All students in the University Honors Program must complete a Senior Thesis as part of their Honors curriculum. A Senior Thesis is, broadly, a substantial work of independent scholarship that culminates in a written product, presentation, or performance. The Senior Thesis project can come in many different forms; this is your opportunity to get creative and explore an idea or topic that interests you. Additionally, your Senior Thesis must be supervised by a full-time GW faculty member.
What kind of topic should I explore?
Think about some of the classes you’ve taken thus far. Was there any topic that sparked your interest? Was there something you touched on but didn’t fully cover? Think about classes you’ve haven’t taken. What courses would you have liked to take? What kinds of material would they have explored?
Does the topic have to be in my major?
Not at all. You can do a thesis on Art History even if you’re a Business major, or a Philosophy thesis as an engineer. In fact, this might be a time to discover more about a topic that you’ve always thought about but would never otherwise explore. On the other hand, perhaps you are going into graduate school for English Literature and you want to have a solid product of work to submit as part of your application. Or perhaps you just want to dive more deeply into the topics you’re already familiar with!
Ok, so I have a topic. How do I find a faculty member to supervise me?
Keep in mind that only full-time GW faculty members can supervise your project. Think about professors that know your work or with whom you’ve already formed a relationship. Have you done research with a faculty member? Is there a faculty member that studies something similar to what you want to research? Is there a faculty member you’d like to get to know more?
If you don’t know the professor too well, you will need to think about how you plan on approaching them. Keep in mind that even faculty that you are close with are not required to be your advisor! If you have questions about how to approach faculty or who to pick, it may be helpful to reach out to the undergraduate program chair in that department, ask fellow students about their experiences, or talk to Brianna or Ben.
How early should I start talking to potential advisors?
Definitely start before the semester you plan to work on the thesis, but the earlier the better. If you can, get the conversation started a year in advance! It never hurts to start having these discussions early on as they may lead you to other paths. Maybe one professor isn’t available to help you—but they know of a colleague who is. Maybe your potential advisor can start narrowing down ideas with you. At the end of the day, the last thing you want is to be scrambling during the Spring of your Senior year to figure out all these details!
Alright, I have a topic and an advisor. What now?
Next on the docket is working on an Honors Contract so you can be registered for HONR 4198 (our Senior Thesis course). . The Contract is an agreement between you and your advisor on the nature of the thesis work, the meeting schedule, deadlines, etc. The course doesn’t have a pre-established meeting time or topic, so the Honors Contract serves as the syllabus. Once we receive the Honors Contract materials, Brianna and Ben will be able to add HONR 4198 to your schedule. Based on the nature of the work, you and your advisor will decide if the course should count as 3 or 4 credits.
I’m already doing a thesis for my major though…do I need to do that and HONR 4198?
Nope! We know that many majors already have a thesis built into the curriculum. As long as the course involves substantial work similar to a thesis, it will fill your Honors Thesis requirement. If you choose this path, you will need to fill out the Senior Thesis Verification form (see below). In this form, you will list the course serving as the replacement for the Honors Thesis and have your faculty advisor sign, agreeing that the course is equivalent to the Honors Thesis. The replacement course must be 3 or 4 credits. If you have any questions on which courses qualify as an Honors Thesis, please reach out to Brianna or Ben (emails below).
My major has Special Honors. Does that count?
In short: if your major(s)’ Special Honors requirements include a thesis, it counts. If not, it doesn’t. Either way, you’re welcome to still pursue it! If you’re not sure of the requirements for Special Honors in your major, we recommend you reach out to your major advisor or school advising center. Once you have more information, be sure to follow up with Brianna or Ben to ensure that your thesis will count (as discussed above).
How many pages should my thesis be?
We don’t require a set page count. A thesis performing quantitative research in Microbiology will likely be shorter than one doing qualitative analysis in Religious Studies, for example. See below for a guide to proposed requirements for various disciplines.
I don’t see my question. Who should I ask?
Program Managers, Brianna Crayton (email@example.com) and Ben Faulkner (firstname.lastname@example.org) are happy to help answer your questions on the Honors requirements. For questions on In regards to aspects of your research, for example, a faculty member would be most helpful.
For more on Honors Thesis options: Check out this info packet.
Click here for suggested requirements broken down by various disciplines.
Click here to access the Senior Thesis Verification and Honors Contract forms.