All Honors Students end their program with an Honors Thesis: a sustained, independent research project in a student’s field of study. Your thesis must count for at least 4 credits (some majors require that the thesis be completed over 2 semesters, and some require more than 4 credits). The thesis is an opportunity to work on unique research under the guidance of a faculty advisor. It often provides a writing sample for graduate school, and is also something you can share with employers to show what kind of work you can do.
What is an Honors thesis?
Most of your work in college involves learning information and ideas generated by other people. When you write a thesis, you are engaging with previous work, but also adding new knowledge to your field. That means you have to know what's already been done--what counts as established knowledge; what's the current state of research; what methods and kinds of evidence are acceptable; what debates are going on. (Usually, you'll recount that knowledge in a review of the literature.) Then, you need to form a research question that you can answer given your available skills, resources, and time (so, not "What is love?" but "How are ideas about love different between college freshmen and seniors?"). With your advisor, you'll plan the method you will use to answer it, which might involve lab work, field work, surveys, interviews, secondary research, textual analysis, or something else--it will depend upon your question and your field. Once your research is carried out, you'll write a substantial paper (usually 20-50 pages) according to the standards of your field.
What do theses look like?
The exact structure will vary by discipline, and your thesis advisor should provide you with an outline. As a rough guideline, we would expect to see something like the following:
2. Review of the literature
7. Bibliography or works cited
In 2012 we began digitally archiving Honors theses. Students are encouraged to peruse scholars.unh.edu/honors/ for examples in relevant disciplines. Older Honors theses are available in the Special Collections & Archives department at Dimond Library.
Will my thesis count as my capstone?
Most majors accept an Honors Thesis as fulfilling the Capstone requirement. However, there are exceptions. In some majors, the thesis counts as a major elective, and in a few, it is an elective that does not fulfill major requirements. Your major advisor and your Honors advisor can help you figure out how your thesis will count. Please note that while in many majors the thesis counts as the capstone, the converse does not necessarily apply. There are many capstone experiences that do not take the form of an Honors thesis.
Can I do a poster and presentation for my thesis?
No. While you do need to present your thesis (see below), a poster and presentation are not a thesis.
How do I choose my thesis advisor?
The best thesis advisor is an experienced researcher, familiar with disciplinary standards for research and writing, with expertise in your area of interest. You might connect with a thesis advisor during Honors-in-Major coursework, but Honors Liaisons can assist students who are having trouble identifying an advisor. You should approach and confirm your thesis advisor before the semester in which your research will begin.
What if I need funds for my research?
The Hamel Center for Undergraduate Research offers research grants, including summer support. During the academic year, students registered in credit-bearing thesis courses may apply for an Undergraduate Research Award for up to $600 in research expenses (no stipend). Students who are not otherwise registered in a credit-bearing course for their thesis research may enroll in INCO 790: Advanced Research Experience, which offers up to $200 for research expenses.
What if I need research materials for a lengthy period?
No problem! Honors Students can access Extended Time borrowing privileges at Dimond Library, which are otherwise reserved for faculty and graduate students. Email email@example.com with note requesting “extended borrowing privileges” and we'll work with the Library to extend your privileges.
Can I get support to stay on track?
Absolutely! Thesis-writers have an opportunity to join a support group during the challenging and sometimes isolating period of writing a thesis. Learn more about thesis support here.
When should I complete my thesis?
Register for a Senior Honors Thesis course (often numbered 799) in the spring and/or fall of your Senior year.
This “course” is an independent study, overseen by your Thesis Advisor. Your advisor sets the standards, due dates, and grades for your project. It must earn at least a B in order to qualify for Honors.
What happens with my completed thesis?
Present your thesis
All students must publicly present their research prior to graduation. Many present at the Undergraduate Research Conference in April; other departmentally-approved public events are also acceptable.
Publish your thesis:
Honors students are asked to make their thesis papers available on scholars.unh.edu/honors/. This creates a resource for future students and other researchers, and also helps students professionalize their online personas.
These theses are publicly available online. If a student or their advisor prefers not to make the work available, they may upload an abstract and/or excerpts from the work instead.
Students may also publish research in Inquiry, UNH's undergraduate research journal.