Tutorial, Thesis, and Colloquia

Every semester students engaging in tutorial and thesis work are required to participate in at least one colloquium, during which they are called on to summarize the problems and progress of their work. These colloquia are extremely useful and are open to lower class Honors Program students, who learn a great deal about the process from attending.

The semester before a student registers for the tutorial is a good time to attend at least one colloquium. These are informal presentations, and the audience is welcome to ask questions. Faculty advisors and readers are also encouraged to attend, both to learn more about the process and to lend support to the students they are mentoring. Students should invite their advisors. All students must present one colloquium discussion of their projects during each of the two semesters they are engaged in tutorial and thesis. Students register as presenters in the Honors office, and they should be prepared to speak for about 15 minutes. There is usually a choice of three or four colloquium dates per semester.

Discussing the project with other students is most often a great reward and relief. It allows for a sharing of ideas and anxieties, bringing an important sense of closure to projects that have been the focus of serious, time-consuming thought. The colloquia are usually very exciting for the audience as well as the presenters, bringing the group together in an intense, mutually educational experience. 

Plan to attend before you start.  It is polite to give your Advisor a choice of dates. 


The Honors Program Tutorial is a three-credit independent study thesis research course. It is taken in the student's major under the guidance of a faculty advisor or tutor, who in most cases continues on as the student's thesis advisor. Because the tutorial research is the basis for the thesis, the topic should be chosen carefully. The student and faculty member will be working on the project for one full year, and therefore it should be a topic that is substantive and can ultimately yield a thesis of a minimum 50 pages or the equivalent in a creative field.

Since the working relationship between student and faculty advisor is essential to a successful tutorial, it is important that the student get to know faculty in his or her major department before the semester in which the tutorial is undertaken. Students should plan to study with a full-time member of the faculty. Approval of the honors director and department chair is necessary in cases where the student has a particular area of speciality that requires working with an adjunct faculty. The tutorial student must be ready to specialize and to work seriously with a tutor in scheduled meetings of at least one hour per week. It is therefore advisable to choose a full-time faculty member who is freely available for meetings, who has expertise and interest in the student's chosen area, and with whom the student has a cordial, easy rapport. Most students prefer faculty members who have fired their imaginations in a previous class experience. Often the tutorial is an opportunity to work more closely with an admired teacher.

Transfer students or students who have not yet taken many classes in the major may meet faculty through Merit lectures, departmental club activities or introductions from their advisors or department chairs. A student can also visit a department chairman, discuss his or her area of interest and seek advice on the most appropriate faculty member to supervise research in this area. The goal is to bring together the student and faculty member on a one-to-one basis for advanced study in a particular area of mutual interest.


The tutorial should be scheduled for the spring semester of the junior year. This gives the student an opportunity to continue research or begin the thesis draft during the summer.

Prior to the tutorial semester, the student should choose a faculty advisor and meet to work out the scope of the project. The student registers by filling out tutorial registration forms available in the Honors Program Office. These forms require a detailed description of the proposed topic written by the student. The description should be reviewed, corrected, and signed by the faculty advisor, and, if necessary, the Department Chair, before submission to the honors director for final approval. Please notice that the form also indicates the due date for the submission of work completed in the tutorial.

What is the Work of a Tutorial?

The tutorial itself involves reading and library research. A student working in the sciences should do laboratory research if possible. A student in fine arts is welcome to do a creative studio project, supplemented by background research and readings in the field. In every case, the student and faculty advisor are expected to meet frequently toward the beginning of the semester to generate a reading list or surveys or laboratory schedules or other research techniques suitable to the project. In most cases the student begins with a broad subject area which begins to narrow and gain focus as the term progresses and the thesis topic clarifies itself. The goal of the tutorial is to complete the research necessary to write the theses.

During the semester, the student and faculty advisor must meet for at least one hour a week to discuss student readings, research, or progress in the experimental or creative studio projects. The faculty advisor should help the student shape and focus the topic more clearly.

It is best for the student and tutor to meet at a regularly scheduled time each week. At the discretion of the faculty advisor, the student may have written assignments (annotated bibliography entries or short essays or lab results). The readings and research should be at least equivalent to an advanced three-credit course.

The Final Product

At the end of the semester, the tutorial student submits to the tutorial advisor an annotated bibliography of the full term's reading. Unless journal conventions in a particular field require another form, the model for this bibliography should follow the Modern Language Association's MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations. Commentary on the readings should follow each bibliography entry and should run approximately one half to one page in length (unless otherwise specified by the tutor). The annotations may summarize an article or indicate the scope and point of view of a book, showing how it might be useful to the student's thesis. These annotations are intended to provide the student with thesis notes. In some cases, the tutor may wish the student to submit more extensive writing.

A student completing a creative project will need to discuss appropriate submissions with the faculty advisor and honors director. Students in the arts are also expected to read and do research, which may involve museum visits or attending concerts or theater. These, too, may become part of an annotated bibliography. A photography student may, for example, submit work prints with the bibliography. Likewise, a music student submit a supplementary discography. A student conducting surveys or using questionnaires should submit the instruments along with the findings. If the tutorial is statistical or experimental, conclusive data should be presented with a research bibliography. 

The tutorial can be tailored to every field of study. During the course of the semester, every tutorial student and faculty mentor should plan on attending at least one tutorial colloquium. In these sessions students may raise any particular problems that their topic has presented and clarify any expectations that may be unclear.

How to Complete the Tutorial

The student should submit the annotated bibliography along with the appropriate support materials, if required, to the faculty advisor at least one week before the due date. It is a good idea to make three copies of the bibliography—the original for the Honors Program file, one for the student, and one for the faculty advisor.

The faculty advisor will submit a grade for the tutorial as for any independent study course. This grade is based on the quality of the student's total performance, which should reflect the quality of the weekly discussions as well as the work submitted. A grade of "B" or better qualifies for Honors level work. In cases where the student has not completed significant research, the grade of INC (incomplete) is appropriate.

The faculty advisor should write a one-page evaluation of the student's performance in the course and attach the original to the signed bibliography. The evaluation will be kept in the student's permanent file and may be used for graduate school recommendations.

The original copy of the annotated bibliography, signed by the tutor and including the one-page evaluation, must be hand delivered by the student to the Honors Program Office by the specified date. In special circumstances, the honors program director may approve a second tutorial undertaken in an academic department that is not the student's major.

Thesis—Student Guidelines

The Honors Program thesis is the final achievement of independent study. It is an extended paper derived from the research accomplished in the tutorial. In some departments, the thesis includes creative materials submitted in connection with an extended paper documenting the genesis of the creative project. In either case, the thesis is the culmination of a research project in the student's major.

The thesis should be scheduled for the fall semester of the senior year, so that if it takes longer than expected, the student's graduation will not be in jeopardy. If necessary, a student may receive an INC for thesis work and finish the thesis during the spring term.

The honors thesis completes the research undertaken in the honors tutorial. The student usually continues with the same faculty advisor but must also choose a reader who will offer a second perspective and make suggestions on the improvement of all drafts through the final thesis. The faculty advisor and reader consult to arrive at the student's final grade. It is wise to choose a reader from a different department other than the major if the topic you have chosen has implication in more than one discipline. In any case, it is best to chose an advisor and reader with whom the student feels comfortable and works well together.

After choosing a topic, the student should get the approval of the advisor and reader and submit the form to the honors program director for approval. This registration must be completed by the end of the prior semester in which the thesis will be written. The proposal description written by the student in consultation with the advisor must be signed by the advisor, the reader, and the honors director before the student is registered for the course.

Once the paperwork is completed, the advisor should call a meeting with the student and the reader so that the procedural method for approaching the topic can be mutually agreed upon. The student should be directed to meet weekly for approximately an hour with the advisor and consult with the reader frequently during the semester. The student should prepare duplicate copies of all draft chapters so that the advisor and reader can provide help and correction at every stage of organization and writing. (This may not apply to laboratory research and/or creative arts projects, though it does apply to the written stage of the projects.)

Much of the semester will be devoted to independent study, note taking, and the production of the first draft. Meetings with the advisor and/or reader are extremely important in the early sessions when the content, organization, and style are taking shape. Regular weekly meetings with the advisor are strongly recommended.

The most important matter, of course, is the quality of the thesis. The honors thesis is the final and perhaps significant requirement for the student whose diploma bears a special citation: "With academic distinction for completion of the Honors Program." It should be the result of a demanding course of research, either field, laboratory, or library, and should indicate the student's ability to do respectable, or even distinguished, independent study in the major. It ought to go further than the standard term paper for an undergraduate course, and be closer to a master's thesis (or somewhere between the two). The honors thesis is expected to be 50 pages though 100 pages is not unusual. In the case of an honors thesis that does not take the form of a research or critical paper, but rather a field project or creative work, the student must submit a substantial written report on the methodology and results of his/her work, including a bibliography of the literature in the field of the thesis. In this case, 25 pages is the standard. Examples of the 25-page thesis are easiest to give with respect to particular departments. Mathematics and logic theses are frequently short, sometimes shorter than 25 pages, because of their condensed formulaic style. In the arts, photography, painting, sculpture, etc., theses are satisfied by slides of the original work (which may be exhibited in the Honors Lounge) with a 25-page paper explaining the genesis of the project. Film students may submit a video of a completed film with a similar 25-page thesis paper. Music students may submit a performance tape. Frequently, the written music paper includes program notes as one section.

A listing of theses completed by honors program graduates is available. Bound copies of these theses are kept in the Honors Lounge.

It is a good idea to think of the thesis as a series of chapters. A rough draft of each chapter should be submitted to the advisor and reader for suggestions and comments. In short, the process of writing, accepting criticism, and making revisions should be ongoing throughout the semester. At any stage, the advisor may wish to consult with the reader. Students should keep notes on all sources and references, and document all work. The thesis should be read for grammatical and stylistic correctness as well as content. The final paper must confirm to standard English and all technical errors such as sentence fragments, run-ons, tense shifts, agreement errors, and punctuation errors must be corrected. The final form of the thesis should comply with the Modern Language Association Style Sheet, MLA Handbook for Writers Research Paper, Theses and Dissertations, or with a model recommended by journals in the discipline. Copies of the final draft should be submitted simultaneously to the advisor and reader, who will then consult on revisions and grading. The reader does render a significant second opinion which must be taken into account. The final grade roster must be signed by both the advisor and reader. In addition, the reader's review is presented as a written one-page critique that is attached to the thesis.

If the thesis is not acceptable as honors work and the student does not wish to make any further revisions to satisfy objections of the advisor or reader, a grade no higher than "C" should be awarded. The student will then have the credits for the thesis course, but not the honors citation. If the advisor and reader agree on a grade of "B" or above, the thesis is approved for an honors citation and stored in the Honors Program Library. If the advisor and reader cannot come to an agreement on the grade, the thesis is submitted to an appropriate faculty member of the Honors Program Advisory Board to render a decision. This board reserves the right to solicit outside opinion from an expert in the field.

The ORIGINAL copy of the completed thesis, signed by the advisor and reader, along with the reader's critique and a completed abstract form, must be hand delivered by the student to the Honors Program Office by the date specified on the thesis acceptance form. The director will then approve the honors citation on the diploma.