Guidelines in PDF form can be downloaded here.
This document supersedes all previous documents and catalogue material pertaining to honors theses for candidates for degrees summa cum laude, magna cum laude, and cum laude with scholarly honors. These rules and guidelines apply to all undergraduates, with variations that apply to students majoring in Business, Biomedical Engineering, and Architecture (more details below.)
All students who wish to receive scholarly honors in a major must write an honors thesis in their senior year. The term “honors thesis” here includes all varieties of theses and equivalent projects undertaken by a senior as one of the requirements for a degree with high honors. The specific form of the honors thesis or project depends on the disciplinary expectations of a student’s major department or school. For more specific guidance students should see their thesis advisors or the undergraduate advisors of their majors or schools.
Please note that students typically will not be allowed to register for the honors thesis in their third year of undergraduate study, regardless of whether or not they have sufficient credit hours to qualify for “senior standing.” Exceptions to this rule may be granted by way of a petition to the Director of the Honors Program in cases where students can demonstrate sufficient academic training, or some other compelling academic rationale, for undertaking the thesis project in the third year. Each petition must be accompanied by a letter of support from a faculty member who has agreed to direct the honors thesis.
An honors thesis should demonstrate the student’s capacity for quality research and should give evidence of mastery of the material in a field. Topics should be framed in terms of a question to be asked, a problem to be explored, or a hypothesis to be tested. This is required as part of the Prospectus that all students submit, and faculty readers review and sign. (Please see the Prospectus form.) The thesis should show comprehensive awareness of what scholars or relevant experts are saying and have said about the subject. The Honors Thesis is the culminating experience for honors students, and as such we expect students to aim high in formulating thesis proposals.
It is impossible to give a fixed rule about the length of an Honors Thesis, since modes of discourse vary from discipline to discipline. Students should discuss the expected length of a thesis with their first and second readers. To give some idea of what is expected, in the more discursive fields (in the humanities, for instance), a reasonable length for an honors thesis is 50-60 pages, exclusive of notes and bibliography. An honors thesis should demonstrate in a manner appropriate to its field the equivalent of roughly two semesters’ worth of major course projects.
Students may write honors theses only for departments in which they are majoring. The eligibility requirement for the honors thesis is an overall GPA of 3.4, and a GPA of 3.5 in the major for which the student is writing for honors.
Students register for the Honors Theses in their major department, using course number 4990 in the fall and 5000 in the spring. Students who are writing theses in two major departments register for 4990 in one department and 5000 in the other.
Each honors thesis must be prepared in conformity with the Tulane University Honors Thesis Style Sheet available under the Materials tab. Copies are also available in the Honors Program office (105 Hebert Hall).
Please note: While it is the nature of extended research projects to have periods of greater and lesser activity, students may not choose to defer all the work on the thesis to the second semester. The Honors Thesis is a two-semester graded course and student should normally aim to do roughly the same amount of work on their projects in each semester. Also, students writing theses in two majors should think of their projects as one project for two majors and so should assume that work in each semester is fulfilling the expectations of both semesters. For example, a student writing in Economics and Math should NOT plan to work on the Economics side of the thesis in one semester, and the Math side in the other: the student should work with readers from both majors throughout the academic year.
Business Majors: Students in the School of Business have the option of either writing a research-based thesis through the Honors Program, following the guidelines laid out in this document, or writing a business case study honors project directed by the School of Business. Students interested in the business case study option should consult with their advisors in the School of Business as to specific requirements and deadlines, in addition to the schedule of completion laid out above.
Biomedical Engineering and Architecture majors: The honors theses in these two majors exceed the scholarly expectations of the thesis required normally by the majors. Students should consult their major advisors for more information about the expectations for Honors Theses. Students writing theses in BMEN and Architecture are required to submit prospectuses to the honors program by the prospectus deadline given above. In their prospectuses, students should explain how their theses exceed the usual expectations—in other words, what makes them Honors thesis projects as opposed to regular thesis projects. Students in both majors are required to submit completed theses, formatted according to the Honors Thesis Style Sheet, to the Honors Program.
A student may decide to terminate a thesis before it is completed, or the thesis director may decide that the student cannot complete the thesis in a satisfactory manner by the stated deadline. If this occurs before a final copy is submitted and before the student stands for the oral examination, two options exist as to credit and grades:
If, in the opinion of the thesis director, the student has done sufficient satisfactory work, the thesis director may give her or him credit for an Independent Study and assign a grade. Credit is awarded by the thesis director according to departmental rules.
If, in the opinion of the thesis director, the student has not done sufficient satisfactory work, the student must undertake to drop the thesis course or courses. Students may obtain the drop form from their academic advisors. In this case, the thesis course will be expunged without record on the student’s transcript.