotations that illustrate the subject’s feelings and perspectives. If you’re looking at a secondary source, you’ll want to make note not just of factual information provided by the author but also of their key arguments.

Your interpretation of the source: This is the most important part of note-taking. Don’t just record facts. Go ahead and take a stab at interpreting them. As historians Jacques Barzun and Henry F. Graff insist, “A note is a thought.” So what do these thoughts entail? Ask yourself questions about the context and significance of each source.

Interpreting the context of a source:

  • Who wrote/created the source?
  • When, and under what circumstances, was it written/created?
  • Why was it written/created? What was the agenda behind the source?
  • How was it written/created?
  • If using a secondary source: How does it speak to other scholarship in the field?

Interpreting the significance of a source:

  • How does this source answer (or complicate) my guiding research questions?
  • Does it pose new questions for my project? What are they?
  • Does it challenge my fundamental argument? If so, how?
  • Given the source’s context, how reliable is it?

You don’t need to answer all of these questions for each source, but you should set a goal of engaging in at least one or two sentences of thoughtful, interpretative writing for each source. If you do so, you’ll make much easier the next task that awaits you: drafting.

The dread of drafting

Why do we often dread drafting? We dread drafting because it requires synthesis, one of the more difficult forms of thinking and interpretation. If you’ve been free-writing and taking thoughtful notes during the research phase of your project, then the drafting should be far less painful. Here are some tips on how to get started:

Sort your “evidence” or research into analytical categories:

  • Some people file note cards into categories.
  • The technologically-oriented among us take notes using computer database programs that have built-in sorting mechanisms.
  • Others cut and paste evidence into detailed outlines on their computer.
  • Still others stack books, notes, and photocopies into topically-arranged piles.There is not a single right way, but this step—in some form or fashion—is essential!

If you’ve been forcing yourself to put subject headings on your notes as you go along, you’ll have generated a number of important analytical categories. Now, you need to refine those categories and sort your evidence. Everyone has a different “sorting style.”

Formulate working arguments for your entire thesis and individual chapters. Once you’ve sorted your evidence, you need to spend some time thinking about your project’s “big picture.” You need to be able to answer two questions in specific terms:

  • What is the overall argument of my thesis?
  • What are the sub-arguments of each chapter and how do they relate to my main argument?

Keep in mind that “working arguments” may change after you start writing. But a senior thesis is big and potentially unwieldy. If you leave this business of argument to chance, you may end up with a tangle of ideas. See our handout on arguments and handout on thesis statements for some general advice on formulating arguments.

Divide your thesis into manageable chunks. The surest road to frustration at this stage is getting obsessed with the big picture. What? Didn’t we just say that you needed to focus on the big picture? Yes, by all means, yes. You do need to focus on the big picture in order to get a conceptual handle on your project, but you also need to break your thesis down into manageable chunks of writing. For example, take a small stack of note cards and flesh them out on paper. Or write through one point on a chapter outline. Those small bits of prose will add up quickly.

Just start! Even if it’s not at the beginning. Are you having trouble writing those first few pages of your chapter? Sometimes the introduction is the toughest place to start. You should have a rough idea of your overall argument before you begin writing one of the main chapters, but you might find it easier to start writing in the middle of a chapter of somewhere other than word one. Grab hold where you evidence is strongest and your ideas are clearest.

Keep up the momentum! Assuming the first draft won’t be your last draft, try to get your thoughts on paper without spending too much time fussing over minor stylistic concerns. At the drafting stage, it’s all about getting those ideas on paper. Once that task is done, you can turn your attention to revising.

Peter Elbow, in Writing With Power, suggests that writing is difficult because it requires two conflicting tasks: creating and criticizing. While these two tasks are intimately intertwined, the drafting stage focuses on creating, while revising requires criticizing. If you leave your revising to the last minute, then you’ve left out a crucial stage of the writing process. See our handout for some general tips on revising . The challenges of revising an honors thesis may include:

Juggling feedback from multiple readers

A senior thesis may mark the first time that you have had to juggle feedback from a wide range of readers:

  • your adviser
  • a second (and sometimes third) faculty reader
  • the professor and students in your honors thesis seminar

You may feel overwhelmed by the prospect of incorporating all this advice. Keep in mind that some advice is better than others. You will probably want to take most seriously the advice of your adviser since they carry the most weight in giving your project a stamp of approval. But sometimes your adviser may give you more advice than you can digest. If so, don’t be afraid to approach them—in a polite and cooperative spirit, of course—and ask for some help in prioritizing that advice. See our handout for some tips on getting and receiving feedback .

Refining your argument

It’s especially easy in writing a lengthy work to lose sight of your main ideas. So spend some time after you’ve drafted to go back and clarify your overall argument and the individual chapter arguments and make sure they match the evidence you present.

Organizing and reorganizing

Again, in writing a 50-75 page thesis, things can get jumbled. You may find it particularly helpful to make a “reverse outline” of each of your chapters. That will help you to see the big sections in your work and move things around so there’s a logical flow of ideas. See our handout on  organization  for more organizational suggestions and tips on making a reverse outline

Plugging in holes in your evidence

It’s unlikely that you anticipated everything you needed to look up before you drafted your thesis. Save some time at the revising stage to plug in the holes in your research. Make sure that you have both primary and secondary evidence to support and contextualize your main ideas.

Saving time for the small stuff

Even though your argument, evidence, and organization are most important, leave plenty of time to polish your prose. At this point, you’ve spent a very long time on your thesis. Don’t let minor blemishes (misspellings and incorrect grammar) distract your readers!

Formatting and final touches

You’re almost done! You’ve researched, drafted, and revised your thesis; now you need to take care of those pesky little formatting matters. An honors thesis should replicate—on a smaller scale—the appearance of a dissertation or master’s thesis. So, you need to include the “trappings” of a formal piece of academic work. For specific questions on formatting matters, check with your department to see if it has a style guide that you should use. For general formatting guidelines, consult the Graduate School’s Guide to Dissertations and Theses . Keeping in mind the caveat that you should always check with your department first about its stylistic guidelines, here’s a brief overview of the final “finishing touches” that you’ll need to put on your honors thesis:

  • Honors Thesis
  • Name of Department
  • University of North Carolina
  • These parts of the thesis will vary in format depending on whether your discipline uses MLA, APA, CBE, or Chicago (also known in its shortened version as Turabian) style. Whichever style you’re using, stick to the rules and be consistent. It might be helpful to buy an appropriate style guide. Or consult the UNC LibrariesYear Citations/footnotes and works cited/reference pages  citation tutorial
  • In addition, in the bottom left corner, you need to leave space for your adviser and faculty readers to sign their names. For example:

Approved by: _____________________

Adviser: Prof. Jane Doe

  • This is not a required component of an honors thesis. However, if you want to thank particular librarians, archivists, interviewees, and advisers, here’s the place to do it. You should include an acknowledgments page if you received a grant from the university or an outside agency that supported your research. It’s a good idea to acknowledge folks who helped you with a major project, but do not feel the need to go overboard with copious and flowery expressions of gratitude. You can—and should—always write additional thank-you notes to people who gave you assistance.
  • Formatted much like the table of contents.
  • You’ll need to save this until the end, because it needs to reflect your final pagination. Once you’ve made all changes to the body of the thesis, then type up your table of contents with the titles of each section aligned on the left and the page numbers on which those sections begin flush right.
  • Each page of your thesis needs a number, although not all page numbers are displayed. All pages that precede the first page of the main text (i.e., your introduction or chapter one) are numbered with small roman numerals (i, ii, iii, iv, v, etc.). All pages thereafter use Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc.).
  • Your text should be double spaced (except, in some cases, long excerpts of quoted material), in a 12 point font and a standard font style (e.g., Times New Roman). An honors thesis isn’t the place to experiment with funky fonts—they won’t enhance your work, they’ll only distract your readers.
  • In general, leave a one-inch inch margin on all sides. However, for the copy of your thesis that will be bound by the library, you need to leave a 1.25-inch margin on the left.

How do I defend my honors thesis?

Graciously, enthusiastically, and confidently. The term defense is scary and misleading—it conjures up images of a military exercise or an athletic maneuver. An academic defense ideally shouldn’t be a combative scene but a congenial conversation about the work’s merits and weaknesses. That said, the defense probably won’t be like the average conversation that you have with your friends. You’ll be the center of attention. And you may get some challenging questions. Thus, it’s a good idea to spend some time preparing yourself. First of all, you’ll want to prepare 5-10 minutes of opening comments. Here’s a good time to preempt some criticisms by frankly acknowledging what you think your work’s greatest strengths and weaknesses are. Then you may be asked some typical questions:

  • What is the main argument of your thesis?
  • How does it fit in with the work of Ms. Famous Scholar?
  • Have you read the work of Mr. Important Author?

NOTE: Don’t get too flustered if you haven’t! Most scholars have their favorite authors and books and may bring one or more of them up, even if the person or book is only tangentially related to the topic at hand. Should you get this question, answer honestly and simply jot down the title or the author’s name for future reference. No one expects you to have read everything that’s out there.

  • Why did you choose this particular case study to explore your topic?
  • If you were to expand this project in graduate school, how would you do so?

Should you get some biting criticism of your work, try not to get defensive. Yes, this is a defense, but you’ll probably only fan the flames if you lose your cool. Keep in mind that all academic work has flaws or weaknesses, and you can be sure that your professors have received criticisms of their own work. It’s part of the academic enterprise. Accept criticism graciously and learn from it. If you receive criticism that is unfair, stand up for yourself confidently, but in a good spirit. Above all, try to have fun! A defense is a rare opportunity to have eminent scholars in your field focus on YOU and your ideas and work. And the defense marks the end of a long and arduous journey. You have every right to be proud of your accomplishments!

Works consulted

We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.

Atchity, Kenneth. 1986. A Writer’s Time: A Guide to the Creative Process from Vision Through Revision . New York: W.W. Norton.

Barzun, Jacques, and Henry F. Graff. 2012. The Modern Researcher , 6th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Elbow, Peter. 1998. Writing With Power: Techniques for Mastering the Writing Process . New York: Oxford University Press.

Graff, Gerald, and Cathy Birkenstein. 2014. “They Say/I Say”: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing , 3rd ed. New York: W.W. Norton and Company.

Lamott, Anne. 1994. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life . New York: Pantheon.

Lasch, Christopher. 2002. Plain Style: A Guide to Written English. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Turabian, Kate. 2018. A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, Dissertations , 9th ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute the source: The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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Student falls asleep in library

Ten things I wish I'd known before starting my dissertation

The sun is shining but many students won't see the daylight. Because it's that time of year again – dissertation time.

Luckily for me, my D-Day (dissertation hand-in day) has already been and gone. But I remember it well.

The 10,000-word spiral-bound paper squatted on my desk in various forms of completion was my Allied forces; the history department in-tray was my Normandy. And when Eisenhower talked about a "great crusade toward which we have striven these many months", he was bang on.

I remember first encountering the Undergraduate Dissertation Handbook, feeling my heart sink at how long the massive file took to download, and began to think about possible (but in hindsight, wildly over-ambitious) topics. Here's what I've learned since, and wish I'd known back then…

1 ) If your dissertation supervisor isn't right, change. Mine was brilliant. If you don't feel like they're giving you the right advice, request to swap to someone else – providing it's early on and your reason is valid, your department shouldn't have a problem with it. In my experience, it doesn't matter too much whether they're an expert on your topic. What counts is whether they're approachable, reliable, reassuring, give detailed feedback and don't mind the odd panicked email. They are your lifeline and your best chance of success.

2 ) If you mention working on your dissertation to family, friends or near-strangers, they will ask you what it's about, and they will be expecting a more impressive answer than you can give. So prepare for looks of confusion and disappointment. People anticipate grandeur in history dissertation topics – war, genocide, the formation of modern society. They don't think much of researching an obscure piece of 1970s disability legislation. But they're not the ones marking it.

3 ) If they ask follow-up questions, they're probably just being polite.

4 ) Do not ask friends how much work they've done. You'll end up paranoid – or they will. Either way, you don't have time for it.

5 ) There will be one day during the process when you will freak out, doubt your entire thesis and decide to start again from scratch. You might even come up with a new question and start working on it, depending on how long the breakdown lasts. You will at some point run out of steam and collapse in an exhausted, tear-stained heap. But unless there are serious flaws in your work (unlikely) and your supervisor recommends starting again (highly unlikely), don't do it. It's just panic, it'll pass.

6 ) A lot of the work you do will not make it into your dissertation. The first few days in archives, I felt like everything I was unearthing was a gem, and when I sat down to write, it seemed as if it was all gold. But a brutal editing down to the word count has left much of that early material at the wayside.

7 ) You will print like you have never printed before. If you're using a university or library printer, it will start to affect your weekly budget in a big way. If you're printing from your room, "paper jam" will come to be the most dreaded two words in the English language.

8 ) Your dissertation will interfere with whatever else you have going on – a social life, sporting commitments, societies, other essay demands. Don't even try and give up biscuits for Lent, they'll basically become their own food group when you're too busy to cook and desperate for sugar.

9 ) Your time is not your own. Even if you're super-organised, plan your time down to the last hour and don't have a single moment of deadline panic, you'll still find that thoughts of your dissertation will creep up on you when you least expect it. You'll fall asleep thinking about it, dream about it and wake up thinking about. You'll feel guilty when you're not working on it, and mired in self-doubt when you are.

10 ) Finishing it will be one of the best things you've ever done. It's worth the hard work to know you've completed what's likely to be your biggest, most important, single piece of work. Be proud of it.

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Department of Philosophy

Writing an Honors Thesis

An Honors Thesis is a substantial piece of independent research that an undergraduate carries out over two semesters. Students writing Honors Theses take PHIL 691H and 692H, in two different semesters. What follows answers all the most common questions about Honors Theses in Philosophy.

All necessary forms are fillable and downloadable.

Honors Thesis Application

Honors Thesis Contract

Honors Thesis Learning Contract

Who can write an Honors Thesis in Philosophy?

Any Philosophy major who has a total, cumulative GPA of at least 3.3 and a GPA of at least 3.5 (with a maximum of one course with a PS grade) among their PHIL courses can in principle write an Honors Thesis. In addition, students need to satisfy a set of specific pre-requisites, as outlined below.

What are the pre-requisites for an Honors Thesis in Philosophy?

The requirements for writing an Honors Thesis in Philosophy include

  • having taken at least five PHIL courses, including two numbered higher than 299;
  • having a total PHIL GPA of at least 3.5 (with a maximum of one course with a PS grade); and
  • having done one of the following four things:
  • taken and passed PHIL 397;
  • successfully completed an Honors Contract associated with a PHIL course;
  • received an A or A- in a 300-level course in the same area of philosophy as the proposed thesis ; or
  • taken and passed a 400-level course in the same area of philosophy as the proposed thesis .

When should I get started?

You should get started with the application process and search for a prospective advisor the semester before you plan to start writing your thesis – that is, the semester before the one in which you want to take PHIL 691H.

Often, though not always, PHIL 691H and 692H are taken in the fall and spring semesters of the senior year, respectively. It is also possible to start earlier and take 691H in the spring semester of the junior year and PHIL 692H in the fall of the senior year. Starting earlier has some important advantages. One is that it means you will finish your thesis in time to use it as a writing sample, should you decide to apply to graduate school. Another is that it avoids a mad rush near the very end of your last semester.

How do I get started?

Step 1: fill out the honors thesis application.

The first thing you need to do is fill out an Honors Thesis Application   and submit it to the Director of Undergraduate Studies (DUS) for their approval.

Step 2: Find an Honors Thesis Advisor with the help of the DUS

Once you have been approved to write an Honors Thesis, you will consult with the DUS about the project that you have in mind and about which faculty member would be an appropriate advisor for your thesis. It is recommended that you reach out informally to prospective advisors to talk about their availability and interest in your project ahead of time, and that you include those suggestions in your application, but it is not until your application has been approved that the DUS will officially invite the faculty member of your choice to serve as your advisor. You will be included in this correspondence and will receive written confirmation from your prospective advisor.

Agreeing to be the advisor for an Honors Thesis is a major commitment, so bear in mind that there is a real possibility that someone asked to be your advisor will say no. Unfortunately, if we cannot find an advisor, you cannot write an Honors Thesis.

Step 3: Fill out the required paperwork needed to register for PHIL 691H

Finally, preferably one or two weeks before the start of classes (or as soon as you have secured the commitment of a faculty advisor), you need to fill out an Honors Thesis Contract  and an Honors Thesis Learning Contract , get them both signed by your advisor, and email them to the DUS.

Once the DUS approves both of these forms, they’ll get you registered for PHIL 691H. All of this should take place no later than the 5th day of classes in any given semester (preferably sooner).

What happens when I take PHIL 691H and PHIL 692H?

PHIL 691H and PHIL 692H are the course numbers that you sign up for to get credit for working on an Honors Thesis. These classes have official meeting times and places. In the case of PHIL 691H , those are a mere formality: You will meet with your advisor at times you both agree upon. But in the case of PHIL 692H , they are not a mere formality: The class will actually meet as a group, at least for the first few weeks of the semester (please see below).

When you take PHIL 691H, you should meet with your advisor during the first 5 days of classes and, if you have not done so already, fill out an Honors Thesis Learning Contract  and turn in to the Director of Undergraduate Studies (DUS) . This Contract will serve as your course syllabus and must be turned in and approved no later than the 5th day of classes in any given semester (preferably sooner). Once the DUS approves your Honors Thesis Learning Contract, they’ll get you registered for PHIL 691H.

Over the course of the semester, you will meet regularly with your advisor. By the last day of classes, you must turn in a 10-page paper on your thesis topic; this can turn out to be part of your final thesis, but it doesn’t have to. In order to continue working on an Honors Thesis the following semester, this paper must show promise of your ability to complete one, in the opinion of your advisor. Your advisor should assign you a grade of “ SP ” at the conclusion of the semester, signifying “satisfactory progress” (so you can move on to PHIL 692H). Please see page 3 of this document for more information.

When you take PHIL 692H, you’ll still need to work with your advisor to fill out an Honors Thesis Learning Contract . This Contract will serve as your course syllabus and must be turned in to and approved by the DUS  no later than the 5th day of classes in any given semester (preferably sooner).

Once the DUS approves your Honors Thesis Learning Contract, they’ll get you registered for PHIL 692H.

At the end of the second semester of senior honors thesis work (PHIL 692H), your advisor should assign you a permanent letter grade. Your advisor should also change your PHIL 691H grade from “ SP ” to a permanent letter grade. Please see page 3 of this document for more information.

The Graduate Course Option

If you and your advisor agree, you may exercise the Graduate Course Option. If you do this, then during the semester when you are enrolled in either PHIL 691H or PHIL 692H, you will attend and do the work for a graduate level PHIL course. (You won’t be officially enrolled in that course.) A paper you write for this course will be the basis for your Honors Thesis. If you exercise this option, then you will be excused from the other requirements of the thesis course (either 691H or 692H) that you are taking that semester.

Who can be my advisor?

Any faculty member on a longer-than-one-year contract in the Department of Philosophy may serve as your honors thesis advisor. You will eventually form a committee of three professors, of which one can be from outside the Department.  But your advisor must have an appointment in the Philosophy Department. Graduate Students are not eligible to advise Honors Theses.

Who should be my advisor?

Any faculty member on a longer-than-one-year contract in the Department of Philosophy may serve as your honors thesis advisor. It makes most sense to ask a professor who already knows you from having had you as a student in a class. In some cases, though, this is either not possible, or else there is someone on the faculty who is an expert on the topic you want to write about, but from whom you have not taken a class. Information about which faculty members are especially qualified to advise thesis projects in particular areas of philosophy can be found  here .

What about the defense?

You and your advisor should compose a committee of three professors (including the advisor) who will examine you and your thesis. Once the committee is composed, you will need to schedule an oral examination, a.k.a. a defense. You should take the initiative here, communicating with all members of your committee in an effort to find a block of time (a little over an hour) when all three of you can meet. The thesis must be defended by a deadline , set by Honors Carolina , which is usually a couple of weeks before the end of classes. Students are required to upload the final version of their thesis to the  Carolina Digital Repository  by the final day of class in the semester in which they complete the thesis course work and thesis defense.

What is an Honors Thesis in Philosophy like?

An Honors Thesis in Philosophy is a piece of writing in the same genre as a typical philosophy journal article. There is no specific length requirement, but 30 pages (double-spaced) is a good guideline. Some examples of successfully defended Honors The easiest way to find theses of past philosophy students is on the web in the Carolina Digital Repository . Some older, hard copies of theses are located on the bookshelf in suite 107 of Caldwell Hall. (You may ask the Director of Undergraduate Studies (DUS) , or anyone else who happens to be handy, to show you where it is!)

How does the Honors Thesis get evaluated?

The honors thesis committee will evaluate the quality and originality of your thesis as well as of your defense and then decides between the following three options:

  • they may award only course credit for the thesis work if the thesis is of acceptable quality;
  • they may designate that the student graduate with honors if the thesis is of a very strong quality;
  • they may  recommend  that the student graduate with highest honors if the thesis is of exceptional quality.

As a matter of best practice, our philosophy department requires that examining committees refer all candidates for highest honors to our Undergraduate Committee chaired by the Director of Undergraduate Studies. This committee evaluates nominated projects and makes the final decision on awarding highest honors. Highest honors should be awarded only to students who have met the most rigorous standards of scholarly excellence.

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An honors thesis is required of all students graduating with any level of Latin honors. It is an excellent opportunity for undergraduates to define and investigate a topic in depth, and to complete an extended written reflection of their results & understanding. The work leading to the thesis is excellent preparation for graduate & professional school or the workplace.

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Thesis Database

The thesis database is a searchable collection of over 6,000 theses, with direct access to more than 4,000 full-text theses in PDF format. The database—fully searchable by discipline, keyword, level of Latin Honors, and more—is available for student use in the UHP Office, 8am–4:30pm, Monday–Friday.

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10 things I wish I knew before doing an Honours degree

is honours thesis hard

In 2018 I started my Honours degree in biodiversity and conservation at Flinders University. I had completed my Bachelor of Science in 2017, after being accepted in the Honours stream through my Year 12 Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR).

I will not sugar-coat it — I was a bad Bachelor student. I scarcely attended classes and at times submitted sub-par work. I believed that as long as I didn’t fail anything I would still be able to do my Honours, so I did the bare minimum and just got by. However in the last semester I discovered I needed an average GPA of 5.0 to secure my Honours position, regardless of what stream I was doing. Panic ensued, I was already too deep in my final semester of not achieving to pull my grades around. Thankfully, I was eventually accepted, after having to plead my case with the Honours board.

In the end I managed to score myself a First Class Honours and a PhD candidature (and hopefully soon a publication). Honours was definitely a struggle, but it was also one of the best experiences of my life. I just wish I had known these 10 things before I started …

1. You will fail

Not the brightest note to start on, but don’t fear, everyone fails. Honours is full of ups and downs, and at some point, somewhere along the line, something in your project will go wrong. But it’s okay! It happens to every person that has ever done an Honours or a PhD. Whether the failing is small or catastrophic, remember this happens all the time.

More importantly your supervisor or co-ordinator sees it all the time. The best thing to do is tell your supervisor and your co-ordinator early on. It may be a simple case of steering your research in a slightly new direction, changing the scope of your project, or even taking some extra time. It’s okay to fail, just keep pushing.

2. You will be treated differently

Again, not as bad as it sounds! One of the biggest things I noticed during my Honours was how much I was treated as a colleague instead of an (undergraduate) student. People will start asking your opinion on subjects, especially on your research. Take these opportunities to test your skills learned during the Bachelors; it’s a great way to build networks for your career. You will also be a representative of your lab or supervisor, so you may be sent to conferences or be asked to represent them at different events. Take this time to shine.

3. You will be independent

Being independent during your Honours is a tricky balance. On the one hand, you will need to be an independent thinker and problem-solver — this is the big leagues after all. But on the other, it is important to have a good working relationship with your supervisor(s). In my case, I would pre-plan the number of times I would attempt something or the amount of time I would allocate to trying to solve a problem relative to the size of work. I found that when I presented something to my supervisor, or was frustrated at something not working, they were more willing to help because I had attempted it myself first to the best of my abilities.

4. You’ll make great friends

Friends at uni are so important for the overall experience, but especially so in Honours. The cohorts are much smaller and so you get to know your peers on a personal level. This is beneficial for many reasons. First, they understand your struggle like no-one else (“how many words is your lit review?” “When are you going to start writing your thesis?” “What form is your thesis in?” “Want to get coffee?”). Study groups or even lunch-break groups ensure that you still have social connections and help with independent problem solving. These friends are also able to check up on you when you go MIA into a thesis-writing vortex. Basically, they get it.

5. You will develop a caffeine addiction and become anaemic

Okay, this one might be just me, but it is a cautionary tale. I know that the 6 th  cup of coffee and the 2-minute noodles or mi goreng might seem like the best option for a meal at the end of what seems like a 72-hour day, but trust me, there are consequences. Make sure to take AT LEAST one day a week off your uni work. I called these days personal admin  days, usually a Sunday.


Cook something nutritional, such as easily freezable meals (my personal favourites are soups — anything with beans and curries). You are not productive when you are sick and tired. Similar with caffeine. If you are staring down the barrel of your 5 th  coffee or energy drink for the day, perhaps take a walk instead, or simply call it a day. And get a good feed and night’s rest and come back the next day ready to go.

6. You will have no time at the end of your thesis

Be prepared to have your life consumed by your thesis and research for the last few months (if you have no time during your whole Honours year, you might have to reassess your workload). Fear not, it should only be for the last few months of “crunch time” during the actual writing phase. In this time, be honest with your friends and family, let them know that you may not be able to attend everything because your thesis must take priority in this time. But it will all be over soon and they can go back to having your undivided attention.

7. At some point(s) you will hate your thesis

Have you ever heard of imposter syndrome? It is the feeling that you have accidently ended up where you are and that you are unqualified or not deserving of your success. It is something that I suffered for most of my Honours. This thought process made me hate my thesis at some points; I felt that it wasn’t good enough or that I had no right to be talking about my research.


But guess what? I didn’t get to where I was by accident. I worked hard (see opening paragraph). It is normal to hate your own work sometimes, but you have to work through it. Talk to your supervisor or peers, get them to re-read your work and help you with some constructive criticism or praise. It can sometimes also be beneficial to take some time away from writing your thesis: try formatting it, doing some other work, or just taking the day off to come back the next day and go again. Whatever you do, DO NOT FREAK OUT AND DELETE EVERYTHING — it is never as bad as you think.

8. People will listen to you

As I wrote above, you are not where you are by accident. You have worked hard to get where you are (repeat until you believe it). Guess what? You are now rapidly becoming an expert in your field. You have a Bachelors degree, you know (or should know) what you are talking about, and people (including your peers) are going to find your research interesting. You are now more a peer then a student yourself, so be confident and willing to share your knowledge. Remember that you stand on the shoulders of giants who have previously shared their knowledge with you. Pay it forward.

9. It’s actually great!

Yep, Honours is actually a really great experience, and something that I recommend to everyone thinking about it. I know that it can be daunting, because you often talk to Honours students while they’re in the midst of their writing, are sleep-deprived, and who are probably jacked-up on caffeine (see point 5). This is like asking a parent what it’s like being a parent when they have a three-year old who is in the throes of toilet training, has a fever, and has decided she no longer wants to sleep in her own bed. But I promise you, the skills, experience, networking and future opportunities far outweigh any of the negatives

10. You can do it

A positive note to end on! Yes, you can do it. It will be tough and you will struggle at times, but you can do it. Remember that your co-ordinator and more often than not, your supervisor, has been through this. Draw on their wealth of knowledge and keep good communication so they can help you if you are slipping or need to readjust your study load or research question.

Kathryn Venning

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Honors & Theses

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The Honors Thesis: An opportunity to do innovative and in-depth research.  

An honors thesis gives students the opportunity to conduct in-depth research into the areas of government that inspire them the most. Although, it’s not a requirement in the Department of Government, the honors thesis is both an academic challenge and a crowning achievement at Harvard. The faculty strongly encourages students to write an honors thesis and makes itself available as a resource to those students who do. Students work closely with the thesis advisor of their choice throughout the writing process. Approximately 30% of Government concentrators each year choose to write a thesis.

Guide to Writing a Senior Thesis in Government  

You undoubtedly have many questions about what writing a thesis entails. We have answers for you. Please read  A Guide to Writing a Senior Thesis in Government , which you can download as a PDF below. If you still have questions or concerns after you have read through this document, we encourage you to reach out to the Director of Undergraduate Studies, Dr. Nara Dillon ( [email protected] ), the Assistant Director of Undergraduate Studies, Dr. Gabriel Katsh ( [email protected] ), or the Undergraduate Program Manager, Karen Kaletka ( [email protected] ).  

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All Honors Students end their program with an Honors Thesis: a sustained, independent research project in a student’s field of study. Your thesis must count for at least 4 credits (some majors require that the thesis be completed over 2 semesters, and some require more than 4 credits). The thesis is an opportunity to work on unique research under the guidance of a faculty advisor. It often provides a writing sample for graduate school, and is also something you can share with employers to show what kind of work you can do. 

What is an Honors thesis?

Most of your work in college involves learning information and ideas generated by other people. When you write a thesis, you are engaging with previous work, but also adding new knowledge to your field. That means you have to know what's already been done--what counts as established knowledge; what's the current state of research; what methods and kinds of evidence are acceptable; what debates are going on. (Usually, you'll recount that knowledge in a review of the literature.) Then, you need to form a research question that you can answer given your available skills, resources, and time  (so, not "What is love?" but "How are ideas about love different between college freshmen and seniors?"). With your advisor, you'll plan the method you will use to answer it, which might involve lab work, field work, surveys, interviews, secondary research, textual analysis, or something else--it will depend upon your question and your field. Once your research is carried out, you'll write a substantial paper (usually 20-50 pages) according to the standards of your field.

What do theses look like?

The exact structure will vary by discipline, and your thesis advisor should provide you with an outline. As a rough guideline, we would expect to see something like the following:

1. Introduction 2. Review of the literature 3. Methods 4. Results 5. Analysis 6. Conclusion 7. Bibliography or works cited

In 2012 we began digitally archiving Honors theses. Students are encouraged to peruse the Honors Thesis Repository to see what past students' work has looked like. Use the link below and type your major in the search field on the left to find relevant examples. Older Honors theses are available in the Special Collections & Archives department at Dimond Library. 

Browse Previous Theses

Will my thesis count as my capstone?

Most majors accept an Honors Thesis as fulfilling the Capstone requirement. However, there are exceptions. In some majors, the thesis counts as a major elective, and in a few, it is an elective that does not fulfill major requirements. Your major advisor and your Honors advisor can help you figure out how your thesis will count. Please note that while in many majors the thesis counts as the capstone, the converse does not necessarily apply. There are many capstone experiences that do not take the form of an Honors thesis. 

Can I do a poster and presentation for my thesis?

No. While you do need to present your thesis (see below), a poster and presentation are not a thesis. 

How do I choose my thesis advisor?

The best thesis advisor is an experienced researcher, familiar with disciplinary standards for research and writing, with expertise in your area of interest. You might connect with a thesis advisor during Honors-in-Major coursework, but Honors Liaisons  can assist students who are having trouble identifying an advisor. You should approach and confirm your thesis advisor before the semester in which your research will begin.

What if I need funds for my research?

The  Hamel Center for Undergraduate Research  offers research grants, including summer support. During the academic year, students registered in credit-bearing thesis courses may apply for an  Undergraduate Research Award for up to $600 in research expenses (no stipend).  Students who are not otherwise registered in a credit-bearing course for their thesis research may enroll in INCO 790: Advanced Research Experience, which offers up to $200 for research expenses.

What if I need research materials for a lengthy period?

No problem! Honors Students can access Extended Time borrowing privileges at Dimond Library, which are otherwise reserved for faculty and graduate students. Email [email protected] with note requesting “extended borrowing privileges” and we'll work with the Library to extend your privileges.

Can I get support to stay on track?

Absolutely! Thesis-writers have an opportunity to join a support group during the challenging and sometimes isolating period of writing a thesis. Learn more about thesis support here .

When should I complete my thesis?

Register for a Senior Honors Thesis course (often numbered 799) in the spring and/or fall of your Senior year.

This “course” is an independent study, overseen by your Thesis Advisor. Your advisor sets the standards, due dates, and grades for your project. It must earn at least a B in order to qualify for Honors.

What happens with my completed thesis?

Present your thesis.

All students must publicly present their research prior to graduation. Many present at the  Undergraduate Research Conference  in April; other departmentally-approved public events are also acceptable.

Publish your thesis:

Honors students are asked to make their thesis papers available on . This creates a resource for future students and other researchers, and also helps students professionalize their online personas.

These theses are publicly available online. If a student or their advisor prefers not to make the work available, they may upload an abstract and/or excerpts from the work instead.

Students may also publish research in  Inquiry , UNH's undergraduate research journal.

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HLTH432 Honours Thesis information guide

What is hlth432a/b honours thesis, why complete a thesis, who is eligible to enroll in hlth432a/b, contact potential supervisors, tips for the interview with your potential supervisor, external supervisors, complete hlth432a/b enrollment process, how am i graded in hlth432a/b.

According to the calendar course description, HLTH432 is:

“An independent research project on an approved topic, supervised by a faculty member. Includes an approved proposal and completion of -- introduction, review of literature, methods, data collection, data analysis and presentation of results in thesis form. Recommended for students planning graduate studies.”

Generally, an Honours thesis is a research project in which you choose a topic, review all relevant literature, collect and analyse data and then report your results. If there is an area of health sciences or public health that you find particularly interesting and if you feel that you understand statistics and research design, you may want to consider completing the honours thesis, which may require either Social Science (non-lab based) or a Biohealth (lab based) research. The research may involve:

  • Original field or lab research (pending finances);
  • Secondary analysis of existing data;
  • Historical or archival analyses;
  • Systematic Review or meta-analysis.

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The main objective of the Honours Thesis (HLTH 432A/HLTH 432B) is to provide you with an opportunity to gain experience in formulating and evaluating research ideas, but even more importantly, completing a thesis will allow you to consolidate your thinking about the many aspects of health you have studied during your undergraduate career.

How will that happen? You will:

  • review, evaluate and interpret information from a wide range of relevant disciplines that are relevant to a specific area of health science / public health.
  • integrate and apply that information to identify and address a specific health problem.
  • consider the ethical issues specific to your research.
  • apply your knowledge of methodologies, at least in one type of research.
  • you will have the opportunity to polish your written communications, and
  • in your meetings with your supervisor, you will have the chance to practice communicating your ideas orally in a one-on-one situation with a scientist-mentor; moreover,
  • you will have the opportunity to enhance your information literacy skills and your data collection and analysis skills.

The thesis is an exciting way to cap off your undergraduate career. It provides huge opportunities for you to consolidate what you already know, and to learn about a specific topic in-depth. It also provides you with invaluable preparation for whatever path you take after your undergraduate studies. Finally, it is a really amazing experience to actually create new knowledge!

The following prerequisites apply:

  • Department Consent Required: please submit HLTH432 Honours Thesis Pre-approval Application online.
  • HLTH 204 or approved equivalent statistics course and HLTH 333; Level at least 4A School of Public Health Sciences (SPHS) students.
  • Normally, minimum 75% major and overall averages are recommended to enrol in the course but 80% major and overall averages are preferred.
  • A faculty member must agree to act as your supervisor. Because of limited faculty resources, enrolment in HLTH 432A/B is not guaranteed.

You will be notified via email once your HLTH432 Honours Thesis Pre-approval Application is approved. The email will also include a course outline for HLTH432. If you have received this material, you have indicated an interest in taking HLTH 432A and have received Department Consent. Your next step is to:

  • Review this package completely.
  • Create a WORD document (250 words or less) that provides details of any research or other relevant experience that a potential supervisor might be interested in knowing about you.
  • Create a WORD document (250 words or less) that provides details of any specific research interests or research questions you might wish to investigate, including support for your questions (if you have considered the area in greater depth).
  • Review and update your resume.
  • Review the SPHS Faculty members’ areas of research interests and decide on one or two potential supervisors. If you already have a research question, try to select a potential supervisor whose area of interest is most closely related to that question. See the list of SPHS faculty members by area of focus .
  • DO NOT approach faculty members without emailing first to make an appointment.
  • If at all possible use your email. This email is less likely to end up in Junk mail.

Email template

Dear (Use proper title and full name),

I am writing to express interest in working on an honours thesis under your supervision. I have reviewed your research interests and would be very excited to work on an aspect of your research, or to develop independent research that is consistent with your work. I am attaching a recent resume, a statement of my experience and a statement of my research interests for you to review.

I am available on (state days of the week) at (state hours of availability) to see you. Would it be possible to book an appointment at any of those times? I look forward to meeting with you to discuss your research, and whether there is a way in which I can contribute to it with an honours thesis.

Yours truly, (your name) (contact email and telephone)

  • Be punctual
  • Be respectful
  • Highlight any experience you have.
  • Highlight your academic strengths
  • your unofficial transcript
  • your resume
  • your statement of research interests and/or another sample of your written work
  • the Thesis Requirements (Appendix A in the course outline) so that your potential supervisor can review the expectations for the thesis
  • FORM 432A - Agreement to Supervise .

On occasion, students may be permitted to work with a supervisor from outside the School of Public Health Sciences. There are two separate categories of external supervisors:

  • Category B supervisors are UW professors from other Departments in the Faculty of Health or are one of our adjunct faculty members. In such cases, the research thesis and the supervisor must be approved by the Associate Director of Undergraduate Studies, who is the coordinator of HLTH 432A/B. The thesis will be approved if it meets SPHS standards for learning objectives.
  • Category C supervisors may be professors from another faculty at the University of Waterloo (e.g., Science, Arts), or the supervisor may be someone who conducts research outside the University of Waterloo. In such cases, the research thesis and the supervisor must be approved by the Associate Director, Undergraduate Studies, who coordinates HLTH 432A/B. The thesis will be approved if it meets SPHS standards for learning objectives and the HLTH 432A/B coordinator can arrange for an SPHS faculty member to co-supervise the thesis.

My supervisor has agreed! What’s next?

  • Submit HLTH432 Honours Thesis Enrollment Form for HLTH432A online no later than one week prior to the last day to add courses for the school term . Note you will need to upload a signed copy of Form432A (PDF) in order to complete the online submission, so please allow plenty of time for yourself to gather your supervisor’s signature.
  • At the end of your HLTH 432A term, you need to submit another HLTH432 Honours Thesis Enrollment Form for HLTH432B. You will not be enrolled in HLTH 432B until your supervisor has agreed to supervise you for a second semester. The procedure and deadline is similar to HLTH432A enrollment: the HLTH432 Honours Thesis Enrollment Form for HLTH432B needs to be received no later than one week prior to the last day to add courses for the school term . A signed copy of Form432B (PDF) will need to be uploaded at the same time to complete the online submission.

Separate grades are submitted for your work in 432A and 432B and the nature of the term products that will be evaluated will depend upon the type of thesis you are completing (Social Science/non-lab or Biohealth/lab –the course outline). Due dates for term products for each of 432A and 432B are specified in the course outline. Normally these are the final day of classes for the term in which you are enrolled in the course. Your supervisor must submit final grades to the Course Coordinator at the very latest by the end of the examination period, and you must submit your term products before this to give your supervisor time to read and grade it. A number of drafts should be submitted early so that your supervisor can read them and provide comments. This will allow for revisions to be made before the final submission of materials for grading. Remember to provide the Course Coordinator with a final copy of your thesis. Note that you will also have to give a poster presentation on your proposal towards the end of the HLTH 432A term and a Powerpoint presentation on your final thesis project during the 4 th year Honours Thesis Colloquium at the end of the HLTH 432B term.


Updated January 2022

Honors English students, following Schreyer Honors College requirements, compose a thesis of significant scholarly research or creative writing. The thesis is completed in close consultation with a thesis supervisor during the semester before the student’s graduation semester, while the student is enrolled in English 494H.

In the graduation semester, students polish and submit their theses for approval by the thesis supervisor and the honors advisor and then submit them to Schreyer Honors College. Dates of final submission vary; please consult your honors advisor and the Schreyer website .

An Honors Thesis in English

An English honors thesis in scholarly research and interpretation should be an ambitious, well-researched, in-depth study focused on a topic chosen by the student in consultation with the thesis supervisor.

An English honors thesis in creative writing should be a sophisticated and well-crafted creative project written in consultation with the thesis supervisor, a project that demonstrates the student’s increasing proficiency of their chosen creative genre(s).

The Critical/Literary Studies Thesis

A critical / literary studies thesis might arise from a range of possibilities: a course paper you would like to extend; an interest you were unable to pursue in class; a connection between two classes that you’ve made on your own; an author, set of works, or theme you want to explore in greater depth; a critical question that has been puzzling you; a body of literature that you want to contextualize; a topic relevant to post-graduate plans (e.g., law school, graduate school, marketing career, writing career, and so forth). Consider also your skill sets, your workload and experiences, and the timeline for completion. The questions you’re asking should be open to productive analysis, questions worth asking.

The topic should challenge you, so that you’re neither summarizing nor skimming the surface of the primary and secondary work under consideration. Chapters within the thesis should build upon each other and connect to an overarching theme or argument. The thesis should be as clear and concise as possible. Make sure the argument is structured, with each chapter and each paragraph having a clear role to play in the development of the argument.

Because the thesis is a scholarly product, it will demonstrate good research skills and effective use of secondary readings. It will also be grammatically correct. Your work will be entering existing critical conversations with other scholarship, so your research should be sufficiently completed prior to your finalizing the thesis plan. Your work should have properly formatted notes and bibliography, whether in Chicago, MLA, or APA style.

Note length stipulations: Honors theses in critical / literary studies may be as short as 8,000 words but no longer than 15,000 words. If the thesis is shorter or longer than these advised limits, explain your thinking and decision-making in the introduction of your thesis.

The Creative Thesis

The creative thesis will be an innovative, stylistically sophisticated work, attentive to language and voice. The work should develop a sustained narrative or theme. Most students who write creative theses produce a collection of short stories or personal essays, a novella, a memoir, a research-based piece of creative nonfiction or a collection of poems. It is very, very difficult to write a novel in one semester, so unless you already have a novel underway, writing a novel is probably not a realistic thesis project. Creative works should be unified (by theme, by topic, or in some other way).

Students should already have taken a 200-level creative writing workshop in the chosen genre(s) and a 300- or 400-level workshop in this same genre(s). (You can be signed up to take the 400-level workshop in 494H semester.) Ideally, students will have studied creative writing with the faculty member who will serve as supervisor, but note that this is a suggestion and not a requirement. Schedule an initial meeting with your prospective thesis supervisor to discuss your plans for the execution of your creative work.

Note this requirement! Creative works will offer an introductory reflective essay (five to eight pages) outlining the project’s aims and placing the project into the context of the style and/or themes of work by other authors. The introductory reflection should address how your creative project complements or challenges work done by others. It should 1) explain the goals of the project and 2) place it into the context of relevant creative or critical texts. Any works referred to in this essay should be documented using Chicago, MLA, of APA style.

Note length stipulations: Honors theses in creative writing may be as short as 8,000 words but no longer than 15,000 words. If the thesis is shorter or longer than these advised limits, explain your thinking and decision-making in the introductory reflective essay. 

The Thesis Supervisor

Schreyer Honors College requires thesis proposals to be submitted in early April of the year before graduation. For this reason, you must have a thesis supervisor by March, so that you can draft your proposal under the supervisor’s direction.

The first step in finding a thesis supervisor is having a meeting with your honors advisor in order to talk through your thesis interests. When identifying a thesis supervisor, consider professors with whom you have a good rapport; professors whose creative or scholarly interests seem like they might dovetail with your own; professors willing to oversee experimental work. You do not need an exact match with any given professor’s work or interests. For instance, a professor’s methodology might fit yours, even if the focus of their research differs.

Before approaching a potential thesis supervisor, meet with your honors advisor to confirm that this would be an appropriate fit for you. After meeting with your honors advisor, you will be making an appointment to meet with the potential thesis supervisor. During that meeting, you will offer some plans with concrete ideas. Be open-minded. Be prepared to listen to alternatives. Discuss the professor’s willingness to supervise the thesis. (Sometimes faculty are already committed to other projects.) If a faculty member cannot agree to supervise, use the opportunity to ask for further suggestions about your topic and a potentially appropriate supervisor, then check back in with your honors advisor.

Crafting the Thesis Proposal

For students graduating in the spring semester of any given year, thesis proposals are due in early April of the prior year. As with other deadlines, the Schreyer Honors College will prompt you to complete the thesis proposal form on the SRS site. Start planning the thesis as soon as a supervisor has been identified. Look at other proposals and at completed theses for good models. Read one or two award-winning theses to get a sense of the scope and depth of a successful thesis: < >.

Critical / literary studies thesis proposals will articulate the questions being asked, identify the primary and secondary materials to be used, and hypothesize about a general argument to be made. You might not have specified your conclusions yet, but a well formulated set of questions is key.

Creative thesis proposals will identify the genre(s) of writing, identify the writing method and approach, and situate the work within the critical context of that genre.

Both kinds of theses require, at the proposal stage, a bibliography (in standard documentation format) of sources consulted. This will reveal how your project is in conversation with other relevant work.

Once you have drafted the thesis proposal, consult with your proposed thesis supervisor and your honors advisor, allowing them sufficient time to offer suggestions. Do not submit a proposal without getting the approval of your thesis supervisor and honors advisor! Expect to get feedback on your plans. Give your thesis supervisor and your honors advisor time to respond to your proposal draft, because it’s complicated to make changes once you submit the form for them to sign off on.

Planning the Project

One semester prior to the ENGL 494 semester, consult with your thesis supervisor to develop a reading list to be completed before you start writing. For theses written in the fall (for May graduation), this will be summer reading; for theses written in the spring (for December graduation), this reading will have to be compacted over the holiday break.

For critical / literary studies theses, read in both primary (the literature, films, authors, or evidence you are analyzing) and secondary materials (articles and books about your topic).

For creative theses , read primary texts in your chosen genre, along with such secondary sources as reviews of these works and articles and books about writing and the writer’s life.

Finding primary materials. The primary materials you’re using should extend beyond what you’ve done in classwork, but do not take on too much. In the end, the quality of the analysis matters much more than pages generated. If you can sustain an analysis of a single novel for fifty pages, offer a thorough account of the secondary criticism on that novel and make a real contribution to that criticism. Note, however, that a twenty-five page plot summary of a single novel is not worthy of honors in English.

Finding secondary materials. Look for important secondary studies offering fresh and provocative approaches to your topic or genre as well as studies that articulate the relationship between your topic and general literary history.

Library and internet databases will assist your work . Library databases of both primary and secondary writings can assist your background research. Think flexibly about useful keywords for searching databases. Also, consider using the resources found in the notes of scholars whose work you have discovered. Using other scholars’ resources will assist your work in identifying pertinent additional primary and secondary sources. If two or three very current articles cite the same older work, you have probably found a foundational critical study.

Look into possible grants to assist your work. Schreyer Research Grants, Erickson Grants, and Liberal Arts Enrichment Grants are available. Consult with the Schreyer Honors College about summer research funding, research travel funding, and other ways to support ambitious research projects. Erickson grants and Liberal Arts Enrichment Grants are available to rising seniors who will incur expenses for their research. If you are a Paterno Fellow, ask the fellows assistant if grants might be available to assist your work. Also consult this link:

Preliminary Research/Writing and the 494H Semester

During the semester and/or break before the 494H semester, set a rigorous schedule for reading and note-taking. Of course, you will continue to read while you are writing during that semester. But concentrate now on getting the foundation for what you want to say.

Work on developing connections and ideas across your readings. Take the time to take notes! As you continue reading, you might find that your ideas and goals change. That’s a success! Be aware that if your original idea isn’t going anywhere, you need to keep pushing to find a new idea. If your sources aren’t helping you develop new ideas, find new sources.

Try putting findings or notes or creative materials into a preliminary outline of your thesis chapters, so that you can construct a fuller outline before you formally start writing during the 494H semester. Writing is a form of thinking, so start writing and see where your ideas go. Drafting helps refine both ideas and purpose.

Keep in contact with your thesis supervisor. You can use email for this, or zoom, if your professor prefers. Let your supervisor know about how your reading is going and any new ideas you have.

Strategies for success in the 494H semester

Remember you are getting three honors course credits for ENGL 494, so treat this time commitment seriously! Three credits total 135 hours, so use your time wisely. Incorporate time into your schedule for the multiple drafts of each section.

Set aside time each week for your thesis preparation and writing.

Plan to meet with your thesis supervisor on a regular basis (every other week is typical) throughout the semester. Set up a schedule and keep to it. Remember that the thesis supervisor has agreed to help you with your work, so respect your supervisor’s time. Don’t miss meetings or have nothing to show. Set deadlines for the submission of each chapter with your thesis supervisor.

Be responsible: Aim to allow your supervisor two weeks to read and respond to your written work. Be in regular communication with your thesis supervisor. Also, don’t make your thesis supervisor or the honors advisors track you down. Arrive at meetings promptly. If the honors advisor or thesis supervisor drops you a line by email, answer it promptly. Even if – especially if – you fall behind, stay in communication with thesis supervisor and with the honors advisor.

Remember that advice is given to you to help you improve. Listen to your thesis supervisor’s advice and suggestions. If your honors advisor, your second reader, offers suggestions, listen to these suggestions, too! Follow the advice or else respond in a mature and informed way. If you disagree with suggestions offered you, or if you wish to go in another direction, initiate a fruitful dialogue with your supervisor or honors advisor about the project. Let your supervisor and honors advisor know that you are listening.

The Graded Thesis Draft Submitted During the 494H Semester

A complete draft of your thesis is due at the end of the 494H semester.

The thesis supervisor evaluates your consistent progress toward completion, your regular communication about your work, and your effort to acknowledge and use the supervisor’s feedback. Your supervisor is the one who determines your grade, even though the honors advisors are the professors of record for the 494H course. Remember that the grade for 494H evaluates your draft, not the final thesis.

The grade for 494H evaluates the student in the following areas: 1) consistent progress in thesis planning, research, and writing; 2) regular communication with the thesis supervisor through the 494H semester; 3) attention, in revision, to the supervisor’s advice. Thesis supervisors will take into account any additional expectations particular to a thesis topic, the ambition and originality of the developing project, and, in the case of critical / literary theses, the student’s growing skills in employing secondary sources in original ways.

Revision and Submission of Thesis

The final thesis is due according to the Schreyer Honors College’s deadline, near the middle of the student’s final semester. The Schreyer Honors College’s deadlines are firm. The first Schreyer deadline is for formatting approval. Students are responsible for making sure to follow the most up-to-date formatting and submission guidelines on the Schreyer website. See the guidelines:

At the time the thesis is submitted to Schreyer for format approval, submit the final draft to your thesis supervisor and honors advisor. The honors advisor might require revisions concerning the clarity of presentation to non-specialist readers, grammar and usage errors, and so forth. You must have the approval of your supervisor and your honors advisor for your thesis to be approved by Schreyer, so be sure to take seriously the feedback offered at this point.

The second Schreyer deadline is for final submission, at which point your thesis supervisor and your honors advisor must approve your thesis. Follow the Schreyer guidelines for submitting the final version of your thesis and getting the digital signatures of approval from your thesis supervisor and your honors advisor.

For questions, please contact the English Honors Co-Advisors, Professors Claire Colebrook and Carla Mulford .

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Understanding honours

Honours is an additional qualification where you can build on your undergraduate studies by completing a supervised research project and disciplinary or research-focused coursework. This may be embedded in your undergraduate degree or require an additional year of study.

Overview and types of honours

  • Eligibility and preparing for honours
  • Honours awards and classes

You can undertake honours through an appended honours degree after your undergraduate degree. Some professional or specialist degrees also have embedded honours study options.

Honours provides an opportunity to work on an independent but supervised research project and is usually completed as one year full-time study (some disciplines offer part-time options).

Under the guidance of an academic supervisor, you will choose a thesis topic, create a reading list and identify your method of research.

Academics in your faculty or school will provide supervision as you write your thesis. This thesis will document your research from proposal through to conclusion.

Why study honours?

Completing honours shows you have achieved high academic standards and gives you a Bachelor (Honours) qualification. 

An honours degree can open the door for further research study, equipping you with the prerequisite research skills to undertake a research degree such as the PhD.

Alternatively, if you decide to complete an honours degree without pursuing further research, you will graduate with a robust set of transferrable skills including:

  • time management and research skills
  • project management and delivery
  • showing future employers that you can investigate independently and achieve more complex goals.

What’s involved

Generally, honours will consist of two components:

  • an independent research project, under the supervision of an academic staff member
  • additional honours units in research design and technical training.

You will usually complete a dissertation or thesis and attend regular meetings with your supervisor to discuss your research.

Once you complete the requirements for your honours, you will graduate with a Bachelor (Honours) degree.

You can contact the faculty or school honours coordinator from the area of interest you are considering, for more information about honours. We also hold honours information sessions (usually in September) where you can discuss your options.

Types of honours

The type of honours you undertake depends on your individual study circumstances.

Appended honours

Appended honours is an additional qualification that you complete after you have finished your undergraduate degree. Generally, appended honours is available to both current University of Sydney students and external applicants. You’ll find information and eligibility criteria for most appended honours degrees in Find a course .

As a current student, often you'll need to apply through Find a course in the same way that external applicants apply, but may also need to submit an additional application form to your school or discipline. When searching for these on Sydney Courses (Find a course) these degrees will look like the Bachelor of Arts (Honours).

If you enrolled in a combined Bachelor of Advanced Studies program prior to Semester 2, 2024, and plan to apply for honours, we will advise you during your candidature of your appended honours degree options.

Embedded honours

Some bachelor’s degrees have an honours program embedded within them. You will complete your honours study during your current undergraduate degree by completing specific units. Honours will not increase the overall time taken to complete your studies.

Joint honours

Joint honours is when you complete one honours thesis in two subject areas closely related to each other. A special program of study is designed that allows you to complete the course concurrently in one year.

To apply for joint honours, you need to meet the eligibility requirements for both honours.

Contact the honours coordinator in your faculty or school to discuss your options.

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Florida State University

FSU | University Honors Program

University Honors Program

Division of Undergraduate Studies

Honors in the Major

Students do not need to be part of the University Honors Program in order to start their HITM project. In fact, any FSU student officially admitted to their major who has at least a 3.200 GPA (both FSU and Cumulative, not rounded to the third decimal place) and will have at least 60 completed credit hours by the start of their HITM project are welcome to apply. Additional requirements are in place for specific majors, so be sure to consult your department's liaison for more details.

To learn all about applying to and preparing for the Honors in the Major Program, read the Honors in the Major Handbook . The handbook provides a thorough, more in-depth overview of the information provided below.


  • Must be a current FSU student
  • Must be formally accepted into your major at the time of application
  • Must have a 3.200 GPA (FSU and Cumulative, not rounded to the third decimal place) at the end of the semester of application
  • Must have at least 60 completed college credits at the end of the semester of application
  • Must have at least 12 completed FSU credits at the end of the semester of application
  • Must have at least 2 semesters remaining until graduation


1. Finding a Faculty Director

The first step in beginning your application will be finding your faculty director. Your faculty director will be a full-time tenured, tenure-track, or specialized FSU faculty member in your major. If a specialized faculty member, they must have a terminal degree in the field or must have graduate faculty status. You may already have a faculty member in mind, but if you're not sure who in your department might be a good fit, you can reach out to the liaison for your department. Most departments at FSU also have faculty research interests listed on their website.

2. Choosing a Topic

Once you have recruited your faculty director you will work together to clarify a working title for your research. Although this title may be changed, it should give a clear idea of what your research will be about.

Your faculty director may also be able to share valuable insights on broadening or narrowing the scope of your research to make sure you are able to conclude your project within your anticipated timeline.

3. Setting Your Timeline

You will also need to discuss your timeline with your faculty director. You are required to complete a minimum of two semesters and six credit hours in order to earn Honors in the Major. These semesters should be consecutive, with the exception of the summer semester if you will not be on campus. You can take up to nine credit hours of HITM project work over three semesters if necessary. In addition, some departments have additional requirements students must meet, and students should consult with their departmental academic advisor for clarification about these departmental requirements. All requirements must be met and your project must be successfully defended before graduation from FSU with your bachelor's degree.

4. Project Approval

In order to officially start work on your project you must fill out the application and have it approved and signed by your faculty director, the liaison for your major, and your department chair. Once it has been approved by your department you must turn it in as a PDF via the online portal by the application deadline.

  • Click here for a PDF of the HITM application.
  • Use one of the three electronic signature options explained below.
  • Submit the application through the HITM online portal.

The deadline to apply to begin an Honors in the Major project in either Summer or Fall 2023 is Friday, April 14, 2023, by 4:30 pm Eastern. All students planning to begin their HITM project in Summer or Fall 2023 will submit their application through the HITM online portal as early as the first day of the Spring 2023 semester. Hard copies of the application will not be accepted. Only after students have been approved to begin the Honors in the Major Program can they register for the required honors thesis credit hours.


You must secure all signatures on one form. Do not submit three different PDF files, each with one signature. Also, because of how the online portal reads e-signed PDFs, you should "print" the e-signed and completed application as a new PDF before submitting so that all signatures will remain visible once you have uploaded to the online portal.

Your options for securing electronic signatures include:

  • HelloSign - An e-signature platform with a free option to receive three signatures per month, or a free trial to receive unlimited signatures. Please note that if you opt for the free trial, you should choose the monthly option ($15/month) instead of the annual option ($180/year) in the event the trial ends and you are charged.
  • DocuSign - An e-signature platform free to use for FSU faculty and staff. You may either ask your faculty director to circulate a form on your behalf for signatures, or you may pay $10/month for a single user account for sending out up to five documents a month.
  • Electronic signatures on a PDF - All HITM forms have been formatted for electronic signatures. If your faculty director and committee members are able to sign a PDF electronically, you may circulate the same PDF file to each individual. 

Finding theses

University of sydney theses, higher degree by research theses.

We hold theses written by the University’s Higher Degree by Research (PhD or Masters by Research) students in our collections.

You can find a University of Sydney thesis by searching the  Library catalogue . Select the “Advanced search” and then select “USYD Theses” from the “Material type” dropdown menu.

You can also find digital theses by searching directly in the Sydney eScholarship repository .

Access a digital or digitised thesis

Many of the University’s digital and digitised theses are openly available for download through the Sydney eScholarship repository .

Theses marked “University of Sydney Access” are only available to current University staff and students. Libraries and private researchers can request to purchase a copy of a University of Sydney Access only thesis for AUD$18.50 (incl. GST, within Australia) or AUD$40.00 (international requests).

To purchase a digital thesis, you need to complete one of the relevant request forms below and submit it to [email protected] :

  • Individuals requesting a thesis, or library requesting on behalf of an individual
  • Libraries requesting a copy to be included in their collection

All requests for copies of material held at the University of Sydney Library must comply with the  Copyright Act of 1968 .

Access a hard copy thesis

Theses that are only available in printed format can be viewed in the Rare Books and Special Collections Library , Level 1, Fisher Library.

We are currently running a project to digitise hardcopy theses. You can request an update to find out where a particular thesis is in our digitisation queue by emailing [email protected] .

We don’t digitise theses on request.

Honours or postgraduate coursework theses

Search for an honours or postgraduate coursework thesis in the repository , then use the filters on the left side of the results page to narrow by “Type”.

You can also search the Honours and Postgraduate Coursework theses collection for a faculty, school or discipline (if available).

There are limited numbers of honours theses in the Sydney eScholarship repository as we have strict requirements for submission of honours theses . If you can't find the thesis you're looking for, we suggest contacting the relevant faculty office.

Theses from other Australian and New Zealand universities

Find a thesis from other Australian or New Zealand universities by searching:

  • Australian theses via Trove
  • Libraries Australia for Higher Degree theses awarded from 1989 onwards
  • Education Research Theses for citations and abstracts from theses submitted from 1919 onwards.

If you’re interested in a thesis that isn't available online, you can request the item through our Resource Sharing Service .

International theses

For theses written and submitted at universities outside of Australia, try the following resources:

  • Open Access Theses and Dissertations
  • DART-Europe E-theses Portal
  • British Library Electronic Digital Thesis Online Service (EThOS)
  • EBSCO open dissertations
  • French Thesis-On-Line Repository
  • History Online – postgraduate theses in History submitted in the UK since 1995
  • Index to Theses – listing of theses with abstracts accepted for higher degrees by universities in Great Britain and Ireland since 1716
  • Networked Digital Library of Theses and Dissertations – North American theses
  • ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global

Related information

For more help finding and accessing theses, speak to our friendly library staff.

UC Department of Anthropology Logo

A ‘stickler for the truth,’ Russell Tuttle’s career is measured in groundbreaking research and celebrated mentorship

The professor of anthropology is retiring after six decades at UChicago.

By Sarah Steimer

Russell H. Tuttle

A professor of Anthropology, Evolutionary Biology, History of Science and Medicine and the College, Russell H. Tuttle’s work has affected his students, his field, and even the courtroom. Retiring after six decades, Tuttle can reflect back on a career that led him from a small town in Ohio to field studies in Tanzania to criminal trials in Canada — all while teaching, writing, and editing.

Known for his pioneering functional morphological work on apes via electromyography and his meticulous dissections, Tuttle’s work led to the conclusion — now supported by fossils — that chimpanzees are a poor representation of the locomotive pattern that supported the evolution of human terrestrial bipedalism. Tuttle is also known for his functional interpretation of the 3.66 million-year-old hominid footprint trails at Laetoli, Tanzania.

“Professor Tuttle's impact on my discipline reverberates across generations, touching his academic great-great-great grand-students,” says Nathaniel J. Dominy, one of Tuttle’s mentees and a professor of anthropology at Dartmouth College. “And it speaks volumes that his legacy covers the wide breadth of human evolutionary studies, with the branches of his ‘tree’ extending into anatomy, paleoanthropology, and primatology. How many anthropologists can lay claim to training such a diverse range of scholars? It is a testament to his insatiable curiosity and effective mentorship.”

Tuttle grew up in a small town in North Central Ohio, and attended a branch campus of The Ohio State University in Marion while working. Tuttle jokes that when he tells people he’s in Ohio State’s Alumni Hall of Fame (a 2020 inductee at the Marion campus), they think it’s because he was a star football player. The reality, though, is that he chose to become a physical anthropologist, earning his master’s degree at Ohio State’s main campus, then on to his PhD from Berkeley in 1965 (completed in two years).

As he worked toward his PhD, he conducted research in Orange Park, Florida, (then one of the largest chimpanzee research operations) and his findings on the curvature of the toes — a feature ideal for climbing — caused quite a stir. “I'm a stickler for truth,” Tuttle maintains, a sentiment that has been the cornerstone of his career.

He would find himself at UChicago where, initially, he thought he might become a doctor because he excelled at dissection. He taught medical anatomy, but a course he taught on comparative primate anatomy got him interested in the differences and similarities between apes and people, a focus he’s continued to follow.

Tuttle presented a paper about his work at the British Royal Society, where he was introduced to Mary Leakey, a British paleoanthropologist who discovered the  Paranthropus skull at Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania. At her request, Tuttle studied the Laetoli, Tanzania, footprints that her team discovered from the Olduvai Gorge. Contrary to what many scientists believed, Tuttle’s research suggested the prints were probably not made by an Australopithecus afarensis, a chimp-like hominid known for the partial skeleton Lucy from Ethiopia. It was a major finding that shook his field from long-held beliefs.

(In total, Tuttle’s research has taken him to field and laboratory studies in Tanzania, Kenya, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Japan, and Perú, and in numerous museums in Europe, Asia and North America.)

Tuttle’s study of the 3.66 million-year-old bipedal footprint trails in Tanzania led to invitations to join a team of barristers and solicitors in Winnipeg, Canada, who were defending two Hispanic men accused of involvement in a murder.

“Lo and behold — something I said I would never do — I got involved in forensic science,” Tuttle says.

The Queen’s Counsel for the prosecution had engaged Louise M. Robbins, a certified forensic anthropologist, who had worked on a different part of the footprints trail. She claimed to have developed a new science of human footprint analysis for forensic use, and her speculations about the makers of some Laetoli prints led Tuttle to question her scientific ability and methods — some of which made unfounded racial assumptions.

This particular trial experience — and his involvement with a few other cases — led to his 2023 book, Footprints from Fossils to Gallows . Written in part as a memoir, his goal was to offer a better understanding of how science can serve the courts — and how claims of new forensic methods should be tested thoroughly by peer review outside the courtroom before it’s used to determine an individual’s fate.

Footprints follows his 2014 book, Apes and Human Evolution , which explores how apes and humans evolved in relation to one another, and why humans became a bipedal, tool-making, culture-inventing species distinct from other hominoids. He’s the author or editor of at least 10 books in all, and is past 20-year editor-in-chief of the International Journal of Primatology for and the book series Developments in Primatology: Progress and Prospects . His honors include the Charles R. Darwin Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Association of Physical Anthropologists, Distinguished Primatologist Award of the Midwest Primate Interest Group, Medallion of the Collège de France, Medal of the Fondation Singer-Polignac, and 50-year Membership and Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

“In his early career, he was the first to apply electromyography to investigate the biomechanics and physiological basis for primate positional behavior,” says former student Benedikt Hallgrímsson, deputy director of the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute and head of the Department of Cell Biology of Anatomy at the Cumming School of Medicine. “He coined the term ‘knuckle-walking.’ His investigations of the functional morphology of apes, particularly gibbons and siamangs, was groundbreaking. His detailed dissections and insight into functional anatomy was pivotal in developing an understanding for the anatomical basis for brachiation.  Mid-career, he described the Laetoli footprints and his analysis of those tracks has stood the test of time.”

But aside from those research landmarks, he’s also been noted for his professorship: Tuttle was winner of the McGraw Hill Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching from the American Anthropological Association in 2003 and of the University’s Quantrell Award in 2006.

Dominy calls his mentor a “meticulous scientist and writer,” who motivates him to edit his own writing carefully. “Looking back on those years (2002 to 2004), it feels as though he gave me a cheat code — a way of writing and teaching that accelerated my professional trajectory,” Dominy says. “I feel his influence daily, especially when I am working closely with students and postdocs. I laugh inwardly when I catch myself quoting him or invoking his strong aversion toward poor grammar or wooly thinking. But his mentorship extended well beyond scientific writing; I am a better colleague and human being because of him.”

Hallgrímsson also underscores the major impact Tuttle had on him as a person, teacher, and researcher: “I have relied on Russ for advice and mentorship for 35 years, so it is hard to pinpoint a specific way in which he helped my academic career,” he says. “As a supervisor, he is one of a kind. Demanding and exacting, he is also incredibly generous, both with his time and ideas. Russ never expected graduate students to work on his research program. … Instead, he would allow students to develop their own interests and find ways to support their ambitions. He is not a coauthor, much less the senior author, on his student’s papers. At the same time, he made tremendous contributions to them.

“He always prioritized his students’ success over his own.”

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2024 CS Annual Award Winners

Northwestern cs recognized 10 faculty, staff, and students with annual department awards.

Every academic year, Northwestern Computer Science honors faculty, staff, and students who provided exceptional service to the department or excelled in research projects.

“Congratulations to the deserving winners, who won in a highly competitive field of candidates,” said Samir Khuller , Peter and Adrienne Barris Chair of Computer Science at Northwestern Engineering. “I am proud and inspired by the dedication and passion of all our faculty, staff, and students. The awards recognize just a small subset of amazing individuals in the department, and our work is always a collaborative team effort.”

Staff Hero: Madeleine Agaton Lantin

Madeleine Agaton Lantin

Lantin was commended for her commitment to improving processes, advocating for students, and sharing her wealth of knowledge about University and community resources.

“Her genuine concern for student success and her unwavering support have made her an invaluable asset to the department and the wider academic community,” a nominator said.

Instructors of the Year: Michael Horn and Zach Wood-Doughty

Michael Horn (L) and Zach Wood-Doughty (R)

In his COMP_SCI 313, 413: Tangible Interaction Design and Learning course, for example, Horn guided students through intensive projects that fostered exploratory and collaborative learning experiences.

“Mike goes above and beyond by getting to know each student personally, providing tailored support and encouragement,” a nominator said. “With his passion for innovative teaching approaches, he inspires students to push beyond traditional constraints and nurtures both their technical and creative skills.”

Wood-Doughty , assistant professor of instruction, was honored for his dedication to helping students learn and succeed through carefully planned lectures and homework assignments, extra office hours, and online support. Students appreciated his energy and passion for teaching, clear explanations, and fair grading.

“His hard work in providing excellent instruction, well-designed course materials, and supportive guidance for students is outstanding,” a nominator said.

Faculty Service Award: Vincent St-Amour

Vincent St-Amour

“Vincent selflessly serves on several committees, consistently being a proactive voice for improving policies and increasing support for faculty,” a nominator said. “His wide-ranging service efforts have immensely benefited the department.”

Research Mentor Awards: Matthew Kay and Fumeng Yang

Matthew Kay (L) and Fumeng Yang (R)

“Professor Kay's studious mentorship approach fosters independence by guiding students with insightful questioning rather than directives,” a nominator said. “He also creates an inclusive lab environment by prioritizing his students' holistic wellbeing.”

Yang , a postdoctoral fellow in Kay’s Midwest Uncertainty Collective (MU Collective) lab, was also honored with the Research Mentor Award for going above and beyond to support junior researchers.

“Her brilliant communication skills, structured advice, and endless kindness have helped countless students navigate research challenges and develop critical skills,” a nominator said. “Fumeng's dedication to elevating the next generation of researchers, even while facing immense pressures herself, embodied the ideal research mentor and set an inspirational example to follow.”

PhD Student Research Award: Hyeok Kim

Hyeok Kim

Kim’s research in data visualization lies at the intersection of programming, statistics, and linguistics. He led an influential research program in responsive visualization design, publishing five first-author papers in top venues.

Kim’s research interests also include multi-context visualization, data sonification, narrative and communicative visualization, and design approaches to address societal problems.

In addition to his academic achievements, Kim passionately advocated for diversity and inclusion of underrepresented groups in his roles as a teaching assistant and mentor.

Student Heroes: Melissa Chen, Nathan Grenier, and Maryam Hedayati

(L to R): Melissa Chen, Nathan Grenier, and Maryam Hedayati

“Her leadership, dedication, and numerous initiatives have fostered a supportive and inclusive environment for all students,” a nominator said.

Grenier , a PhD student in computer science advised by Simone Campanoni , was an instrumental member of CSPAC and the Computer Science Social Initiative.

“His tireless efforts in coordinating with faculty, attending meetings, hosting events, and fostering collaboration between organizations have been crucial in creating a supportive environment,” a nominator said.

Hedayati , a PhD student in computer science and learning sciences advised by Kay, made a profound impact on the department as a dedicated mentor, community builder, and advocate for women. Hedayati also helped lead the inaugural year of the Research Track program, served as a teaching assistant, and participated in CSPAC and GWiC.

“Maryam's unwavering commitment to guiding new students and sharing her insights for success has positively influenced many in the department,” a nominator said.

Awards celebration

The department award winners will be honored during the End of Year Awards Celebration event on Thursday, May 30, from 3 to 5 p.m. in the first floor lobby of Mudd Hall.

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Spring Block Party Fosters Community and Stress Relief Before Finals

By piper bo, photos by myles braxton & lily attias-inzano.

People sitting and socializing in the CHCRC concourse

The end of the school year also marks the beginning of a great period of stress for students, with the looming arrival of Finals Week only growing closer and closer each day. Commonwealth Honors College Residential Community has once again sought to alleviate some of this tension by hosting its second annual Spring Block Party on a beautiful Saturday afternoon just before the university rolls into its last week of classes. 

A band performing at the CHCRC block party

With a  food truck , ice cream, creative activities, and music performances throughout the day, the event created a perfect opportunity for students to unwind, connect with others, and not lock themselves away to study until the storm of final exams and projects finally passed on by. 

Held on the CHCRC Concourse, the event allowed students to fully enjoy the fresh air and warm sun— things that can be quite easy to overlook amidst days spent cooped up in libraries, laboratories, and late-night study sessions. Hosting the block party somewhere so accessible made it easy for any CHCRC resident to swing on down and receive a much-needed break. 

“We had our windows open and we heard the music, and we were, like,  Oh my god! It must be the block party! ” said Raegan, a sophomore  microbiology major . 

“So we came down, and we saw the band, and saw that there’s a bunch of other stuff, and we went— oh! This is awesome!” they added. 

Three people putting succulents in planters

A sentiment shared by many students was that the block party seemed to create a strong sense of community for those that attended. 

Audrey, a first-year  environmental science major , thought much the same. “It’s bringing a bunch of people together,” she said. “I keep seeing all these different little friend groups mingling.” 

People also felt the event was well-timed, with how it had been placed just before finals— like Ellie, a first-year  management major . She expressed how it was good to have it close to finals without being  too  close, and emphasized, 

“Everyone seems really upbeat and happy!” 

Around 700 people were said to have attended the block party over the 4 hours it was held, making a lively, exciting atmosphere for anyone that stopped by. Though, of course, anyone wishing for a quieter environment was free to take part in the painting activities happening just inside the Honors Events Hall.

People sitting in the CHCRC concourse during the spring block party

With great music, delicious food, and the community gathered together, the Block Party proved a great success in showing the importance of relaxation during a time when many students feel like they can’t afford to take it. 

“I have so much homework, and getting a break is hard to do,” said Monica, a  psychology major  and  Afro American studies minor . Lavinia, a  hospitality and tourism management major , agreed, and added, “I think this event was perfect.”

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Data Science Insitute

Center for computational molecular biology, fruit flies and forestalling famine: 2024 comp bio seniors win dean of the college awards.

Two computational biology senior concentrators, Madeleine Pittigher and Smriti Vaidyanathan, are receiving awards from the Dean of the College for outstanding graduating seniors in the Computational Biology concentration.

Smriti Vaidyanathan and Maddie Pittigher with their senior thesis research.

One day in early May, Maddie Pittigher and Smriti Vaidyanathan, both graduating seniors in the Computational Biology concentration, received an email. 

“I just got an email one day, telling me I was nominated for my dedication to my research and my performance in the Comp Bio Concentration,” says Maddie Pittigher. “I didn’t realize there were awards for that. I texted my parents right away.”

The Dean of the College Awards that Pittigher and Vaidyanathan are receiving honor graduating seniors who have shown great commitment to their undergraduate research. “It’s a nice recognition of all the work I’ve done,” Smriti Vaidyanathan says.

Both students recently completed Undergraduate Honor Theses on their computational biology research and were nominated for this award by their research advisors. 

“I encourage everyone who is interested in research to do an Honors Thesis,” says Vaidyanathan, whose thesis is the culmination of three years of research in Erica Larschan’s lab. “I felt like I was tying together everything I learned throughout my degree, applying concepts from older classes and creating a complete narrative of my research journey. It was difficult, but it was very satisfying. 

Maddie Pittigher in greenhouse

Fruit flies and forestalling famine

Vaidyanathan’s research has focused on analyzing the interactions of a specific transcription factor involved in sex-specific splicing in fruit flies. “Generally, we want to find out how gene regulation manifests differently between different sexes, and what mechanisms are responsible for that difference,” says Vaidyanathan. 

This work is important for better understanding diseases that manifest differently between sexes, like ALS or Alzheimer’s. “If we understand the gene regulation mechanisms between sexes better,  we can treat the diseases better,” says Vaidyanathan.

Her research has revealed that the Prion-Like Domain, a specific domain within the transcription factor CLAMP,  plays an important role in sex-specific splicing regulation. Vaidyanathan hopes that her research will “pave the way for future advancements in this area of study.”

Pittigher’s work in Mark Johnson’s lab focuses on the genes that relate to temperature sensitivity in plants, specifically the thale cress, a small plant in the mustard family. Her research aims to identify genes and pathways that contribute to extreme-temperature tolerance in plants. With climate change creating extreme temperatures and affecting crop production, identifying and controlling the genes that regulate temperature sensitivity will be very important to preserving food production and avoiding famine, her research abstract explains. 

“It’s super exciting to be getting results that can have such a positive impact,” Pittigher says. “When I started this research, I didn’t know if I was really into plants,” she laughs, “but I realized that this is super cool and the outcome is really important.”

On to the next

Pittigher and Vaidyanathan will be continuing their education next year in PhD and Master’s programs, respectively. Starting in the fall, Pittigher will pursue a PhD in Computational Biology at UC San Diego, and Vaidyanathan will pursue her Master’s in Computer Science at Columbia. 

“I’m looking forward to trying different types of projects and continuing doing biology research,” Pittigher says. “I’m also super excited about the change in the weather!”

Vaidyanathan will be turning to Computer Science for the time being, but she still has a strong commitment to biology. “This Master’s is more just expanding my computational toolkit,” she says. “I want to continue with research after Brown, probably at the intersection of CS and Bio–I’m really interested in understanding the origins of life. We’ll see what happens!” 

Congratulations to Maddie Pittigher and Smriti Vaidyanathan for their receipt of the Dean of the College Award. We commend you for your hard work throughout your undergraduate career.  We can’t wait to see what you will accomplish in the future.

See below for Pittigher’s and Vaidyanathan’s research abstracts. 

Senior Thesis Research Abstracts

Maddie Pittigher Headshot

Maddie was in Mark Johnson's lab (MCB) and will be attending the Computational Biology PhD program at UC San Diego this fall.  

Research Abstract

Rising temperatures have been found to limit crop productivity. This crop productivity relies on plant reproduction, in which the pollen tube growth phase plays a critical role. During this phase pollen grains germinate and elongate as tubes inside the pistil to fertilize ovules after pollination. The number of seeds and fruit biomass are directly proportional to the number of successful fertilizations. Extreme temperatures limit the ability of pollen to extend and fertilize ovules during this process, which limits crop productivity in plant varieties known as thermosensitive. Other varieties can continue to produce seeds and fruits at high temperatures known as thermotolerant. Thermotolerant varieties can be used to improve thermosensitive varieties at the genome level if we can discover genes and pathways that contribute to thermotolerance in high temperature improved varieties and activate only these pathways in thermosensitive varieties when they are needed. 

To identify loci related to thermotolerance in certain varieties of Arabidopsis thaliana we used haploid selection mapping (HSM). HSM begins with a hybrid plant between a thermotolerant and thermosensitive variety. Each hybrid pollen grain, which is developed under optimal conditions, has a unique combination of thermotolerant and thermosensitive loci in its haploid genome. This pollen is then exposed to high temperatures during the pollen tube growth phase so only those that carry key thermotolerant genes will be able to fertilize ovules and create seeds. By sequencing a large pool of these progeny and deriving genomic markers from public data to calculate parental allele frequencies, we can identify loci that are selected for under high temperatures. 

As part of this process, I identified genomic markers from public sequencing datasets using several computational tools. These markers were used to count parental allele frequencies in progeny developed from Columbia-0 and Hilversum-0 hybrid pollinations on Landsberg-ms1 pistils exposed to hot and cold temperatures during the pollen tube growth phase and fertilization. The allele frequencies were used to map regions of selection in the Arabidopsis genome. This mapping identifies potential loci that can be used to improve crop plants at the genome level without changing other traits that make them valuable crops. This will preserve our food production and avoid global famine that global warming may be leading us towards.

Smriti Vaidyanathan

Smriti was in Erica Larschan's lab (MCB, CCMB) and will be pursuing a MS in Computer Science at Columbia next year. 

Understanding sex-biased gene regulation, mainly focusing on alternative splicing, has broad implications for understanding sex biases in human diseases. Through the lens of Drosophila melanogaster , I explore the further role of CLAMP, a pivotal transcription factor involved in the regulation of sex-specific alternative splicing. CLAMP interacts with various RNA Binding Proteins (RBPs), notably Hrp38, a homolog of the human HNRNP1 (hnRNP family protein), which is crucial for alternative splicing and implicated in neurodegenerative disorders. Moreover, both CLAMP and Hrp38 possess Prion-Like Domains (PrLDs), enabling them to undergo phase separation and form nuclear condensates within Drosophila nuclei. These condensates exhibit mobile behavior and are central to this investigation. Specifically, this study focuses on the sex-specific interactions between CLAMP's PrLD and Hrp38 nuclear phase condensates, employing computational methods to unravel the intricate molecular processes underlying sex-specific splicing.

Using live-imaged videos captured via fluorescence microscopy, I quantify the dynamic behavior of Hrp38 nuclear condensates in both CLAMP Wild-Type and delPrLD backgrounds. This quantification is facilitated by an image-processing Fiji macro script and the MATLAB-based particle-tracking software developed by the Gebhardt Lab, TrackIt. Additionally, employing 3D z-stacks of in vivo fixed samples of larval tissue and fluorescently tagged samples, alongside 3D z-stacks of in vitro samples of purified Hrp38 with either CLAMP Wild-Type or delPrLD present in solution, I assess the 3D volumes of Hrp38 coordinates using a Python script that I developed. 

My findings reveal sex-specific behaviors in Hrp38 dynamics, including an increase in the bound fraction of Hrp38 in female controls compared to males, a difference erased by the deletion of the CLAMP PrLD domain. Additionally, I observe other potential sex-specific differences, such as in particle speed and female condensates showing a higher median size in vivo than in males. Contrasting results emerge between in vivo and in vitro samples in CLAMP delPrLD backgrounds, highlighting the significant role of this domain in modulating Hrp38 condensate dynamics and implying more complex mechanisms at work. Finally, I propose a feedforward neural network (FNN) to automate image processing and thresholding for various samples, offering the potential for further research in this intriguing field. In conclusion, this thesis comprehensively explores the intricate mechanisms underlying sex-specific gene regulation and alternative splicing dynamics, paving the way for future advancements in this area of study.


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    A thesis requires a reflective, multi-stage writing process. This handout will walk you through those stages. It is targeted at students in the humanities and social sciences, since their theses tend to involve more writing than projects in the hard sciences. Yet all thesis writers may find the organizational strategies helpful. Introduction

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    A research thesis would be vastly more useful than a review thesis, as a large bulk of graduate admissions is based on trying to estimate your potential as a researcher. While you do have some research experience, in my mind one of the nice parts of a thesis is that rather than just volunteering in a lab, you are in some ways taking charge of a ...

  5. PDF Writing and Defending an Honors Thesis

    The structure and specific sections of the thesis (abstract, introduction, literature review, discussion, conclusion, bibliography) should be approved by the student's faculty advisor and the Honors Council representative. The thesis should have a title page, as described in the preceding paragraphs (section II.1.10). 2.

  6. Writing an Honors Thesis

    An Honors Thesis is a substantial piece of independent research that an undergraduate carries out over two semesters. Students writing Honors Theses take PHIL 691H and 692H, in two different semesters. ... Some older, hard copies of theses are located on the bookshelf in suite 107 of Caldwell Hall. (You may ask the Director of Undergraduate ...

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    An honors thesis is required of all students graduating with any level of Latin honors. It is an excellent opportunity for undergraduates to define and investigate a topic in depth, and to complete an extended written reflection of their results & understanding. The work leading to the thesis is excellent preparation for graduate & professional school or the workplace.

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    Congratulations on embarking an Honors Thesis project! Your thesis is a synthesis of at least two semesters of independent research and represents one of the most important documents you will write at UC Berkeley. It is critical that you turn in your very best work. This guide is designed to help you write your Honors Thesis.

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  16. Honors Thesis Guidelines

    Updated January 2022. Honors English students, following Schreyer Honors College requirements, compose a thesis of significant scholarly research or creative writing. The thesis is completed in close consultation with a thesis supervisor during the semester before the student's graduation semester, while the student is enrolled in English 494H.

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    With a food truck, ice cream, creative activities, and music performances throughout the day, the event created a perfect opportunity for students to unwind, connect with others, and not lock themselves away to study until the storm of final exams and projects finally passed on by.. Held on the CHCRC Concourse, the event allowed students to fully enjoy the fresh air and warm sun— things that ...

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    We commend you for your hard work throughout your undergraduate career. ... In conclusion, this thesis comprehensively explores the intricate mechanisms underlying sex-specific gene regulation and alternative splicing dynamics, paving the way for future advancements in this area of study. Brown University. Providence RI 02912 401-863-1000.