Proposing a thesis project

Stage 3 will support you through selecting a mentor and project, along with writing a thesis proposal and formalizing project plans with your mentor. In this stage you may begin to ask:

  • What project is right for me?
  • Which mentor is the best fit for me?
  • How will I balance such a large project with my other responsibilities?
  • What makes my project a thesis?
  • What resources are available to help fund my research?

In this stage, you select a thesis project and mentor, and then submit a mentor-approved Thesis Proposal, Agreement & Timeline to the HC. You will also begin your research by reviewing literature, conducting research, and selecting thesis committee members. You might also consider applying for the Honors Experience Award to help fund your research. You should complete Stage 3 at least three terms prior to graduation. You will receive occasional reminders to complete Stage 3 until you have done so. If you have questions, please contact your HC academic advisor

If your plan has changed and you need to update your Thesis Map, see the Thesis Map update.

Option 1

Register for HC 408 Thesis: Stage 3: Commit

After Spring 2022 we will not be offering a credit-based HC 408 Stage 3 course, we’ll be supporting you in Stage 3

with workshops and other opportunities beginning Fall 2022.  More information and details will be posted in early Fall 2022. 


Option 2

Complete Stage 3- Commit tasks independently


Task 1: Select a thesis mentor and research topic or creative project.

Having had conversations with several faculty researchers, it’s time to identify your preference and request that he or she serve as your mentor. Please review our Finding a Mentor page for more details. The faculty member will consider his or her availability and willingness to dedicate significant time to your project. If your mentor has never served as an HC thesis mentor before you may want to share the Exploring How to Become an HC Thesis Mentor handout. Additionally, share the Thesis Mentor Guidelines and a template of the Thesis Proposal, Agreement & Timeline with your mentor at this time. Here is an example of a thesis proposal from the College of Science. Please connect with your thesis mentor or HC academic advisor should you have questions about formatting your proposal in disciplines outside the College of Science. If your mentor has additional questions or concerns, they can contact Associate Dean Susan Rodgers at [email protected].

By now, you have also explored areas of academic interest and are ready to address a specific topic through research. Though the topic is likely to be within your major, this is not an HC requirement.

Research compliance proposal (or exemption)

As explained in the Explore & Build section, training and compliance are required for all research activity. According to OSU’s Office of Research Integrity, this office “ensures compliance with ethical and legal responsibilities in research involving live vertebrate animals, biosafety, chemical safety, scientific diving and boating, radiation safety, [and] human subjects…”

You, with guidance from your thesis mentor, are responsible for obtaining approval from the appropriate committees if proposed research activities require oversight. Approval must be obtained before any research activity begins and may take about ten weeks. Plan ahead!

Depending on which committee has oversight, you may be expected to submit an application, protocol, consent forms, test instruments, and so forth.

Activity Committee to Contact
Human Subjects OSU Institutional Review Board (IRB)

Live Vertebrate Animals

OSU Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC)

Recombinant DNA molecules, Transgenic Plants or Animals, and/or Infectious Agents of Plants, Animals, or Humans

OSU Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC)

Ionizing Radiation

OSU Radiation Safety Committee (RSC)

Chemical Carcinogens

OSU Chemical Safety Committee (CSC)

Scuba, Free Diving, and/or Small Boating Operations

OSU Scientific Diving and Small Boating Programs



Task 2: Write a formal thesis proposal with a student-mentor agreement.

This document is called the HC Thesis Proposal, Agreement & Timeline. It is more comprehensive than a typical thesis proposal, so please follow the HC guideline rather than other resources. It includes an expectations agreement and a timeline to completion, both negotiated with your mentor. Clear communication and an agreed on timeline are key to a smooth thesis experience. Your proposal is an essential component towards a clear, identifiable, and manageable project with a realistic timeline and coherent path toward completion.


Task 3: Submit your Thesis Proposal, Agreement & Timeline.

COVID-19 FAQ My mentor and I have completed the HC Thesis Proposal, Agreement, and Timeline, but how do we sign it and submit it?

You must submit your Thesis Proposal, Agreement & Timeline online for the HC’s official record. You and your mentor will sign the digital or paper copies. Keep one signed copy to upload to the HC. Please note that only the mentor will approve a proposal - the HC will not issue a separate approval of your project.

If changes are made after submitting the Proposal, Agreement & Timeline, please keep the following in mind:

  • Minor changes should be approved by your mentor but do not require revision of the documentation on file with the HC.
  • Major changes, such as choosing a different topic or mentor, require you to submit a new Thesis Proposal, Agreement & Timeline to the HC.

Once your proposal has been submitted and approved you are ready to begin your research in consultation with your mentor.


Task 4: Getting Started

Every thesis project is unique, and it’s impossible to offer a comprehensive guide that will serve everyone. Discuss the process for getting started on your research or creative work with your mentor, and keep in mind the following:

Review of the literature

  • Every project requires a lot of reading. Early on, read the published literature related to your topic, usually starting with the last five years. Read critically to identify the trends, debates, and unanswered questions that will set the context for your own project.
  • Copyright permission: Assume that any material from other sources used in your thesis, including text, pictures, musical compositions, charts, and cartoons are copyrighted. You need permission to include them in your thesis. To determine whether you must obtain written permission from the copyright owner, fill out the Fair Use Documentation. Please contact Michael Boock.

Conduct research

  • Depending on your project, this may involve carrying out experiments and/or gathering all materials, sources, and other knowledge to formulate conclusions.

Selection of your thesis committee

  • With input from your thesis mentor, invite two additional faculty members (or experts in the appropriate field) to form your full thesis committee. Remember the 2/3 rule: the committee must include at least two people who are professorial faculty (assistant professor, associate professor, professor of research/ practice/ clinical or emeritus professor) or senior instructor (I or II) at OSU. Review our Finding a Mentor page.


Once you are ready to synthesize your literature review and research you are ready for the writing stage.  Stage 4: Compose and Complete can support you along that path.


Honors Experiential Awards

Honors Experiential Awards support thesis research or related experiences such as travel to academic or professional conferences. Honors Experiential Awards can be paid as scholarships or as reimbursements or direct bills to the Honors College for equipment and supplies. Honors College students may apply for one $1,000 experiential award each year they are enrolled in the HC. Awards are not guaranteed and are evaluated on the impact of the funds and the proposed experience on applicant's long-term plans and educational goals. Important Note: Students may only apply during terms in which they are registered for classes.

“[By completing a thesis] I will be able to put myself above other candidates who have research experience when I apply for graduate school.”
Patrick Ramsing, Honors College Class of 2011