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Honors Thesis Committee and Oral Defense

Students are responsible for forming a thesis committee, which will consist of three readers. Normally, all three readers should be full-time faculty (rank of Professor, Associate Professor, Assistant Professor, or Professor of Practice) at Tulane University. (Exceptions to this rule must be cleared with the Director of the Honors Program.)

First and Second Readers must normally be full-time faculty members in the major department in which the student is writing the thesis. Exceptions will be allowed for academically cogent reasons, with the permission of the chair of the relevant department and the approval of the Director of the Honors Program.

The first reader will be the instructor of record for the thesis, and responsible for assigning a grade (in consultation with the other readers). Usually the first reader serves as director of the thesis committee.

A student who is writing a thesis for honors in two majors must have a first reader from one major and a second reader from the other.In this case, each reader is, in effect, “first reader” for the major he or she represents.

The Third Reader must be a full-time faculty member who is not a member of the department or departments for which the student is writing the thesis. It is not necessary that the third reader be able to make a substantial contribution to the thesis, but only that she or he be able to report to the honors program about the process.

The members of the student's honors thesis committee vote whether to “Pass” or “Fail” the thesis at the time of the oral defense. Two or three negative votes by members of the committee will fail the thesis; in this case there is no basis for appeal except on procedural grounds. If there is a single negative vote among the three members of the student’s committee, the following procedures will be followed:

If the first or the second reader casts the negative vote, the matter will be referred first to the chair of the student’s major department, and then to the Director of the Honors Program. If the reader casting the negative vote is serving as the chair of the department, the matter will be referred to the Director of the Honors Program.  In the case of a student writing for two majors, if one of the first two readers casts a negative vote, the matter will be referred to the Director of the Honors Program.

If the third reader casts the negative vote, the matter will be referred to the Director of the Honors Program.

The thesis committee may also (and often do) vote to pass a student provisionally, with instructions to the student to revise the thesis.  In any case, revisions required of the student at the time of the oral defense must be completed for the thesis committee to sign the final thesis title page and ultimately pass the thesis.

The third reader will report to the Honors Program the results of the oral exam, and the nature of the revisions required (if any) before the thesis is to be considered final.

After the oral examination is held and the thesis is completed, the thesis first reader awards a letter grade that takes into account the full year’s work. The minimum passing grade for an honors thesis is A-. (Exceptions to this rule require the approval of the Director of the Honors Program.) The first reader is expected to consult with the second reader regarding the grade, and may also consult with the third reader. The initial grade for the first semester of honors thesis registration will be “IP,” but this will be changed to the final letter grade that the student earns for the project.

If the student completes the honors thesis and receives a “fail” from the thesis committee at the time of the oral defense or when the student submits the revised final version of the thesis, the usual practice is for the student to have the thesis transformed into a two-semester independent study project, and the readers to grade it on that basis.