Your Honors thesis is the last and perhaps the most important step in completing the requirements for the Honors Program. Done well, the thesis can be the most rewarding of your undergraduate academic experiences; done badly, it can be a source of frustration for all concerned. The following guidelines are offered to help you plan your thesis intelligently and produce a work of which we all can be proud.
- Start planning your thesis during your junior year. Let your professors know that you are contemplating a thesis, and consult with them on the feasibility of topics as they occur to you. By the end of the junior year, you ought to have done exploratory reading, set your senior year schedule for writing the thesis, and made good progress on whatever fieldwork, interviews, and/or archival research you can.
- Participation in any of the Study Abroad Programs, including the Pacific Rim Program, sponsored by or approved by the University ought to be an occasion for developing a unique thesis topic. The opportunity to learn from foreign scholars, to observe your subject first hand, and to acquire language proficiency should prove invaluable to you in all stages of your thesis work.
- Start talking to faculty members who might wish to participate in your thesis. You will need a director and at least one reader with disciplinary competence in the field of your research. Be sure that these people are genuinely interested in following the course of your work, and are willing to take the time to guide you. Next to the choice of a topic, the selection of your director and reader(s) is the most important step in getting your thesis under way.
- When your explorations have gone beyond the preliminary stage, you should write a Thesis Proposal. This proposal should state the topic of your thesis, outline the general stages of your argument, list the courses and experience that have prepared you to write the thesis, and be accompanied by a bibliography. Present this proposal to the faculty members whom you ask to serve as your director and reader(s).
- Remember that the University Enrichment Committee grants funds to support student projects each year. Applications are normally due in November and March, and awards are announced in December and April. If your project requires you to travel to do field work or interviews, or to consult special library holdings, think seriously about applying to the Enrichment Committee for support. Applications are available in Jones 212 or in the Honors office.
- You might also consider applying for the Thomas A. Davis Summer Research Award. This is an award of $2,000 given in the spring semester to juniors planning to do research in the Humanities or Social Sciences for their thesis over the summer months. This award is given by the Honors Program. Up to four awards can be given annually. The applications for this award can be found in the Honors Program office, Wyatt 139, and are due immediately following spring break in March.
- Register for an Honors Thesis. Have your director, and reader(s) and the Honors Director sign the Honors Thesis Registration Form. To this form you will append a statement outlining the contents of the thesis (see the information above on the Thesis).
- Use whatever coursework you can during this term to fold into your thesis. If you are doing an independent study in your major/minor, or if you are registered for one of the departmental research seminars, use this opportunity to produce a draft of your thesis. If you have support from the Enrichment Committee or Honors Program to do research or field work during the summer, this should be the time to write it up as a draft of the thesis. In any case, a substantial draft of the thesis in some form ought to be completed during this term. Keep in touch with all faculty thesis members, letting them know the current state of your work.
- Schedule a meeting (15-20 minutes) at which you, your thesis director, and the Honors Program director can discuss the particulars of your thesis.
- Expect to present your committee with a substantial draft of your thesis for a fall meeting to be held between Halloween and Thanksgiving. This draft should contain in about twenty pages the major argument of the thesis, its likely conclusions, in-progress footnotes and bibliography, and an outline of the work remaining. In the case of laboratory, studio, fieldwork and other time-delimited projects, you will be expected at the minimum to present the thesis (in the form of a hypothesis), the bibliography, the methods section of the thesis, and any work completed to date.
- As you write the thesis, consult with all members of your committee for advice on how to proceed.
- Schedule your thesis presentation in consultation with your committee. Presentations may be given any time during your senior year, once your faculty thesis members determine you are ready. Theses may not be presented after the Presentation Deadline established each year (The presentation deadline is usually in late March).
- By February you ought to have a penultimate draft of your thesis ready for your committee.
- The form of the presentation of your thesis is up to you and your committee. In the past, students have spoken informally about their work, have read important portions of the thesis, or have read a broad outline covering the major points in their argument. In any case, leave time to revise your thesis following the presentation, since members of the audience often make comments that you may want to incorporate into your final clean draft.
- Present copies of your final clean draft to your thesis director, readers, and the Honors Director. Certification forms will be distributed by the Honors Office to your readers immediately after your presentation. When all readers have signed, the Honors Director will then sign the final draft and see that it is deposited in the Honors Office along with other Honors theses.
- If you have completed all other requirements in the Honors Program, you will receive special designation at graduation as Coolidge Otis Chapman Honors Scholar. In order to earn the citation of Coolidge Otis Chapman Honors Scholar, you must complete the thesis, have it certified by all members of your committee, and turn in your final copy by the deadline. For questions about the deadline, contact the Honors Program at 253.879.3781 or via e-mail.
Is There Life After the Honors Thesis?
While the thesis may be an exploration into a question which you do not intend to pursue later, it may well be a bridge between your undergraduate studies and your professional school, or your career. Your thesis has great potential. Why not write on some aspect of the law if you plan to go to law school? Why not do an intensive analysis of the economic future of the wood pulp industry if you aspire to corporate greatness in the Weyerhaeuser Company? Write a thesis on the Environmental Protection Agency if you plan to work for the City of Tacoma. The possibilities are endless.
The Honors Director and support staff want to help you plan your thesis, however, the ultimate responsibility is yours. The two greatest commandments are: start early and consult frequently. Remember successful completion of your thesis depends on your producing a superior work of undergraduate research or artistic expression. Good luck!