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Honors Thesis FAQs for Students

What is the Honors Thesis?

The Honors Thesis is a two-semester independent academic project under the direction of faculty. It allows students to explore a question, test a hypothesis, or create a work of art, ultimately contributing original scholarship to the field in which the thesis is written. It provides an unparalleled opportunity for students to address questions that contribute to our local, national, and global communities from a range of disciplinary perspectives. 

Why should I write an Honors Thesis? 

The thesis is a substantive accomplishment that speaks eloquently to a student’s academic and scholarly credentials as compared with GPA or Latin honors alone. Apart from the merits of the intellectual experience, the thesis is also a significant credential— a clear way of demonstrating to graduate schools, professional schools, and future employers that you are capable of independent research and critical thought. 

Are Honors students required to write an Honors Thesis? 

No. The Honors Thesis is required in order to earn departmental honors in the major in which the thesis is written. 

How do students register for the Honors Thesis?

Unlike other Tulane courses, students may not register themselves for the Honors Thesis through Gibson. Students register with their department office each semester (so a student writing a thesis in English would register through the English department). In order for the thesis to be approved, students must also submit a prospectus to the Honors Program Office and adhere to scheduled deadlines throughout the academic year.

Are there specific course numbers for the Honors Thesis?

The Honors Thesis is a two-semester project. 4990 is the fall course number (3 credit hours) and 5000 (4 credit hours) is the course number for spring. A student writing for Political Science, for instance, should be registered for POLS 4990 during the fall semester, and POLS 5000 for the spring.

Can an Honors Thesis be written for two majors? How does the credit registration work?

Students may write an Honors Thesis in two majors. They will have a first reader from one major and a second reader from the other.  Each reader is, in effect, a co-director for the major they represent. Students who are writing theses in two major departments register for 4990 in one department and 5000 in the other. From the perspective of the Honors Program, it does not matter in which order the credits are registered, but it’s recommended that students check with their major advisors. Please note that students will be working with both co-directors throughout the year, even though they are registered through one department for the fall and the other in the spring.

Who is the instructor of record?

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. If the thesis is being written for two majors, the reader from the department that the thesis credits are registered for in the spring semester will assign the final grade for the thesis.

Are there deadlines for thesis credits to be enrolled Fall and Spring?

Thesis course credits are unlike other course credits and do not adhere to the regular add/drop deadline. These credits can be scheduled more flexibly, not unlike independent study credits.

Can students write a thesis on a spring/fall schedule?

Yes. Students should consult with the Honors Program about electing this option.

Can students write the thesis in the third year if graduating early?

Yes. Students should consult with the Honors Program about electing this option.

Can students that aren’t in the Honors Program still write a thesis? Is there a minimum GPA?

Students do not need to be members of the Honors Program to write a thesis. The eligibility requirement for the Honors Thesis is an overall GPA of 3.4, and a GPA of 3.5 in the major (or majors) for which the student is writing the thesis. 

When do students in the sciences need to be connected with a lab if they plan to write a thesis in the senior year? 

This varies by discipline, but students are strongly encouraged to work on getting into a lab as early as possible. Generally, if a student in the lab sciences is not yet connected with a lab by the junior year, it may be too late to pursue a thesis. 

Can Non-Honors students take the Honors Thesis Bootcamp course?

Yes, the Honors Program will clear non-Honors students for this course in the junior year if they have the eligible GPA to write a thesis.

Is the Honors Thesis Bootcamp course required to write a thesis?


Which faculty are eligible to serve on thesis committees?

First and Second Readers must normally be full-time faculty members (Professor, Associate Professor, Assistant Professor, Professor of Practice) 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 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 they be able to report to the Honors Program about the process. Typically, visiting faculty, adjunct faculty, and administrative faculty may not serve on thesis committees.

Can a faculty member from the Medical School serve on a thesis committee?

Yes, with the permission of the chair of the relevant department and the approval of the Director of the Honors Program. Medical School faculty should not serve as instructor of record (first reader). For administrative purposes, they should be the second (or third) reader, and a faculty member representing the student’s major department should serve as first reader.

How does the grading for the thesis work across the two semesters?

The thesis is not graded until the student has passed the oral defense and submitted the final thesis. The grade for the fall semester will show as “IP” (In Progress) until the final grade is submitted.

How long should a thesis be?

The length of the thesis will depend on the nature of the project and the expectations of the field in which the thesis is written. Students in the more discursive fields (History, for instance) should usually aim for around 60-75 pages. Theses in subjects where research is usually expressed in large part through formulas and figures (Math, for instance) tend to be shorter.

What is considered the passing grade for an Honors Thesis?

A or A-.

If a student decides to stop writing their Honors Thesis or does not achieve satisfactory progress, what is the process for dropping the credits, or for converting the thesis credits to independent study credits?

The Honors Thesis credits may be dropped at any time WITHOUT RECORD. The student should work with their NTC Academic Advisor and the Registrar’s Office to drop the credits officially from the transcript. With permission of the thesis director, independent study credits may then be added to the transcript for one or both semesters through the major department. This process is sometimes referred to as converting thesis credits to independent study but is in fact two separate steps—one through Academic Advising and the other through the department.

Does the Honors Thesis fulfill the second-tier writing requirement?


Can the Honors Thesis fulfill the second-tier service requirement?

Yes, if the thesis constitutes an educational experience based upon a collaborative partnership between the university and the community. Students must submit a petition to the Center for Public Service. Visit https://cps.tulane.edu/about/graduation-requirement for more details.

What are the requirements and expectations for a thesis in the fine arts (creative writing, art studio, theater, music performance)?

The schedule, requirements, and expectations for thesis in the fine arts are essentially the same as for those in the laboratory sciences, humanities, and social sciences. As in other majors, students who propose theses in the fine arts should have experience of upper-level courses or other relevant instruction in their chosen fields and prior experience in the genre or medium of the proposed thesis.

Where the honors thesis prospectus asks students to frame their projects as questions or problems in terms of the state of relevant scholarship, students proposing theses in the fine arts should identify and discuss the main artistic problem or challenge in terms of how other authors or artists have confronted the same or similar problems.

The main body of the thesis should reflect the relevant form or medium of the field for which the student is completing the project: a collection of short stories, a portfolio of images, a musical score, etc. But whatever the main form or medium of the project, all theses in the fine arts must include a substantial analytical or critical discussion of the project as a problem or challenge in the student’s chosen field. (For example, a student writing a novella with a coming-of-age theme might introduce his or her work with a chapter analyzing several examples of that genre, as a way of introducing the student’s own distinctive approach to the creative challenges of the genre.)  The final thesis should typically include at least 20 pages of prose, in addition to the main focus of the thesis project.

In most cases it should be possible for students to coordinate thesis defenses with performance dates, exhibitions or other relevant events.  In cases where it seems to the readers best to hold such an event after the deadline for the thesis defense, please contact the Honors Program—or ask the student to contact the Honors Program—so that we know what is being planned.  Unless the adjustment to the schedule will cause some other problem, we will normally give the student an extension on the thesis defense.