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Washington State University

Information for Thesis Advisors

Thank you for serving as a thesis advisor for a student in the Honors College! Your investment of time and effort is very much appreciated by everyone associated with Honors. Your guidance will deeply enrich the academic experience for the Honors student and help him or her complete a project that many alumni say was a very productive and memorable part of their WSU baccalaureate program.
To make your job easier, theses procedures and processes have been defined and documented, including what your role as a thesis advisor might entail. Please know that the collective input from hundreds of successful advisors before you as well as input from many Honors students has gone into the thesis program. It is intended that your involvement will be as enjoyable as it is rewarding. The Honors College is always available to answer your questions and assist you in any way that you need.


Guidelines for Mentoring Honors Students for the Thesis Requirement

Completion of an Honors thesis is a graduation requirement for the Washington State University Honors College. This requirement may involve library research, bench research in the field or laboratory, a creative project in the arts, or even a research project conducted while abroad. However, in all cases, the written thesis must embody a significant piece of writing couched within an academic framework. The student must synthesize the relevant scholarly literature and analyze his or her work within that context. Students who choose a creative project, such as composing music or creating a film, may submit a shorter written thesis (10-12 pages) which places their work in an appropriate context. In addition to the written document, students present their work orally to a public audience that includes an evaluator from the WSU academic community in addition to yourself.

One to three credits of Honors 450 are to be completed, depending upon the college in which the thesis is performed.

Responsibilities of the Thesis Advisor

Assisting with Proposal Development

Students have the primary responsibility for identifying a suitable topic and arranging a series of meetings with you to discuss the feasibility of the topic and a plan of action. The student (with your input) will develop a proposal (approx. 5 pages long, double-spaced) that describes the project to be done. This proposal requires your approval and signature and is submitted to the Honors College for final approval before the project is begun. You will find proposal format guidelines on the Honors College website. The proposal must include a clear research question or hypothesis, one that relates to an existing body of knowledge. For example, “How have the flute and flute repertoire evolved throughout the history of music and how does this evolution benefit today’s flutists?” or “Expression of prostate-specific membrane antigen is positively correlated with prostate cancer.” The student’s proposal should discuss the research question and include a minimum of 5-6 annotated scholarly sources, including some from the primary literature, that clearly relate to the question under investigation. Honors 398 is a one-credit required Honors College course that assists the student in preparing the research question and thesis proposal.

Sample Thesis Proposals and other Documents

Mentoring Throughout the Thesis Project

Regular interactions

We urge advisors and students to meet on a regular basis. A schedule of at least semi-monthly meetings is appropriate to discuss the progress of the student’s work. For students who are completing a project off campus (e.g., a laboratory internship or study abroad), email communication is satisfactory. These regular interactions are key to ensuring the completion of a strong paper and the intellectual growth of the student. We encourage you to establish a timeline of meetings that you will have with your student to avoid student procrastination and inevitable rushing at the last minute. Oral presentations are scheduled before the end of the semester (in either the 7th, 11th or 12th week), and students should allow sufficient time for final editing before they submit their thesis to the Honors College including the advisor-signature form approving the thesis as satisfactory.

Thesis Paper

Each student is responsible for completing a paper (a minimum of 20 pages long, double-spaced) written in a scholarly format that corresponds to the guidelines appropriate for your academic discipline. A student who completes a creative project, such as composing a piece of music or making a film, may submit a shorter paper of 10-12 pages. Reference citations and a bibliography are required.


The final version of the thesis is due as a Word of PDF-document Monday of the week prior to the week that oral presentations are given. This schedule provides thesis reviewers sufficient time to evaluate the paper before the oral presentation. Oral presentations are scheduled for the seventh week, eleventh and twelfth week of both the fall and spring semesters, and with rare exceptions on an ad hoc basis during summer. In order to facilitate theses scheduling during Week 7, 11 and 12, the specific time and date of the presentation should be chosen according to the thesis presentations schedule containing the specific deadlines for the given semester. Please check with the Honors College. In choosing a time, the student must coordinate his or her own calendar, your calendar, and that of the thesis reviewer.

Oral Presentation

Each student will give a 20-minute oral presentation of the work completed. As faculty mentor and thesis advisor, your presence at this presentation is required. Some students will need coaching on how to give an effective presentation of their work. All faculty are encouraged to mentor their students in their presentations, just as you would any graduate student you have trained. For instance, several practice presentations of the student’s work is good mentoring for the student, as he or she will learn how faculty prepare presentations of their scholarly work.

The student may also do a poster presentation of his/her thesis. Please see the Honors College for details.

To enhance the student’s thesis experience, we ask the student presenter and the thesis advisor to identify one other faculty member from the same or a related department who is willing to read the thesis and attend the oral presentation.

Most presentations are made in Honors Hall, where the necessary presentation technology will be available to the student. However, students should test their presentations ahead of time to ensure that their software is compatible and performs as expected. The thesis evaluator will have read the thesis and will be prepared to ask questions of the student. The evaluator will also complete an evaluation rubric for the written and oral parts of the thesis, indicating the student’s strengths and weaknesses in the final written thesis as well as the oral presentation. The public is invited to all presentations.

Final Grade

You will be given the Final Grade Form for your student at the time of the oral presentation. Although this is a pass/fail requirement, students will receive feedback from the reviewer that will indicate whether their work was excellent, passing, in need of minor or major revision, or failing. The Honors College will enter the grade for the thesis.

Pass with Distinction

Thesis advisors may decide to nominate exemplary theses for Pass with Distinction. Papers that merit the Pass with Distinction status reflect scholarly writing (i.e., couched in the relevant literature) and are analytical, synthetic, well-argued, well-written, and exhibit the potential for publication. The oral presentation must also be exemplary. If you and the thesis evaluator wish to nominate your student for Pass with Distinction, you must submit a typed letter of nomination after the oral presentation indicating why, in specific terms, you think this student’s work deserves this designation. The Honors Council makes the final determination on this designation at the end of each semester. Examples of theses earning Pass with Distinction are available for review.

Thesis Handbook

Procedures and timelines, along with answers to frequently asked questions, are in the Thesis Handbook.