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Honors Program

Honors Thesis Proposal

 Class of 2020:

  • Fall deadline for thesis proposals (students with revisions from Spring date or students who were abroad during Spring 2019) September 13, 2019
  • Penultimate draft due by March 18, 2020
  • Final thesis due May 6, 2020

Class of 2021:

  • Thesis proposals due March 6, 2020

Your thesis proposal will be read by the Honors Board of your college. Please write your proposal so that any educated person can easily read and understand it. This means avoiding jargon and special terminology where possible and completely defining all special terms that must be used. If at all possible, please submit your thesis proposal electronically (as a Word or PDF file), and title the file as lastnamefirstnameproposal. The proposal must be typed and should be five to seven pages long (not including bibliography). It must present the following information:

Completed Thesis Proposal Cover Sheet

Including advisor answers and both you and your advisor’s signatures. Please place this form at the beginning of your proposal. It is preferred that you submit your proposal electronically.  However, if you must submit a paper copy, please do not staple your proposal; print single-sided and secure all pages with a paper clip or in a folder or envelope. Please include a header or footer with your first and last name and page numbers.  View the Thesis Proposal Cover Form and Advisor Sheet (WORD document). 


The title should accurately describe the focus of your thesis. You do not need a title page.

Thesis Description and Method/Documentation

While all theses require scholarship, a thesis can be any one of the following: research project, ethnographic study, performance, creative work, or a project that grows out of an internship or student teaching. This section must contain, in clearly identifiable sections, the following information from a, b, or c.

a. Research paper in the Humanities or the Arts

THESIS DESCRIPTION: You need a thesis statement! Describe in a sentence or two the precise question or problem which you are going to address. Then identify possible explanations based on the literature in your field. If appropriate, identify a position you will defend. It is altogether insufficient here to state simply that you are going to "research" or "investigate" or "look into" a question or problem.

RESEARCH METHOD: In this section you explain HOW you plan to get your project done. What will you do? Why? How will you support or refute your thesis statement? What are you looking for, specifically? Why have you chosen these texts/experiments/survey questions/artistic medium/etc? Support with reasonable arguments (Not "because I feel like it", or "my advisor told me to".) What will your scholarship consist of? It is not enough here simply to state what you are going to read. Explain the questions you will pose and the methods (e.g., type of formal analysis, literary criticism, or hermeneutic) you intend to use to investigate, test, or interpret your thesis. Explain why these methods are feasible and adequate to demonstrate the validity of your thesis. What resources are necessary to undertake this type of research? Are they readily available? How do you plan to secure them?

b. Research paper in the Sciences or Social Sciences

THESIS DESCRIPTION: You need a thesis statement! Describe in a sentence or two the precise question or problem which you are going to address. Then identify possible explanations based on the literature in your field. It is altogether insufficient here to state simply that you are going to "research" or "investigate" or "look into" a question or problem.

RESEARCH METHOD: In this section you explain HOW you plan to get your project done . State your research question(s) as clearly as possible. Identify and describe the major variables and concepts you will include in your research project. Provide an overview of the methodology you plan to use. How will you address the research question? Will you use an exploratory, descriptive, or causal research design? How will you select your sample(s)? How will you measure your key concepts and variables? How will you collect your data? How will you analyze your data? Do you have appropriate experience in this area? If not, how will you prepare yourself to undertake such research methods? What resources are necessary to undertake this type of research? Are they readily available? How do you plan to secure them?

c. Creative performance or production thesis

THESIS DESCRIPTION: You need a thesis statement! Simply "directing a play" or "writing a musical composition" does not constitute a thesis. It may be helpful for you to think of a question, problem, or issue FIRST, and then design a creative work to answer or address this question. You must answer the basic question "what's the point?" That is, there has to be a "WHY," as in "WHY does this particular project matter in your field?" or "What is the POINT of doing this particular project? How is it academically or professionally appropriate? What will others in your area be able to learn from your thesis?" Present your thesis statement in a sentence or two that describes precisely the question or problem which you are going to address in your creative process. Based on the literature and other documentation in your field, identify probable directions your work will take. It is insufficient to state simply that you are going to create or produce a work of art or a document. Include why this thesis is significant and how it contributes to your learning and to your academic discipline.

RESEACH METHOD: In this section you explain HOW you plan to ANSWER or EXPLORE your thesis question/statement via your creative process and/or project. There must be a scholarly research component to your project. Has anyone in your field already done what you want to do? Is there a specific process you should or will follow? How will you communicate your concept? What research will aid you in your conceptual development and execution? Where/how/when did you learn of the processes or concepts you are using? What resources are necessary to undertake this type of research? Are they readily available? How do you plan to secure them? Also consider assessing the success of your project - how can you tell if a performance/film/play/concert etc. has had the intended effect? Did you appropriately and accurately answer your thesis question, or explore your thesis statement? (We do not recommend projects that ask about impacts on an audience because audience perceptions are extremely hard to measure in a meaningful way. If this is your intent, please make sure you know the methods for assessing audience impact, can submit your intent and audience perception questionnaires [both pre- and post-performance if appropriate] and be prepared to explain the reason for utilizing this process very thoroughly in your thesis proposal.) View specific helpful hints from the JCA Honors Board (WORD document).

DOCUMENTATION: How will you document your creative work? An assessment/research paper must accompany all theses and will serve as a permanent record of the thesis in the University library's collection. This is the scholarly component of your thesis. You may also wish to include a recording, photographs, or other physical evidence of your thesis project. (You do not need to explain this in the proposal, but know that in your thesis document you will include an explanation of your thesis statement or question, describe your research methods and findings, and will evaluate the process and results of your project. Some people find it helpful to work backwards from such a document when writing the proposal.)


How did you arrive at your thesis idea? If your thesis grew out of your previous academic work, please describe how. What have other scholars/artists had to say about this question or problem? How does your thesis fit into the work these scholars/artists have already done? What is the significance or importance of your thesis? How will this project contribute to your learning? Your background should be brief; we are more interested in WHAT your project is (thesis statement) and HOW you will complete it (research methods). (You may place your Background section before the Thesis Description/Methods section if you wish.)


List the dates by which you will complete all aspects of the work on your thesis, for example, gathering resources, initial research, analysis of data, auditions for creative theses, interview times for subjects, completion of literature review, first draft, and so on. We ask for a schedule in order to assess how well you (and your advisor) have thought through this project. How long will it take you, really? Breaking it up into smaller sections helps you to envision the process from beginning to end; this is a roadmap for you as well as for the College Honors Board--so feel free to include benchmark dates such as when you will send the thesis to your second reader, when you will present your thesis, and when you will submit your completed thesis as well.


Append a bibliography of books, journal articles, and other sources that will convince the reviewers that adequate resources exist to do the thesis and that you have done initial background research in this area. Please divide your bibliography into two parts:

  1. Works you have already consulted, and
  2. Works you plan to consult.

Submission Details

The proposal should be submitted to  Jason Lantzer, Assistant Director of the Honors Program, in JH 109e (940-9302). It will be reviewed by the Honors Board of your college. In no more than three weeks (provided that you have met the submission deadline) your proposal will be accepted or returned with suggestions for revision. Failure to include any of the above information will be cause for return. (Any subsequent revisions of your proposal should also be submitted to the honors office, either hard copy or as an email attachment.) The Honors Program will notify both you and your thesis advisor(s) of the Honors Board's decision.

Honors Program Director: Rusty Jones, JH 109g, 317-940-6552
Honors Program Assistant Director: Jason Lantzer, JH 109e, 940-9302

Important Notes:

To Students with Thesis Projects Outside Their Department or in Only One of Their Majors:
A thesis approved for University Honors will only qualify the student to receive departmental honors in those departments that approve the thesis for that purpose. If you are in doubt whether your thesis will qualify you for high or highest honors in your major(s), you should consult with your department head(s) at the thesis proposal stage and seek a letter of approval. A copy of the approval should be forwarded to the Honors Program. Furthermore, we urge you to work with thesis advisors from each discipline from which you are seeking departmental honors.

Information Regarding Research Using Animal or Human Subjects:
Any research that uses human beings or warm-blooded, vertebrate animals must be approved by the Institutional Review Board or the Animal Care and Use Committee, respectively, before the research is begun. Thesis proposals must attach evidence of such approval, or a letter of intent to seek such approval. Letters of intent must include the date on which you plan to begin your research, and be copied to the Office of University Research.

Applications for approval of the use of human or animal subjects should be submitted to the Office of University Research at least four weeks before the date on which you intend to commence your research. For information on the protection of warm-blooded, vertebrate animals, please contact your thesis advisor or Taura Edwards, Office of University Research Programs (see below). Human research includes questionnaires, interviews, tests, observations, surveys and other experiments. Click here for applications and further information.