Honors students are bright and intellectually curious, and many write pretty well. By the time they begin an honors thesis or project, most are also well-motivated. But most of them have never done a major project like a thesis before.
Students who complete the thesis say that it’s the most rewarding experience of their academic lives - and the scariest. They’re scared because they don’t think they’re prepared for it; because they can’t imagine any academic project that takes this much time; because they've never done original research or creative work before; because they have no experience working closely with faculty; because they've never had to be this thorough and meticulous before; because they've never been taken this seriously before; because they know it’s a tremendous amount of work; and because the amount of work is almost unimaginable to them.
In addition, while some students are good at budgeting their time and meeting deadlines, many aren't so good. And most of them really understand or appreciate how much time and effort a thesis will take. In short, they need all the support and guidance that faculty can give them. They’re capable of doing outstanding work, but they need help and prodding along the way.
Some faculty members may feel that bright students can do an honors thesis or project more-or-less on their own - coming up with their own topic, their own research approach, their own analysis - rather like graduate students. But it’s important to remember that these aren't grad students; they don’t have the training or the time to do a mini-master’s. To create and complete an honors thesis or project, they need a lot of help from their faculty mentors. Students and faculty need to work closely together, developing ideas, during the research or creative process, and writing the thesis. The thesis must be an ongoing, collaborative process between the student and his or her mentors.
There are some guidelines that the faculty mentor can use to make the thesis or project experience beneficial for all involved:
While all these guidelines are useful throughout the entire process, each seems to be most applicable during a different stage in the process, so they’re listed here in the order they’re most likely to be needed.
We would like to thank the National Collegiate Honors Council for providing the information on this page.