Thesis Mentor FAQs

Thank you very much for your interest in serving as a mentor to an Honors College student’s thesis! The thesis mentor is a central figure in the thesis process, and the student-mentor relationship has a significant impact on students’ undergraduate experiences and long-term plans. Faculty who have taken on this invaluable role in the past have appreciated the opportunity to work closely with an enthusiastic, dedicated and talented student, and it is important to us that the experience be positive for you, as well as for the student. The thesis is one of the main components of the honors curriculum, and, for many students, it is also one of the most rewarding and influential experiences of their undergraduate careers. The mentor-student relationship is one of the most important factors in the success of this process.
The information on this page is intended to let you know more about the mentor’s responsibilities and the thesis process. If you have any additional questions, please see the FAQs or contact us. We are here to help.

The HC has put together a Mentor Checklist with important deadlines and resources.  We recommend reviewing this checklist, even if you have mentored HC students in the past.
Mentor Qualifications and Recognition

To be mentor-eligible, faculty must be professorial faculty (assistant professor, associate professor, professor of research/practice/clinical) or senior instructor (I or II). Faculty not holding these positions must be approved by petition. The petition process involves a review of the petitioner's experience and qualifications as well as confirmation from the petitioner's supervisor that this responsibility would be an appropriate addition to their workload. Faculty who teach or mentor for the HC are listed on the HC Faculty & Mentor page
For projects involving surveys, interviews, or other human subject research, please be aware that the university’s Institutional Review Board (IRB) has specific requirements regarding who can serve as the Principal Investigator (PI). Based on appointment type, Emeritus, Affiliate and Courtesy Faculty may not be eligible. Contact [email protected] with questions.  


The Honors College requires all students to complete and defend a thesis in order to receive the Honors Baccalaureate degree. The goal of the thesis is to engage Honors students in a hands-on, participatory learning experience that allows them to see a scholarly project from inception through defense and presentation. The honors thesis project is much more than an extended term paper: think of it as more ambitious in scope and expectations while still appropriate to an undergraduate’s experience, time and abilities. The thesis can be a traditional research project, a creative work or a service-oriented exercise with a clear scholarly component. The projects may be within any discipline or interdisciplinary and do not need to be connected to the student’s major field of study. While combining the HC thesis with another senior project requirement or having an HC thesis be part of a larger team or research group project is allowed, keep in mind that the thesis is an individual project and the student needs to write and defend an individual thesis.
Bound copies are housed in the HC office, and theses since 2017 are also available electronically through the Valley Library Scholars Archive. Students upload a digital copy and complete a release form for open access upon submission of their final thesis.

The Thesis Process – TheSiS

The HC has a process called “TheSIS – Thesis Success in Stages,” designed to translate the thesis into a series of manageable steps and keep students on track. The four stages in TheSIS correspond roughly to a four-year college plan. 

  • Stage 1: Plan: All students are required to complete the one-credit HC 408: Stage 1 course in their first year. In this course, students become familiar with some of the research and creative activity happening at OSU, learn what a thesis is and chart a plan for completion.
  • Stage 2: Explore & Build: In this stage, students look more deeply at what research and creative work look like in various disciplines and interview a mentor-eligible OSU faculty member. At the completion of Stage 2, students should have identified a thesis mentor — or have several promising leads for a mentor — and a path forward.
  • Stage 3: Commit: This stage requires that the student write a thesis proposal outlining the thesis project in consultation with their mentor. 
  • Stage 4: Compose & Complete: The final stage involves completing thesis research, preparing thesis drafts, defending the thesis and fulfilling the external communication requirement. Students must also submit an electronic final copy of the thesis to Scholars Archive.

The HC TheSIS Guide provides links to resources, requirements, and important documents, such as a template for the thesis proposal. 

Thesis Proposal

The thesis mentor’s first official role involves shaping and approving a student’s thesis proposal. All students are required to submit an HC Thesis Proposal, Agreement, & Timeline to the HC.
Students are provided with the HC Thesis Proposal, Agreement & Timeline Template to assist with this process. Students upload this document to the Honors College once it is signed and approved by the mentor.

As you might expect, keeping a long-term timeframe in mind is a new experience for many undergraduate students. It is helpful to the student if you, as mentor, establish your expectations for regular meetings, writing schedules, progress reports and delivery dates early in the process. Involving the other two committee members at this stage is optional. 

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. We do not require a student to submit an updated proposal for minor adjustments, such as methodology adjustments, topic breadth, etc. The document provides students structure and a point of reference even as adjustments are made throughout the process. 
The proposal should be no longer than two pages and accompanied by an expectation agreement and timeline.

Please note: Research compliance requirements are changing rapidly and all Honors research must comply with mandates. The Research Office will provide particulars (contact [email protected]) and web-based courses are available in several areas. The OSU policy is that student research falls under the same guidelines as the rest of the university.
Thesis Committee

A three-person committee is required (larger committees are optional). The committee consists of the thesis mentor and two other committee members. The HC has what we refer to as the “2/3 rule.” The thesis 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); the third member may be anyone the thesis mentor considers an expert (e.g. post doc, research associate, community-based expert such as a physician or practitioner of a profession). The thesis mentor has approval responsibility. The HC will not be involved in deciding whether the third committee 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 may participate in the defense via Zoom.

Thesis Defense, Deadlines and External Communication Requirement

The thesis defense is comparable in form and process to a master's student defense but the content is clearly at an undergraduate level. The presentation portion is open to any interested parties, although the examination portion should be held with only the student and committee present. During the committee’s deliberations, the student is excused. We advise students that the presentation and examination take approximately 90 minutes, but we ask that the student and committee schedule and are available for two hours.

The thesis defense should be scheduled so as to permit time to make corrections to the thesis and upload the final document to the Scholars Archive by Friday of week 10 of the term that the student expects to graduate or complete their OSU requirements. Because of Registrar Office policies, this deadline is firm. Students should plan to defend no later than a week before the deadline to provide ample time for corrections and submission. Please convey to your student that the thesis submission deadline of no later than Friday of week 10 has no flexibility. Earlier submissions are acceptable, of course.

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.

Thesis Submission

While the nature of the project, standard style guidelines of the discipline and principles of consistency determine length and format, there are specific requirements for formatting the pre-text pages, including the flyleaves, abstract, copyright page, title page and signature page (without actual signatures).

Once corrections mandated by the committee at the defense are made, the student will upload a PDF of their thesis to the Scholars Archive. 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.