Table of Contents


Mentor FAQs for beginning the thesis:
What constitutes an Honors Thesis?

The goal of the thesis is to engage honors students in a direct and participatory learning experience. The Honors Thesis is a baccalaureate-level thesis, not merely an extended term paper. Think of it as similar in process to a Master’s project but at a level appropriate to undergraduates. Similar components are required (e.g., scholarly contribution grounded in current literature, preparation of a written thesis, defense of the thesis, participation of a thesis committee). The depth and extent, however, are not as great as one would expect for a Master’s thesis.
The projects may be traditional research projects, a creative project, or a service-oriented exercise that is conceptually grounded in key concepts of a body of knowledge. The projects may be within a discipline or interdisciplinary. Team projects are acceptable though individual theses are required.
Most students do a research/literature review appropriate in their discipline, and offer a recommendation/thesis statement in part based on that knowledge. We encourage students to understand the expectations of research in their discipline before beginning their project and to shape the project accordingly.

When should mentors and students submit the thesis proposal?

As soon as possible. It is important to submit a proposal, even if the project is still in the early stages of development. We understand that the project will evolve, and we see the proposal as reflecting an early, rather than a final, stage in the project’s evolution. If you and the student are not yet ready to determine the broad strokes of the project, discuss and set a mutually agreed upon deadline for completing the proposal.

What should mentors and students discuss at the beginning of the thesis project?

Review the agreement and timeline in the submitted thesis proposal with your student. Knowing your student’s desired thesis completion date and expectations will help you guide the student to timely completion. Keep in mind these firm deadlines:

  • The examination copy of the thesis must be distributed to thesis committee members at least ten days before the scheduled defense.
  • The final PDF version of the thesis must be submitted to the ScholarsArchive no later than 5pm on Friday of Week 10 in order for the student to graduate that term.

You and your student will also need to understand the university's Institutional Review Board (IRB) requirements. Thesis research that involves surveys, interviews, or other kinds of human subject research must be approved by IRB. Before submitting an IRB proposal, verify that you are eligible to serve as a Principal Investigator (PI) and are familiar with the associated responsibilities.

What is my time commitment?

It is difficult to give a precise answer to this question, as it depends on the nature of the project, your mentoring style, and the needs of the student. Thesis projects typically progress through 2-3 terms. You and your student may choose to meet weekly, or more or less frequently depending on the stage of the project and your student’s needs. As the defense nears, you will need to make time to provide guidance on the written document itself, including some editing and suggestions for revision as needed.

How does a student turn a group project into an Honors Thesis?

In some areas, such as many engineering disciplines, group projects are common and perfectly acceptable by HC standards, provided that the HC student is integral to the project and provides the unique contributions necessary for a thesis, and that the student’s individual contribution can be written as a thesis. If the thesis has had multiple contributors, the student must identify their contributions within the written document. While the student may have a cooperative or even published project as their Honors Thesis, the proper format for the thesis is still required. in an acceptable thesis format.

Mentor FAQs for making progress on the thesis:
How can I best support my student?

Regular and consistent communication around your expectations and the project timeline will ensure that your student is making progress toward completion. It is up to you to determine whether and when your student is ready to defend the thesis.

What elements are required in the thesis, and what citation style should be used?

The HC relies solely on the thesis mentor and committee members to determine what elements are required in a thesis/project relevant to the discipline. Style and citation should follow the disciplinary standard (e.g., APA, IEEE, MLA, etc.).

What about students working on a creative project?

Regardless of the nature of the project, the HC thesis always requires a written component. Students producing original creative or artistic work will write a thesis that documents the process, research, outcomes, aesthetic intentions, etc., associated with creating that work, and/or places the work in a larger cultural, historical, scholarly, or critical context.

How do thesis credits work and how should I assign a grade?

Students are required to complete a minimum of 3-6 credit hours toward their thesis (the equivalent of 1-2 courses). For each individual credit, a student should expect to spend a total of 3 hours per week on the project.
Students sign up for undergraduate research credits in your department under the course number 401, 402, 403, or 406, so that the department gets credit for the student credit hours generated and the student’s transcript shows the discipline of their work. Research can be graded either as P/N or A-F. (Students may have a preference if the credits are supporting other degree requirements.) When assigning a grade, you can take into consideration the student’s level of effort and initiative, the quality and originality of the work, and any other factors relevant to completion of the thesis. If research credits are not available in your department, confer with your unit head to determine whether a course could be created. When no other option is available, students can sign up for Honors Thesis credit (HC 401 or HC 403).

Who can serve on an Honors Thesis Committee?

A three-person committee is required (larger committees are optional) consisting of a mentor and two other committee members. The HC has what we refer to as the “2/3 rule.” The mentor and one other committee member must be professorial faculty (assistant professor, associate professor, professor of research/practice/clinical) or senior instructor (I or II), while the third member may be anyone the mentor considers an expert (e.g., post doc, research associate, clinical professor, or community-based expert such as a physician or practitioner of a profession). The mentor has approval responsibility for the third committee member; the HC will not be involved in deciding whether the third member meets any set of criteria. Should the third person be a faculty member at another institution or otherwise be located away from campus, they must still participate in the thesis defense in person or via telephone conference or Zoom.

Mentor FAQs for preparing for the defense:
How does the Honors Thesis defense work?

Thesis defenses are typically scheduled in two-hour blocks, with the defense itself taking about 90 minutes. Students usually take the lead in finding a time and location that works for all committee members. Students are also responsible for notifying the HC when the defense has been scheduled.
If the defense is open, any interested parties may attend the presentation portion. Only the student and the committee are present for the examination portion. The student is excused during committee deliberations.
A typical defense proceeds as follows:

  1. The mentor calls the room to order and introduces the student to those in attendance
  2. The student presents a summary of the thesis in no more than 30 minutes
  3. The mentor invites the public to ask questions (for an open defense)
  4. The mentor dismisses all but the committee members and student
  5. The committee asks the student questions
  6. The student is then excused while the committee confers
  7. The student is invited to return to the room and is told of the committee’s decision and provided with necessary changes, corrections, and feedback

Upon conclusion of the examination portion of the defense, the thesis committee may recommend: (a) pass, (b) fail, or (c) recess the examination until a later date. The committee may also recommend a conditional pass if relatively minor modifications to the thesis or project are necessary.

Does an HC representative need to be present for the defense?

Students are welcome to invite HC staff members if they wish, but an HC representative does not need to be present at the defense.

What is the Honors College’s “thesis external communication requirement,” and do I have to help my student fulfill it?

All Honors College students are required, as a part of Stage 4 of the thesis process, to present their thesis research to an audience of non-experts. This external communication requirement can be satisfied in one of three ways: by participating in an Undergraduate Research Showcase, presenting research at the in-person Honors College Thesis Fair, or uploading a thesis presentation to the online platform Symposium. While your student may ask you for advice or guidance as they prepare to describe their project to a larger audience, you are not expected or required to oversee or assess their efforts. 

What is the process for submitting the final thesis?

Students must follow all the formatting requirements of the pre-text pages (title page, abstract, copyright, and signature page) as outlined on the HC thesis website. <link>
Once corrections mandated by the committee at the defense are made, the student will upload a PDF of their thesis to the ScholarsArchive. The committee and mentor will receive the HC Thesis Submission Approval form through DocuSign to record their acceptance of the student’s work. The DocuSign will be sent to the committee member and mentors via email.  Please support the timely completion of your student’s approval by encouraging the committee to respond to the DocuSign fully and promptly. 

Contact Info

Honors College
Learning Innovation Center 450
Oregon State University
Corvallis, OR 97331