(1). Junior Year: Brainstorm Topic Areas.
You want a topic that will sustain your interest for a year and that is sufficiently focused so you can work productively. At this stage, focus on what interests you.
(2) Second Semester, Junior Year
- (A) Find a Primary Adviser.
Your Primary Advisor will be your chief contact on the thesis. It might help to consult the list of faculty advisors, but note that the list is partial and incomplete. Your Advisor should be someone you're comfortable working with, someone who shares your interest in your topic. Primary Advisors must be faculty members (e.g. no lab managers or Post Docs). If you find a potential adviser not in our list, please contact the PNP Administrator.
Undertaking an Honors Thesis is a serious commitment. Your interest in your chosen topic must be supported by self-discipline, organizational skills, and a willingness to work independently. Because writing an Honors Thesis is a massively cooperative effort, you must follow PNP policies closely.
If you are studying abroad during your Junior year, it is vital to plan ahead carefully. If possible, try to secure the agreement of a Primary Advisor prior to your departure. Face to face discussion is nuch more efficient than e-mail contacts.
Your committee members--your Primary Advisor and a Secondary Advisor assigned by PNP--must agree to be available the week after Spring break or willing to schedule a defense before then.
- (B) Develop a Topic
An Honors Thesis might be predominantly theoretical, or it might involve a substantial empirical component, but it should have more of an interdisciplinary focus than an Honors Thesis in Philosophy, Psychology, or another of the component disciplines. A PNP Honors Thesis would normally be 30-60 pages, divided into chapters, although theses that are more empirical in their orientation could take a different form.
Do I need funding?
You should talk with your Primary Adviser about whether you will be required to acquire funding for your project, and, if so, what funding resources might be open to you. The Office of Undergraduate Research can be helpful in this regard as well.
What if my project involves human subjects?
If your Thesis involves human participants, you will need to obtain prior authorization from the Human Research Protection Office. You are urged to plan ahead and factor in the significant lead time this process involves. You will need to take a brief Human Subject Education course, submit a complete description of your experiment, and await approval before you can begin collecting your data. This process can easily take two months or longer, especially if revisions are requested.
Do not assume that you do not need to get permission even if your Advisor tells you it is unimportant. Washington University policy is clear on this: students who do not follow these procedures "will not be allowed to use the data in an Honors Thesis, presentation, or publication of any sort. Blatant violations may be referred to WU academic integrity or research integrity review boards."
Faculty in the Medical School and the Psychology Department are typically well versed in these procedures and might be able to give you some guidance on filling out and submitting these forms.
(3) Prior to Last Day of Classes, Junior Year: Apply for Honors
Complete an Application (link) for the PNP Senior Honors program. Include a succinct summary of your thesis project, specifying the general topic area in which you plan to write your thesis. Have this approved by your thesis advisor and the PNP Administrator. Primary Advisors must contact the PNP Administrative Assistant to verify their commitment as your Primary Advisor for you Honors Thesis. Return your application to Kimberly Mount in the PNP office, Wilson 208.
(4) Registration Junior Year: Register for PNP 499 Study for Honors Thesis
In order to register, you must have a section created in WUCRSL with your Primary Advisor listed as the instructor by the PNP Administrative Assistant.
(5) Monday of Second Week of Fall Semester: Thesis Abstract and Bibliography
On the Monday of the second full week of Fall Semester classes, you must submit a Thesis abstract. Think of the abstract as a 500-1000 word update and revision of your summary from the summer--see item (3), above. An abstract defines and sets out a strategy for approaching your area of study.
In consultation with your Primary and Secondary Advisors, you will also produce a bibliography for the topic area, identifying a selection of books and articles to be read during the course of the semester. Think of the bibliographic project as learning the 'lay of the land' in your topic area. The abstract and bibliography must be approved by both advisors.
(6) Early in the Fall Semester
You will need to identify a secondary adviser. Normally, at least one of the two committee members must be a core PNP faculty member. If you have a preference for a secondary adviser, please notify Kimberly Mount. If you do not have a preference, a secondary adviser will be assigned to you by the honors coordinator.
(7) End of Fall Semester: Mid-Project Review
By the end of the first semester of your senior year, you are expected to be approaching a complete first draft of your thesis. This means, at a minimum, that:
(a) you have a complete outline of the thesis
(b) you a complete draft of at least one half of the honors thesis
(c) you have a summary making clear how the thesis will unfold during the Spring Semester
These milestones are necessary to ensure that you are able to meet the strict week-after-spring-break deadline for completion of the thesis in the Spring semester. Failing to carry through on (a)-(c) will make you ineligible to enroll in Honors for the Spring Semester.
If your Primary Advisor determines that your work is satisfactory (worthy of a grade of at least a B-), the Advisor should then contact the PNP Administrator indicating that you are on track for completion, and providing a grade. The Administrator will see that grade is assigned for the Fall Semester of PNP 499, and that continuation for the spring semester is approved.
If you fall short of a B-, the Thesis Committee will terminate the Thesis Project, and, once your Primary Advisor notifies the PNP Administrator, you will be assigned a grade for PNP 500: Independent Study.
(8) Spring of Senior Year: Undergraduate Research Symposium
We strongly encourage students to present their Thesis in a 'poster' at the annual Undergraduate Research Symposium
(9) Friday of the Sixth Week of the Spring Semester: Complete Thesis Draft.
At the end of the sixth week of the semester, a complete draft of your Honors Thesis must be in the hands of your Thesis Committee. The Committee for the thesis comprises your Primary and Secondary Advisors. Your Advisors are encouraged to return the draft with comments as quickly as possible. Your Thesis defense should be scheduled as soon as your Primary Advisor approves the thesis for defense. Advisors: please note time constraints in (9) and (10), and the defense deadline in (11).
(10) Friday Before Spring Break: Final Draft
On the Friday before Spring Break, you should supply a copy of the thesis to each of your Committee members.
Your thesis defense must be held by the end of the first week after Spring Break.
*Notification and Approval of defense date must be made through the PNP office.
Expect your defense to last about an hour. You will be asked to deliver a brief overview of the thesis, then face questioning from the committee. At the conclusion, you will be asked to leave the room, while the Thesis Committee determines both a grade for the thesis and a recommendation as to the level of Latin Honors. When you return, you will be informed of the result. Your Advisors complete the Honors Checklist and return that form to the PNP Office (Wilson 208).
(12) Submit Final Thesis to PNP Program
Deadline: last day of classes in Arts & Sciences.
You will submit a bound final draft of your thesis, that incorporates changes required after your defense, to the PNP office. The PNP office is willing to print up to 4 copies for you; you can make an appointment with the Kimberly Mount in the PNP Office (314 935 4297) for help binding the thesis. A list of instructions for formatting the final document can be found here.
…and then you graduate With Honors!