Frequently Asked Questions about the Honors Thesis

Why should I do an honors thesis?

The honors thesis is intended to give you an opportunity to complete your own, authentic, scholarly or creative work. This is different from a typical “school assignment” because you choose the topic, design and carry out the project, and make all decisions regarding the work. Your thesis chair serves as an advisor and consultant, rather than dictating the work to be done to you. Although this may seem daunting, it is a great opportunity for you to develop and improve skills related to your intended profession, or in an area of significant interest to you, with the close guidance of a dedicated team of experts—your thesis chair and committee. This experience should help you to get into your chosen professional or graduate school, find a job and excel in your chosen profession. Many employers and admissions committees hold the honors thesis in high regard. It is also a tangible example you can offer to demonstrate your skills and talents. Some students even use the honors thesis as the basis for work they will continue in graduate school, business or future employment.

How long will it take to complete my thesis?

This depends entirely on you and your committee. In general, it will take at least a semester of dedicated work to complete your thesis. However, many students work on the thesis over a longer period, sometimes a year or more. For this reason, we highly recommend that you begin working on the thesis in your junior year.

I’m afraid to get started and as a result, have been procrastinating. What should I do?

For most students, getting started is the hardest part of doing an honors thesis. See the steps above and concentrate on completing them one at a time, rather than allowing yourself to get bogged down worrying about all the steps at once. If you are really stuck, come in to the honors college and discuss your concerns with an advisor. Many students find it helpful to write out a tentative timeline for completing each step.

I heard that the thesis is supposed to be at least 50 pages (or 100 pages or 200 pages...) long. Is this true?

No! There are no requirements regarding the length of your thesis. The thesis length is dictated by the professional norms of your particular field of study. Ask your thesis committee what they think is reasonable. In most cases, the written thesis is 20 to 40 pages long. Don’t worry about trying to reach a particular length, however. Quality, not quantity, is what matters in an honors thesis.

Does the thesis need to be completed in my major program of study?

No, you may complete a thesis in any area of interest to you.

What can I expect from my thesis chair?

Your thesis chair should be willing to meet with you and should help you to refine ideas for your project and should give you substantive feedback on your progress in a timely manner. The chair should treat you as an advisee, or a collaborator, not as an employee or a student completing a specific class assignment. Your thesis chair should help you to identify clear milestones, deadlines and due dates for your project.

What can I do to make sure I have a productive relationship with my thesis chair?

You should plan to meet with your thesis chair often. We recommend setting up regularly scheduled meetings (once a week, bimonthly or at least once a month). Of course, you should show up for these meetings and be prepared for them. You should do your best to meet deadlines that you and your thesis chair set for your project. If you get stuck, you should ask questions and let your thesis chair know that you are having difficulties—this is not the time to cancel meetings and avoid making eye contact with your thesis chair when you run into them at BIGGBY. You should think creatively and be proactive, recognizing that this is not just another class assignment—it’s your thesis! It is up to you to define the project and to be an active participant in the work. You should also take advantage of your whole committee—seek their expert guidance and feedback along the way, not just when it is time to turn in the final thesis.

What’s the deal with HNRS 4990?

At present, HNRS 4990 does not count as an honors class and is not required. However, you may wish to take HNRS 4990: Honors College Thesis to formalize your relationship with the thesis chair, to get additional WMU credit or simply as a way to formally dedicate time in your schedule to your thesis project. If you choose to take HNRS 4990, you and your thesis chair should fill out the HNRS 4900 formsign it and turn it in to Debra Gambino or Anthony Helms, who will enroll you in the course.