What is Honors 490?
This course is really a set of individual consultation sessions meant to prepare students for completing a semester-long Honors thesis project. Students should plan to enroll in HONR 490 during a semester prior to completing the actual thesis. During the Thesis Preparation semester, students are tasked with accomplishing four goals:
1) Identify a Thesis Mentor
2) Develop a Thesis Prospectus
3) Identify Additional Members of the Thesis Committee
4) Identify a Venue for Public Presentation of the Thesis Project
What is a Thesis?
A thesis is a significant piece of independent work—conducted under the guidance of faculty members—that puts the skills and methods that you have learned as an undergraduate and applies it to your discipline. They come in many different forms. Some theses:
1. develop and defend an argument
2. report and analyze laboratory experiments, field studies, or surveys
3. outline case studies
4. present portfolios
5. display artistic accomplishments
Regardless, the thesis is an important capstone experience for Honors students in demonstrating excellence in their fields of study. Because thesis work comes in many shapes and sizes, there is no standard length of an acceptable thesis. If you would like to see past theses in the Honors College, they are housed on in the Great Room of the Honors Center. (When you complete your thesis, it will be bound and added to the Honors Library.)
What is the Process for Completing the 490 course?
Students meet with the Honors Dean early in the semester to brainstorm possible topics and identify prospective thesis mentors. By week five of the semester, students are required to have their thesis mentor confirm their commitment to the thesis project with Honors Dean. By week ten, students are required to have a drafted prospectus in the hands of their mentor and submit a list of names for thesis readers to the Honors Dean. By week fourteen, students should have downloaded the Thesis Prospectus cover page and acquire the signatures of all committee members. The Thesis Prospectus and signed cover page should be submitted to the Honors Dean no later than the Friday before Finals Week of any semester.
What is a mentor?
This is a faculty member who will act as a mentor for the length of your project. They should be someone who knows something about your chosen field of study and is willing to meet throughout the semester to discuss your research plan. He or she will need to help you identify a project, forge research questions or topics, read drafts, provide substantial feedback, and generally advise you in the background of your work. They should also be someone who intends to guide you through your actual thesis research and writing in the following semester. You can plan on meeting with your thesis mentor frequently during the semester when you are completing your thesis.
The Honors Program has a list of previous Honors Thesis mentors here.
What is a Thesis Committee Member?
A committee member is a faculty member who may or may not know something about your topic but can provide a second and third perspective on your research project. Normally one of the committee members is familiar with your field of study, while the second committee member comes from a discipline or department outside of your area of study. The committee members (or readers) you choose for HONR 490 will be responsible for reading a draft of your thesis and providing feedback in the late stages of its development.
What is an Honors Thesis Prospectus?
A typical Thesis Prospectus includes an overview of the research topic and introduction to the research questions, a short literature review of current scholarship on the area of proposed study, an outline of possible methodologies, a timetable for completion, and a brief bibliography of recent scholarly works on the topic. The thesis prospectus should be between 1,000-1,250 words in length (exclusive of bibliography).
Why Does the Thesis Require a Public Presentation?
Part of good research or artistic expression is the presentation of and discussion about those ideas with a larger community. The Honors College greatly values this aspect of scholarly discourse and encourages students to present their work at conferences and public venues. The program also helps support these endeavors through travel grants, which are available to Honors students in “good standing” with the Honors College.
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