Main Content

Overview of Departmental Honors Thesis

Eligibility and registration

Undergraduate students who complete an honors thesis (HON 494 and HON 495) will receive Departmental Honors from the Department in which this work was completed. This award is presented at the University Honors Convocation at the end of the spring semester. Completion of the Honors Thesis includes 1) submission and approval of the thesis prospectus during the semester the student is enrolled in HON 494; and 2) completion of the final thesis document and successful thesis defense during the semester the student is enrolled in HON 495. Students may begin the thesis process during either the fall or spring semester.

All University faculty are eligible to serve as Thesis Advisors to students who are pursuing Departmental Honors. Faculty receive 0.5 load credits for each thesis course (HON 494, HON 495). The student selects a Thesis Advisor from the Department in which they are pursuing Departmental Honors. The Thesis Advisor should have expertise in the content area the student plans to pursue and availability to mentor the student through the two-semester thesis experience. Most Thesis Advisors hold weekly meetings with their thesis students throughout both semesters.

The Departmental Honors process is initiated by completion of the HON 494 application (available on this website). The application should be completed during the semester prior to enrollment in HON 494 as this document requires the student to collaborate with their Thesis Advisor to develop a brief description of the proposed project. The latest possible date for submission of the HON 494 application is the end of the add/drop period for the semester in which the student intends to enroll in the course. The application requires signatures from the student, Thesis Advisor, Department Chairperson, and University Honors Thesis Committee (UHTC) Chairperson. Once the application is approved, the registrar will create a section of HON 494 for the student to register with their Thesis Advisor as the instructor of record. The student will be notified by the registrar once this section is available for registration. During the second semester of the thesis experience, the student registers for HON 495, Departmental Honors, provided that the honors prospectus was approved. The student registers for the 495 course with the permission of the chairperson of the University Honors Thesis Committee.

All students, whether or not they are in the Honors College, are eligible to apply for Departmental Honors, provided they have a 3.0 overall grade point average, with a 3.2 in the department in which they intend to become a candidate. All Students who are seniors in the Honors College are required to become candidates for departmental honors in order to remain in the College. Any uncertainty about a student's eligibility should be resolved by the Dean of the school representing the department of which the student is pursuing Departmental Honors.

At the beginning of the semester, the chairperson of the UHTC sends a letter to all Department Chairpersons asking for names, mailing addresses and email addresses, and student ID numbers of candidates for Departmental Honors; thesis titles; and the names of Thesis Advisors. After receiving this information from department chairpersons, the UHTC chairperson sends (via email) a letter to each candidate, explaining the next steps that need to be taken. The thesis sponsor receives a copy of this letter and the calendar of deadlines.


Students will select the members of their thesis committee in consultation with their Thesis Advisor. The thesis committee must have a minimum of 3 members. Two members must be from the department in which the student is receiving Departmental Honors. If the student is graduating from the Honors College, at least one member must be from the Honors College faculty list (see Honors College website for a complete list of honors college faculty). The Honors College faculty member can serve in a dual role as one of the committee members listed below or serve as an additional member on the committee. Each thesis committee must consist of:

1) Thesis Advisor who serves as the instructor of record for HON 494 and HON 495;

2) University Reader who reads and approves the thesis prospectus during the semester the student is enrolled in HON 494, reads the final thesis document and attends the thesis defense during the semester the student is enrolled in HON 495;

3) Second Reader who reads the final thesis document and attends the thesis defense during the semester the student is enrolled in HON 495.

The Thesis Committee Form is due in early October for the fall semester or in early March for the spring semester.


The prospectus should be drafted by the student, reviewed carefully by the Thesis Advisor, and revised, if necessary, before it is submitted--in early October for the fall semester or early March for the spring semester--to the university reader. The University Reader has 10 days to make a decision to approve the prospectus or ask for revisions. All e-mail communication between the University Reader and the student should include a copy to the UHTC chairperson.

The approved honors prospectus and signature page is due in late October for the fall semester and in late March for the spring semester and to be submitted to the chairperson of the UHTC. Most prospectuses are 10 - 15 pages long, and contain a complete description of the student's project, including background literature that forms the context of the study, a statement of purpose or hypotheses, methodology, the nature of the evidence to be used, the limits of the study, and its significance.


Once accepted as a candidate, with an approved prospectus, the student should register for Honors 495. The permission for on-line registration is given by the UHTC chairperson only, not the department chairperson.

The student should work steadily on research and writing in order to complete the thesis by the March or November deadline. With the approval of the Thesis Advisor, the student should submit a complete draft to the Second Reader, University Reader, and any other committee members about a month before the deadline in order to receive critical comments from them and be able to revise or correct the thesis as indicated.


When the thesis is complete, the student distributes copies to the members of their Thesis Committee: the Thesis Advisor, the Second Reader, and the University Reader, all of whom approved the prospectus for the UHTC. If necessary, the student also distributes a copy to the representative of their department, and (if needed) a representative from the Honors College. One member of the Thesis Committee may represent two of these categories, but the committee must have at least three members.

The student is responsible for arranging a time and a place for the thesis defense meeting (approximately one hour long) before the student's Thesis Committee. At the end of the defense meeting, the committee's vote decides whether the student receives Departmental Honors.  The student must prepare two copies of the Thesis Defense Signature Sheet and obtain signatures at the conclusion of the thesis defense. The student submits one copy to the UHTC chairperson and saves the other copy for their records. Departmental Honors are presented at the Honors Convocation.  The date of the Honors Convocation is announced in the Spring Semester Schedule of Classes. The Thesis Advisor submits a grade to the registrar.  After successfully defending their thesis, students submit (1) unbound copy of the thesis to the secretary of the Honors College, ENB225.

Please direct all questions regarding Departmental Honors to Dr. Christine Petto Chair, University Honors Thesis Committee; History, EN C205B, Phone: (203) 392-5612; e-mail: