College of Natural Science and Mathematics
A Senior Honors Thesis in an experimentation-based discipline typically arises from close collaboration with a faculty member on an existing research project. Ideally, you will identify a significant aspect of that research and craft a smaller project representing your own work. The thesis should include an introduction explaining the relevance of your work to the broader field of study, a brief literature review, pertinent explanations of all technical innovations and processes, and an appropriate representation of results achieved. On average, the thesis will be between 30-60 pages.
Timeline and Forms
- Prior to senior year
- One year before graduation
- First semester, senior year
- Second semester, senior year
- Eight weeks before graduation
- Oral defense
- Thesis binding
PRIOR TO SENIOR YEAR:
Start thinking about possible topics and faculty members to work with. Speak with your professors regarding their research interests and current research projects to see if there is an area or aspect of their current research you wish to expand upon. Students usually elect to work within their major, but you may wish to engage in an interdisciplinary thesis. In this case you must show proficiency in both fields and find a faculty member who will direct your thesis as an interdisciplinary work.
Speak to other students about their projects. Even if they are not working in your discipline, they will be the best source for understanding the process from your side.
- Look at other Honors Theses. The MD Anderson Library and The Honors College have copies of previous theses from your department. You should look at as many in your field as you can in order to understand the level of work that is expected, and to see how previous students have interpreted the form of the Senior Honors Thesis. Download the library call number form to find out where your department's theses are located at the MD Anderson Library.
Approach faculty members for advice. The first faculty member you speak with may not be able to direct your thesis, but should be able to give you feedback about your topic and help you find someone who can be your advisor. The beginning of the project is often exploratory; the more people you can speak with about it, the better the process will go.
One Year before graduation:
Decide on a general topic. Students usually elect to work within their major, but you may wish to engage in an interdisciplinary thesis. In this case you must show proficiency in both fields and find a faculty member who will direct your thesis as an interdisciplinary work.
Ask a faculty member to direct your thesis. Once you have some idea of what topic you wish to pursue, ask a faculty member to direct your thesis. If the faculty member has not directed a thesis before, the Office of Undergraduate Research and the Honors College can provide faculty guidelines and answer questions.
Complete the Verification of Eligibility (Form 1) and (for most majors) a General Petition Form (Form 2). Under normal circumstances, the Director of Undergraduate Studies in your department (not your thesis advisor) will certify your eligibility to begin a thesis project. This form must be returned to Dr. Jenn Asmussen at the Office of Undergraduate Research, room 212W in The Honors College, MD Anderson Library. At this time you will indicate whether you are eligible for “Honors in Major,” “University Honors,” or both. The “University Honors” designation is awarded to students undertaking interdisciplinary theses and to those who will graduate as members of the Honors College. Regarding the General Petition Form, if this form is needed, select "#17. Other" and ask your thesis director to sign the form as your Advisor/Instructor. In the explanation section write: “Please enroll me into the Senior Honors Thesis hours for [your major]. This form should go to your departmental academic advisor.
Write a prospectus. A typical prospectus is 3-5 pages in length, and should include a brief bibliography. The prospectus is meant to help you narrow the focus of your project before you begin the work. It is essential to narrow the topic to a manageable size. Students who take on a project that is too large in scope often have trouble finishing. And remember, the prospectus does not reflect finished work; some aspects of your thesis may change as you complete the project. However, if changes are made to your thesis, the changes should be reflected in an updated version of the prospectus. The prospectus should serve as a contract or plan-of-action for your thesis.
Find a second reader within the field. Your first reader should be able to help you identify a second reader. The second reader will need to approve your prospectus and then read the final version of your thesis for the defense.
Submit the prospectus along with the Prospectus Approval (Form 3) to your thesis director and second reader for their signatures, and then to Dr. Jenn Asmussen in room 212W in the Honors College. It is recommended that this is submitted by the end of the semester prior to beginning the project. It must be submitted no later than the start of the semester you are beginning the project. Once the first and second readers are both satisfied with the prospectus, the Office of Undergraduate Research will review the prospectus and assign a third Honors reader to serve on the committee. Dr. Asmussen will notify you via email when an Honors reader has been chosen to serve on your committee.
First Semester, Senior Year:
Enroll in 3399H (or equivalent) “Senior Honors Thesis” in your major. (Interdisciplinary theses will be designated as HON 3399H.) The section number will be available from the Director of Undergraduate Studies in the department of your major once you have completed the Verification of Eligibility Form (Form 1) and a General Petition Form.
Create a plan for the various stages of the project, including deadlines. Your faculty advisor should be able to help you devise a timetable and determine reasonable expectations for your work within the given time periods. It is essential that you adhere to the timeline that you create for completion. This will keep you on track and ensure you complete the project in time to meet the binding deadlines set by your college.
Begin (or continue) writing/research. Remember that the Honors Thesis is a major time commitment and you must begin early if you expect to finish on time.
Seek help when needed. Remember not to let yourself be overwhelmed.
Second Semester, Senior Year:
Register for 4399H (or equivalent) “Senior Honors Thesis” in your major. For most majors, you will need to complete a General Petition Form. If this form is needed, select "#17. Other" and ask your thesis director to sign the form as your Advisor/Instructor. In the explanation section write: “Please enroll me into the Senior Honors Thesis hours for [your major]. This form should go to your departmental academic advisor.
Continue writing. Keeping the project manageable often involves dividing it up into smaller parts. Your thesis director will notify the Office of Undergraduate Research of your progress.
Eight weeks before graduation:
Give your advisor a rough draft of the thesis. At this point in the process, your advisor can help you shape your thesis into the draft you will present to your readers for the oral defense.
Schedule an oral defense. Find a time that is convenient for all of your readers, ideally several weeks before graduation and before the binding deadline set by your college. The oral defense will be your major opportunity to get feedback from your readers before binding your thesis. Your readers may demand some revisions, so be sure to schedule enough time to make those changes before the binding deadlines. If you wish to have your defense in one of the Honors College seminar rooms, they can be reserved in advance through the Honors College office
One-two weeks before the oral defense:
All readers should be given a copy of the version you wish to defend. Download a copy of the Defense and Final Evaluation Form to bring with you to your defense.
At the Oral Defense:
Most commonly, you will give a presentation or narrative about your project and then respond to questions from each of the three readers. Should your committee members approve it, we encourage you to invite your peers, mentors, and guests to your defense.
When you successfully pass the defense, the instructor of record (your thesis director) will submit grades for both 3399H and 4399H.
When the final version of the thesis is bound and submitted to the Office of Undergraduate Research, a member of the Honors College will notify the office of Records and Registration, and the appropriate designation, University Honors (for interdisciplinary theses), Honors in Major, or University Honors and Honors in Major will be added to your official transcript.
Immediately after final revisions and at least a week before your college's binding deadline:
Prepare the final copy for binding according to the NSM binding & formatting guidelines; Sharonda Glass is your contact from NSM.
THESIS BINDING DEADLINE:
The deadline for submitting a defended thesis to the NSM Office of Academic Affairs is 12 p.m., Friday, April 27, 2018.
Senior Honors Thesis NSM students who are prepared to submit their thesis for review for final approval should bring a copy to the Office of Academic Affairs, in SR1, Room 202, between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. For guidelines on how to prepare and submit your thesis, please review the Instructions for Formatting your Senior Honors Thesis and Procedures for Submission to the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics handout. Contact Sharonda Glass with any questions.
Please Note: All UH theses must be maroon with gold etching on the bound cover. The University Copy Center is aware of the UH requirements for bound theses.
Contacts for Assistance in Completing a Senior Honors Thesis
UH Writing Center - provides writing instruction and advice to UH students
Office of Undergraduate Research - offers information on senior honors thesis program; answers general questions regarding deadlines, regulations, and other logistical matters; assigns Honors reader to thesis committee; contact person is Dr. Jenn Asmussen, 713-743-6433
MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers (6th edition) - covers the mechanics of writing, such as punctuation, quotation, and documentation of sources
Strunk and White's The Elements of Style (4th edition) - outlines the principles of composition, grammar, word usage and misusage, and writing style