National Collegiate Honors Council


Date of this Version



The Honors Thesis A Handbook for Honors Directors, Deans, and Faculty Advisors (2014), Mark Anderson, Karen Lyons, and Norman Weiner. National Collegiate Honors Council Monograph Series. Lincoln, NE.


Copyright © 2014 by National Collegiate Honors Council.


Writing the honors thesis is arguably the most rewarding undertaking of a student’s undergraduate educational experience, the capstone for honors work as well as undergraduate studies. A thesis or creative project in a discipline introduces students to the world of scholarship and professional activity in a way that no single course, either semester-long or even year-long, can. In-depth work—whether a laboratory experiment, as it might be in the sciences; hands-on research or experience, as it might be in the social sciences or pre-professional fields; intensive analysis unearthing ideas or following new lines of thought, as it might be in the humanities; a creative performance or exhibition, as it might be in the arts; or an interdisciplinary exploration of a topic that brings together a number of fields—means that students’ original ideas and critical thinking can lead them to new paths of knowledge and understanding. This experience is why some honors educators consider honors thesis work to be the essence of an honors education, and why, in many departments and at many institutions, the honors thesis, rather than honors courses, truly defines the honors experience.

For many students, the value of the thesis is located not just in the product, the thesis itself, but also in the thesis process. Many cherish the personal relationship they develop with their thesis advisor and appreciate the many ways, from conceptualizing and structuring thesis work to establishing interim goals and deadlines, that their faculty mentors helped them during the thesis process. Students typically discuss the ways in which their thesis work deepened and enriched their understanding of a specific topic, but they are equally outspoken about the personal value of the process; the ways their thesis work gave them an insight into their own abilities; how they learned to overcome obstacles, setbacks, and limited resources; the importance of time management; and the necessity for constantly honing their thinking and writing skills.

In the basic faculty advisor/student relationship for thesis work, we find both the paradigm for advanced independent student work and the model for faculty mentoring and structuring this process. This handbook is intended to enlarge the scope of that paradigm to assist honors programs and colleges in creating and structuring manageable, rewarding, and worthwhile experiences for everyone involved.