A-Z Index | Calendars | Contact Us | GoldLink | Need Help?

Search People | Search ETSU
Future Students Current Students Honors Faculty & Staff Alumni & Friends Apply to ETSU

Senior Honors Scholars Thesis Guidelines

The Senior Honors Thesis represents an in-depth, capstone experience designed to provide Honors College students with opportunities to develop a deeper knowledge of their major discipline, a closer intellectual interaction with faculty, and more complete preparation for their career goals. The Senior Honors Thesis must involve use of the primary literature in their field of study and should represent the student's most sustained research or creative work as an undergraduate.

An approved Senior Honors Thesis that has been orally presented in public is required for graduation as an Honors College Scholar from East Tennessee State University; no exceptions to this policy will be granted.

In addition, students must earn a grade of 'B' or better on all credit hours enrolled as Senior Honors Thesis. Please be aware that this grade represents the quality and consistency of how you work with your professor, in addition to the quality of the thesis itself.


Typically, the Honors Thesis is a yearlong project (minimum) for which the student enrolls in six hours of credit (3 credit hours per semester in their senior year). The subject area should represent the student's first or second major of study. Approval for a thesis in the student's minor field, or for any modification in enrollment hours, may be obtained from the Director of the Honors College program in which the student is enrolled. Thesis hours (e.g., MUSC 4018 or FNCE 4018) are specified in the department of the Thesis Professor; arrangements for these hours must be made in advance (see Junior Year). Thesis hours are specified on your transcript as "Senior Honors Thesis." Usually, Honors Thesis hours count as hours toward your major; however, Honors students should check this in advance with their Thesis Professor and/or Chair of the department.

Junior Year - Getting Started

Honors students should begin considering their thesis topic no later than the first semester of their junior year. The typical first step for a student is to interview professors in their field of study, especially those faculty with expertise in the specific area of the students' interest.

Working together, the student and professor will select a more refined topic. However, if things progress normally, your initial topic will be too general and you will need to complete some initial research and continue working with your Thesis Professor to develop and refine your specific thesis question. For interdisciplinary studies, students may work with two Thesis Professors from different fields.

Students working in some disciplines (e.g., Biology or Chemistry) or areas that require public service or field experiences may need to begin their projects during their junior year---so please start early! In these situations, arrangements for Independent Study hours in the student's major may be appropriate; please see the Director of the Honors College program in which you are enrolled.

Thesis Proposal Form

During April, Juniors must submit a Thesis Proposal Form that lists their Thesis Professor(s) and a proposed project title. Note that a blank is provided if you wish to work with two professors; however, this is NOT required. Thesis Professor(s) must sign this form.

It is expected that your project title or even your specific question, may change later; your proposal is considered preliminary. You also need to discuss the grade arrangement with your Thesis Professor---some prefer to give an Incomplete in Thesis at the end of the Fall and will change your grade when you have completed the entire project (see the Thesis Proposal Form).

For the current academic year, the completed Thesis Proposal Form must be submitted to the Honors Office no later than the second Monday of April; this allows the Honors Office sufficient time to arrange thesis enrollment for your senior year. The intended result of this process is to better prepare you for your Thesis work---you'll know what you need to do when you return for your Senior year!

Senior Year

Arrangements for your Senior Honors Thesis enrollment have been made and your topic has been refined, so you should be ready to go! If you haven't already begun your project, meet with your Thesis Professor the first week of classes in the fall semester to plan a timetable for your progress (see suggestions, below). You also should begin discussions about two additional faculty to serve as readers for your thesis, and your choice of presentation type, location and date.

Due Dates: Required and Recommended

  • 1st Week of September: Meet with Thesis Professor, plan timetable

  • 3rd Week of January: Select two Thesis Readers (one from a different department); Notify Honors Director

  • 2nd Week of February: First Draft of Thesis to Thesis Professor for review

  • End of February: Abstracts due for ETSU Undergraduate Research Symposium (if used for presentation; see below)

  • 1st Week of April: Set date for presentation; print flyers; Notify Honors College Program Director

  • 2nd Week of April: Completed thesis, bound & signed by Thesis Professor, to Honors College Program Director

How to Proceed

Set a timetable with your Thesis Professor, including both regular meetings and deadlines for progress on your project. A typical schedule should require that the student complete the majority of all laboratory and library work plus the initial analyses by the end of Fall semester, so that the Spring semester allows ample time for you to complete the actual writing of your thesis.

Students should plan on working a minimum of six to nine hours per week on their thesis project. Throughout your project, each student should engage in careful planning, thorough research, thoughtful analysis, good writing and enthusiastic work. The Honors Thesis must be academically honest and in full compliance with ethical guidelines appropriate to the field of study. By the way, you should expect to produce four or five drafts of your thesis.

Thesis Format

Where appropriate, the thesis should be considered as a manuscript that may be submitted for publication in a scholarly journal in your field. However, the form of your thesis is limited only by your imagination! The Director of the Honors College Program is open to innovative ideas for your thesis, so be creative and come talk to me about it! In most instances, however, it is advised that, in consultation with your Thesis Professor, you target a specific journal and stick to that format.

Because this is a thesis, however, you may include more documentation than usually would be appropriate for publication; please consider placing data or extensive footnotes in an appendix at the end of the thesis. The length of an Honors Thesis varies with discipline---in some areas of the humanities, 40--60 pages is not atypical, but creative works might be longer or shorter; in mathematics and natural sciences, 20--30 pages is not unusual. Again, please note that you need to be using the primary research literature in your chosen field.

In general, your thesis should include the following:

  1. thesis title page an example is attached);
  2. a clear and well defined thesis statement,
  3. review and citation of pertinent literature,
  4. documentation of results,
  5. discussion of findings in context of your thesis statement,
  6. summary and conclusions,
  7. literature referenced, and
  8. an appendix for more comprehensive documentation.

Theses in the creative arts (e.g., studio art, performing arts, writing) or those that involve public service or field experiences should include some tangible form of creative works (e.g., photographs); possibly, a diary of experiences; and a written essay that explains the intent of the project in context with the field of study, the details of execution, and an evaluation both of the results and the experiences of the student.

Option for Oral Presentation

The requirement for oral, public presentation of your thesis can be accomplished in the following ways:

  1. departmental seminar;
  2. presentation at the ETSU Undergraduate Research Symposium (abstracts due end of February; presentation typically the second week of April); or
  3. presentation at a regional or national discipline-specific meeting.

You should plan to have your presentation no later than the last week of April. If you select a departmental seminar, an announcement of your presentation should be posted two weeks in advance in the department and on the Honors College News and Events webpage. 

Final Thesis Copy

For the current academic year, Seniors must submit the final form of their thesis, signed by their Thesis Professor, no later than the second Friday of April. If you wish, you may ask your readers to sign your thesis also, but this is not required. This final copy must be permanently bound (most students just go to a photocopy business, such as Kinko's). You should know it is considered professional courtesy to provide your Thesis Professor(s) with a final copy, also.

Your thesis will be reviewed and receive final approval by the Director of the Honors College Program in which you are enrolled. The Director will then notify the Graduation Office of the completion of your requirements to graduate as an Honors College Scholar, a designation that will be placed on your diploma and transcript.

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 student. The Honors College Directors, Dean, or Curriculum Coordinator are available to answer any questions and assist in t his process in any way you require (see Frequently Asked Questions). 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
Phone: (423) 439-7881
Fax (423) 439-7880

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
204 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