The honors thesis is a time-honored tradition in the Lee Honors College. It is an opportunity for you to demonstrate to yourself and others the knowledge and skills you have developed during your undergraduate studies and honors experience. The general purpose of the thesis is to create a capstone work that reflects the expertise you have developed in your major field of study or interest. Historically, the thesis has been considered a traditional research project. It is still the case that a majority of students follow this format and produce research-oriented papers that range from 20 to 40 pages.
Because of the wide variety of programs offered by WMU, the Lee Honors College expanded the definition of the thesis and now invites and encourages honors students to explore their creative instincts throughout a range of projects. We welcome students to consider projects based on internships or foreign study, and to create visual or musical performances. For example, two students majoring in education did an original study of the elementary school environment in Scotland. Another student, a creative writer, wrote a 600-page novel. Musicians have performed recitals for their thesis. In short, you are encouraged to do any topic of interest that fulfills your inquisitive needs as well as the professional requirements for your field of study. You may visit our online collection in ScholarWorks to view samples of recent theses and a list of titles going back 40 years.
Step one: Selecting a thesis topic
Typically, the majority of students begin to think seriously about their thesis project one year prior to their expected graduation date (nursing and education majors need to begin planning even earlier). Students are encouraged to consider a project that is of interest to them from their coursework, reading, and study abroad or internship experiences. Another suggestion is to think about how the thesis might be useful to you when applying to graduate or professional schools or in applying for employment. Since this work is a showcase for your abilities and talents, it is wise to choose something of intellectual depth and breadth, but you should consider its practical uses as well.
Step two: Choosing your mentor and committee
Once you have selected an idea, even a tentative idea, for your project, it is necessary to identify and select a thesis mentor and committee. Think of your faculty mentor and committee as advisors and facilitators for your project. Your thesis mentor needs to be a full-time member of the WMU faculty. Consider selecting a faculty member with whom you have worked, either in class or on some other type of project. Make an appointment to talk to your prospective mentor about your idea and to ask if he or she would be willing to work with you. We have provided a letter to thesis mentors for you to print and take with you to the appointment. In the overwhelming majority of cases, the mentor will agree. They will also help you select the other members to serve on your committee. It is always a good idea to get to know your professors early so they will be familiar with you and inclined to help. If you have questions about an appropriate mentor, please send a query to Dr. Andreadis.
Step three: Planning and organizing your thesis
You and your committee are responsible for the planning, organization and completion of the thesis. We suggest that you develop a project schedule with your mentor that includes meeting times and a general time line for getting the work completed. In the semester prior to starting the thesis, you must complete and submit the thesis declaration form to the honors college (see below).
If your project involves the research of people or animals, you must contact the Human Subjects Institutional Review Board at (269) 387-8293. This is vital to the approval of your thesis. If you write a thesis that needs HSIRB approval, and you have not received it in advance of beginning your research, the thesis is invalid and must be destroyed. This is a federal regulation, not one of the University or the honors college. Only HSIRB can make this determination. It would be wise to consult with your mentor about this when you begin to discuss the thesis topic.
Thesis declaration form
This form requires just a few lines of basic biography, a thesis topic and one or two lines of general description of your thesis. The form must be signed by your mentor before you turn it in (due dates are posted on the form). You may come to the office as often as necessary to change the topic of your thesis. We need the final title only when we prepare your thesis defense certificate (see below). Should your graduation date change, you must notify the honors college and change the date on your thesis declaration form.
Final due dates
- Fall 2012: Oct. 19
- Spring 2013: Feb. 22
- Summer 2013: April 22
If you take HNRS 4990: Honors College Thesis, you and your mentor must fill in the second page of the form and sign it. Then bring the form to Debra Gambino, academic advisor, who will enroll you for the course.
Please note: we do not recommend that you take HNRS 4990. It is not in any way required. This course does not count for an upper level honors requirement.
Defense certificate form
This should be completed when you have set a date with your committee for your presentation and defense. Please bring in the completed form to the Lee Honors College office at least four business days before your examination date and we will prepare the necessary signatory pages for you.