The crowning achievement in the Honors Program is the composition of a Senior Honors Thesis or Project. If the student is required to write a thesis as part of the standard program of study in the major, that required thesis can ramified as an Honors Thesis. In disciplines that do not require a senior thesis, the Honors Thesis may be completed as part of one or more independent study courses. A creative project may also be accepted as an Honors Thesis.
A student writing an Honors Thesis will need to complete an Honors Thesis Proposal. The Thesis Proposal must be submitted to the Chair of the Honors Program Committee by the middle of of the semester PRIOR TO the semester in which the student will actually complete the Thesis (see below for more details). The Honors Program Committee will review the proposal to confirm that the project meets the standards for Honors Program work.
The completed thesis must be approved by the project’s director (the professor overseeing the thesis project or independent study) and a designated second reader. After that approval, the completed project must be submitted to the Honors Program Committee. A copy of the thesis will be placed in the Georgetown College archives.
The following document gives a fuller picture of the process leading to a completed Honors Thesis.
Guidelines, Suggestions and Requirements
We use the term “thesis” in its broadest sense to refer to a variety of projects, either scholarly or creative, that can be developed by the student and presented in a public forum.
The actual form of the thesis may be a theoretical analysis, an empirical study, a business plan, a work of art, a musical composition, or some other product that advances and defends an original/independent idea proposed by the student. This document is intended to provide guidelines for the preparation of the thesis as well as a timetable to ensure that students complete the thesis in a timely manner.
Description of the Honors Thesis/Project
Purpose of the Honors Thesis/Project
The Honors Thesis/Project (hereafter simply called the “Honors Thesis”) is intended to provide students the opportunity to work closely with one or more members of the faculty to define and carry out a line of research or a creative enterprise. The magnitude of this project should be appropriate to the conclusion of a rigorous and substantial undergraduate program. The Honors Thesis may be in the student’s major or minor area of study, although this is not required, and interdisciplinary projects are considered appropriate.
In addition to the value of the Honors credential on a student’s academic transcript, the Honors Thesisprovides excellent preparation for students who intend to continue their education through graduate study or enter the workforce. A major benefit of the project is the intrinsic satisfaction that students receive from deep and sustained investigation of an area that is intellectually stimulating for them.
Types of Honors Theses/Projects: Suggestions
Many different approaches to the Honors Thesis Project are possible and encouraged. Students with different ideas about their Honors Thesis Projects are encouraged to consult with the Chair of the Honors Program Committee.
- Traditional Written Thesis
Following a traditional model, one type of Honors Thesis project is a written piece of work that adds substantially to the knowledge or understanding in the field. In terms of substance, an Honors thesis is more than a brief research paper in terms of scope, depth, and contribution. A typical Honors thesis project will be 30 – 50 pages in length, although some may be considerably shorter (e.g., in the natural sciences or mathematics) and others may be longer (e.g., in the humanities and social sciences).The thesis may address a problem or issue that has not been adequately addressed in the research literature or has not been addressed from the particular perspective taken by the student. The honors thesis goes beyond reporting on research done by others to include the student’s own creative and critical thinking. The student must demonstrate a commitment to scholarship. The honors thesis at the undergraduate level is not required to make an original contribution to the knowledge base of a discipline, but should be well developed and creative in applying existing ideas in new ways.
- Creative Media Thesis
For students interested in certain areas, a more appropriate honors thesis project may be the production or performance of an original piece. For example, students majoring in management with a focus on operations may choose to develop a prototype production system. Students majoring in Computer Information Systems may develop a piece of software designed to solve a particular business problem. Students with a major in communication may choose to do an honors thesis project in the form of a video documentary. These types of projects would be accompanied by an explanatory essay of at least 10 pages that documents the student’s development as well as the contribution the project makes to a particular academic field.
- Problem-Solving Thesis Project
Problem-solving theses require students to evaluate and respond to a particular problem or concern. A wide variety of options would fit with this approach. For example, in the area of marketing, a problem-solving thesis problem might be focused on evaluating the current image of a product or service and developing a marketing campaign to enhance that image for a client organization in the community. Such projects also might include: developing an accounting system and training program for a small business; developing and implementing a public awareness program; developing and delivering an education or training program for a particular constituency, etc.
Primary Tasks to be Completed
An important first step towards the Honors Thesis Project is the development of a proposal. This document will typically run around five pages and will provide a description of the project being contemplated by the student. The proposal will be developed with the help of the Primary Advisor. The proposal will include a series of deadlines for development of the thesis project. Since the proposal is reviewed by a Committee of faculty drawn from a variety of disciplines, it is important that the student keep in mind the need to explain difficult ideas in clearly and precisely, avoiding discipline-specific technical terminology or defining technical terms as needed. This aspect of the proposal presents a fine opportunity to develop one’s expository skills. Important Requirement: The proposal must be approved by the Honors Program Committee during the semester PRIOR to the semester in which the student actually intends to complete the thesis. A precise due-date is determined each semester by the Honors Program Chair and is publicized well in advance. For students completing in the Spring Semester, the deadline for proposals is usually late October of the preceding Fall semester.
- Human Subjects Review: Required, If Applicable
Any activities included in the Honors Thesis Project that may have an impact on human subjects must be reviewed and approved by the Georgetown College Institutional Review Board to ensure that the rights of subjects are protected. Activities subject to the review process include not only testing, but written surveys and personal interviews.
- Thesis Development
Each thesis must begin with an abstract, which should include a statement of the student’s general theme or topic, the goals of the research or creative activity, and a summary of conclusions.The body of the thesis will generally include a discussion of the scholarly context in which the work is to be understood, pertinent evidence, and conclusions. All projects must include a citation list of bibliographic and other resources. Regardless of the medium in which the body of the thesis project is produced (written, videotaped, painted, performed, etc.) the student must also provide an enduring record of the work (manuscript, photographs, tapes) that can be placed in the college archives. Important Note: for archival purposes, a standard format for the title page is required. A sample title page is provided here.
All thesis projects must be presented in an open forum for review by interested members of the Georgetown College community. For most thesis projects, this presentation will be during a All-Campus Poster Session scheduled at the end of the Spring semester of the senior year. At the time of the presentation, students may be required to respond to questions from the audience that relate to their thesis project. The presentation will be evaluated as part of the grade for the thesis project (see Evaluation Criteria below).
Specific evaluation criteria for Thesis projects will vary depending on the type of thesis. If (as is almost always the case) the Thesis is written as part of one or more independent study courses, then specific evaluation criteria and expectations are established in the syllabi for these courses. In some situations, for example, the presentation may be heavily weighted (e.g., for a creative performance), while in other situations the written work should receive more emphasis. A letter grade is assigned to the thesis project by the primary advisor (in consultation with the second reader–see below) following presentation and submission.
Each Thesis Committee will consist of at least two members, a primary advisor and a second reader.
- Primary Advisor
The Primary Advisor must be a full-time tenured or tenure-track member of the Georgetown College faculty. On rare occasions, under special circumstances, part-time or adjunct members of the Georgetown College faculty may serve as thesis project advisors with the prior WRITTEN approval of the chair of the Honors Program Committee.The selection of the Primary Thesis Advisor is a critical choice. A student should choose the Primary Thesis Advisor by taking into account not only the faculty member’s expertise, but also the potential for a close working relationship as the project will require frequent interaction with the advisor.
A student should select the Primary Advisor during the Junior year: this allows for an early start on the thesis project. Background reading and preparation during the summer preceding the senior year will help ensure the success of a senior thesis project.
The Primary advisor reads drafts and otherwise reviews progress on the thesis project and provides detailed feedback. Typically, an Honors project will go through a number of iterations. The student is expected to give the advisor ample time to read or review and comment on each revision. Likewise, the advisor is expected to provide feedback as expeditiously as possible to the student. (See the statement on deadlines in the “Proposal” section above.)
- Second Reader
All thesis projects require a second reader. In keeping with the idea that a good thesis develops a topic in a way that can be followed by a motivated non-specialist, the second reader should be from outside the primary discipline of the thesis, if possible. The primary task of the second reader is help the primary adviser to decide if the thesis should be accepted and passed along to the Honors Program Director for placement in the College Archives. The primary adviser assigns all grades for associated coursework (independent studies, etc.), but he/she may choose to do this in consultation with the second reader.
Selection of Advisors
The Honors Program Committee must be informed of the Selection of the Primary Advisor and second reader. Any requests to have a Committee member who is not a full-time tenured or tenure-track Georgetown College faculty member must be approved in WRITING by the Director of the Honors Program.
Registering for the Honors Thesis
The thesis can be completed as part of a departmental thesis or capstone course, or it can be completed as an Independent Study. If completed within an Independent Study format, the Independent Study should carry three credit hours for each semester of study. (Two Independent Study courses are recommended, see the Timetable below.) If completed as part of a departmental thesis or capstone course, then it carries the number of credit hours associated with that course. In some highly exceptional circumstances, the thesis is not written as part of any course. In that case no credit hours are associated with the thesis.
Certain deadlines are firm requirements of the Honors Program. These deadlines are for:
- Submission of the Thesis Proposal: late October of the Fall semester. The actual deadline is determined each year by the Honors Program Director and is communicated well in advance.
- submission of a clean copy of the approved thesis to the Honors Program Chair. This is usually mid-April of the Spring Semester. The actual deadline is determined each year by the Honors Program Director and is communicated well in advance.
See below for more information.
The following timetable assumes that the thesis is to be written in the Spring semester of the Senior year. Any student wishing to complete the thesis in a different semester should adjust deadlines accordingly, in consultation with the Honors Program Chair and the primary thesis adviser.
- Thesis Topic Development – Second semester, junior year. The student approaches a faculty who could serve as Thesis Adviser. In consultation with the adviser, the student defines a rough thesis topic and communicates this in writing to the Honors Program Director. Student and adviser also decide on a program of thesis development. For example, will the thesis be completed as part of a single 3-credit independent study course, or two independent study courses: one in the Fall of the senior year and the other in the Spring? Will there be a summer reading or research? Etc. Students are encouraged to communicate all such plans to the Honors Program Director.
- Independent Studies — It is recommended that the thesis be associated with two independent study courses: Fall and Spring. In the Fall course, a major objective is the prepare a Thesis Proposal and to have it accepted by the Honors Program Committee. Other objectives — completion of research or field work, performance preparation, drafts of one or more thesis chapters, and so forth — are determined by the specific nature of the project, and should be specified in the syllabus for the course. The Spring independent study would presumably be focused on completion of the written thesis, but would also include evaluation of public presentations of the Thesis (e.g., Spring All-Campus Poster Session and/or other venues) and other elements deemed appropriate by the Thesis Adviser.
- Selection of Second Reader – Prior to submission of the Thesis Proposal. Students communicate their choice to the Honors Program Director.
- Submission of Thesis Proposal to Honors Program Chair – Late October of the Senior Year. The Honors Program Committee reviews proposals during its November meeting. Resubmissions, if required, must be approved during the December meeting.
- Submission of Final Draft of Thesis Project to Thesis Committee – Spring Semester. The specific deadline is determined in consultation with the Primary adviser and is stated in the Thesis Proposal).
- Submission of Approved Thesis Project to Honors Program Chair – Mid-April of the Spring Semester semester, senior year; this clean copy will be placed in the Georgetown College Archives.
- Presentation of Thesis Project – Spring All-Campus Poster Session, late April (and/or other approved venue, as outlined in the Thesis Proposal).
* These guidelines and requirements were developed using the Bryant College Honors Thesis Project as a model