Expectations for Honor’s Thesis and its Relationships to Psychology 401, Senior Capstone

Department of Psychology


1. In their junior year, students in the Honors Program who are majoring in Psychology should identify a faculty member to serve as an Honors Thesis director. Students should then discuss the guidelines below with the Thesis director to determine how the proposed Honors Thesis relates to their summer research plans, scholarly interests, and future course work in Psychology. It is the responsibility of the Thesis director (not the PSYC 401 instructor) to approve the proposal for the Honors Thesis.

2. The Psychology Department agrees that the PSYC 401 capstone paper must be original work created in the semester the student is enrolled in the course. Thus, work completed as a summer research project or prior to the course cannot duplicate or overlap substantially with the PSYC 401 capstone paper. However, the PSYC 401 paper might build on a topic the student has previously studied. Students whose prior or concurrent work is related to their PSYC 401 paper should talk with the 401 instructors at the beginning of the term to establish guidelines for how the 401 capstone paper is different from the student’s other work. Honors students, for example, should provide the 401 instructors with a copy of the Honors Thesis Proposal and/or written work based on a summer research project. This process does not constitute approval of the Honors Thesis but does ensure that the student meets the requirements for the PSYC 401 course.

3. Students who wish to use the PSYC 401 course to develop a literature review for their Honors Thesis must be enrolled in PSYC 401 in the fall of their senior year and must meet all course requirements capstone papers. Although it is the purview of the Honors Thesis Director and Honors Program Director to approve the Honors Thesis (for Coolidge Otis Chapman Honors Scholar designation), the Psychology Faculty agrees that an Honors Thesis should somehow represent work that is “more” than that PSYC 401 capstone paper.

  • A) For example, the student might write a literature review and research proposal as a PSYC 401 capstone paper in the Fall and then research in the spring semester. (Note that students majoring in Psychology are encouraged to collect original data for their Honors Thesis.)
  • B) Alternatively, students could enroll for Independent Study credit in Psychology [PSYC 495] and/or seek summer research funding between their junior and senior years to support the project.
  • C) The student might also propose and complete a different type of extension of the PSYC 401 paper, such as an experiential learning component or interdisciplinary extension that then becomes part of the Honors Thesis.

PSYC 401 instructors will typically not serve as the Thesis Director for students in their PSYC 401 course. As a courtesy, students who plan to use the PSYC 401 paper as the basis of an Honors Thesis should provide the PSYC 401 instructor with a copy of the Honors Thesis proposal. (Note that students planning to pursue this option might contact the Psychology Department Chair prior to registration to request priority to take PSYC 401 in the Fall term of the senior year.)

4. Students majoring in psychology are free to develop an Honors Thesis that is interdisciplinary in nature and/or outside of the discipline of psychology. Depending on the nature of the project, it might or might not qualify for credit in the psychology curriculum (e.g., PSYC 495 or 401).