Whatever form it takes, the purposes of the Honors Thesis are many—all of which develop skills that will serve our students well after graduation. The Honors Thesis must go above and beyond any project done for a course other than thesis or directed-studies/independent-studies courses. It may expand upon a term paper written for a course, but may not simply be a repurposed project completed for another course or requirement. The Honors Thesis must demonstrate that the student:
- Has developed excellent writing skills;
- Understands the project's relevance to the field of study and/or to society;
- Is able to apply theories and methods of research, analysis, or interpretation, or artistic techniques as appropriate to the field;
- Has cited appropriate sources;
- Is able to critically examine the work of other scholars or artists and relate that work to the thesis;
- Has contributed original research, ideas, knowledge, interpretations, or creative expression at a level appropriate for undergraduate study, such that the thesis goes beyond describing existing work;
- Has the ability to digest pre-existing work, present and summarize it succinctly, and, hence, articulate the context in which the student’s new work is situated;
- Has the ability to propose an idea in brief (i.e., the thesis proposal), and then bring that idea to fruition within a given timeline;
- Has the ability to present writing or recordings whose quality and polish are at a publishable or public-presentation level (even if the data, research, or ideas are still at a preliminary level);
- Has the ability to present ideas clearly and compellingly to an audience of non-specialists;
- Has the ability to go beyond programmatic or major capstone requirements for non-UHP students.
Moreover, a summa cum laude Honors Thesis must also demonstrate:
- The ability to do original (i.e., not an extended literature review or synopsis of previous work), highest-quality work;
- The ability to meet department- or program-specific stipulations for summa-level thesis work, as defined on our Major and Thesis Requirements page.
Supervision and Approval
All Honors Theses require approval by a committee of three members—the main thesis advisor and two other readers. One of the three members (not necessarily the main thesis advisor) must be a tenured or tenure-track faculty member in the student's home department. Other members may be tenured, tenure-track, contract, affiliate, adjunct, emeritus, and/or P&A faculty members at the University of Minnesota. Faculty members from other institutions, graduate students, and community members with expertise relevant to the student's topic may serve on the committee if approved by the departmental Honors Faculty Representative and by UHP. The process for approval is for the Honors Faculty Representative to email UHP's director to explain in a couple of sentences the potential committee member's qualifications, and to then receive approval from the director.