Honors Thesis

Honors theses are as varied as Butler’s student body. Theses range from original research in the humanities and sciences, to teaching portfolios, to video productions, to performances and creative writing. Visit as many of the links below as you like. We hope they will help guide you as you think about doing a thesis.

Honors theses may be written by both honors and non-honors students. Honors students must complete a thesis in order to complete the Honors Program. Non-honors students may choose to complete a thesis in order to earn departmental honors.

Each thesis writer selects a faculty member or two to serve as a mentor. Students will be wise to allow four semesters and the intervening summer for the entire process. The first of those semesters (usually Fall of the junior year) may be spent in speaking with faculty members, exploring options, and beginning to narrow down on a topic or project. Honors students will take their departmental honors course during this semester. In the second semester, the student will work with the thesis advisor(s) to develop the thesis proposal. For Honors students, this will mean taking HN397 or 398.

During the summer and both semesters of the final year, students will be doing their research and working steadily on their projects. We highly recommend scheduling regular meetings with your thesis advisor and keeping to a calendar of intermediate deadlines as the surest way to complete the thesis, which will be the crowning achievement of your undergraduate education.

Thesis Timeline

Generally speaking, students should submit their thesis proposal a year before they plan on graduating. Deadlines for proposals are in early March (usually the Friday before Spring Break) and mid-September of each year.

The thesis draft, approved by your thesis advisor, should be read as well by a second reader, roughly one month before the student plans on graduating.  After making any revisions, based off of second reader comments, the final thesis should be submitted at least a week before graduation.

Many students begin by talking with the department head or faculty member(s) in their department to come up with possible ideas for the thesis. You may want to begin by brainstorming. What themes or topics in your courses have most engaged you? What are you most curious about? What do you love? It’s important to select a topic that you truly care about, so that your thesis will continue to interest you during the year and a half or more that you’ll be working on it.

Having a thesis advisor with whom you can work can be a key to the successful thesis experience. Of course you’ll want someone who is conversant with the area in which you’ll be doing your thesis. Personality matters, too. You’ll need to choose someone who is easy for you to talk with, whom you understand easily, and who understands you. If you are someone who will need structure, you may want to find out if a professor is willing to meet regularly with you and check on your progress from time to time. If you work well independently, you may want someone who has a light hand when giving guidance.

Each individual department determines what preparation is necessary to begin a thesis proposal. In some departments, a designated course exists. In others, it might be participation in a lab, or nothing at all beyond working with your thesis advisor on the 397/398 proposal. If a course exists, it is often taken in the junior year. University Honors Program students should contact their department to determine what is required (if anything). A list of known required research methods courses can be found here. Other areas might also have a requirement, so please check with your academic advisor.  Completion of an approved departmental research methods course also fulfills one of your four HN course requirements, by counting as an HN 300.

Required for Honors Program students. In this course you begin to work with your thesis advisor to develop your bibliography and focus the topic of your thesis project. HN 397 carries one credit hour, and you and your adviser spend about 15 contact hours together; HN 398 carries two credit hours which equal about thirty contact hours. The end product of this course is the thesis proposal.

The thesis is due prior to graduation. You can register for the Honors Thesis course in your major (department course number 499; 3 credit hours) if you want or need the hours; the course is not a requirement. You can register for the thesis course in the Fall semester and take an incomplete, or register in the Spring.

While working on your thesis, it is important that you and your adviser agree to and follow a timetable. You should submit outlines and drafts of your thesis to your advisor throughout the academic year. When you submit your thesis to your second reader, you and your advisor should consider it to be in its final form. Remember, your second reader may need a few weeks to read and return comments to you.

Once you have made all required revisions, you need to have a Certification Page signed by your advisor, second reader, and the Director of the University Honors Program. Your completed thesis can then be submitted to the library, where it will become part of the library collection.

Honors Program students are required to make an oral/public presentation of their thesis project. Please inform the Honors Office of the date of your presentation.  Each thesis writer is required to give an oral presentation of the thesis project. The presentation may be made in any of several different settings:

  • The Undergraduate Research Conference.
  • A setting arranged by your department, such as a lecture/recital, performance, or departmental seminar.
  • A regional or national conference in your discipline. Learn more about travel-to-present grants for students.
  • An alternative venue. Contact the Honors Program office to seek approval for an alternative to the settings outlined above. For example, business majors have made presentations at their internship sites.

Sometimes, students will be asked by the University Honors Board to revise and resubmit their proposal.  In these cases, the board will always provide direction, and the students should work closely with their advisor in crafting both a revised proposal and an appropriate response to the committee’s requests.  There is no due date for a resubmission, rather, students are encouraged to resubmit as soon as they have made the necessary changes to their thesis.