Honors Thesis FAQs
The School of Politics and Global Studies Faculty Honors Associates are here to help with your honors thesis planning. Please reach out to the faculty listed below with any inquiries. The frequently asked questions below covers topics such as developing a thesis topic, finding an advisor, as well as simpler and more straightforward issues.
SPGS Honors Associates
POS Honors Advisors
SGS Honors Advisors
What is the thesis requirement, again?
Typically, a thesis involves (i) writing a long paper (35-40 pages is fairly representative, though the details are worked out with your supervisor; see below); (ii) developing a creative project (e.g., photography, filmmaking, music, etc.); or, (iii) some combination of the above. While plenty of students do write an extended academic essay, there is nothing wrong with choosing to do otherwise, and the Barret thesis repository includes some great examples.
How long ahead should I plan?
Typically, it is a good idea to identify when you would like to defend your thesis, and plan backwards. For instance:
a. If you want to defend in spring of your senior year, which many do, you should start thinking about a topic late in sophomore/early junior year, and approach potential supervisors sometime in Junior year. This will give you time to work on a research plan, get some feedback, and potentially take other steps that will be of help (e.g., if you plan to carry out interviews, for example, this will take some planning). This means planning early is a very, very good idea.
b. Since many faculty members will be far more willing to work with you if you have already taken their course(s) that are relevant to your topic, starting early on a topic means you can also select courses to help prepare for your thesis. This also makes topic development less stressful.
Do I have to wait until senior year?
No. Increasingly, plenty of folks start earlier than this, because they wish to graduate early, or would like to defend their thesis before starting their final semester (or year). For example, folks have started the process in Spring semester, leaving summer and fall to complete the work.
How do I find a thesis supervisor?
If you are unsure of where to begin, get in touch with us, or with a faculty member with whom you’ve taken at least one upper-division course. They are happy to help you with the first steps in the process.
As noted above, generally faculty will be more willing to work with you if you have taken one or more of their courses. So, reaching out to people whose courses you took, along with your Honors Advisors, is a good way to start.
How does the process work?
There is no one method here; everyone has their own approach to supervision. Generally, though, your supervisor will want to read some drafts and/or hold meetings to assess your progress. They will want to see how the research/experiments/film/photos are coming along and will provide guidance re: how close you are to completing the work.
When do I defend?
Your thesis supervisor will tell you when your work is ready to defend. Generally, you will not be allowed to defend unless your work is ready (i.e., your thesis is strong enough, and your supervisor has clearly communicated any possible issues).
What is a defense like?
As in so many other cases here, there is no one answer to this question. Typically, though, you might be asked to give a talk on your thesis topic, covering how you decided upon this topic, what you found or concluded, challenges you faced, and the like. Your committee will then ask you questions, and perhaps ask people in the audience for questions.
Once this is done, your committee members will ask everyone to leave the room, and they will decide whether you passed and what revisions, if any, are to be made. They will then call you back in to discuss.
Can I carry out fieldwork/primary research for an honors thesis?
Yes, and plenty of folks have. Depending on what you plan to do, you may need to request IRB approval before you start. Your supervisor will guide you through this.
Anything else I need to know?
Working on a thesis project is difficult, but it can also be a lot of fun. You get to dive into a topic that really interests you and potentially discover that you really want to know more about your topic.