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Thesis Guidelines for Thesis Professors

First, the Honors College at ETSU thanks you for considering the role of an Honors Thesis Professor. The ETSU Honors College Programs require students to complete and present an Honors Thesis prior to their graduation as an Honors College Scholar, a title that appears on both their diploma and transcript.

The experience as an Honors College Thesis Professor will be familiar to you --- in fact, we consider the Honors Thesis to be a miniature version (one year instead of two) of a Master's thesis. Many Honors students continue their education in graduate or professional schools, and the Honors Thesis should help prepare the student for similar work.

Your role concentrates on assisting the student in three major areas---

  1. aiding the student in selecting, developing and refining a thesis topic;
  2. teaching of discipline-based research skills; and
  3. helping the student develop the ability to do independent academic research in your discipline. Your role also includes helping the student identify two additional faculty to serve as Thesis Readers and assisting them in arranging an oral presentation of their Honors Thesis (see Execution).

As usual in these circumstances, you also are responsible for the academic integrity of the student's work and should help the student to be aware and sensitive to plagiarism and/or misrepresentation of information. It is expected that the Thesis Professor and Thesis Readers will maintain an ethical relationship with the student. As a consequence, you will need to be sensitive to the issue that you are involved in a professional collaboration with the student. When the thesis makes a worthwhile contribution suitable for publication in your discipline, joint student-professor authorship often is appropriate.


Junior-level Honors College students are asked to interview a number of faculty in order to select a topic and an expert (you) with which to work. Students have been forewarned that their initial topic usually is too general and that they will need to do some preliminary research, in consultation with their chosen Thesis Professor(s), to refine their thesis question. Junior Honors College students will bring you a Thesis Proposal Form for your signature; the form must be completed and submitted by the student to the Honors College office (129 Yoakley Hall) by a date set in April.  The form can be submitted earlier, of course!

Note that the form also has a choice of grading options for the first semester of thesis work; it is your prerogative to assign the student either a grade or an Incomplete. The choice of grade assignment is included on the Thesis Proposal Form to insure that this issue is discussed with the student in advance. If you prefer to assign an Incomplete until the student has completed the thesis, please be prompt in submitting a grade change for them in the Spring as they cannot graduate with an Incomplete in Senior Thesis!

By the beginning of their Senior year, students should have a fairly well defined thesis question, be enrolled with you, and ready to go! You should meet with this student early in the semester to establish a timetable and to select two additional faculty to serve as readers for the thesis. See the section on Execution (below) for more explanation of Thesis format and for ideas on how to help the student progress.


Typically, Senior Honors College students enroll in two semesters (3 credit hours each; maximum 2 semesters total = 6) of a course called Senior Honors Thesis; the course number, -4018, applies across campus in all departments and a section number will be assigned under your name. Your department should activate this course for your student and provide a permit for the student once the course number has been established. 

Hopefully, this course will be considered as a portion of the required hours for a major/minor in your department. In situations where the thesis project requires more extensive laboratory or creative work, public service, or field experience, it is your prerogative to offer the student Independent Study hours prior to their Senior year. In these instances, the student will need to know how the combination of Independent Study and Senior Thesis hours will impact on their degree requirements.


For additional information, I have included a copy of the Thesis Guidelines provided to the students. In general, Honors College students have been informed of the following:

  1. They must utilize primary literature appropriate to their field in their thesis research.
  2. The Honors Thesis must be academically honest and in full compliance with ethical guidelines appropriate to the field of study.
  3. They should plan on working six to nine hours per week on their thesis project, if enrolled for the full 3 credit hours. You should modify this according to your own plan with each student.
  4. When appropriate to the discipline, the thesis should be considered as a manuscript for publication in a scholarly journal in their field. I have suggested that a particular journal format be targeted.
  5. They should plan to have a completed written draft of their thesis to you no later than the second week of February for your review. An "almost final" draft should be presented to the Readers no later than the first week of April. You may, of course, modify this generalized schedule.
  6. Two additional faculty (one from within the department and one from another department) should be selected to serve as Readers to assist you and the student in refining the final version of their Honors Thesis. It is your prerogative to involve the Readers earlier or in a larger role, if they wish.
  7. An oral presentation of the completed thesis is required. Options for this presentation are as follows:
    1. departmental seminar;
    2. presentation at the ETSU Undergraduate Research Symposium (typically the second week of April); or
    3. presentation at a regional or national discipline-specific meeting

An announcement of a departmental presentation should be posted two weeks in advance in the department and on the Honors College News and Events website.  It is suggested that the students' presentation take place before the 3rd week of April.

The following are suggestions on how to assist the student through this project:

  • Weekly meetings with the student, even if brief, are a good idea. Developing self-discipline for regular, measurable work often is a difficulty for the typical thesis student who is also enrolled in 12-15 hours of additional coursework.
  • Plan a timetable that describes "guideposts" of progress with the student. For example---theses based primarily on "library" research are most successful if the student completes an annotated bibliography by mid-Fall semester; theses in studio or performing arts and in creative writing need deadlines for completion of artistic components; and finally, theses requiring laboratory work profit from a literature review coupled with a draft of methods & materials due by mid-semester.
  • In sciences and humanities, use the students' literature review to assist them in choosing a targeted scholarly journal to follow for the format of their thesis; be sure to explain how specifically you wish them to follow that format. In the case of more creative works, the thesis must include an essay that describes the goals of the project in context of the discipline and documentation of the work. Documentation might include photographs of artwork or performances, a diary of their experiences, and/or the collection of fiction authored by the student. Feel free to be creative and innovative!
  • The final thesis copy, approved and signed by you, must be submitted to the director of the student's respective Honors College Program (see below for each program director) no later than April 10 for the current academic year.

These guidelines and suggestions are intended to ensure that the Honors College Student, Thesis Professor, and Directors of the Honors College Programs share the same expectations. However, the control of these projects rests primarily with you, the Thesis Professor. The Honors College Directors, Dean, or Curriculum Coordinator are available to answer any questions and assist in this process in any way you require. You also will find the Honors College open to suggestions & experimentation! Please feel free to call or email at any time.

University Honors Scholars Program
Midway Honors Scholars Program

Dr. Joy Wachs, Director
Campus Box 70294
Ada Earnest House

Fine & Performing Arts Scholars
Scott Koterbay, Director
Campus Box 70589
207 Yoakley Hall

Honors-in-Discipline Programs
Karen Kornweibel, Director
Campus Box 70589
201 Yoakley Hall

Honors College Dean
Dr. Rebecca A. Pyles
Campus Box 70589
131 Yoakley Hall

Honors College Curriculum Coordinator
Daniel Hedden
Campus Box 70589
200 Yoakley Hall

USPS Mailing Address:
The Honors College at
East Tennessee State University
PO Box 70589
Johnson City, TN 37614-1708

Phone: 423.439.6076
Fax: 423.439.6080
email:  Honors College

Street Addresses of The Honors College offices:
  Administration: Yoakley Hall, Room 129
161 S. Dossett Drive
University & Midway Scholars: Ada Earnest House
310 S. Dossett Drive
Honors-in-Discipline Programs: Yoakley Hall, Room 206
161 S. Dossett Drive
Fine & Performing Art Scholars: Yoakley Hall, Room 206
161 S. Dossett Drive
Undergraduate Research: Yoakley Hall, Room 129
161 S. Dossett Drive
International Programs & Services: Yoakley Hall, Room 122
161 S. Dossett Drive