A successful thesis requires a viable proposal, goal-setting, time management, and interpersonal skills on top of the disciplinary skills associated with your intended area of honors. This guide will walk you through the thesis process.
Planning a Senior Honors Thesis/Project
Students should begin planning to complete a thesis or project early in their academic endeavors.
Selecting a Topic
Some students start with an idea, others start with an advisor. A good thesis topic should be well-aligned with a student's interests, the faculty advisor's expertise, and the discipline for which the student is seeking a degree.
A good topic requires background knowledge but should also focus on an interesting question or problem that can be approached analytically, not just descriptively. A creative project should evoke hard thinking about the work to be done in its context of tradition and practice, and it should include an analysis in which students consider the work intellectually.
Above all, the topic must be realistic—that is, the student must be able to complete it satisfactorily in the semesters planned for the thesis. A topic that is too broad will not allow you to say something significant and interesting about it. A topic that is too ambitious may prevent timely graduation. Feasibility is a criterion for approval of a thesis proposal.
Selecting an Advisor
All theses must be formally directed by a full-time member of the Kent State University faculty in an appropriate discipline. The thesis advisor serves as a student's mentor throughout the entire process and also as the committee chair for the Oral Defense Committee.
Co-advisors are permitted if necessary, especially for students who wish to approach the thesis/project from an interdisciplinary perspective. A student with a history major, for instance, might wish to do a thesis that deals with the literary trends of a particular historical period (e.g., the Restoration or the French Revolution). In such a case, the student could have a primary advisor from History and a co-advisor from English.
Preparing the Proposal
Students planning a thesis will be registered for the 1 or 2 credit-hour Thesis Proposal Preparation during the semester before their senior year (spring of junior year for those in a traditional four year program). The goal of this semester is to permit the student and faculty advisor the ability to work together to narrow the thesis topic, write the proposal, and develop a reading list. Students are required to attend a series of workshops during the semester that offer assistant with library resources, Writing Center services, and Honors College expectations.
The thesis student and the faculty advisor will sign a contract at the beginning of the semester that outlines the expectations for the thesis proposal. Attendance at these workshops is mandatory, and students who fail to demonstrate satisfactory completion will be prohibited from registering for additional thesis credit hours.
Writing the Proposal
The thesis proposal is a formal document that sets forth the parameters of the intended work that should reflect a carefully thought-out approach to the subject with sufficient elaboration to enable the advisor, the thesis coordinator, and the Dean to fully understand what you intend to accomplish. A proposal should be four to five paragraphs that includes the following:
- Identification of a Research Question or Objective:
- Rationale/Significance: Explain why your project is important. Explain what original contributions you hope to make beyond the existing work reviewed above. Explain the relevance of your project to the previous research in this subject area.
- Background/Literature Review: Explain the status of work in this field. Explain what other scholars or artists have accomplished in this area to date.
- Proposed Methodology: Explain how you will proceed. Explain how you will collect and analyze your data or materials. Explain how you will interpret your results. This is an extremely important section of the proposal. It is imperative that it be detailed and well constructed. Timetables, schedules, and budgets (where appropriate) are helpful.
- Preliminary Bibliography/Reading List: Include any references cited in the proposal and any important works that you expect to use during your research.