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.
Students who have made the decision to complete a senior thesis/project should read this section carefully before beginning the thesis and should refer to it often during the three semesters of thesis work.
This section contains detailed explanations of various steps of the thesis process, beginning with the selection of an advisor and topic and continuing with writing a proposal, conducting the research, writing the thesis (or preparing the project with accompanying essay, etc.), selecting the oral defense committee, preparing the final product, defending the thesis, and submitting the final, revised copies.
All students who are members of the Honors College are eligible to complete a Senior Honors Thesis. Please note that in order to earn Graduation with Honors, a 3.5 cumulative GPA is required at graduation.
If you are not currently a member of the Honors College but are interested in completing a Senior Honors Thesis, you may apply for admission for the purposes of completing a Senior Honors Thesis. Students should apply for admission in their third semester prior to graduation. Information on admission to the Honors College is available by visiting http://www.kent.edu/honors/apply.
Students should begin planning to complete a thesis or project early in their academic endeavors. While a senior thesis/project does not necessarily follow a strict timetable, students who plan accordingly are less likely to encounter great difficulties.
Below is a typical timetable for the completion of the work. Students who adhere closely to this timetable should not run into great difficulties. Students who need significant changes in their thesis timeline due to competing obligations (study-away semester, student teaching, etc.), should be sure to work closely with the thesis coordinator.
- Research potential topics
- Attend a Thesis Information Meeting
- Identify and select an advisor
- Discuss registration for the Thesis Proposal Preparation semester with your Honors advisor
- Enroll in Thesis Proposal Preparation Semester
- Attend required workshops and meetings
- Narrow topic
- Begin preliminary research
- Develop methodology
- Create a reading list
- Submit the thesis proposal to the Honors College (Due the first day of finals week)
- Meet with adviser regularly (every two weeks) to discuss work in progress, issues/challenges, readings, etc.
- Complete most of the research and writing of the thesis
- Select the oral defense committee
- Submit a progress report to the thesis coordinator at the conclusion of the semester
- Select a time and place for the oral defense
- Attend a thesis progress meeting
- Make any corrections to the thesis
- Prepare for the thesis defense
- Prepare final manuscript and submit to OhioLink ETD
The Thesis Advisor
All theses must be formally directed by a full-time member of the Kent State University faculty in an appropriate discipline and defended before a committee of the faculty. Co-advisors are permitted if necessary. 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. In another case, a student might have a double major—e.g., French and International Relations—and might wish to do the thesis in such a way that both areas are covered, perhaps writing the thesis in French but on an international relations topic. In such a case, co-advisors would be essential. In general, however, the student chooses a single advisor in his/her major discipline and, with the help of that advisor (and the Honors staff, if necessary), judiciously chooses the remaining members of the oral defense committee.
The advisor should be not only a person quite knowledgeable about the area the student wishes to explore but also one with whom the student has a reasonably good working relationship. In some cases, the student may know the general topic he or she wishes to explore and will search for an advisor who is an expert on that topic; in other cases, the students may wish to work with a particular advisor, whatever the topic, and will ask that person for guidance in selecting a specific topic. Many faculty members, understandably, will not take on the direction of a thesis/project for a student whom they have not had in class or have not directed in previous independent study. Some advisors will allow the student wide choice of topic; others may prefer that the student join their own ongoing research project.
Cautionary Note: Students must stay in close contact with the thesis advisor during the research and writing process. No more than two weeks should pass without contact between a student and advisor—in person, by phone, or e-mail—regarding progress on the thesis/project. The advisor is not (or should not be) a person who comments occasionally and signs off on a finished project but a person who truly advises and directs the student’s work. Students should always keep in mind that independent study is understood to be GUIDED independent study. Students should remember, too, that the faculty advisor is responsible for evaluating the final product of the research or creative work and must sign off on the completed work by assigning a letter grade and by actually signing the oral defense report and the approval page in the thesis itself.
Choosing a Topic
As indicated in the preceding section, some students start with an idea, others start with an advisor. Some students select a topic about which they are curious and desire to know more. Others are motivated less by a personally attractive topic than by the apprenticeship opportunity in a team doing cutting-edge research, where the topic is already well defined. Either way, at the heart of the thesis or creative project is the motivation to learn. Even if the topic has been fairly well defined by others, the student will have to learn enough about it to write the thesis proposal in her or his own words. If the student is initiating the topic, the advisor will help refine it for the proposal. A research topic should not suggest merely a synthesis of information, a sort of glorified research paper. Good topics do require background knowledge, but they should focus on an interesting question or problem that can be approached analytically, not just descriptively. 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.
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 essay that steps back from the work to consider it intellectually. This analytical essay should include influences and processes along with the project's contribution to the scholarship in the discipline. For examples of these types of essays, refer to past projects in the Thesis Archive related to your discipline.
The Proposal Preparation Semester
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). During this proposal preparation semester the student and faculty advisor will work together to narrow the thesis topic, write the proposal, and create a reading list. The student will be 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 states clearly our expectations for the proposal and outlines in detail those workshops listed above (see example on page 25). Student attendance at these workshops is mandatory and the student will not be registered for the remaining thesis hours if s/he cannot demonstrate satisfactory completion.
At the end of this semester, the student should be prepared to submit a polished proposal. More information on the thesis proposal is provided later in this section.
The Thesis Proposal
The thesis proposal is a formal document that sets forth the parameters of the intended work. Some care, therefore, should be given both to its content and its appearance. The proposal should be literate (i.e., no sentence faults or misspelled words), it should have substance, and it should be neatly presented. A thesis proposal should consist of four or five well-written paragraphs and should include a reading list.
It should reflect a carefully thought-out approach to the subject with sufficient elaboration to enable the advisor, the thesis coordinator, and the Honors dean to know just what it is the student intends to do. Sometimes a student will write a carefully-constructed paragraph describing the experiment he/she plans to carry out but will give no point of reference or framework that will allow the reader to see this project in a larger context. A related but opposite problem is writing a detailed and clear background statement and never getting around to stating what the actual thesis will entail.
In rare cases, students may wish to work together on a joint thesis/project. Each student must still submit a separate proposal, and it must indicate the justification for collaboration and, as precisely as possible, the separate responsibilities of each person. The oral defense may be done separately or together, whichever is more appropriate.
Credit Hours & Registration
The minimum number of credit hours for the Thesis/Project is four (4); the maximum is six (6). Two of our Graduation with Honors categories (University and General) require six hours of independent study, at least four of which must be thesis; and the third category (Departmental) requires hours of upper-division Honors work in the major, of which four must be thesis. If the thesis is done for fewer than six hours, therefore, the source of the remaining hours should be documented on the proposal form (BFA hours, for example).
Students begin their thesis research with a 1 or 2-credit-hour Individual Honors Work registration (HONR 30096) during the proposal preparation semester. The remaining hours are spread out over the two semesters of the senior year as the student wishes, registered as HONR 40099, BSCI 40099, CHEM 40099, or PHY 40099. Some colleges have limits on “non- traditional” coursework and include thesis credits in this category.
Thesis credit hours count toward the 39 or 42 upper-division hours required for graduation and as general elective hours. In some cases, by petition, they may count as major electives. Students must discuss this matter with the appropriate department or school representative (usually the chair/director, assistant chair, or undergraduate studies chair), who will then notify the degree-granting college. The Honors College strongly endorses such use of the credit hours and will provide written recommendations upon request.
Registration for the thesis/project hours may not be done in a single semester.
In certain cases, credit earned for a significant final project in the major may be applied to required thesis hours (currently for students in art, fashion design, interior design, architecture, nursing, and theatre/dance).
Students should see the thesis coordinator if there are circumstances which may require changes to the standard thesis registration process (study away semester, student teaching, etc.).
Students earn one letter grade (A, A-.B, etc) for the entire 6-credit-hour thesis. The letter grade is assigned by the faculty advisor once the thesis is completed and successfully defended.
The proposal preparation semester and the first semester of thesis hours both get an IP at the end of semester. Once the letter grade is assign, the thesis coordinator will work with the faculty member to change those IP to the appropriate letter grade.
Please note: The Thesis Proposal Preparation Semester is meant to provide students with the opportunity to explore a thesis topic while not yet committed to the full six credit hours. In the instance that a student may discover during this semester that he or she does not wish to commit to the thesis, the proposal preparation semester will be treated as a smaller independent study experience and graded appropriately. The faculty member will determine what the student needs to submit for that grade.
Students registered for actual thesis hours (HONR 40099, BSCI 40099, CHEM 40099, or PHY 40099) can earn a grade only for completed thesis work.
A progress report is due at the end of each semester or summer term prior to the semester in which the thesis is finally completed and defended. The report need not be long. However, it should summarize in as much detail as necessary what has been accomplished and what is yet to be completed in relation to the original proposal and should explain and justify any shifts in emphasis that have occurred. The report should be signed by the student and the thesis advisor and should be submitted to the Honors College by the end of final exam week.
Students are also required to attend progress report meetings each semester prior to the final semester.