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Mentoring the Honors Thesis

Honors Thesis/Capstone Advisors

Honors Thesis/Capstone Advisors have the primary job of mentoring the honors student through the thesis/capstone process.  The Advisor is mutually agreed upon by the student and faculty member via the Thesis Advisor Agreement, which should be completed during the first semester the student is enrolled in HON 351 (typically in the student’s junior year.)  The Thesis Advisor mentor relationship with the student can vary depending upon the department norms and the needs of the student.  The following primary duties are typical for most Thesis Advisors:

  1. Help the student develop a project that is appropriate for the time frame, which is generally two semesters in length. The students will enroll in 1 credit hour for the proposal phase, then 1-3 credit hours for the actual project over the next two semesters. 
  2. Assist the student in framing the topic and developing a project that is of interest to the student, well-focused in nature, and appropriate for an Honors thesis or capstone.
  3. Ensure that the student’s project is not just an arm of the Thesis Advisor’s own research.  The project should be a meaningful research project or creative capstone project initiated by the student in an area of the student’s interest, comprised of the student’s own work.  The student should not simply be a research assistant for the professor.
    1. That being said, the Honors Thesis or Capstone project may tie into the Thesis Advisor’s ongoing work in various ways especially in the natural sciences, as long as the student has their own piece of the project, which is of interest to the student and has clear beginning and end dates.  Students conducting research in a laboratory setting, such as biology or chemistry projects, will likely conduct research under the leadership of their faculty mentor with links to larger scientific research projects.
  4. Help guide the student’s background research/literature review with suggestions for readings.  However, the student should not rely on the Thesis Advisor for all information related to the background research.  Students should use all of the resources at hand, most notably librarians, to assist them in locating suitable background research material. Honors students also complete two separate research courses during their time in the program and should be well-equipped to conduct literature reviews.
  5. Meet with the student on a regular basis throughout HON 351 and HON 451.  This may take different formats for different student/faculty combinations.  The most successful meeting schedules are regularly scheduled and occur at least every other week. Some advisors also choose to meet face-to-face with their advisee once a month, using frequent e-mail communication between meetings to keep the project on track. 
  6. Provide feedback to the HON351 and HON451 instructor about the progress of individual Honors students within the department with respect to their honors thesis work.  This feedback becomes part of the grading rubric for these courses as stated in the syllabi for the courses.  A short questionnaire is emailed mid-semester and at the end of semester for feedback.  Advisors are welcome to contact the Honors Program staff at any time if there are concerns about a student’s progress.
  7. Review the project proposal, review the final abstract for submission for conferences or funding opportunities, and review the final Thesis/Capstone project. This process of project review may require reading multiple drafts and/or giving the student specific, copious feedback. If the student needs editing beyond that which the Thesis Advisor can (or should) provide, the Thesis Advisor can recommend an external editor or the writing center for more serious writing issues.