Prior to Senior Year:
- Start thinking about possible topics and faculty members to work with you. Speak with your professors regarding their research interests and current research projects to see if there is an area or aspect of their current research you wish to expand upon. Students usually elect to work within their major, but you may wish to engage in an interdisciplinary thesis. In this case, you must show proficiency in both fields and find a faculty member who will direct your thesis as an interdisciplinary work.
- Speak to other students about their projects. Even if they are not working in your discipline, they will be the best source for understanding the process from your side.
- Look at other Honors Theses. The MD Anderson Library and The Honors College have copies of previous theses from your department. You should look at as many in your field as you can in order to understand the level of work that is expected, and to see how previous students have conducted their theses. Theses are also available online.
- Approach faculty members for advice. The first faculty member you speak with may not be able to direct your thesis, but should be able to give you feedback about your topic and help you find someone who can be your advisor. The beginning of the project is often exploratory; the more people you can speak with about it, the better the process will go.
- Ask a faculty member to direct your thesis. Once you have some idea of what topic you wish to pursue, ask a faculty member to direct your thesis. If the faculty member has not directed a thesis before, the Office of Undergraduate Research and The Honors College can provide faculty guidelines and answer questions.
- Complete the Verification of Eligibility (Form 1) and (for most majors) a General Petition Form (Form 2). Under normal circumstances, the Director of Undergraduate Studies in your department (not your thesis advisor) will certify your eligibility to begin a thesis project. Return this form to the Office of Undergraduate Research. Regarding the General Petition Form, if this form is needed, select "#17. Other" and ask your thesis director to sign the form as your Advisor/Instructor. In the Explanation section write: “Please enroll me into the Senior Honors Thesis hours for [your major]. This form goes to your departmental academic advisor.
ATTENTION ENGLISH MAJORS: First step for all English majors is to complete the English Dept. Thesis Director Form and submit it to the English Advisor, 205 Roy G. Cullen Building.
- Enroll in 3399H (or equivalent) “Senior Honors Thesis” course in your major. (Interdisciplinary theses will be designated as HON 3399H.) The section number will be available from the Director of Undergraduate Studies in the department of your major once you have completed the forms above. Some departments require thesis students to complete the prospectus and prospectus form before enrolling in the thesis course. Please confer with your departmental academic advisor fore more information.
- Write a prospectus. A typical prospectus is a 3-5 page document, and includes a brief bibliography. The prospectus is meant to help you narrow the focus of your project before you begin the work. It is essential to narrow the topic to a manageable size. Students who take on a project that is too large in scope often have trouble finishing. Moreover, remember, the prospectus does not reflect finished work; some aspects of your thesis may change as you complete the project. However, if you make changes to your thesis, show the changes in an updated version of the prospectus. The prospectus should serve as a contract or plan-of-action for your thesis.
- Find a second reader within the field. Your first reader should be able to help you identify a second reader. The second reader will need to approve your prospectus and then read the final version of your thesis for the defense.
- Submit the prospectus and the Prospectus Approval (Form 3) to your thesis director and second reader for their signatures, and then to the Office of Undergraduate Research. Submission of Form 3 is due by the first day of the semester beginning the thesis program, but submitting this paperwork earlier is highly recommended. Once the first and second readers are both satisfied with the prospectus, the Office of Undergraduate Research will review the prospectus and assign a third Honors reader to serve on the committee. You are notified via email when the Honors College chooses an Honors reader to serve on your committee.
- Before beginning your first semster of the thesis program, here is a helpful checklist to review with your thesis director.
First Semester, Senior Year:
- Create a plan for the various stages of the project, including deadlines. Your faculty advisor should be able to help you devise a timetable and determine reasonable expectations for your work within the given time periods. It is essential that you adhere to the timeline that you create for completion. This will keep you on track and ensure you complete the project in time to meet the binding deadlines set by your college.
- Begin (or continue) writing/research. Remember that the Honors Thesis is a major time commitment and you must begin early if you expect to finish on time.
- Seek help when needed. Remember not to let yourself be overwhelmed.
- Toward the end of the first semester, register for 4399H (or equivalent) “Senior Honors Thesis” course in your major. For most majors, this means you will need to complete another General Petition Form, select "#17. Other" and ask your thesis director to sign the form as your Advisor/Instructor. In the Explanation section write: “Please enroll me into the Senior Honors Thesis hours for [your major]. This form should go to your departmental academic advisor.
- Typically, your thesis director will assign you an “IP” or in progress grade for the first semester thesis course.
Second Semester, Senior Year:
Continue writing. Keeping the project manageable often involves dividing it up into smaller parts. Be sure you are meeting with your thesis director regularly to stay on task.
Eight weeks before graduation:
- Give your advisor a rough draft of the thesis. At this point in the process, your advisor can help you shape your thesis into the draft you will present to your readers for the oral defense.
- Schedule an oral defense. Find a time that is convenient for all of your readers, ideally several weeks before graduation and before the binding deadline set by your college. The oral defense will be your major opportunity to get feedback from your readers before submitting the thesis to the dean’s office. Your readers may demand some revisions, so be sure to schedule enough time to make those changes before the binding deadlines. If you wish to have your defense in one of the Honors College seminar rooms, they can be reserved in advance through the Office of Undergraduate Research.
One to two weeks before the oral defense:
All readers should be given a copy of the version you wish to defend. Download an appropriate number of Defense Evaluation Forms as well as a copy of the Final Evaluation Form to bring with you to your defense.
At the Oral Defense:
- Most commonly, you will give a presentation or narrative about your project and then respond to questions from each of the three readers. Should your committee members approve it, we encourage you to invite your peers, mentors, and guests to your defense.
- When you successfully pass the defense, the instructor of record (your thesis director) will submit grades for both 3399H and 4399H.
Immediately after final revisions and at least a week before your college's binding deadline.
Prepare the final copy for binding according to your college’s binding requirements and deadlines. When the Dean’s Office approves the final version of your thesis, a member of the Honors College will notify the Office of the University Registrar. The appropriate honors designation will then be added to your official transcript.