The Writing Center • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Honors Theses

What this handout is about.

Writing a senior honors thesis, or any major research essay, can seem daunting at first. A thesis requires a reflective, multi-stage writing process. This handout will walk you through those stages. It is targeted at students in the humanities and social sciences, since their theses tend to involve more writing than projects in the hard sciences. Yet all thesis writers may find the organizational strategies helpful.


What is an honors thesis.

That depends quite a bit on your field of study. However, all honors theses have at least two things in common:

  • They are based on students’ original research.
  • They take the form of a written manuscript, which presents the findings of that research. In the humanities, theses average 50-75 pages in length and consist of two or more chapters. In the social sciences, the manuscript may be shorter, depending on whether the project involves more quantitative than qualitative research. In the hard sciences, the manuscript may be shorter still, often taking the form of a sophisticated laboratory report.

Who can write an honors thesis?

In general, students who are at the end of their junior year, have an overall 3.2 GPA, and meet their departmental requirements can write a senior thesis. For information about your eligibility, contact:

  • UNC Honors Program
  • Your departmental administrators of undergraduate studies/honors

Why write an honors thesis?

Satisfy your intellectual curiosity This is the most compelling reason to write a thesis. Whether it’s the short stories of Flannery O’Connor or the challenges of urban poverty, you’ve studied topics in college that really piqued your interest. Now’s your chance to follow your passions, explore further, and contribute some original ideas and research in your field.

Develop transferable skills Whether you choose to stay in your field of study or not, the process of developing and crafting a feasible research project will hone skills that will serve you well in almost any future job. After all, most jobs require some form of problem solving and oral and written communication. Writing an honors thesis requires that you:

  • ask smart questions
  • acquire the investigative instincts needed to find answers
  • navigate libraries, laboratories, archives, databases, and other research venues
  • develop the flexibility to redirect your research if your initial plan flops
  • master the art of time management
  • hone your argumentation skills
  • organize a lengthy piece of writing
  • polish your oral communication skills by presenting and defending your project to faculty and peers

Work closely with faculty mentors At large research universities like Carolina, you’ve likely taken classes where you barely got to know your instructor. Writing a thesis offers the opportunity to work one-on-one with a with faculty adviser. Such mentors can enrich your intellectual development and later serve as invaluable references for graduate school and employment.

Open windows into future professions An honors thesis will give you a taste of what it’s like to do research in your field. Even if you’re a sociology major, you may not really know what it’s like to be a sociologist. Writing a sociology thesis would open a window into that world. It also might help you decide whether to pursue that field in graduate school or in your future career.

How do you write an honors thesis?

Get an idea of what’s expected.

It’s a good idea to review some of the honors theses other students have submitted to get a sense of what an honors thesis might look like and what kinds of things might be appropriate topics. Look for examples from the previous year in the Carolina Digital Repository. You may also be able to find past theses collected in your major department or at the North Carolina Collection in Wilson Library. Pay special attention to theses written by students who share your major.

Choose a topic

Ideally, you should start thinking about topics early in your junior year, so you can begin your research and writing quickly during your senior year. (Many departments require that you submit a proposal for an honors thesis project during the spring of your junior year.)

How should you choose a topic?

  • Read widely in the fields that interest you. Make a habit of browsing professional journals to survey the “hot” areas of research and to familiarize yourself with your field’s stylistic conventions. (You’ll find the most recent issues of the major professional journals in the periodicals reading room on the first floor of Davis Library).
  • Set up appointments to talk with faculty in your field. This is a good idea, since you’ll eventually need to select an advisor and a second reader. Faculty also can help you start narrowing down potential topics.
  • Look at honors theses from the past. The North Carolina Collection in Wilson Library holds UNC honors theses. To get a sense of the typical scope of a thesis, take a look at a sampling from your field.

What makes a good topic?

  • It’s fascinating. Above all, choose something that grips your imagination. If you don’t, the chances are good that you’ll struggle to finish.
  • It’s doable. Even if a topic interests you, it won’t work out unless you have access to the materials you need to research it. Also be sure that your topic is narrow enough. Let’s take an example: Say you’re interested in the efforts to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s and early 1980s. That’s a big topic that probably can’t be adequately covered in a single thesis. You need to find a case study within that larger topic. For example, maybe you’re particularly interested in the states that did not ratify the ERA. Of those states, perhaps you’ll select North Carolina, since you’ll have ready access to local research materials. And maybe you want to focus primarily on the ERA’s opponents. Beyond that, maybe you’re particularly interested in female opponents of the ERA. Now you’ve got a much more manageable topic: Women in North Carolina Who Opposed the ERA in the 1970s and 1980s.
  • It contains a question. There’s a big difference between having a topic and having a guiding research question. Taking the above topic, perhaps your main question is: Why did some women in North Carolina oppose the ERA? You will, of course, generate other questions: Who were the most outspoken opponents? White women? Middle-class women? How did they oppose the ERA? Public protests? Legislative petitions? etc. etc. Yet it’s good to start with a guiding question that will focus your research.

Goal-setting and time management

The senior year is an exceptionally busy time for college students. In addition to the usual load of courses and jobs, seniors have the daunting task of applying for jobs and/or graduate school. These demands are angst producing and time consuming If that scenario sounds familiar, don’t panic! Do start strategizing about how to make a time for your thesis. You may need to take a lighter course load or eliminate extracurricular activities. Even if the thesis is the only thing on your plate, you still need to make a systematic schedule for yourself. Most departments require that you take a class that guides you through the honors project, so deadlines likely will be set for you. Still, you should set your own goals for meeting those deadlines. Here are a few suggestions for goal setting and time management:

Start early. Keep in mind that many departments will require that you turn in your thesis sometime in early April, so don’t count on having the entire spring semester to finish your work. Ideally, you’ll start the research process the semester or summer before your senior year so that the writing process can begin early in the fall. Some goal-setting will be done for you if you are taking a required class that guides you through the honors project. But any substantive research project requires a clear timetable.

Set clear goals in making a timetable. Find out the final deadline for turning in your project to your department. Working backwards from that deadline, figure out how much time you can allow for the various stages of production.

Here is a sample timetable. Use it, however, with two caveats in mind:

  • The timetable for your thesis might look very different depending on your departmental requirements.
  • You may not wish to proceed through these stages in a linear fashion. You may want to revise chapter one before you write chapter two. Or you might want to write your introduction last, not first. This sample is designed simply to help you start thinking about how to customize your own schedule.

Sample timetable

Avoid falling into the trap of procrastination. Once you’ve set goals for yourself, stick to them! For some tips on how to do this, see our handout on procrastination .

Consistent production

It’s a good idea to try to squeeze in a bit of thesis work every day—even if it’s just fifteen minutes of journaling or brainstorming about your topic. Or maybe you’ll spend that fifteen minutes taking notes on a book. The important thing is to accomplish a bit of active production (i.e., putting words on paper) for your thesis every day. That way, you develop good writing habits that will help you keep your project moving forward.

Make yourself accountable to someone other than yourself

Since most of you will be taking a required thesis seminar, you will have deadlines. Yet you might want to form a writing group or enlist a peer reader, some person or people who can help you stick to your goals. Moreover, if your advisor encourages you to work mostly independently, don’t be afraid to ask them to set up periodic meetings at which you’ll turn in installments of your project.

Brainstorming and freewriting

One of the biggest challenges of a lengthy writing project is keeping the creative juices flowing. Here’s where freewriting can help. Try keeping a small notebook handy where you jot down stray ideas that pop into your head. Or schedule time to freewrite. You may find that such exercises “free” you up to articulate your argument and generate new ideas. Here are some questions to stimulate freewriting.

Questions for basic brainstorming at the beginning of your project:

  • What do I already know about this topic?
  • Why do I care about this topic?
  • Why is this topic important to people other than myself
  • What more do I want to learn about this topic?
  • What is the main question that I am trying to answer?
  • Where can I look for additional information?
  • Who is my audience and how can I reach them?
  • How will my work inform my larger field of study?
  • What’s the main goal of my research project?

Questions for reflection throughout your project:

  • What’s my main argument? How has it changed since I began the project?
  • What’s the most important evidence that I have in support of my “big point”?
  • What questions do my sources not answer?
  • How does my case study inform or challenge my field writ large?
  • Does my project reinforce or contradict noted scholars in my field? How?
  • What is the most surprising finding of my research?
  • What is the most frustrating part of this project?
  • What is the most rewarding part of this project?
  • What will be my work’s most important contribution?

Research and note-taking

In conducting research, you will need to find both primary sources (“firsthand” sources that come directly from the period/events/people you are studying) and secondary sources (“secondhand” sources that are filtered through the interpretations of experts in your field.) The nature of your research will vary tremendously, depending on what field you’re in. For some general suggestions on finding sources, consult the UNC Libraries tutorials . Whatever the exact nature of the research you’re conducting, you’ll be taking lots of notes and should reflect critically on how you do that. Too often it’s assumed that the research phase of a project involves very little substantive writing (i.e., writing that involves thinking). We sit down with our research materials and plunder them for basic facts and useful quotations. That mechanical type of information-recording is important. But a more thoughtful type of writing and analytical thinking is also essential at this stage. Some general guidelines for note-taking:

First of all, develop a research system. There are lots of ways to take and organize your notes. Whether you choose to use note cards, computer databases, or notebooks, follow two cardinal rules:

  • Make careful distinctions between direct quotations and your paraphrasing! This is critical if you want to be sure to avoid accidentally plagiarizing someone else’s work. For more on this, see our handout on plagiarism .
  • Record full citations for each source. Don’t get lazy here! It will be far more difficult to find the proper citation later than to write it down now.

Keeping those rules in mind, here’s a template for the types of information that your note cards/legal pad sheets/computer files should include for each of your sources:

Abbreviated subject heading: Include two or three words to remind you of what this sources is about (this shorthand categorization is essential for the later sorting of your sources).

Complete bibliographic citation:

  • author, title, publisher, copyright date, and page numbers for published works
  • box and folder numbers and document descriptions for archival sources
  • complete web page title, author, address, and date accessed for online sources

Notes on facts, quotations, and arguments: Depending on the type of source you’re using, the content of your notes will vary. If, for example, you’re using US Census data, then you’ll mainly be writing down statistics and numbers. If you’re looking at someone else’s diary, you might jot down a number of quotations that illustrate the subject’s feelings and perspectives. If you’re looking at a secondary source, you’ll want to make note not just of factual information provided by the author but also of their key arguments.

Your interpretation of the source: This is the most important part of note-taking. Don’t just record facts. Go ahead and take a stab at interpreting them. As historians Jacques Barzun and Henry F. Graff insist, “A note is a thought.” So what do these thoughts entail? Ask yourself questions about the context and significance of each source.

Interpreting the context of a source:

  • Who wrote/created the source?
  • When, and under what circumstances, was it written/created?
  • Why was it written/created? What was the agenda behind the source?
  • How was it written/created?
  • If using a secondary source: How does it speak to other scholarship in the field?

Interpreting the significance of a source:

  • How does this source answer (or complicate) my guiding research questions?
  • Does it pose new questions for my project? What are they?
  • Does it challenge my fundamental argument? If so, how?
  • Given the source’s context, how reliable is it?

You don’t need to answer all of these questions for each source, but you should set a goal of engaging in at least one or two sentences of thoughtful, interpretative writing for each source. If you do so, you’ll make much easier the next task that awaits you: drafting.

The dread of drafting

Why do we often dread drafting? We dread drafting because it requires synthesis, one of the more difficult forms of thinking and interpretation. If you’ve been free-writing and taking thoughtful notes during the research phase of your project, then the drafting should be far less painful. Here are some tips on how to get started:

Sort your “evidence” or research into analytical categories:

  • Some people file note cards into categories.
  • The technologically-oriented among us take notes using computer database programs that have built-in sorting mechanisms.
  • Others cut and paste evidence into detailed outlines on their computer.
  • Still others stack books, notes, and photocopies into topically-arranged piles.There is not a single right way, but this step—in some form or fashion—is essential!

If you’ve been forcing yourself to put subject headings on your notes as you go along, you’ll have generated a number of important analytical categories. Now, you need to refine those categories and sort your evidence. Everyone has a different “sorting style.”

Formulate working arguments for your entire thesis and individual chapters. Once you’ve sorted your evidence, you need to spend some time thinking about your project’s “big picture.” You need to be able to answer two questions in specific terms:

  • What is the overall argument of my thesis?
  • What are the sub-arguments of each chapter and how do they relate to my main argument?

Keep in mind that “working arguments” may change after you start writing. But a senior thesis is big and potentially unwieldy. If you leave this business of argument to chance, you may end up with a tangle of ideas. See our handout on arguments and handout on thesis statements for some general advice on formulating arguments.

Divide your thesis into manageable chunks. The surest road to frustration at this stage is getting obsessed with the big picture. What? Didn’t we just say that you needed to focus on the big picture? Yes, by all means, yes. You do need to focus on the big picture in order to get a conceptual handle on your project, but you also need to break your thesis down into manageable chunks of writing. For example, take a small stack of note cards and flesh them out on paper. Or write through one point on a chapter outline. Those small bits of prose will add up quickly.

Just start! Even if it’s not at the beginning. Are you having trouble writing those first few pages of your chapter? Sometimes the introduction is the toughest place to start. You should have a rough idea of your overall argument before you begin writing one of the main chapters, but you might find it easier to start writing in the middle of a chapter of somewhere other than word one. Grab hold where you evidence is strongest and your ideas are clearest.

Keep up the momentum! Assuming the first draft won’t be your last draft, try to get your thoughts on paper without spending too much time fussing over minor stylistic concerns. At the drafting stage, it’s all about getting those ideas on paper. Once that task is done, you can turn your attention to revising.

Peter Elbow, in Writing With Power, suggests that writing is difficult because it requires two conflicting tasks: creating and criticizing. While these two tasks are intimately intertwined, the drafting stage focuses on creating, while revising requires criticizing. If you leave your revising to the last minute, then you’ve left out a crucial stage of the writing process. See our handout for some general tips on revising . The challenges of revising an honors thesis may include:

Juggling feedback from multiple readers

A senior thesis may mark the first time that you have had to juggle feedback from a wide range of readers:

  • your adviser
  • a second (and sometimes third) faculty reader
  • the professor and students in your honors thesis seminar

You may feel overwhelmed by the prospect of incorporating all this advice. Keep in mind that some advice is better than others. You will probably want to take most seriously the advice of your adviser since they carry the most weight in giving your project a stamp of approval. But sometimes your adviser may give you more advice than you can digest. If so, don’t be afraid to approach them—in a polite and cooperative spirit, of course—and ask for some help in prioritizing that advice. See our handout for some tips on getting and receiving feedback .

Refining your argument

It’s especially easy in writing a lengthy work to lose sight of your main ideas. So spend some time after you’ve drafted to go back and clarify your overall argument and the individual chapter arguments and make sure they match the evidence you present.

Organizing and reorganizing

Again, in writing a 50-75 page thesis, things can get jumbled. You may find it particularly helpful to make a “reverse outline” of each of your chapters. That will help you to see the big sections in your work and move things around so there’s a logical flow of ideas. See our handout on  organization  for more organizational suggestions and tips on making a reverse outline

Plugging in holes in your evidence

It’s unlikely that you anticipated everything you needed to look up before you drafted your thesis. Save some time at the revising stage to plug in the holes in your research. Make sure that you have both primary and secondary evidence to support and contextualize your main ideas.

Saving time for the small stuff

Even though your argument, evidence, and organization are most important, leave plenty of time to polish your prose. At this point, you’ve spent a very long time on your thesis. Don’t let minor blemishes (misspellings and incorrect grammar) distract your readers!

Formatting and final touches

You’re almost done! You’ve researched, drafted, and revised your thesis; now you need to take care of those pesky little formatting matters. An honors thesis should replicate—on a smaller scale—the appearance of a dissertation or master’s thesis. So, you need to include the “trappings” of a formal piece of academic work. For specific questions on formatting matters, check with your department to see if it has a style guide that you should use. For general formatting guidelines, consult the Graduate School’s Guide to Dissertations and Theses . Keeping in mind the caveat that you should always check with your department first about its stylistic guidelines, here’s a brief overview of the final “finishing touches” that you’ll need to put on your honors thesis:

  • Honors Thesis
  • Name of Department
  • University of North Carolina
  • These parts of the thesis will vary in format depending on whether your discipline uses MLA, APA, CBE, or Chicago (also known in its shortened version as Turabian) style. Whichever style you’re using, stick to the rules and be consistent. It might be helpful to buy an appropriate style guide. Or consult the UNC LibrariesYear Citations/footnotes and works cited/reference pages  citation tutorial
  • In addition, in the bottom left corner, you need to leave space for your adviser and faculty readers to sign their names. For example:

Approved by: _____________________

Adviser: Prof. Jane Doe

  • This is not a required component of an honors thesis. However, if you want to thank particular librarians, archivists, interviewees, and advisers, here’s the place to do it. You should include an acknowledgments page if you received a grant from the university or an outside agency that supported your research. It’s a good idea to acknowledge folks who helped you with a major project, but do not feel the need to go overboard with copious and flowery expressions of gratitude. You can—and should—always write additional thank-you notes to people who gave you assistance.
  • Formatted much like the table of contents.
  • You’ll need to save this until the end, because it needs to reflect your final pagination. Once you’ve made all changes to the body of the thesis, then type up your table of contents with the titles of each section aligned on the left and the page numbers on which those sections begin flush right.
  • Each page of your thesis needs a number, although not all page numbers are displayed. All pages that precede the first page of the main text (i.e., your introduction or chapter one) are numbered with small roman numerals (i, ii, iii, iv, v, etc.). All pages thereafter use Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc.).
  • Your text should be double spaced (except, in some cases, long excerpts of quoted material), in a 12 point font and a standard font style (e.g., Times New Roman). An honors thesis isn’t the place to experiment with funky fonts—they won’t enhance your work, they’ll only distract your readers.
  • In general, leave a one-inch inch margin on all sides. However, for the copy of your thesis that will be bound by the library, you need to leave a 1.25-inch margin on the left.

How do I defend my honors thesis?

Graciously, enthusiastically, and confidently. The term defense is scary and misleading—it conjures up images of a military exercise or an athletic maneuver. An academic defense ideally shouldn’t be a combative scene but a congenial conversation about the work’s merits and weaknesses. That said, the defense probably won’t be like the average conversation that you have with your friends. You’ll be the center of attention. And you may get some challenging questions. Thus, it’s a good idea to spend some time preparing yourself. First of all, you’ll want to prepare 5-10 minutes of opening comments. Here’s a good time to preempt some criticisms by frankly acknowledging what you think your work’s greatest strengths and weaknesses are. Then you may be asked some typical questions:

  • What is the main argument of your thesis?
  • How does it fit in with the work of Ms. Famous Scholar?
  • Have you read the work of Mr. Important Author?

NOTE: Don’t get too flustered if you haven’t! Most scholars have their favorite authors and books and may bring one or more of them up, even if the person or book is only tangentially related to the topic at hand. Should you get this question, answer honestly and simply jot down the title or the author’s name for future reference. No one expects you to have read everything that’s out there.

  • Why did you choose this particular case study to explore your topic?
  • If you were to expand this project in graduate school, how would you do so?

Should you get some biting criticism of your work, try not to get defensive. Yes, this is a defense, but you’ll probably only fan the flames if you lose your cool. Keep in mind that all academic work has flaws or weaknesses, and you can be sure that your professors have received criticisms of their own work. It’s part of the academic enterprise. Accept criticism graciously and learn from it. If you receive criticism that is unfair, stand up for yourself confidently, but in a good spirit. Above all, try to have fun! A defense is a rare opportunity to have eminent scholars in your field focus on YOU and your ideas and work. And the defense marks the end of a long and arduous journey. You have every right to be proud of your accomplishments!

Works consulted

We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.

Atchity, Kenneth. 1986. A Writer’s Time: A Guide to the Creative Process from Vision Through Revision . New York: W.W. Norton.

Barzun, Jacques, and Henry F. Graff. 2012. The Modern Researcher , 6th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Elbow, Peter. 1998. Writing With Power: Techniques for Mastering the Writing Process . New York: Oxford University Press.

Graff, Gerald, and Cathy Birkenstein. 2014. “They Say/I Say”: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing , 3rd ed. New York: W.W. Norton and Company.

Lamott, Anne. 1994. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life . New York: Pantheon.

Lasch, Christopher. 2002. Plain Style: A Guide to Written English. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Turabian, Kate. 2018. A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, Dissertations , 9th ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute the source: The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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Home / Guides / Citation Guides / MLA Format / How to Cite a Thesis or Dissertation in MLA

How to Cite a Thesis or Dissertation in MLA

Citing a thesis or dissertation.

Thesis – A document submitted to earn a degree at a university.

Dissertation – A document submitted to earn an advanced degree, such as a doctorate, at a university.

The formatting for thesis and dissertation citations is largely the same. However, you should be sure to include the type of degree after the publication year as supplemental information. For instance, state if the source you are citing is an undergraduate thesis or a PhD dissertation.

MLA Thesis and Dissertation Citation Structure (print)

Last, First M.  Title of the Thesis/Dissertation. Year Published. Name of University, type of degree.

MLA Thesis and Dissertation Citation Structure (online)

Last, First M.  Title of the Thesis/Dissertation. Year Published. Name of University, type of degree.  Website Name , URL.


Wilson, Peggy Lynn. Pedagogical Practices in the Teaching of English Language in Secondary Public Schools in Parker County . 2011. University of Maryland, PhD dissertation.

In-text Citation Structure

(Author Last Name page #)

In-text Citation Example

(Wilson 14)

MLA Formatting Guide

MLA Formatting

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  • Bibliography
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  • Sample Paper
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University Honors Program

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Thesis Style and Formatting

Style guides.

When preparing your honors thesis and citing sources, follow the style guide that is most appropriate to your field of study. For example:

  • Modern Language Association (MLA) style - common in the humanities
  • American Psychological Association (APA) style - common in the social sciences
  • Chicago style - common in history

Check with your faculty supervisor before choosing a style. Style and citation resources are available from the University Libraries .

The following formatting parameters should be strictly followed in most cases. However, certain types of theses, such as collections of poetry, may vary from these guidelines if necessary to the integrity of the work, with the faculty supervisor's assent.

  • Margins: at least 1" on all sides
  • Type size: no smaller than 11 point; 12 point preferred; a smaller font may be used for footnotes or end notes
  • Font:  use a standard, easily-readable font, such as Times New Roman
  • Spacing: double space all main text

Sections of the thesis include (and should be sequenced as follows):

  • Title Page: Prepared according to the thesis title page template
  • Acknowledgements (optional)
  • Abstract or Summary: No more than one double-spaced page. For thesis projects in the creative and performing arts, the summary must provide specifics about the exhibition or performance that the written thesis complements.
  • Non-technical Summary: (optional) recommended in cases where the abstract and thesis are too highly technical to be easily understood by non-specialists
  • Table of Contents (optional)
  • Body of the Thesis
  • Appendices (optional)
  • Bibliography or List of Works Cited
  • Summer Research Opportunities
  • Global Seminars and LAC Seminars
  • Honors Research in London - Summer 2024

TCU home page

Honors Project Style Guide: APA

  • Introduction
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  • Plagiarism and Academic Integrity
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  • Who Uses It?
  • Basic Citation Information
  • Basic Formatting Information

These disciplines tend to use APA Citation and Formatting Style:

  • Communication Studies
  • Communication Sciences & Disorders
  • Criminal Justice
  • Political Science

Basic APA Citation Formats

The following guidelines are recommended in accordance with the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 7th edition. Please check with your supervising professor to see whether strict APA formatting should be observed for your project. All references on the references page should be double-spaced and use a hanging indent. 

Note:  If you are direct quoting a specific part of a source, include a page number, table, paragraph, section, time stamp, etc. in your in-text citation. If you are citing ideas from a whole work, no section identifier is needed. Please consult the APA Manual 7th edition to see how to include these section identifiers.

Books with a single author

Reference page:.

Oliver, P. (2014).  Writing your thesis  (3rd ed.). Sage.

In-text Citation:

(Oliver, 2014).

Narrative In-text Citation:

According to Oliver (2014)...

Oliver (2014) states...

Books With More Than Two Authors

Werner-Burke, N., Knaus, K., & Helt DeCamp, A. (2014).  Rebuilding research writing: Strategies for sparking informational inquiry . Routledge.

(Werner-Burke et al., 2014).

Werner-Burke et al. (2014) argue... 

Articles in online scholarly journals (plus example of how to cite two authors)

Martinez, C. T., Kock, N., & Cass, J. (2011). Pain and pleasure in short essay writing: Factors predicting university students' writing anxiety and writing self-efficacy.  Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 54 (5), 351- 360.

(Martinez, Kock & Cass, 2011).

Martinez, Kock, and Cass (2011) recommend...

Documents in a Website

Clay, R.A. (2007).  Writing well .

With Organization as Author:

American Library Association. (2015, February 9). Framework for information literacy for higher education.

In-text Citations:

(Clay, 2007).

(American Library Association, 2015).

Narrative In-text Citations:

According to Clay (2007)... 

The American Library Association (2015) claims...

The following guidelines are recommended in accordance with the  Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association . Please check with your supervising professor to see whether strict APA formatting should be observed for your project. 

Formatting Your Main Content

  • Double-space the text of your paper.
  • Leave only one space after periods or other punctuation marks.
  • Set the margins of your document to 1 inch on all sides.
  • Indent the first line of paragraphs.
  • Number all pages, including the title page and abstract, with arabic numerals (1, 2, 3, etc.) on the top right hand corner about an inch from the top of the page.
  • Use section headings to designate the different sections of your paper. Center, bold, and capitalize all words in your section headings. If you use subsections, consult the APA Manual 7th edition for additional guidance.

Formatting the Title Page of Your Paper For Student Papers

Note: If you are submitting your paper for a professional publication, there are different requirements for the title page. Consult the APA Manual 7th edition to see how to format title pages for professional papers. Additionally, title page requirements for honors projects may differ from department to department. Please consult your advisor for how to format your title page.

  • In the top right corner, insert a page number.
  • About one third down the page and centered, include the full title of your paper. Capitalize all words four letters or longer in your title.
  • Underneath the title, include your name.
  • Underneath your name, include the name of the department to which you are submitting the paper followed by a comma, and then Texas Christian University (Ex: Honors College,  Texas Christian University).
  • Underneath the department name and institution, include the course number and name (Ex: HNRS 20633: Video Games and Representation).
  • Underneath the course name, include the name of your professor. 
  • Underneath your professor's name, include the date the project is due, including the month (spelled out), day, and year.

Formatting Your References Page

  • Include page numbers in the top right corner.
  • Center the word "References" at the top of the references page.
  • Alphabetize all references by authors' last names. Each in-text citation should have a corresponding reference listed on the references page.
  • Use a hanging indent for each reference.
  • Double-space the entire page
  • Purdue OWL: APA Sample Paper Formatting guidance for both student and professional papers.

Helpful Manuals

Cover Art

Helpful Links

  • Purdue OWL: APA 7 Online Writing Lab from Purdue University. Contains further information about how to format papers and references in APA style.
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A Distinctive Achievement Honors Thesis

As a Schreyer Scholar, you are required to complete an undergraduate honors thesis as the culmination of your honors experience. The goal of the thesis is to demonstrate a command of relevant scholastic work and to make a personal contribution to that scholarship.

Your thesis project can take many forms — from laboratory experiments all the way to artistic creations. Your thesis document captures the relevant background, methods, and techniques and describes the details of the completion of the individual project.

Two Penn State faculty members evaluate and approve your thesis — a thesis supervisor and an honors adviser in your area of honors.

Scholar hitting the gong after submitting their honors thesis

Planning is Key Project Guide

The thesis is, by design, your most ambitious undertaking as a Scholar.

A successful thesis requires a viable proposal, goal-setting, time management, and interpersonal skills on top of the disciplinary skills associated with your intended area of honors. This guide will walk you through the thesis process. Keep in mind, though, that your honors adviser and thesis supervisor are your key resources.

Planning A Thesis

An ideal thesis project should:

  • Satisfy your intellectual curiosity
  • Give you the opportunity to work closely with faculty
  • Develop transferable skills
  • Clarify your post-graduation plans

The single biggest factor in determining thesis quality is your level of interest in and engagement with the topic, so consider multiple possibilities rather than selecting the first one that seems attractive to you.

From the perspective of the Schreyer Honors College, the purpose of the thesis experience is to develop your intellectual and professional identity in the field and to help you think about your future.

Once complete, the purpose of the thesis is to advance knowledge, understanding, or creative value in its field.

Lab-Based Research Fields

We recommend avoiding the temptation to stick with your first lab placement merely out of convenience if the topic is not interesting to you. The quality of your thesis is truly dependent on the depth of your interest and the energy behind your curiosity. Your intellectual engagement is the thing that will carry you through what may at times feel like a long and sometimes difficult process.

A Thesis Needs A Thesis

A thesis is problem-oriented and identifies something of importance whose answer or best interpretation is not fully known or agreed-upon by people who make their careers in the field, and it proceeds towards the answer or best interpretation. Even with a creative or performance thesis, the purpose is not to demonstrate technical ability (writing, painting, acting, composing, etc.), but to express something you think is worth expressing and hasn't been fully expressed already.

Identifying a Topic

An interest can come from anywhere, but the problem that defines a thesis can only come from a thorough acquaintance with "the literature," the accumulated knowledge or creative value in your field.

By speaking with faculty (preferably more than one) and reading professional journals (again, more than one), you not only get a "crowd-sourced" sense of what is important, you also get a sense of what the open questions are. This is where you start to strike a balance between ambition and feasibility.

Feasibility & Realistic Ambition

You might want to come up with the definitive explanation for Rome's decline and fall, or the cure for cancer. There is strong evidence — several thousand prior theses — that your honors thesis will not accomplish anything on that scale. This realization might be disheartening, but it is an introduction to the reality of modern scholarship: Knowledge almost always moves incrementally and the individual units of knowledge production and dissemination (theses, journal articles, books, etc.) are only rarely revolutionary in isolation. This is part of what the thesis experience will test for you — whether or not you want to continue via graduate school in that kind of slow-moving enterprise.

The feasibility of a given thesis problem is bounded, as mathematicians might say, by several factors.

The honors thesis should not extend your time at Penn State by design. There are circumstances where you might defer graduation to complete your thesis, but that should not be your initial plan.

Resources are a potential issue in that even a comprehensive and well-funded university like Penn State does not have the physical infrastructure for every possible kind of research. The expense of ambitious off-campus research, such as a comparative study requiring visits to several countries, can easily exceed our funding abilities. If you expect to incur more than $300 in expenses, you should get commitments from your department and academic college before proceeding.

Proposal, Supervisor & Area of Honors

Thesis proposal.

The thesis proposal is due at the end of your third year, assuming you're on a four-year path to graduation. File your Thesis Proposal with the Schreyer Honors College via the Student Records System (SRS) . The end-of-third-year requirement is from the Honors College, but your major may expect a much earlier commitment so be sure to talk to your honors adviser as early as your second year about this. The thesis proposal needs the following things:

  • Supervision
  • A Working Title
  • Purpose/Objective
  • Intended Outcome
  • How do you intend to earn honors credit?
  • How often do you plan to meet with your supervisor?
  • Will your thesis satisfy other requirements?
  • Does your thesis involve working with human, animals, or biohazardous materials or radioactive isotopes?

The Honors College staff does not review the content of the proposal, so the intended audience is your thesis supervisor and the honors adviser in your intended area of honors.

Thesis Supervisor

Your thesis supervisor is the professor who has primary responsibility for supervising your thesis.

Ideally your thesis supervisor will be the single most appropriate person for your thesis in the whole university, or at least at your whole campus, in terms of specialization and, where relevant, resources. How far you can stray from that ideal depends on the nature of the thesis. If specific lab resources are needed then you cannot stray too far, but if general intellectual mentoring is the extent of the required supervision then you have more flexibility, including the flexibility to choose a topic that does not align closely with the supervisor's specialization.

Apart from a professor being unavailable for or declining your project, the biggest reason to consider bypassing the "single most appropriate person" is that you have doubts about whether you would get along with them. Do not put too much stock in second-hand information about a professor, but if after meeting him or her you have concerns then you should certainly consider continuing your search.

Area of Honors

Thesis honors adviser.

An honors adviser from the area in which you are pursuing honors must read and approve your thesis. If the thesis supervisor and thesis honors adviser are the same person, you must find a second eligible faculty member from your area of honors to read and approve your thesis.

Multiple Majors

If you have more than one major, you can do the following:

  • Pick one major and write a thesis for honors solely in that major
  • Pick a topic that can legitimately earn honors in both majors. This will be considered interdisciplinary .
  • Write multiple theses, one for honors in each major

The first scenario is the most common, followed by the second depending on how closely related the majors are. You can also pick a non-major area of honors.

Second- and Third-Year Entrants (including Paterno Fellows)

If you were admitted to the Honors College after your first year or via the Liberal Arts Paterno Fellows program, you are expected to write your thesis for honors in your entrance major. You do have the right to pursue honors elsewhere, for instance in a concurrent major for which you were not admitted to the Honors College, but there is no guarantee of approval.

Topic, Not Professor

Typically, the area of honors suggested by the topic aligns with the professor's affiliation, as when you seek honors in history based on a history thesis supervised by a professor of history. But if the supervisor happens to be a professor of literature, you are still able to pursue honors in history based on the substance and methodology of the thesis.

This is especially worth remembering in the life sciences, where faculty expertise is spread among many different departments and colleges. As always, the honors adviser in the intended area of honors is the gatekeeper for whether a given thesis topic and supervisor are acceptable.

From Proposal to Thesis

Timetable & benchmarks.

The thesis proposal does not require a timetable, but you and your supervisor should have a clear idea of how much you should accomplish on a monthly basis all the way through completion. Not all of those monthly benchmarks will be actual written work; for many Schreyer Scholars the write-up will not come until toward the end. If you fall behind during the earlier part of the thesis timeline, it will be difficult if not impossible to make up that ground later.

Regular Meetings with Your Thesis Supervisor

You should take proactive steps against procrastination by making yourself accountable to someone other than yourself. Scheduling regular meetings (or e-mailing regular updates) with your thesis supervisor — even if you are working in the same lab routinely — is the best way to do that. You should also regularly update your thesis honors adviser.

Think ahead, preferably well before the time of your thesis proposal, about what your thesis work will mean for your fourth-year schedule. This is especially important if you have a significant capstone requirement like student teaching for education majors, or if you expect to do a lot of job interviews or graduate/professional school visits.

There are many reasons to plan to include the summer between third and fourth year in your research timeline: those mentioned above, plus the benefit of devoting yourself full-time to the thesis, whether it is in a lab on campus or in the field. Funding opportunities for full-time summer thesis research include Schreyer Honors College grants , the Erickson Undergraduate Education Discovery Grant , and funding via your thesis supervisor (especially in the sciences and engineering).

Department & College Thesis Guides

In addition to this guide, many departments and colleges have thesis guides with important information about their deadlines and expectations. If you do not see your college or department listed, consult with your honors adviser.

  • College of Agricultural Sciences
  • Smeal College of Business
  • Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications
  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Chemical Engineering
  • Biobehavioral Health
  • Communication Sciences and Disorders
  • Hospitality Management
  • Recreation, Park, and Tourism Management
  • College of Information Sciences and Technology
  • Comparative Literature
  • Germanic & Slavic Languages and Literatures
  • Global & International Studies
  • Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
  • College of Nursing
  • Astronomy & Astrophysics: Thesis 1
  • Biochemistry & Molecular Biology
  • Chemistry: Thesis 1 | Thesis 2 | Thesis 3
  • Mathematics: Thesis 1 | Thesis 2 | Thesis 3 | Thesis 4 | Thesis 5 | Thesis 6

Follow the Template Formatting Guide

The formatting requirements in this guide apply to all Schreyer Honors theses. Please follow the thesis templates provided below:

Information about using LaTeX is available from the University Libraries .

Formatting Requirements

Fonts & color.

All text should use the Times New Roman font.

Reduced type may be used within tables, figures, and appendices, but font size should be at least 11-point in size and must be completely legible.

The majority of your thesis document should be in black font, however, color is permissible in figures, tables, links, etc.


Begin each section on a new page. Do the same with each element of the front matter, the reference section, and the appendix.

Try to avoid typing a heading near the bottom of a page unless there is room for at least two lines of text following the heading. Instead you should simply leave a little extra space on the page and begin the heading on the next page.

If you wish you use a "display" page (a page that shows only the chapter title) at the beginning of chapters or appendices, be sure to do so consistently and to count the display page when numbering the pages.

Page Numbers

Excluding the title page and signatory page, every page in the document, including those with tables and figures, must be counted. Use lower case Roman numerals for the front matter and Arabic numbers for the text. The text (or body) of the thesis must begin on page 1. Follow the template provided at the top of this section.

Use the template provided as a pattern for creating your title page. Be sure all faculty members are identified by their correct professional titles. Check with the department for current information. Do not use such designations as "PhD" or "Dr." on the title page. (Ex. John Smith, Professor of English, Thesis Supervisor).

Electronic Approvals

Please submit your final thesis to your Thesis Supervisor and Honors Adviser at least two weeks prior to the final submission due date to allow them ample time for review and suggested changes. Also, please communicate with your professors to find out their schedule and preferred amount of time to review your thesis. Once your thesis is submitted, your committee will review the thesis one last time before giving their final approval.

Number of Approvals

A minimum of two approvals is required on each thesis. If one of the approvers has a dual role (e.g. Thesis Supervisor and Honors Adviser), then list both roles under the professional title. Do not list the same person twice. If the sharing of roles leaves you with fewer than the required number of approvals, an additional approver must be added (Faculty Reader).

Professional Titles

Be sure to identify all faculty by their correct professional titles. Check with the department for current information. Do not use such designations as "PhD" or "Dr." on the title page.

This is a one-paragraph summary of the content of your thesis that identifies concisely the content of the thesis manuscript and important results of your project. Some students like to think of it as an advertisement — i.e., when someone finishes reading it, they should want to examine the rest of your work. Keep it short and include the most interesting points.

The abstract follows the title page, must have the heading ABSTRACT at the top, and is always page Roman number i. There is no restriction on the length of the abstract, but it is usually no longer than one page.

Table of Contents

The table of contents is essentially a topic outline of the thesis and it is compiled by listing the headings in the thesis. You may choose to include first-level headings, first- and second-levels, or all levels. Keep in mind there usually is no index in a thesis, and thus a fairly detailed table of contents can serve as a useful guide for the reader. The table of contents must appear immediately after the abstract and should not list the abstract, the table of contents itself, or the vita.

Be sure the headings listed in the table of contents match word-for-word the headings in the text. Double check to be sure the page numbers are shown. In listing appendices, indicate the title of each appendix. If using display pages, the number of the display page should appear in the table of contents.

Formatting Final Touches

An honors thesis manuscript should replicate the appearance of professional writing in your discipline. Include the elements of a formal piece of academic work accordingly. For specific questions on organization or labeling, check with your thesis supervisor to see if there is a style guide you should use.

Acknowledgements (Optional)

Acknowledgements are not a required component of an honors thesis, but if you want to thank particular colleagues, faculty, librarians, archivists, interviewees, and advisers, here's the place to do it. You should include an acknowledgements page if you received a grant from the University or an outside agency that supported your research.

Tables & Figures

A table is a columnar arrangement of information, often numbers, organized to save space and convey relationships at a glance. A rule of thumb to use in deciding whether given materials are tables or figures is that tables can be typed, but figures must be drawn.

A figure is a graphic illustration such as a chart, graph, diagram, map, or photograph.

Please be sure to insert your table or figure. Do not copy and paste. Once the figure or table is inserted, you right click on it to apply the appropriate label. Afterwards, return to the list of tables or list of figures page, right click on the list, and "update table (entire table)" and the page will automatically hyperlink.

Captions & Numbering

Each table and each figure in the text must have a number and caption. Number them consecutively throughout, beginning with 1, or by chapter using a decimal system.

Style Guides

These parts of the thesis will vary in format depending on the style guide you are following. Your discipline will use a consistent style guide, such as MLA, APA, CBE, or Chicago. Whichever style you are using, stick to the rules and be consistent.

Appendices (Optional)

Material that is pertinent but is somewhat tangential or very detailed (raw data, procedural explanations, etc.) may be placed in an appendix. Appendices should be designated A, B, C (not 1, 2, 3 or I, II, III). If there is only one appendix, call it simply Appendix, not Appendix A. Titles of appendices must be listed in the table of contents. Appendix pages must be numbered consecutively with the text of the thesis (do not number the page A-1, A-2, etc.).

Bibliography/References (Optional)

A thesis can include a bibliography or reference section listing all works that are referred to in the text, and in some cases other works also consulted in the course of research and writing. This section may either precede or follow the appendices (if any), or may appear at the end of each chapter. Usually a single section is more convenient and useful for both author and reader.

The forms used for listing sources in the bibliography/reference section are detailed and complicated, and they vary considerably among academic disciplines. For this reason, you will need to follow a scholarly style manual in your field or perhaps a recent issue of a leading journal as a guide in compiling this section of the thesis.

Academic Vita (Optional)

The academic vita is optional, must be the last page of the document, and is not given a page number or listed in the table of contents. The title — Academic Vita — and the author's name should appear at the top. A standard outline style or a prose form may be used. The vita should be similar to a resume. Do not include your GPA and personal information.

The Final Step Submission Guide

Once your final thesis is approved by your thesis supervisor and honors adviser, you may submit the thesis electronically. This guide will provide the details on how to submit your thesis.

Public Access to Honors Thesis

Open access.

Your electronic thesis is available to anyone who wishes to access it on the web unless you request restricted access. Open access distribution makes the work more widely available than a bound copy on a library shelf.

Restricted Access (Penn State Only)

Access restricted to individuals having a valid Penn State Access Account, for a period of two years. Allows restricted access of the entire work beginning immediately after degree conferral. At the end of the two-year period, the status will automatically change to Open Access. Intended for use by authors in cases where prior public release of the work may compromise its acceptance for publication.

This option secures the body of the thesis for a period of two years. Selection of this option required that an invention disclosure (ID) be filed with the Office of Technology Management (OTM) prior to submission of the final honors thesis and confirmed by OTM. At the end of the two-year period, the work will be released automatically for Open Access unless a written request is made to extend this option for an additional year. The written request for an extension should be sent 30 days prior to the end of the two-year period to the Schreyer Honors College, 10 Schreyer Honors College, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802, or by e-mail to [email protected] . Please note: No one will be able to view your work under this option.

Submission Requirements

Electronic submission of the final honors thesis became a requirement in spring semester of 2010. Both the mandatory draft submission and the final copy must be submitted online.

The "official" copy of the honors thesis is the electronic file (eHT), and this is the copy that will be on file with the University Libraries. Electronic submission does not prevent the author from producing hard copies for the department or for personal use. All copies are the responsibility of the author and should be made prior to submission. The Schreyer Honors College does not provide copies.

How to Submit

In order to submit your thesis, you must upload a draft in PDF format to the Electronic Honors Thesis (eHT) website .

What/When to Upload

  • The initial submission, the Thesis Format Review, should be the textual thesis only and should be in a single PDF file (it may include image files such as TIFFs or JPEGs)
  • The recommended file naming convention is Last_First_Title.pdf
  • Failure to submit the Format Review by the deadline will result in removal from the honors graduation checklist. If this occurs, you must either defer graduation or withdraw/be dismissed from the Honors College

Uploading Video, Audio or Large Images

If your thesis content is such that you feel you need to upload content other than text to properly represent your work, upload the textual portion of your thesis first as a single, standalone PDF file. Then, add additional files for any other content as separate uploads.

If the majority of your thesis work is a multimedia presentation (video, slideshow, audio recording, etc.) you are required to upload these files in addition to your PDF.

Acceptable formats include:

Please do not upload any ZIP files. If uploading more than one file, keep individual file sizes for the supplementary material under 50 MB where possible. Large files will upload, but it may take a long time to download for future use.

Final Submission & Approval

Final submission.

In order to submit your final thesis:

  • Refer to the thesis templates above to create your title page (no page number).
  • Make sure you have correctly spelled "Schreyer Honors College".
  • Be sure to include the department in which you are earning honors, your semester and year of graduation (Ex. Spring 2024, not May 2024), your thesis title and your name.
  • List the name and professional title of your thesis supervisor and honors adviser (in the department granting honors). If your honors adviser and thesis supervisor are the same person, a second faculty reader signature from the department granting honors is required.
  • Include your abstract following your title page (Roman numeral i).
  • Make sure your thesis is saved in PDF format.
  • Upload your final thesis on the eHT website .

Final Approval

When the final thesis is approved, the author and all committee members will be notified via e-mail of the approval. Your thesis will then be accessible on the eHT website within a month after graduation unless you have specified restricted access.

Schreyer Scholar Tara Golthi

Schreyer has motivated me to push myself and do things I would have wished to have done, but wouldn't have done without Schreyer. Tara Golthi ' 20 Media Studies

The Biological Sciences major is offered in both the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the College of Arts & Sciences . The major is administered by The Office of Undergraduate Biology.


Biological Sciences

cornell shield

Honors Thesis Format

Thesis format.

The Honors program encourages candidates to format their thesis following a journal in their field. Most journal websites will have Instructions for Authors that provide detailed formatting guidelines. The thesis should include the following sections with separate headings. Except for the title page, all the text should be double spaced, with a font size of 12. Consult with your research mentor

The title page should use the template provided by the Honors program and specified by the candidate’s college. It should show the title, the student author, and the mentor’s name and departmental affiliation. See template at the end of this document.

(250 words maximum) The abstract should be on its own, separate page. The abstract should summarize the results and conclusions of the paper, including the broader significance of the research. In the abstract, as well as elsewhere in the thesis, the author should use active voice and the first person singular (“I”) -- not the first person plural (“we”), except for those experiments or results that were truly obtained in collaboration with someone else. You may switch to passive voice (e.g. “xxx was measured…” as opposed to “I measured…”) only if the authorship has been clearly established in an earlier sentence, usually in the same paragraph by use of “I”. Note that the suggested use of the first person singular is in contrast to modern scientific publications, which almost invariably have multiple authors and thus use the first person plural “we”.


The introduction should state the reason for conducting the research, the nature of the problem and/or hypotheses addressed in the paper, and outline essential background from the field. The introduction should provide enough background for a reader who is knowledgeable in modern biology, but not expert in this particular field, to understand the thesis research and the results. The introduction should explain any field-specific concepts, methodologies, or assumptions necessary to understand why the study was undertaken, and what the objective(s) of the study were (or what hypotheses were being tested). Writing a good introduction usually requires citing perhaps twenty or more published papers. Note that introductions are not comprehensive literature reviews, but rather discuss the most relevant work.

Materials and Methods

This section should explain in detail the source of the starting materials and the experimental design (i.e. how the experiments were done, data were collected, and results were analyzed). Also included in the Materials and Methods should be a paragraph explaining what statistical tests were used to analyze the data and to gauge their statistical significance. This section, which can be placed either after the Introduction and before the Results, or at the end after the Discussion (varies across journals), should be detailed enough so that someone in a different lab but with the same equipment and reagents could repeat the results. Rather than a detailed description of some experimental approaches, papers that fully describe the methods that you used may be cited. However, it is almost always appropriate also to summarize in a couple of sentences the most important methods. For example: “Proteins were purified after expression in E. coli as described in ref X. Briefly, after induction of protein expression, lysates were fractionated by ultra centrifugation to remove ribosomes and debris, and then submitted to ion exchange chromatography, with XX assay used to identify the purified protein.”

This section is the meat of the thesis. It should be organized with separate headings for the different experiments or measurements that were carried out, perhaps with one or a few paragraphs each. Every paragraph should have an easily understandable topic sentence (usually the first sentence) telling the reader what the paragraph is about. Paragraphs should not be longer than about one page (double spaced).

This section may be combined with the Results section (“Results and Discussion”) if this type of presentation makes the data and interpretations easier to follow. The Discussion often is the most challenging to write. Frequently in scientific papers the first short paragraph of this section briefly again summarizes what the Results have shown, but this is not required. The Discussion should not repeat what has already appeared in the text of the Results, but instead should take up the bigger issues raised by the data that are presented. For example: How firm are the interpretations, or what are their limitations? Are other interpretations possible, and if so, what experiments might address this in the future? How do the data and the conclusions fit with other published work? If the results contradict something that was published earlier, how could the contradictions be resolved? At the end of the Discussion, it is often suitable to write a paragraph describing how this work could be continued profitably by others. It will strengthen the thesis if the candidate spends time discussing results with lab members in advance of writing, and/or presents the results in a lab meeting and asks for feedback on the validity of conclusions.

Figures and/or Tables

These present the data collected. As the results are described, the text should refer to each figure or table. Every figure and table must be referred to at least once some place in the text, usually in the Results but perhaps also in the Materials and Methods or Discussion. The order in which the figures are mentioned in the text determines the numbering of the figure. For example, as in journal articles, one cannot refer to “Figure 4” before one has described “Figure 3”. Graphs should have error bars or some other way of indicating statistical significance. Each Figure should have a legend that describes what is in the figure. The legend should include a short sentence about statistics. For example: “Error bars indicate standard deviation from the mean, N = 6”. In some cases, e.g. pictures such as fluorescence images of a cell, it will be necessary to say that this picture is a representative example of N such pictures that were taken. The pixel size of pictures should be reduced so that they are not unnecessarily large, to keep the megabytes of the thesis to a reasonable value. The figures or tables, with their legends, may be integrated with (interdigitated with) the text, or they may be placed after the text at the end of the thesis. In most journals, figures and tables are provided at the end of the manuscript submission. However, if you choose, you can integrate figures and tables throughout the manuscript if it makes it easier for the reviewers to read.


This short paragraph after the Discussion should give credit to those who helped in the research, including financial support, technical support, and intellectual support.

Citations (Bibliography or Reference List)

Any of a variety of styles can be used for references, but the list should include all of the authors of every paper (not only the first one or two authors followed by “et al”), the date published, the full title, and of course the journal name, volume and page number. Generally it is best to use a referencing style that is common in journals in which this kind of research would be published. Whatever citation style is used, it should be the same throughout the thesis. It will be highly advantageous to use a reference manager application like EndNote or one of the similar open access applications (Mendeley or Zotero). See [ ] or the Mann workshops calendar for training sessions. Most theses have approximately two dozen or more citations, although the number may vary a lot depending on the scientific field. One common style for the reference list is that the papers appear alphabetically by first author (e.g. starting with “1. Adamson, …, and then “2. Bailey…”, etc.) Then the text refers to the paper by its number (e.g. “Cells were grown in DMEM medium as described in [3]”. Another common style is to number the references by the order in which they appear in the text. Still another common style is not to use numbers at all, e.g. “Cells were grown in DMEM medium as described in [Smith et al 2006].” Once you pick the style, the Citation Manager application will do all the formatting for you.

Submission of the thesis

The f irst submission of your thesis should be by email to your honors group leader both as a Word document and as a PDF. Please use the following convention for naming the files: “LASTNAMEfirstname thesis”, for example: “SMITHjudy thesis”. Using this convention facilitates any manual sorting of the theses. If the file size is too large for Cornell email, please use Cornell DropBox. The final version of thesis, after making revisions suggested by reviewers, should be submitted to the honors Canvas site as a PDF file using Canvas' Turnitin function.

Contribution of others to the thesis

Theses authored by more than one student are not acceptable. The thesis may include some figures or tables or diagrams from other people’s work (either published or unpublished), if the purpose is clarity of presentation of the student’s own results. But in each such case it is critically important to write an attribution in the legend, i.e. who is the author of the data and where was this published, e.g. “This figure is reproduced from Figure 2 [or perhaps ‘modified from Figure 2’] in reference 6”; or “This diagram was modified from one drawn by Nancy Smith”; or “This experiment was done by Paul Jones”; or “These data were obtained with help from Paul Jones”.

Honors Thesis General Formatting

8.5 x 11 inch pages with 1 inch margin on left side and sensible page numbering.

Title Page:

The title of each honors thesis should include the following items, centered from side to side and spaced on full page:

Thesis Title

Honors Thesis Presented to the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (or Arts and Sciences), Cornell University in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Biological Sciences Honors Program

[ author's name , Note: the author’s name should appear as it does in the university’s official records. ] [ date , e.g., May 2020]

[ research faculty mentor name ]

Note: If you want to include your thesis in Cornell’s digital repository, eCommons, your thesis must meet accessibility standards. Use this guide to learn how to make your thesis accessible. eCommons is a great way to allow other researchers to access your work in addition to future employers, graduate schools, and friends and family.

Your Honors Thesis

The honors college thesis handbook and guidelines.

Completing this Honors College requirement provides you with an opportunity to design a unique project that will challenge you to reflect upon yours Honors education and to present your work to a group of faculty and your peers.

If you have any additional questions please contact  Robin Bond .

View the Spring 2024 Thesis Presentation Schedule

Sign up for your thesis presentation , submit your final thesis.

Table of Contents

What is the Honors Thesis and why do I have to complete one?

What do i do first.

  • Thesis checklist
  • Formatting your thesis proposal, and proposal review process
  • Formatting your thesis

Who will evaluate my thesis and oral presentations?

How will my thesis be graded.

  • What is “pass with distinction” and will I be eligible?

Forms & Guidelines

  • Download the Honors College Thesis Handbook and Guidelines
  • Honors Thesis Proposal Form
  • Thesis Oral Presentation Rubric
  • Thesis Written Document Rubric
  • Thesis Evaluation Guidelines
  • Thesis Advisor Signature

Completing this Honors requirement provides you an opportunity to design a unique project that will challenge you to reflect upon your Honors education and to present your work to a group of faculty and your peers. Your thesis will be the culmination of your undergraduate work and a bridge to your future career or academic life. Completion of the senior thesis is one of the hallmarks of a quality Honors education.

The thesis also provides an opportunity for undergraduate students to work closely with faculty members on campus who share similar research or creative interests. Your thesis can provide entrée to academic and professional research. It can lead to a publication and/or a conference presentation. Furthermore, faculty members who serve as thesis advisors are in a position to write very strong letters for graduate/professional schools or positions in the labor force. Prospective employers and graduate school admissions committees are impressed by the dedication and discipline required to write a thesis.

A thesis is not just another research or term paper. A thesis will thoroughly investigate previous research on a topic and will include your own insights and contributions to the topic. Many theses attempt to answer an academic question or test a hypothesis. Students in art, music, creative writing, or film studies, for example, may choose to complete a “creative project.” In this case, your written paper would be a contextual analysis of the work that you completed and would provide a lens for an audience to evaluate your work. See the “Formatting Your Thesis Proposal” and “Formatting Your Completed Thesis” sections below.

The information provided here will help you complete your Honors thesis and will answer basic questions about the process. The advisors in the Honors College are available to talk with you further about this requirement and to help you successfully complete it.

Before you begin writing your thesis, it is highly recommended that you enroll in and complete HONORS 398, an optional one-unit “Thesis Proposal” class. HONORS 398 should be taken in your sophomore or junior year. The goals of this class are to identify an appropriate advisor, develop a research activity or creative project, and prepare your proposal. In conjunction with your thesis advisor, you will develop a proposal that will be submitted to the Honors College for approval. The required format for the proposal is outlined below in this handbook, and the cover form, which your advisor must sign, is available here.

Once the proposal is approved by the Thesis Review Committee, you will complete your project under the supervision of your thesis advisor, and you may plan to present your final thesis as soon as the following semester.

Note: Students in the College of Engineering should check their schedules of studies to see which course satisfies the Honors College thesis requirement.

Thesis Checklist

  • Thesis topic/Research project Your thesis can be a project that you develop or it can be based on faculty research that you are involved in. Often a thesis is a critical discussion/literature review of a topic guided by the specific research question of your thesis. It is not a requirement that you generate your own data in a lab or by using a survey, for example.  Most students begin thinking about their thesis in SOPHOMORE YEAR ; some students get involved in research on campus as early as FRESHMAN YEAR .
  • HONORS 398 Plan to enroll in HONORS 398 during your JUNIOR YEAR. The course is not required, but it helps you write a proposal for your project and explains information about writing and completing the thesis. If you are pursuing a major in nursing or speech and hearing sciences or if you are planning to study abroad in junior year.  Some students choose to take HONORS 398 in SPRING OF SOPHOMORE YEAR .
  • Thesis Advisor The thesis requires that you work with a faculty advisor at WSU. This can be anyone who is in a faculty position (including clinical faculty and senior instructors) at any WSU campus. You must have an advisor before you submit your thesis proposal to honors. HONORS 398 can help you identify an advisor for your project; if you are doing research in a faculty lab, the PI (Principal Investigator) is the best option for your thesis advisor.
  • Thesis Proposal Before you can enroll in HONORS 450 thesis credits, you must submit a thesis proposal to honors. The thesis proposal is a 5-page document that shows you are embarking on a solid, academic project that will satisfy the thesis requirement. The thesis proposal must be submitted no later than the semester before you plan to complete and present your thesis. The thesis proposal is submitted as an email attachment to [email protected] with a coversheet.  Most students submit their proposal in JUNIOR YEAR .
  • HONORS 450, 3 credits HONORS 450 is not an actual class; these are 3 credits that satisfy your thesis requirement for honors. Once your thesis proposal is approved, you will be enrolled in HONORS 450 credits according to your instructions on the thesis proposal cover sheet (see above).
  • Written Thesis You will work with your thesis advisor to write your final thesis, which will probably take multiple drafts. Communicate with your advisor about how often you should meet to review your work. Your final thesis will be due on the Monday of the week prior to the week of your presentation date.  Most students plan to complete the thesis in SENIOR YEAR .
  • Schedule your Presentation Plan to schedule your thesis presentation early in the semester when you plan to complete your thesis. There will be a date by which you must schedule your presentation. You will need the information about your advisor and the faculty evaluator for your project. Your advisor can suggest an evaluator to review your work.  Most students plan to complete the thesis in SENIOR YEAR .
  • Thesis Presentation Your thesis presentation is the last step in completing your thesis. Your presentation will be attended by your advisor, your evaluator, and a host from the Honors College. You will present your thesis for 20 minutes, followed by 10-15 minutes of Q/A, and finally the evaluation, so, the entire presentation will be scheduled for one hour. Students at the Spokane campus have the option of presenting via the WSU videoconferencing system.  Most students plan to complete and present their thesis in SENIOR YEAR .

Formatting your thesis proposal

Thesis proposals are typically 5 pages long and are double spaced using a 12-point font. Please paginate your proposal and be sure to attach the required Thesis Proposal Form to the front of your proposal. The guidelines below indicate the sections required.

I. Introduction/Literature Review

Your introduction or literature review provides specific background information or the “body of knowledge” relevant to your Honors thesis. The literature you cite should draw on both earlier and current scholarly work. For proposals in the arts and humanities, include several journal sources and academic book(s). For proposals in the social sciences and sciences, include primary sources, review articles, and academic book(s).

This section should be written such that your research question or hypothesis or creative activity flows logically from it.

II. Proposed Activity

Depending upon your academic discipline, you may present your proposed activity as a research question, hypothesis(es), or creative activity with a stated goal or outcome(s). The proposed activity that forms the basis of your Honors thesis must be tied to an existing body of knowledge. This section of your thesis proposal should be clear and concise – e.g., two sentences in length.

III. Methodology

All disciplines lend themselves to research and creativity; all work is conducted using some methodology. Your methodology determines the rigor and validity of your work.

This section of your thesis proposal should present all the methods (i.e., scholarly approaches) you will use in your thesis. Your advisor will be well-versed in methodologies.

Your methodology may depend on your field. For example …

  • If you plan to create original artistic work or other creative work, provide a scholarly “lens” through which an audience may perceive it (e.g., analyze the work of artists who influenced your own work and how your work differs from/is similar to theirs). Discuss any challenges to be overcome and give a timeline you will follow to complete your project. Be specific about what you plan to create. Articulate your creative goals.
  • If you plan to conduct literature research (whether in the liberal arts and humanities, sciences, social sciences, business, or communications), indicate how you will select and examine your sources (e.g., date range of journals to be searched, data base(s) to utilize), what guidelines you will use to interpret them, and how you plan to analyze and synthesize your findings.
  • If you plan to perform scientific research in a lab or the field, provide information on materials and methods including controls, replicates, and statistical analyses.
  • If you plan to conduct a meta-analysis in the social sciences, indicate the criteria to be used to select the publications for your analysis as well as the statistics you will apply.
  • If your research involves the use of humans, including surveys and/or questionnaires, you must obtain Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval through the Office of Research Assurances ( This approval is absolutely necessary before you interview one person or send out a single survey to be completed.
  • If you are doing a survey or interviews, include the full survey instrument and/or the complete interview questions to the Appendix section. Further, if data collection is involved, describe how the data will be collected and analyzed and what materials will be used.

IV. Expected Results and/or Potential Conclusions

In no more than one or two paragraphs , describe the results you expect from your thesis and what those results will mean in the greater context of knowledge in the field. If you complete a creative project, discuss the implications of your project in terms of a larger context of your discipline.

V. Annotated Bibliography

This is a preliminary list of the “body of knowledge” that was cited in your Introduction/Literature Review (above). Your annotated bibliography section will begin on a new sheet of paper and contain at least five annotated sources. Select recent journal articles, review articles, and scholarly books that address your topic. After each source, write an annotation, i.e. a 3- to 4-sentence statement explaining what information is included in the source. (See example below.) Include specific facts rather than vague generalizations (e.g., instead of saying, “This journal article talks about Beethoven’s 9th symphony,” say “This journal article analyzes the form, instrumentation, and re-orchestration by Mahler of Beethoven’s 9th symphony”). If it is not obvious, explain how the source will be useful to the development of your thesis. For the citation, follow the approved style for your field (i.e. APA, MLA, Chicago Style Manual, etc.). Single-space each citation and its corresponding annotation and leave a blank line between entries:

Portes A. 1998. Social capital: its origins and applications in modern sociology. Annu. Rev. Sociol. 24:1-24.

This review article discusses the origins and definitions of social capital in the writings of several scholars in the field. The author identifies four sources of social capital and examines their dynamics. He also gives examples of both positive functions and negative consequences of social capital. It is fundamental for my thesis hypothesis.

Powell W.W. and Snellman K. 2004. The knowledge economy. Annu. Rev. Sociol. 30:199-220.

This review article uses evidence from patent data and discusses the debate on whether technological advances have generated more or less worker autonomy. It is useful for my research because it defines the knowledge economy and provides both sides of the debate.

VI. Appendix

This optional section will contain your complete survey instruments and full range of interview questions, or any other information you and your advisor deem essential for readers and reviewers.

Thesis proposal review process

If your thesis proposal is electronically submitted by the fifth day of a month, you will receive approval—or a request for revision—by the last working day of that month. A faculty committee will evaluate your thesis proposal. All notifications to you and your advisor will be made using WSU’s email system.

Formatting your completed thesis

All Honors College theses include these sections, arranged in the following order :

The title page will include the following: thesis title, your name, the semester in which you are giving your oral presentation, and your advisor’s name, department, and college.

Advisor Signature Approval Page

Your advisor must indicate that he/she agrees that your thesis is complete and ready to submit. This page should be placed directly after your Title Page, and include the following:

  • As thesis advisor for (your name) , I have read this paper and find it satisfactory.
  • Thesis advisor signature
  • Date of signature

The précis represents an informative, concise summary of your thesis that is free from jargon and written in language that an academic reader outside your discipline can understand. (Note: A précis differs from an abstract, which is written for professionals in the discipline.) The précis should be no more than two pages long, double-spaced. Develop your précis after you complete the body of your Honors thesis, and place it directly after the Advisor Signature Approval Page. Include the problem, question, or hypothesis examined, an explanation of why you decided to study this problem or issue or to pursue this creative project, the approach you took, what you discovered, and avenues others might pursue in this area in the future.

Include a table of contents that guides the reader to the various sections of your paper.

List of Figures and Tables

If two or more figures or tables appear in the main body of your paper, include a list of figures/tables after the Table of Contents.

Main Body of Paper

This section of your thesis should be approximately 20 pages long, double-spaced, with page numbers at the bottom of each page. If you have chosen a creative project, your paper may be 10-12 pages long. It should be double-spaced, have page numbers at the bottom of each page, be written in English unless specific arrangements have been made in advance, and contain no spelling or grammatical errors. In all cases, the style should be appropriate for the discipline.

For organizational purposes, you may wish to use headings and sections (see below) for the main body of your thesis as they appear in your Table of Contents. Discuss the organization of your thesis with your advisor and follow a format that is typical of writing in your discipline. However, your thesis must include a Title Page, Advisor Signature Approval Page, Précis, and References Cited section. In addition, the main body of your thesis must provide the reader with a logical introduction to your project (explaining how it fits within a larger context and what your focus is), what you did for your thesis, how you conducted your work, and the significance of your work to your field of endeavor.

If you have chosen to complete a creative project, you may submit a shorter written document in which you should answer the following questions:

  • What are the artistic aims of your project?
  • What or who are the key influences on your work, i.e., current or historical artists with similar creative ideas?
  • Is your work similar to or different from these artists?
  • What methods or techniques did you use?
  • Did you follow a disciplinary tradition?
  • What issues and obstacles did you encounter?
  • What did you learn? What are the next steps?
  • What further work is needed related to your project?

Optional Headings and Sections

I. Introduction or Literature Review

This section sets the stage for your work. It gives the reader a view of the framework for your project – the particular field in which you are working – and brings the reader logically to the project at hand.

The introduction should answer two questions :

  • What is the larger context (body of knowledge) for your topic?
  • What is the significance of your particular topic?

The introduction or literature review should lead logically and clearly to your research question or hypothesis.

II. Thesis Activity or Creative Project

State your thesis activity/creative project succinctly in one or two sentences.

III. Methodology (Materials and Methods)

Describe the approaches you employed, and cite any relevant literature. Readers should be able to understand clearly the procedural and analytical steps you undertook.

IV. Results and Discussion

This is the real heart of your project and contains your original contribution of new knowledge in your field.

What did you discover, learn, create, or uncover? Present, interpret, and discuss the data or ideas you have collected or generated. Describe your findings in a precise and well-supported manner, as this is primarily where you can persuade your readers to adopt your perspective on the subject. Relate your work to the larger field. Cite any relevant bibliographic sources within your discussion.

The ability to view one’s own work critically and objectively is essential for all fields of scholarly research, and a thorough discussion of your findings demonstrates your potential as a scholar.

Because all projects are by their very nature limited in scope, an essential part of fully analyzing your work is to understand its limits. Think about the robustness of what you have done:

  • If you had collected your materials or data differently, could you still expect to replicate your findings?
  • Could you have approached your project in a different way?
  • Did your assumptions lead to a certain bias that had implications for your conclusions?
  • Do your findings corroborate those in the published literature?

V. Conclusions

What, briefly, did you learn or discover? What are the larger ramifications of your work?

VI. References Cited

VII. Appendix (optional)

Supplemental material such as pictures, figures, survey instruments, interview questions, and tables should be included in the Appendix.

Your thesis will be evaluated by your thesis advisor and a thesis evaluator selected by you and your advisor. The evaluator may or may not be from your discipline, so critical factors for your success are a very clear précis, a well-written introduction and discussion of your work, and an oral presentation that explains to an educated lay audience the significance of your thesis.

The reviewers will use the Thesis Evaluation Rubric and Oral Presentation Rubric to score both your written thesis document and your oral presentation. Review each rubric and become aware of how your work will be evaluated.

Your advisor and the evaluator will evaluate both your written and oral presentation/poster. Students’ work is graded as “excellent,” “satisfactory/pass,” “needs significant or minor revision,” or “fail.” Students whose thesis is…

  • judged exemplary may have their theses nominated for “Pass with Distinction” designation
  • graded “needs revisions” have approx. two weeks to make all corrections, get approval of the changes, and resubmit a new electronic copy of the thesis
  • graded “fail” will need to redo the thesis to the satisfaction of the advisor and the Honors College, and submit a revised electronic copy of the thesis

What is pass with distinction and will I be eligible?

Exemplary theses may be nominated for “Pass with Distinction.”

Papers that merit “Pass with Distinction” reflect scholarly writing that is couched in the relevant literature and is analytical, synthetic, well-argued, well-written, and possibly publishable. Members of the Honors Council make the final determination on this designation.

The thesis advisor and evaluator must be in agreement before a thesis can receive a “Nomination for Pass with Distinction” designation. The thesis advisor then formally nominates the thesis in a written letter submitted to the Honors College. The letter must state why, in specific terms, the advisor believes the work deserves this designation.

If your thesis is nominated for Pass with Distinction, you will be asked permission to publish your paper on the Honors College website and in the Library’s Research Exchange Project. You and your advisor must both sign approval forms.

Important Note : Exceptions to regularly scheduled thesis weeks will be considered on a case-by-case basis and require a petition from the student supported by the thesis advisor. No thesis may be presented in the same semester in which the proposal was submitted and approved . Only students presenting during the scheduled periods may be eligible to receive a nomination for Pass with Distinction which will be reflected on their WSU transcript.

Most of the Frequently Asked Questions below will be answered during the 1-unit HONORS 398 course, the Thesis Preparation Course. The Honors College encourages you to take this class as soon as you have earned 45 units.

When do I do my thesis?

You should plan to initiate your thesis work as early in your academic career as you can. Thesis proposals should be submitted no later than the second semester of your junior year.

Can I do a thesis while studying abroad?

Yes, a thesis can be either initiated or completed during your time studying abroad. In this case you might wish to complete your Certificate of Global Competencies as well. Meet with an Honors College advisor to discuss your options.

How do I find an academic advisor?

An academic advisor is chosen by you. The request to advise may be based on your positive interaction with a specific professor, the professor’s expertise in the area of your research, or your interest in a professor’s teaching. You and your advisor will also pick a thesis reviewer from your department or a similar field of research. Please direct your advisor to online information “For Thesis Advisors” on the Honors College website.

Does the advisor need to be from WSU?

Yes, the principal advisor needs to be a tenure-track faculty member or senior instructor at WSU, but a co-advisor from another academic institution or the world at large can be arranged with the agreement of the Honors College at WSU.

How do I choose an academic question for my thesis?

Your academic question or hypothesis should reflect your interest or major field of study. The question may be one to which you have always wanted to know the answer, or it may reflect a question you identified from one of your classes or discussions with a professor. Ultimately you should have a passion or deep interest in the question you research. You may also choose to complete a creative project, such as creation of an art piece or musical composition, a short story, or a film. However, your thesis must include a relevant scholarly examination of its context as described above.

What is an academic question?

An academic question is one which asks the “how” or the “why” of some topic. It invites further research and deeper curiosity about an answer by engaging the relevant scholarly literature.

What is a thesis proposal?

A thesis proposal is a document that provides the necessary background and scholarly literature for your topic. It clearly identifies the question being asked, the hypothesis being tested, or the creative project to be completed. It provides the methodology you will use to answer that question or complete the project, notes what the expected results might be and what these results mean within the context of what is known. An annotated scholarly bibliography of five or six key references is needed. An appendix is required if you have human or animal studies approval, graphs, figures or charts of preliminary data, or rubrics that you will use for analysis, questionnaires or interview questions you will use. Annotating a bibliography means preparing a short commentary on each reference you use in the proposal. If you complete a creative project, your proposal will describe your work, explain how you will execute your project, the time you expect it to take, and you will place your effort in the larger context of others who have completed similar work. It will also have an annotated bibliography.

How long must the thesis proposal be?

Normally, the body of the proposal, including the literature review, the question being asked, the methodology and the expected results and conclusion sections, will not exceed five, double-spaced typewritten pages. The thesis proposal should be long enough to clearly explain what you wish to do, in language that an educated academic can understand, even if the proposal is not in his or her academic discipline.

When should the thesis proposal be completed and submitted to the Honors College for review and approval?

An electronic thesis proposal submitted by the 5th day of any month will be reviewed and the status communicated to the student via email by the last working day of that month. Reviews of proposals submitted after the 5th day of the month may take until the last working day of the following month.

Can I start my thesis research before the proposal is approved?

The thesis proposal can be turned in to the Honors College whenever it is ready, but must be approved by the Honors College before you begin the main focus of your research, and before you will be officially enrolled in HONORS 450 (Honors Thesis or Project).

Who evaluates the proposal?

The Honors Thesis Proposal Committee will review all proposals.

Are proposals accepted without alteration?

Yes, many proposals are accepted without alteration, while others may require further explanation and revision. If revision is required, the Thesis Director will inform you of specific changes or clarifications they would like to see in the revised proposal.

Are any proposals rejected? If so, why are they rejected and what does this mean?

Yes, a proposal can be rejected, but that is rare. It is much more likely that a proposal will be returned to a student for revision and explanation of critical points identified by the Proposal Committee. When the student responds to those questions with cogent answers, the revised submitted proposal will be approved and the research can begin.

May I do my research in collaboration with a fellow Honors student?

Yes, but each student’s contribution to the thesis must be stated in the proposal and be very clear to all reviewers of the thesis.

May I compile a journal and use that for my thesis?

Yes, you may compile a journal of your experiences, but you must ask and answer an academic question to fulfill the Honors Thesis requirement.

When is my completed thesis due in Honors?

There are numerous opportunities to present each semester. An electronic copy of your thesis (including the Thesis Advisor Signature Page), will be due on the Monday of the week prior to your presentation date.

When will I give my oral presentation?

Oral presentations are held during various weeks through the fall and spring semesters. You will choose a date that works for you, your thesis advisor, your chosen discipline evaluator, and the Honors College. Dates will be advertised each semester. Summer presentations are scheduled only in exceptional cases depending on the availability of the Honors faculty and WSU faculty who serve as evaluators.

What style and format do I use for my thesis?

The style (e.g. APA, MLA) should reflect that used by the major academic journals in your disciplinary area. You and your advisor will agree on which style you will follow. However, all theses must follow a specific format. See “Formatting Your Completed Thesis” on this website.

Who will attend my thesis presentation?

Anyone may attend your presentation. We encourage you to invite your family and/or friends, but that is up to you. Your thesis advisor, your chosen discipline thesis evaluator, one evaluator selected by the Honors College, and you are required to attend your presentation. The Honors-chosen reviewer may or may not be from your disciplinary area, so you must prepare an oral presentation that is accessible to the whole academic community.

How will I know if I have passed?

At the end of your 20-minute oral presentation, you can be asked questions by anyone present. When there are no more questions, you will be asked to step outside the room. Only an Honors representative, your thesis advisor, your discipline thesis evaluator, and the Honors-chosen evaluator will stay to discuss your thesis. In five to ten minutes, you will be invited to return to the room and be told whether you have passed. The total time allotted for each presentation is one hour.

What if I receive a pass contingent upon making revisions?

You will have two to three weeks to make all corrections, get your thesis advisor’s approval of the changes, and submit one new, corrected, electronic copy to the Honors College.

What if I do not pass?

All students must complete the thesis to the satisfaction of their thesis advisor and the Honors College. A “do not pass” rating may reflect a lack of effort, content, or overall performance. Each case will be dealt with on an individual basis. A completely revised thesis must be submitted electronically to the Honors College. In the case of a satisfactorily revised thesis, another oral presentation is not required. An altogether different thesis will require a new oral presentation.

What is “Pass with Distinction?”

A “Pass with Distinction” designation is considered when the major professor and the two evaluators believe the thesis and oral presentation breaks significant new ground or represents an unusual amount of care and effort by the student. Thesis evaluators and the advisor must be unanimous in their evaluation of the thesis, and a nomination letter from the advisor is forwarded to the Honors Council for final review and determination of this award.

Thesis Examples

Copies of several Honors students’ theses are online at Libraries’ Research Exchange.

Or, follow this link to view the Honors College Theses Collection.

Proposal Examples

Colville, WA, and the 1918 Influenza Pandemic

Prostate-Specific Antigen in Cancer Diagnostics*

Lake Osoyoos Investments

Awareness of Hemochromatosis*

*Final theses available in the Research Exchange.

Citation guides

All you need to know about citations

How to cite an honors thesis in AMA

AMA honorsthesis citation

To cite an honors thesis in a reference entry in AMA style 11st edition include the following elements:

  • Author(s) of the thesis: Give the last name, and initials of up to six authors (e.g. Watson J). For more authors only the first three are listed, followed by et al.
  • Title of the honor thesis: Italicize the title and capitalize the first letter of each major word.
  • Honors thesis: Describe the type of thesis, e.g. Undergraduate honors thesis, Doctoral honors thesis, etc.
  • Location: Give the name of the city in which the publishing entity was located at the time of publication.
  • Name of the degree awarding institution: Give the name of the institution.
  • Year of publication: Give the year of publication.

Here is the basic format for a reference list entry of an honors thesis in AMA style 11st edition:

Author(s) of the thesis . Title of the honor thesis . [ Honors thesis ]. Location : Name of the degree awarding institution ; Year of publication .

Take a look at our reference list examples that demonstrate the AMA style guidelines in action:

An undergraduate honors thesis by two authors

Zhang IY, Goffin RD . Evil Geniuses at Work: Does Intelligence Interact with the Dark Triad to Predict Workplace Deviance? [ Undergraduate honors thesis ]. Ontario, Canada: Western University ; 2018 .

An undergraduate honors thesis by one author

Audino A . Comparing U.S. and French Approaches to Counterterrorism in Africa . [ Undergraduate honors thesis ]. San Diego, CA: University of San Diego ; 2018 .

ama cover page

This citation style guide is based on the AMA Manual of Style (11 th edition).

More useful guides

  • Citation Help for AMA: Master's Thesis or Project
  • AMA Manual of Style: Theses and Dissertations

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IST Honors Thesis Guide

This guide is for students completing a Schreyer Honors College (SHC) thesis in the College of Information Sciences and Technology. Additional requirements and information can be found in the SHC Honors Thesis Overview .

If you have questions, ask your honors adviser or your thesis supervisor. If they do not have the answer, feel free to contact one of the following people:

  • Carleen Maitland, Ph.D. – Professor of Information Sciences and Technology
  • Zaryab Iqbal, Ph.D. –  Associate Dean, Schreyer Honors College

Additional Resources 

  • SHC Honors Thesis Overview
  • SHC Honors Requirements and Deadlines
  • Past SHC theses
  • Libraries Research Guide for IST Students
  • Libraries Citation and Writing Guides

Completing an undergraduate honors thesis is a culminating academic experience for Schreyer Honors College scholars. The  SHC Thesis Project Guide  states:

  • [T]he purpose of the thesis experience is to develop your intellectual and professional identity in the field and to help you think about your future. Once complete, the purpose of the thesis is to advance knowledge, understanding, or creative value in its field.

As such, the thesis experience is designed to pique your intellectual curiosity, develop research skills, contribute to advancing knowledge, provide an opportunity to work closely with a faculty member, and help you explore the possibility of a graduate degree or other research-focused work.

There are two parts to a thesis project: the first is the project itself, and the second is the written document that describes the project.

The thesis project can take many forms, from laboratory experiments to artistic creations. The thesis document captures the relevant background, methods, and techniques, as well as describing the details of the completion of the individual project.

IST students have completed survey studies, interpretive analyses of multimedia artifacts, statistical analyses of large data sets, design studies, case studies, and more. You can view examples of theses on the Penn State Libraries website.

The thesis document is a written description of the entire thesis project. It typically begins with an introductory section that establishes the importance of the project’s research question. Most thesis papers then present a review of relevant work related to the project, a description of the project and the methods used, a presentation of the results, and a discussion of the findings. Some thesis papers also include a final conclusion section that may outline suggestions for future research. In addition to these main chapters, all theses include title page, signatory page, abstract, table of contents, list of figures, acknowledgements, bibliography, appendix items, and the Scholar’s academic vita.

Although the thesis is an independent project, your work will be guided and approved by two faculty members:

  • a thesis supervisor
  • an honors adviser in your area of honors

Learn more about identifying these individuals in the “Proposal, Supervisor & Area of Honors” section of the  SHC Thesis Project Guide .

College of IST faculty members expect SHC students to take responsibility for managing their thesis projects. You are in charge of requesting regular meetings with your honors adviser and your thesis supervisor, carrying out the plans that you and your thesis supervisor discuss, setting and meeting deadlines for yourself, and knowing the SHC requirements for your thesis. Thesis supervisors and honors advisers are committed to guiding your work and will do their best to answer your questions.

SHC Thesis Requirements

College of IST scholars must fulfill all  SHC honors thesis requirements , including the formatting and submission requirements. In addition, take special note of  three deadlines related to thesis completion : the thesis proposal deadline, the mandatory thesis format review submission deadline, and the final thesis submission deadline.

College of IST Thesis Requirement: IST 489H

All College of IST scholars must have formal preparation for doing a thesis. Most often, students fulfill this requirement by taking  IST 489H . This course is offered each spring and is intended to introduce students to all the steps of the research process. If a student has worked with the thesis supervisor in a research lab setting, the thesis supervisor may elect to provide one-on-one training for carrying out a study. However, thesis supervisor will often prefer that the student complete the 489H course. IST 489H can also be used to satisfy your ENGL 202 requirement.

The recommended timing for the research methods course is spring of the student’s junior year. Students typically have an idea of their general thesis topic by this time, and this is the last opportunity to provide training before they undertake a study the following year. If you planned to study abroad in spring of the junior year, you should take IST 489H in spring of the sophomore year. Although sophomores may not have a good sense of their thesis topic, they still benefit from walking through the course with a trial topic to learn the research process.

A thesis project unfolds in several phases, most of which begin long before you ever begin writing the thesis paper itself. The bulk of the work takes place over the final three or four semesters.

Phase 1: Notice and Explore Topics

Semesters 1 - 4 (Freshman and Sophomore Year)

The first phase entails noticing and exploring topics of interest. This occurs by paying attention to ideas presented in class, student listserv messages, research articles on the IST and Penn State websites, and announcements about visiting researcher seminars. In many cases, the instructor of a course, a researcher who gives a thought-provoking seminar, or an honors adviser can help direct you to resources on topics of interest.

Phase 2: Narrow Topic and Identify Thesis Supervisor

Semester 5 (Fall, Junior Year)

The second phase includes narrowing your potential thesis topic and identifying a thesis supervisor. You should communicate frequently with your assigned honors adviser to zero in on a topic based on your interests and choose a faculty member to supervise your thesis. Once a faculty member has agreed to be your supervisor, the two of you will continue to narrow your topic and formulate a research question for your study. Consult the “Beginning your Research Project” section below for suggestions on selecting a thesis topic.

Phase 3: Prepare to Undertake your Study

Semester 6 (Spring, Junior Year) & Summer between Junior/Senior Years

The third phase is a busy planning phase. You need to learn about what is required to carry out a study (this will be covered in the IST 498H research methods course), complete any required certifications for working with human participants, formulate your exact research question, read and review scientific literature to show that you have a good understanding of your topic, and design your research project. This is a semester to work closely with your honors adviser and/or thesis supervisor to complete the following: 

  • Take IST 489H, which is required for all College of IST honors students unless your thesis supervisor suggests doing one-on-one training with him or her.
  • Continue to meet with your thesis supervisor. Focus on determining a research topic area, beginning a literature review, identifying a specific research question, and a developing a rough research plan. This can occur while taking IST 489H.
  • Consult the “Beginning your Research Project” section below for a step-by-step guide to prepare you for conducting a literature review.
  • Consult the  Libraries research guide for IST students  for resources to conduct your research.
  • Complete Institutional Review Board (IRB) training and certification  if your proposed study requires IRB approval.
  • Investigate research grants and scholarships  to support thesis expenses or conference presentations.
  • Choose the area of honors  in which you will do your thesis.
  • Determine the two faculty members who will read your thesis.
  • Submit your thesis proposal through the  SHC Student Records Systems  by the  appropriate deadline .
  • Prepare readings and organize notes for your literature review.

Phase 4: Undertake your Study and Write your Thesis Paper

Semesters 7-8 (Fall and Spring, Senior Year)

The fourth phase includes carrying out your study and writing your thesis paper. Studies take a variety of forms, which will largely be determined by your exact research question and the methods you choose to complete your study. Your thesis supervisor will be your primary guide as you conduct your research and determine the different chapters to be written:

  • For each of the fall and spring semesters, register for three credits of the research project course (CYBER/DS/HCDD/IST/SRA 494) with your thesis supervisor. Credits are earned for weekly meetings with your thesis supervisor, writing the literature review, and gathering data. A maximum of six credits are allowed for the thesis.
  • Complete your study in the fall semester—or by early spring semester at the latest.
  • Begin writing and assembling chapters of your thesis using the  SHC Word template  in the fall and finish writing it in the spring.
  • Schedule three due dates to keep your thesis on track:
  • The date by which your thesis supervisor wants to receive your thesis so it can be read and reviewed by the two faculty members approving your thesis. This should be in advance of the SHC deadline. You are expected to provide at least one week for faculty to read your thesis, and to provide an additional week for you to make corrections.
  • The date for mandatory  Thesis Format Review .
  • The date for  final thesis submission . There are no exceptions to this date!
  • Submit your thesis for mandatory Thesis Format Review through  SHC Student Records System .
  • Submit your thesis through the  SHC Student Records System .

Begin early in the third year to identify a research topic and develop a relationship with your thesis adviser. Set aside a few hours each week to develop an awareness and understanding for your topic of interest. Work with your thesis supervisor to develop a plan specific to your research.

Defining a Research Question

The process of identifying a research question begins by identifying your topic of interest.  Next, you should gather literature from a variety of sources to identify current problems, common understandings in the field, and findings related to that topic. This information forms the foundation for you to further contribute to the topic in the form of a specific research question.

The process of articulating the research question is iterative and recursive, which means that at any point you may refine your research topic based on new literature findings and begin the process again. The process is repeated until a research question is identified representing a very narrow point of investigation within the much broader area of the research topic. The literature review becomes the critical bridge between your research topic and question.

Choosing a Topic

Begin by looking at whatever lists of topics you have kept in the previous year or by thinking about areas of study in which you have a strong and sustained interest. Choose one of the topics as a starting place for investigation. Take time to read two or three articles about this topic. Follow particular strands of interest by reading articles referenced in the two or three articles. If you find that your interest wanes, move to another topic on your list and restart the process. Once you land on something that seems viable, undertake a literature review to dig deeper.

Starting a Literature Review

To start a literature review, complete the following steps:

  • Designate regular time each week to review the literature related to a research topic of interest.
  • Determine the best sources from which to retrieve articles. It is important to use more scholarly search engines like  Google Scholar ,  CiteSeerx , and  Penn State’s LionSearch .
  • Investigate resources to make the job easier.

To get started, review  Bryman & Bell’s online Research Project Guide , particularly sections A.3 Preliminary Literature Review and C.5 Literature, Research Skills, and Key Words. When conducting the review of the literature, document key words and publications that provide useful and consistent results.  Consider the bibliography in scholarly papers to be another source of ideas, and remember that full, online text copies of these publications can often be found using  LionSearch .

Use technology like  Diigo  and  Mendeley  to help keep track of literature, save interesting links for later review, and manage citations and bibliography information. The Penn State Libraries provide excellent  guides for using these citation managers .

It is important to give credit to the sources you use in the research paper. Discuss the citation style you will be using, such as APA, with your thesis adviser. The  Purdue OWL  and  KnightCite  offer guidance on working with these styles.

Scholarly writing is a unique style of writing that is both formal and without bias. Evidence is logically presented to convince the reader to agree with the presented argument. Review  this writing guide example  for tips on how to caption and cross-reference figures, as well as common pitfalls to avoid.

The electronic databases below are available through  Penn State Libraries  and can be very helpful in your thesis project.

Finding Scholarly Articles and Technical Information

  • LionSearch  - Online catalog to find specific journals, magazines, and books in print and electronically.
  • ACM Digital Library  – Full text of every publication of the Association of Computing Machinery.
  • IEEE Xplore and Compendex / Inspec  - Comprehensive technical and scholarly coverage of topics in computer science, information technology, electronics, engineering, and related fields.
  • Web of Science  – Citation indexing with particular strength in science and technology.

Finding News and Data

  • LexisNexis Academic - Source for locating trade publications and news, including major publications like the  New York Times  and  Washington Post .
  • Statistical Abstract of the United States  - Compilation of census data related to most aspects of American life.
  • World Development Indicators  - Nearly 800 statistical indicators related to social and economic development.

Other Useful Resources

  • The Pew Internet & American Life Project  - Reports that include demographic data about users of the internet, technology, and special topics such as social networking websites.
  • Safari Computer Books Online - Electronic access to current computer manuals from a variety of publishers.
  • Interlibrary Loan  - If Penn State doesn’t have the research material you need, request it using this service.
  • KnightCite citation generator  - Web-based citation generating tool that includes the three main citation styles: MLA, APA, and Chicago.

Time Commitment

How long does it take to complete a thesis?

  • From first conception (often in the required research methods course, IST 489H) to final submission, most students take 3 semesters to complete a thesis. Typically, the actual study (collecting survey data, or designing a product and testing it, etc.) occurs in the fall of senior year. Typically, the analysis of the study and the writing of the thesis paper occur in the spring of senior year.

Scope of the Thesis

How long is a thesis?

  • A thesis is as long as it needs to be to answer the research question that the student seeks to answer. Your thesis needs to establish the importance of your question, explain relevant work that has been done related to your question, describe the study that you designed, present the results, and explain your findings. In general, 20 pages would not be enough room to accomplish all of this. Is 40 pages enough? Do you need 100 pages? You cannot answer that question until you have defined your question and planned your study (and, in some cases, looked at your results). The length should not be a goal; nor should it be a deterrent. Seniors who have completed a thesis will tell you that once you’ve completed the study, the thesis writes itself.

Where can I find examples of theses from IST students?

  • All available SHC electronic honors theses are catalogued in the Penn State library and can be accessed at the  honors library site .

Thesis Preparation

In addition to a research methods course, what would prepare me for undertaking a thesis?

  • Working in a faculty member’s research lab with other undergraduate and graduate students or working individually on a faculty member’s research project are excellent preparatory experiences for undertaking an honors thesis.

Area of Honors

What is an “area of honors” and how does it impact my thesis?

  • Areas of honors correspond to the majors offered to undergraduate students at Penn State. Students must designate an area of honors when they submit their thesis proposal. This signals to Schreyer Honors College which honors advisers are appropriate representatives of a disciplinary area to read and approve the thesis as an appropriate study for the area of honors that is designated.

May I choose an “area of honors” outside my major?

  • In principle, students who begin in SHC as incoming freshman at Penn State may choose an area of honors outside the major. However, even if you were admitted to SHC as an incoming freshman student, you must check with the Department or College offering the area of honors to be sure that they will allow you to complete your thesis in their area—and, if so, whether there are additional requirements that you need to complete. Gateway students are approved for an honors thesis only within the College that recommended they be admitted to SHC. For a more detailed response, including different scenarios, see the “ Proposal, Supervisor and Area of Honors ” section of the SHC Thesis Project Guide

Thesis Readers

Can I add a third reader to my thesis?

  • Yes, you can add a third person to read your thesis. (Most students do not add a third person.) In cases where a student works in a research lab with a faculty member who is not an honors adviser and who is not the thesis supervisor, but who has helped as much as the thesis supervisor and the student wants to recognize the contributions of the additional faculty member, it is possible for the student to list a third person on the thesis signature page. Note that if a third person signs on the signature page, that person’s name must also be included on the title page. If you are considering this option, contact the Coordinator of Student Records at SHC (Ms. Debra Rodgers,  [email protected] ) for directions.

How do I go about designating faculty members to be a supervisor, an honors adviser, or a third reader on my thesis?

  • As is the case any time that you want to use someone’s name to assist you (with letters of references, character reviews, independent studies, etc.), always ask faculty members before using their names—and wait for their response before adding their names to any forms. You cannot assume that a faculty member will have time to supervise your thesis, so never add a faculty member’s name to a thesis proposal or other thesis-related form without asking the faculty member, first, whether she or he would be willing to serve in the capacity that you desire. Once you have confirmation that the faculty member agrees to work with you, you may add the person’s name on appropriate online forms—typically by choosing a name from a dropdown menu. If you find that the people you wish to designate do not appear on SHC forms, contact the Coordinator of Student Records at SHC (Ms. Debra Rodgers,  [email protected] ) for assistance.

Thesis Proposal

When do I have to submit a thesis proposal to SHC?

  • A proposal must be submitted by the SHC deadline at the end of the semester that occurs one year prior to intended graduation (e.g., spring semester of the junior year, if the student is planning on graduating in spring of the senior year). See  SHC Important Dates page  for specific dates.

Whose names do I need to list on my thesis proposal?

  • Two faculty members must be listed on the online thesis proposal form: a thesis supervisor and an honors adviser. In cases where the thesis supervisor is the student’s honors adviser, another eligible faculty member from the chosen area of honors may be chosen. See the  SHC Thesis Project Guide  for more details.

Is there funding at Penn State for any of the following: materials and equipment, presenting my thesis at a professional conference, collecting data in other cities or countries, remaining in State College for a summer to work on my thesis?

  • Yes, yes, yes, and yes. For funding opportunities through the College of IST or through the Penn State Office of Undergraduate Education, see the  IST Undergraduate Research page . For funding opportunities through SHC, see their  research funding page .

Where else, outside of Penn State, might I look for funding?

  • For funding opportunities outside Penn State, see the  External Funding section  of the SHC research funding page.

Submitting a Thesis

Who must sign the thesis?

  • Two faculty members must sign the thesis: a thesis supervisor and an honors adviser. In cases where the thesis supervisor is the student’s honors adviser, another eligible faculty member from the chosen area of honors may be chosen. See the  SHC Thesis Project Guide  for more details.

By when do I need to give the completed thesis to those who will be signing it?

  • You need to determine a date with your thesis supervisor. Typically this will be 2 weeks prior to the SHC deadlines, so that a) the faculty who will be reading your thesis will have a week to comment and b) you will have a week to implement their requested changes.

What are the SHC thesis deadlines?

  • You need to submit a completed thesis by the SHC deadline that is set for the semester in which you intend to graduate. Note that there are actually several deadlines, which are listed by semester at  SHC>Current Students>Important Dates .

Where do I find the requirements for formatting and submitting my thesis?

  • For information on formatting and submitting a thesis, see formatting and submission guides on the  SHC website .

Where do I actually submit my thesis?

  • To submit the thesis, visit the eHT ( electronic Honors Thesis ) site.

Guidelines for Topic Choice, Writing Schedule, Citing and Referencing

Where can I find tips and lessons learned for things like choosing a topic, creating a schedule for writing, and citing appropriately?

  • SHC offers a  Thesis Project Guide  that is full of reminders and tips that come from lessons learned from many thesis projects.

Combining an Undergraduate Thesis and a Graduate Thesis (for IUG)

If I want to pursue an Integrated Undergraduate Graduate (IUG) degree, does that change my thesis requirement?

  • When pursuing an IUG, a student is required to produce a master’s quality thesis. The master’s thesis will also count as the undergraduate honors thesis. For those students who would like to complete two studies, they may submit two separate theses but at least one must be master’s quality.

What is a common schedule for completing a master’s level thesis for students pursuing an Integrated Undergraduate Graduate (IUG) degree?

  • There is no common schedule, because each master’s thesis project will differ in its requirements, depending on the research question and the actual study that is designed. Many master’s thesis projects require students to spend a summer doing research—often in State College or wherever data is collected. The timeline for completing a master’s thesis is generally longer than that required for an undergraduate honors thesis. Still, most IUG students finish their undergraduate and graduate work in 5 years or 5 years plus one additional summer. (Note: In order to keep within a 5-year time frame, students should have advanced standing from multiple AP or other credits, such that they would otherwise be able to graduate a semester or more early; they should expect to take summer courses; and they should expect to spend at least a summer doing research.)

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Pages in this Section

  • Formatting Your Thesis
  • The Editing Process
  • The Turn-in Process
  • Presenting Your Thesis

Formatting Templates

Formatting your final thesis.

Our style guide below will walk you through the required components for a Thesis project. On the sidebar  to your left you'll  find our templates you'll want to use for your project.

Order of Written Components

Here is the order for the written components of a Thesis project:

  • Copyright Page  (optional)

Executive Summary

Table of contents.

  • Preface  (optional)
  • Acknowledgements  ( optional )
  • Advice to Future Honors Students  ( optional )
  • Capstone Project Body
  • Critical Statement: For students submitting a Creative Project 
  • Sources Cited and Consulted
  • Appendices  ( optional )

All margins should be at least 1″. (We no longer require a 2″ margin on the left.) 

(If you're doing a creative project like a magazine in InDesign, you should turn in one "original" and one with 1″ margins; you can "shrink" the project in InDesign to make it fit. Rotating it 90° would also be okay.)

Type & Line Spacing

The Thesis Project should be formatted with a 12 point font. The right margin should remain unjustified. The Thesis Project should be double-spaced, with approximately 25 lines per page. The abstract and the list of sources cited and consulted, as well as footnotes or endnotes, should be single-spaced.

A sample title page is included in the formatting templates (to the left). We advise you to print that page so you can more easily visualize the layout. Important notes about formatting your title page: each word in the title should be capitalized, except for "a," "the," "on," "in," etc.

  • Include only the information for the major in which you will receive honors.
  • Make sure you know the exact title of your degree: B.S., B.A., B.F.A., B.Arch., or B.Mus. Your degree is determined by what your home college is.
  • Newhouse duals with Arts & Sciences: because A&S is your home college, most of you will earn a B.A. Degree, unless you have fulfilled the requirements for a B.S. degree in your Arts and Sciences Major - which is rare. Not sure about your degree? Check with your dean's office!

Optional: Copyright

Copyright protection begins automatically, without any action taken by you, the moment an original work is created and fixed in a tangible form. If you envision publication*of the work or wish for other reasons to reserve rights to the work formally, you may register the work with the U.S. Copyright Office and include a copyright page following the title page. You can access a sample of the copyright page in the formatting template.

No copyright notice need be placed on your work in order for full copyright protection to apply; but for practical reasons, it's good practice for an author to place a copyright notice on his or her work. A notice warns readers that the author takes copyright issues seriously; and it may discourage potential infringers, especially those unfamiliar with the intricacies of copyright law. Moreover, if the work carries a notice, in the event of a subsequent lawsuit the infringer will be unable to claim that he or she did not realize that the work was protected.

For more information about copyright protection, see

*Publication has a technical meaning in copyright law. According to the U.S. Copyright statute: "Publication is the distribution of copies or phonorecords of a work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending." According to this definition, having your Thesis Project bound and housed in the Honors program does not constitute publishing the work.

Each Thesis Project must include a one-to-two paragraph abstract. This is a thumbnail overview of the Project. For a traditional academic thesis project, it should typically include a statement of the problem, a brief description of the methodology used and the argument advanced, the nature of the proof or evidence, and the conclusion.

For a project in the Creative category, the abstract should typically include a statement of the concept, the context of the work, a word or two about the medium/processes used in the project's creation, and the conclusion. It should be single spaced.

Required for all projects, including those that also include a Critical Statement.  This is A 2-4 page (double-spaced) summary of your project written for a non-expert audience. Your Summary should be clear and concise, with all technical terms well defined for the reader. Any educated person should be able to read it and gain a solid understanding of the project's aims and scope. It's ok if there is some overlap between the Summary and your Abstract. Some of this material might also be included in an introductory chapter; that's fine. The summary should include:

  • a description of the project;
  • a brief, non-technical discussion of the methods used, and the argument advanced;
  • a discussion of the project's significance.

Every Thesis Project should include a table of contents listing the page numbers of the preface (if included); advice to future Honors students (if included); acknowledgments (if included); main body or reflective essay, including chapter and section headings; sources cited and consulted; and appendices/list of illustrations, if any.

Optional: Preface

The Thesis Project may include optional prefatory material.

An Honors preface is an essay clarifying the main point of the work, explaining the choice of topic, and describing your intellectual position. It may be self-reflective, considering your growth as a creator, professional, researcher, designer, or scholar.

Optional: Acknowledgements

In this section, you may express appreciation to those who have contributed to your academic and personal growth as a student at Syracuse.

Optional: Advice to Future Students

In this section, you give any practical hints or directions that you think other Honors students in your field would find particularly helpful as they create their own Honors Thesis Projects. Many future students will find this useful, and we share them frequently.

Project Body (length)

Because Honors Thesis projects come in all disciplines, there is no strict page requirement for your writing.  Generally it should follow the conventions of your discipline.  Your faculty advisor will have the expertise to advise if you need guidance here.

Footnotes, Endnotes, & Sources Cited

You should use whatever style of documentation is appropriate for the discipline in which you are writing. The Thesis Project Advisor can recommend the correct style to follow. Reference copies of the standard documentation style guides - the MLA Handbook and the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association - are available on the   Bird Library Research Guide Citation Support Web page.

Creative Projects: Critical Statement

This essay discusses your aesthetic choices, your background research, and how you situate the project within the artistic traditions you are engaging. If you need additional help with any written portion of your Thesis, make sure you consult with our writing consultant.

Make sure you refer to our page on creative projects for details regarding the critical statement. You may also access examples of past creative projects and view critical statements.

Critical Statement Content

Here are three key aspects of your work to discuss:.

  • No artist's work arrives out of thin air. Whose work has influenced yours? What taught you to be able to do what you have done? How has your work emerged from what you know about your field or the work of others? What is your relationship to them? Who else is engaging in similar questions at this time and how does your work relate to theirs
  • Reflect on the artistic choices you made in the process of creating your project. Was there a conscious theory at work behind your decisions? A moment of serendipity? Did a situation force a decision? Was there a critical turning point or crisis?
  • Reflect on what you see as the meaning of the work. Is there a particular effect or change you hope to stimulate in your audience?

Any tables, graphs, illustrations, or other material relevant to the project should be included as appendices, consistent with the conventions of the discipline.

Timelines & Due Dates for 2023 - 2024

Developing ideas & research, quick links to thesis forms.

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Honors Thesis Formatting

Honors Program Nomination Procedures | Honors Program Requirements | Honors Thesis Formatting

See the Library Services for Honor Students

There is no official style for Austin College Honors theses.  Each thesis director or department should determine the proper style for the specific thesis: the Honors Committee assumes that the thesis director will make sure that the student is writing in a style and format appropriate to the discipline or sub-discipline. Hence, the Committee will check only for consistency, not for a particular style.

Whatever standard is chosen, the thesis writer must turn in the name of the style manual or an article from the chosen disciplinary journal as a guide for the Honors Committee when checking the style.  Again, the Honors Committee is not interested in a specific style, but we do want to ensure that the style adopted is consistent throughout the thesis.

Format Checklist Before Submitting Thesis

Below is a list of style requirements that the Honors Committee will be looking for in the thesis.  The student and his/her thesis director should check the thesis for these requirements prior to submitting it to the Committee for approval.

The specifics of these guidelines are outlined below.

  • The text is double-spaced in a standard font, such as Times Roman, Courier, etc.  If you have questions about a font you would like to use, please bring a sample of it to the Honors Director for approval.  You may use 10-pt. or 12-pt. type.
  • The margins are correct (see below)
  • The pages are in the correct order (see below)
  • The title and name of the thesis writer are in all capitals on the Title Page
  • The page numbering on the front matter pages begins on the Committee Page with ii and continues in lower-case Roman numerals through the Abstract
  • The page numbers of the front matter pages should be included in the Table of Contents
  • Every page of the text should be numbered
  • Footnotes should appear on the same page as they are cited in the text

Specific Guidelines for Formatting Thesis

The text is double-spaced in a standard font, such as Times Roman, Courier, etc.  You may use 10-pt. or 12-pt. type.

If you have questions about a font you would like to use, please bring a sample of it to the Honors Director for approval.

Pagination, Margins, Spacing

The first page of the thesis text is page one. All pages must be numbered (unless you choose to leave page numbers off pages with a title or chapter heading on them). Page numbering must be consistent throughout the thesis.  You should number the front matter pages (except the Title Page), including Committee Page, Acknowledgments, Table of Contents, List of Tables, and List of Figures, with lower-case Roman numerals starting with ii on the Committee Page.

  • Top:  1 1/2 inches
  • Bottom:  1 inch
  • Left Side:  2 inches (to allow for binding)
  • Right Side:  1 inch

It will be your responsibility to measure the results of your formatting with the printer you use so that the margins are actually in line with the measurements given above.

Use double spacing in all the regular text (or space-and-a-half spacing if your advisor permits), not single spacing.  The thesis director should decide whether block quotations should be single-spaced or double-spaced.

Order of Pages

Blank Page Title Page (see below for sample) Committee Page (see below for sample) Acknowledgments (if any) Table of Contents List of Tables (if any) List of Figures (if any) Abstract Text Endnotes (if internal citation or footnotes are not used) Bibliography Appendices (if any) Blank Page

Copies and Binding

An original paper copy of your completed thesis must be given to Abell Library for its permanent collection.  Abell Library will not accept any copies for binding until the thesis has been approved by the thesis committee and received officially by the Honors Director.

Abell Library will pay for binding the single library copy; you may also have other copies bound for your own use at this time.  At your own expense, you may have as many copies bound as you like, either through the bindery used by Abell Library (allow six weeks to two months to receive these back) or by a bindery of your choice. Since the cost of binding varies over time, please check with the office of the Secretary for the Honors Committee to find out the current cost.


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Honors student presenting to two people

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March 28, 2024 | Estimated Read Time: 8 Minutes

By Alexandra Koktsidis

Think undergraduate college honors programs are just about extra reading assignments and more paper-writing? Think again. As you look at colleges and honors programs opportunities , it helps to understand the benefits. It’s time to explore what honors colleges are and how honors programs can enhance your undergraduate experience.

An honors program is not the same as being on the high school honor roll. It doesn’t involve advanced or AP classes. An above-average GPA up is important, but college honors programs involve more than academics.

Let’s dive into what an honors program is like, weigh the pros and cons of a college honors program, and discuss what the major benefits are.

What Is an Honors Program?

A college or university honors program is a specialized academic pathway designed to challenge students beyond the conventional curriculum. The honors opportunities available vary from school to school. Depending on the college’s program, it may involve small or specialized classes, one-on-one mentorship, and the opportunity to conduct an independent research study. Some universities have specific honors colleges, while smaller schools may call it a program. Ultimately, the top honors colleges and programs will go beyond good grades.

“The honors program creates a community of scholars who want to contribute to a body of research in their own meaningful way,” says Sabrina Stehly, the associate director of the Honors Program at Babson College.   Honors programs typically result in the writing and presenting of a senior thesis or capstone project. A few senior thesis examples from Babson College’s honors program students include:

  • “AI and Consciousness” Ryan Combes, December 2022  
  • “Comparing the Loss Aversion of Fantasy Sports Players & Sports Card Traders” James Truslow, May 2022  
  • “Double Deprivation: The Privilege of Race and Education” Tyler Patterson, December 2019  
  • “ Serving Realness in Reality: Drag as a Culture in American Television Media” Maria Herwagen, May 2023

These are all business capstone project examples from a school known for entrepreneurship . If it sounds like a chance to pursue a topic of interest and outside your general course of study, you’re right. But what exactly does it mean to be an honors student?

Who Is an Honors Student?

“Being an honors student means more than being academically talented,” Stehly says. “It’s also about being an exemplary student in the greater community.” Honors students show passion and curiosity for learning and enjoy research and writing, she adds.   Being a self-motivated student is a key trait among honors program students. For example, a student who can “ask a research question and follow through to find the answer,” according to Stehly, is something honors program directors look for in applicants.

The Benefits of an Honors Program

The best honors programs will provide more than just a title or graduation citation. Several benefits come with being part of an honors program. Because it affords you the chance to conduct independent research, you can follow your passions or interests to a deeper level.

This alone is a worthwhile benefit to some, but the perks don’t stop there. Being part of an undergraduate honors program can help build the vital skills employers look for , forge meaningful and lasting relationships, and bring you the confidence to thrive in life after college.

A Competitive Edge

Graduating from an honors program can set you apart from other applicants in the job market.

Employers who value a commitment to learning and being a self-starter will find those qualities in honors program students. Plus, it can be a great way-in to speak about your skills , passions, hands-on learning, and achievements.   “Many of our students have reported back that their honors project was a great conversation starter during job interviews or at networking events,” Stehly says.

Faculty Mentorship

One great benefit of the honors program is the close mentorship students receive from notable faculty who are leaders in their field. At Babson College, faculty members are award-winning experts and business leaders who draw from tangible, real-world business experience.

In the business honors program at Babson , students work one-on-one with a faculty advisor to help guide them through the research process. This added support and mentorship often extends beyond graduation, creating lasting professional relationships that endure for years.

Skills For Work & Life

Being part of the honors program is not all academics: it also involves honing time and project management skills that are crucial to professional and personal life. Independent research often demands a high-level of organization with multiple priorities to juggle.

After all, as Stehly says, an honors program is not about synthesizing research: it’s about “contributing to a body of research in a unique, meaningful way.” And that takes a dedicated effort.

Goes Beyond Your Coursework 

Another non-academic benefit of the honors program is getting involved with activities exclusive to the program. This way, students in the program can bond together and form lasting, meaningful friendships.

At Babson College, as part of the business honors program, students attend a wide range of programming, including social events, community-building activities, and arts and culture performances in the Boston area.

Growing Outside Comfort Zones

One feature of the Babson College honors program is that students must present their findings out loud, in front of faculty. After all, public speaking is one of the top fears for college students in the United States.

This can be a daunting task, but one that builds inner confidence and presentation skills. Students can also participate and present their material at academic conferences. Stepping outside of your comfort zones in this way cultivates personal growth.

Gaining Resilience

In the face of academic challenges, students in honors programs develop the ability to persevere, adapt, and ultimately succeed despite challenges during the process.

“Nearly all of our students have expressed that completing their honors project gave them a deep sense of accomplishment after overcoming any obstacles that they faced during the process,” Stehly says. A rigorous program leaves a sense of resilience and ability to face future challenges with confidence.

Are Honors Programs Worth It?

Being part of an honors program enables self-motivated students to get the most out of their college education. It involves deep diving into your chosen field and contributing your findings to a greater body of research.

Students become a “resident expert” in their chosen field, which often expands beyond the scope of the traditional curriculum. At Babson College, all undergraduate students —honors program included—have the benefit of graduating with a business degree .

If that’s something that resonates with your goals and aspirations, an honors program may well be worth it.  

Journal of Further and Higher Education

About the Author

Alexandra Koktsidis has a background in journalism and copywriting, and over a decade of professional writing experience. She is based in the Boston area. 

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  1. APA: how to cite an honors thesis [Update 2023]

    honors thesis citation

  2. APA Citations for a Thesis or Dissertation

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  3. How to Cite a Thesis in APA: 8 Steps (with Pictures)

    honors thesis citation

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    honors thesis citation

  5. How to Cite a Thesis or Dissertation in APA

    honors thesis citation

  6. How to Cite a Thesis or Dissertation in MLA

    honors thesis citation


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  1. How to cite an honors thesis in APA

    For 21 or more authors include the first 19 names followed by an ellipsis (…) and add the last author's name. Year of publication: Give the year in brackets followed by a full stop. Title of the honors thesis: Only the first letter of the first word and proper nouns are capitalized. Publication number: Give the identification number of the ...

  2. How to cite an honors thesis in MLA

    To cite an honors thesis in a reference entry in MLA style 9th edition include the following elements: Author (s) name: Give the last name and name as presented in the source (e. g. Watson, John). For two authors, reverse only the first name, followed by 'and' and the second name in normal order (e. g. Watson, John, and John Watson).

  3. PDF Writing and Defending an Honors Thesis

    The structure and specific sections of the thesis (abstract, introduction, literature review, discussion, conclusion, bibliography) should be approved by the student's faculty advisor and the Honors Council representative. The thesis should have a title page, as described in the preceding paragraphs (section II.1.10). 2.

  4. Honors Theses

    An honors thesis should replicate—on a smaller scale—the appearance of a dissertation or master's thesis. So, you need to include the "trappings" of a formal piece of academic work. For specific questions on formatting matters, check with your department to see if it has a style guide that you should use.

  5. How to Cite a Thesis or Dissertation in APA

    Citing a published dissertation or thesis from a database. If a thesis or dissertation has been published and is found on a database, then follow the structure below. It's similar to the format for an unpublished dissertation/thesis, but with a few differences: Structure: Author's last name, F. M. (Year published).

  6. How to Cite a Thesis or Dissertation in MLA

    Citing a Thesis or Dissertation. Thesis - A document submitted to earn a degree at a university.. Dissertation - A document submitted to earn an advanced degree, such as a doctorate, at a university.. The formatting for thesis and dissertation citations is largely the same. However, you should be sure to include the type of degree after the publication year as supplemental information.

  7. Honors Thesis

    An honors thesis typically takes two academic years to complete. Students who successfully complete and defend an approved honors thesis and fulfill the requirements below will earn the Research Citation in Honors: Complete 9 credits of honors coursework, which must include at least 3 credits of HONR 4990 Independent Study.

  8. How to cite an honors thesis in Chicago

    To cite an honors thesis in a reference entry in Chicago style 17th edition include the following elements:. Author(s) of the thesis: Give first the last name, then the name as presented in the source (e. g. Watson, John). For two authors, reverse only the first name, followed by 'and' and the second name in normal order (e. g. Watson, John, and John Watson).

  9. Thesis Style and Formatting

    Style Guides When preparing your honors thesis and citing sources, follow the style guide that is most appropriate to your field of study. For example: Modern Language Association (MLA) style - common in the humanities American Psychological Association (APA) style - common in the social sciences Chicago style - common in history Check with your faculty supervisor before choosing a style.

  10. Honors Project Style Guide: APA

    Guidelines for formatting the written portion of senior honors projects. Formatting guidelines in this guide include APA 7, Chicago 16, and MLA 8. ... Writing your thesis (3rd ed.). Sage. In-text Citation: (Oliver, 2014). Narrative In-text Citation:

  11. Published Dissertation or Thesis References

    The same format can be adapted for other published theses, including undergraduate theses, by changing the wording of the bracketed description as appropriate (e.g., "Undergraduate honors thesis"). Include a URL for the dissertation or thesis if the URL will resolve for readers (as shown in the Miranda and Zambrano-Vazquez examples).

  12. PDF Honors College Thesis: Hand Book and Guidelines

    "body of knowledge" relevant to your Honors thesis. The literature you cite should draw on both earlier and current scholarly work. For proposals in the arts and humanities, include several journal sources and academic book(s). For proposals in the social sciences and sciences, include primary sources, review articles, and academic book(s).

  13. How to cite an honors thesis in Harvard

    To cite an honors thesis in a reference entry in Harvard style include the following elements:. Author(s) of the honors thesis: Give the last name and initials (e. g. Watson, J.) of up to three authors with the last name preceded by 'and'. For four authors or more include the first name followed by et al., unless your institution requires referencing of all named authors.

  14. Honors Thesis

    The formatting requirements in this guide apply to all Schreyer Honors theses. Please follow the thesis templates provided below: Standard Template LaTeX Template. ... An honors thesis manuscript should replicate the appearance of professional writing in your discipline. Include the elements of a formal piece of academic work accordingly.

  15. Honors Thesis Format

    Thesis format The Honors program encourages candidates to format their thesis following a journal in their field. Most journal websites will have Instructions for Authors that provide detailed formatting guidelines. The thesis should include the following sections with separate headings. Except for the title page, all the text should be double spaced, with a font size of 12.

  16. Thesis Format

    Thesis Handbook and Formatting Guide. 1. A useful handbook for formatting the Honors thesis can be found here and at the button at the top of this page. Of particular benefit are the checklist on the second page and the examples of properly formatted pages found in the appendix. This document also contains information on the overall thesis ...

  17. Thesis

    Formatting your completed thesis. All Honors College theses include these sections, arranged in the following order: Title Page. The title page will include the following: thesis title, your name, the semester in which you are giving your oral presentation, and your advisor's name, department, and college. Advisor Signature Approval Page

  18. H o n o r s T h e s i s Fo r ma t t i n g G u i d e l i n e s

    Click 'Paragraph' on the function ribbon at the top of the document , and click the ' ¶' symbol. 2. Move the cursor to the beginning of the 'Section Break' on the page you wish you delete, then click 'fn' + 'Delete', simultaneously. 3. If the page is still not deleted, reach out to [email protected] and ask for ...

  19. Thesis

    Formatting the Thesis Project. Visit the Thesis Formatting Guidelines page for detailed formatting instructions. This page includes information on the thesis project, how to format the final document to Honors Program specifications, submitting the final copy, and (if desired) ordering professionally bound copies for your own use.

  20. Honors Requirements

    Honors citations are different paths you can take in the Honors College. You may pursue one or both of the citations below. ... Complete and successfully defend an approved honors thesis. Achieve a cumulative NSU GPA of 3.5 or higher at the time of degree conferral. Menu Honors in Major. Honors Transdisciplinary Studies Minor ...

  21. How to cite an honors thesis in AMA

    To cite an honors thesis in a reference entry in AMA style 11st edition include the following elements: Author (s) of the thesis: Give the last name, and initials of up to six authors (e.g. Watson J). For more authors only the first three are listed, followed by et al. Title of the honor thesis: Italicize the title and capitalize the first ...

  22. IST Honors Thesis Guide

    Undergraduate. Honors. IST Honors Thesis Guide. This guide is for students completing a Schreyer Honors College (SHC) thesis in the College of Information Sciences and Technology. Additional requirements and information can be found in the SHC Honors Thesis Overview. If you have questions, ask your honors adviser or your thesis supervisor.

  23. Formatting Your Thesis

    Each Thesis Project must include a one-to-two paragraph abstract. This is a thumbnail overview of the Project. For a traditional academic thesis project, it should typically include a statement of the problem, a brief description of the methodology used and the argument advanced, the nature of the proof or evidence, and the conclusion.

  24. Honors Thesis Formatting

    Below is a list of style requirements that the Honors Committee will be looking for in the thesis. The student and his/her thesis director should check the thesis for these requirements prior to submitting it to the Committee for approval. The specifics of these guidelines are outlined below. The text is double-spaced in a standard font, such ...

  25. Honors Theses

    The research honors thesis proposal within the bench sciences should include the cover page, headings for the table of contents and abstract, the introduction, literature review, methodology, and references. The finished honors thesis should include all of the required sections listed below.. Cover Page with the student's title, the student's name and university name

  26. What A College Honors Program Is All About

    Honors programs typically result in the writing and presenting of a senior thesis or capstone project. A few senior thesis examples from Babson College's honors program students include: ... The best honors programs will provide more than just a title or graduation citation. Several benefits come with being part of an honors program.