Date of this Version
Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council, Vol. 17, No. 2 (Fall/Winter 2016).
A recent study of honors curricula across the nation indicates that 75.6% of honors programs and colleges at four-year institutions have thesis or capstone requirements (Savage and Cognard-Black). In addition to institutions with thesis requirements, many more also have the option for students to complete theses. For example, an earlier study found that 94.3% of honors colleges offered the opportunity to complete an honors thesis (Sederberg). As Anderson, Lyons, and Weiner indicate, the origins of the honors movement in the United States included an emphasis on the completion of an honors thesis. While discipline-based modes of research and creative scholarship are the most common, alternatives to the traditional thesis rooted in experiential education have also been encouraged (Gustafson and Cureton). In short, the honors thesis in its several forms is an established element of honors education. Despite the centrality and prevalence of the honors thesis requirement, however, little research has been conducted to understand the preparation that students should have in order to write a thesis.
Expectations for honors theses are generally high and often approximate the level of rigor one expects from masters-level students. Unfortunately, many students complete these projects without specific coursework to prepare them for projects at this level of rigor. A growing number of scholars have advocated for courses and curricula to provide students support as they develop honors theses (Anderson, Lyons, and Weiner; Coey and Haynes; Levinson and Mandel). While the arguments for these courses are strong and some report positive evaluations of these courses, there is scant empirical evidence for the success of such courses. This study draws on data from nearly four hundred students over a six-year period to demonstrate the effectiveness of curricular models in supporting students’ completion of honors theses.