Composing and completing your thesis

Stage 4 supports you through selecting your thesis committee, writing your thesis and preparing for your defense. This stage has three parts: preliminary steps to prepare for the writing process, stage 4 tasks focused on writing, and final steps towards completion. Because so much work is required in this stage of the process, it typically takes three terms to complete. You must complete Stage 4 no later than the term you graduate. If you have questions, please contact your HC academic advisor.

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

Preliminary Steps

PS 1: Research compliance proposal (or exemption)

PS 2: Review the literature

PS 3: Conduct research

PS 4: Select your thesis committee

Stage 4: Compose & Complete Tasks

(either enroll in HC 408 Thesis/Stage 4: Compose & Complete, or complete the tasks independently)

Task 1: Write a full draft of the thesis

Task 2: Create a poster to present your thesis publicly

Final Steps

FS 1: Prepare the Examination Copy of your thesis

FS 2: Defend your thesis

FS3: Submit your approved thesis

Preliminary Steps

In preparation for the two main Stage 4 tasks, you will complete four Preliminary Steps (PS 1-4). Preliminary steps are typically completed at least two terms prior to degree completion.

PS 1: 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 proposing research activities requiring 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

PS 2: 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 consult Data and Digital Repository Librarian Steve Van Tuyl about copyright law.

PS 3: Conduct research

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

PS 4: 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 tenure track at OSU (such as associate professor, professor, or emeritus professor). Review our Finding a Mentor page.

Stage 4 Tasks

You have two options for writing support in Stage 4 for drafting and finalizing your thesis for presentation, defense, and submission.

Option 1

Register for HC 408 Thesis: Stage 4- Compose & Complete


Option 2

Complete Stage 4 tasks independently

Task 1: Write a full draft of the thesis.

Begin by writing a rough draft that brings the sections of your project together and allows your committee to see your progress as well as provide feedback. The content of the rough draft and how many revisions are to be made are determined by you and your mentor.

It is critical during the drafting process to give yourself plenty of time to follow recommended writing techniques, including “cool-downs” and targeted proofreading.

  • Cool-down: disengaging from a draft for a few days or weeks, to help you mentally transition from composing to editing. This break makes it easier to spot and correct weaknesses.

  • Targeted proofreading: editing your work in layers, focusing attention on one aspect of revision at a time. In the first round, read to edit content only; in the next round, organization only; in the next, formatting only; and in the final round, edit for grammar and mechanics.

Throughout the process, work with your mentor to determine what revisions need to be made for the final draft of the thesis. You can utilize the Graduate Writing Center for additional help. Schedule a Writing Center appointment

Task 2: Create and submit a poster to present your thesis publicly.

All graduates are required to prepare a poster for public presentation. Those completing their Honors degree in spring term are required to present their poster at the HC Thesis Fair. This event, held every spring term, is an opportunity to show off your work on campus and to the general public. Please follow the criteria outlined in the HC Thesis Fair Poster Printing Specifications. Among other important requirements, the poster must:

  • display your name, your mentor’s name, and the project title
  • be 48 inches wide and 36 inches high.
  • fit in a 4-foot area (including additional materials)
  • be designed to hang on a wall (no tri-fold displays).
  • be of professional caliber, while also communicating clearly to a layperson.
  • submit a pdf of the poster to the Honors College

Use the video tutorial for design assistance. The Student Multimedia Service team provides free personal design consultation and printing of the poster. Photos from previous Thesis Fair events can also be found on the HC photo gallery.

All poster displayed at the Thesis Fair will be judged by faculty in three categories (engineering; science; or humanities, social science, and business). One poster in each category will be selected to receive the Outstanding Thesis Poster of the Year award with a cash prize!

For 2019, the Thesis Fair will be held Friday, May 31st from 11:30am to 1:30pm in the Learning Innovation Center. (Posters will be on display beginning Wednesday May 29th thru Friday May 31st)

Submit your poster PDF

Final steps

Whether you drafted your thesis in HC 408 or worked independently, there are a few more required steps.

FS 1: Prepare the Examination Copy of your thesis.

Once you have revised your draft in consultation with your mentor (see Task 1), prepare an examination copy. The examination copy should conform to all the formatting requirements of the Formatting Your HC Thesis page, except that: it is not bound, and does not contain signatures. Send one copy to each committee member at least ten days before your defense.

FS 2: Defend your thesis.

The thesis defense is a validation and celebration of your contribution to shared knowledge. It should take place well in advance of the deadline for turning in your thesis, to allow for final revisions and submitting the thesis between the defense and the due date. You may decide to invite friends and family or have a closed defense with only your committee present. Consider attending an open defense to experience one for yourself, or watch this HC student's defense video.

  • Schedule the Defense: In coordination with your committee members, schedule a two-hour session. Identify a day, time, and location convenient for everyone, noting technology and accessibility needs. To reserve a room in the HC, please contact the Honors College office (keep in mind that space is limited). To reserve a room in the Valley Library, your major department, or elsewhere, contact the appropriate administrator directly.

Notify the HC of your scheduled thesis defense

  • Prepare for the Defense: Carefully review the Thesis Defense Agenda Template and use it to create your own agenda for committee members. Organize a brief presentation of your thesis work and be prepared to answer questions from all in attendance. Bring the HC Thesis Submission Approval Form for the committee to approve your thesis at your defense.
  • Day of the Defense: Defending your thesis is not as stressful as some students anticipate; above all, it is a celebration of your efforts. Please note that nearly every thesis needs revision after the defense. Upon conclusion of the examination portion of the defense, the thesis committee will recommend either: pass, fail, or recess the examination until a later date. Alternatively, the committee may recommend a conditional pass if relatively minor modifications to the thesis or project are necessary.  
  • Submit the Thesis Self-Assessment Survey. In this brief survey, you are asked to rate your own ability to accomplish the outcomes established for the HC Thesis. Your feedback is valuable for ongoing evaluation of the Honors College thesis process

FS 3: Submit the thesis.

Submit HC Thesis Submission Approval Form to the HC advising office (LInC 450) by 5 pm on the Friday of Week 10. Submission of the PDF of your thesis to Scholar's Archive is also due by 5 pm on the Friday of Week 10. These are absolute deadlines; you will not graduate with the Honors Baccalaureate diploma without submitting a completed thesis. If you are not able to submit your thesis by this deadline, you can push graduation back a term.

  • Formatting: The HC does not provide guidelines for formatting the body of your thesis. Follow the style guide of your discipline to format the text of your thesis. However, there are specific requirements for formatting the pre-text pages, including the flyleaves, abstract, copyright page, title page, and signature approval page. Refer to our Formatting Your HC Thesis page and templates.
  • Electronic Submission: Submit one PDF file of your thesis, without the signatures, electronically to Scholar's Archive. The Honors College follows the Undergraduate Thesis Submission Instructions within the ScholarsArchive@OSU research guide. Please refer to this guide for assistance. In brief, you will (1) use Adobe Acrobat, (2) name the file: Last name, First name, Middle initial, and Graduation year – in this format: EdisonThomasA2014, (3) Create " Accessibility Tags" utilizing the Accessibility Submission Guide to include Descriptive Properties, and Language Properties, and (4) choose Creative Commons License or No Creative Commons License. You will now need to submit an HC Thesis Submission Approval Form after you upload it to Scholars Archive. We no longer require submitting a bound thesis, it is now optional. 
  • Optional Printing & Binding: For those who wish to submit their thesis to the Honors College thesis library, follow the HC Bound Thesis Printing Specifications for specific requirements for printing and binding the thesis. Please follow these guidelines precisely as an improperly produced thesis will require reprinting and rebinding.

“Turning in [my honors thesis], I feel like I’ve accomplished something I never thought I would, and I am excited for the next challenge. I feel prepared.”
-Irene Ridgway, Honors College Class of 2003