The Honors Thesis in 10 Steps
It’s never too early to start thinking about the senior thesis. We recommend that students create a thesis file (physical or electronic) during their first college year. The file can be a repository for interesting papers or projects; musings on coursework, internship or volunteer experiences, education away opportunities or undergraduate research; and notes about favorite professors.
SCHC 390 is a pass/fail course typically taken in the junior year to prepare students to undertake the senior thesis paper or project. The course is designed to help students refine the question that will drive their thesis project and develop a proposal describing how they will answer the question and the significance of their project.
Pharmacy students and students in the College of Engineering and Computing are not required to enroll in SCHC 390 but must submit a thesis proposal at least one semester prior to completing their thesis project.
Each student (with the exception of those in Pharmacy and the College of Engineering and Computing) is required to form a thesis committee, consisting of a director and a second reader. The thesis director is a USC faculty member with expertise in the thesis topic area who will help shape the project parameters, offer guidance and evaluate the thesis project. The director also serves as the instructor of record for SCHC 499 (or approved thesis course equivalents) and assigns a letter grade for each semester a student takes thesis credits. As such, students should submit a signed director contract prior to beginning SCHC 499.
The second reader is an individual with knowledge and experience to support the project who will provide research or project development support, review drafts of the work and provide feedback. The second reader does not have to be affiliated with USC but cannot be an undergraduate student or a close friend or family member. The selection of the second reader should be made in concert with the thesis director. Students should identify a second reader and submit their contact information to the Honors College for approval by the midpoint of the semester in which they begin their thesis work.
Students develop a thesis proposal as part of SCHC 390 but should expect to refine that proposal as they begin SCHC 499, especially if their thesis director was not involved in drafting the initial plan. In addition to refining the research question or project purpose and method, students should work with their thesis committees to come up with a more detailed timeline for completing their thesis work, drafting and revising their paper and defending the project.
All Honors College students will complete a minimum of three credit hours of thesis preparation (i.e., SCHC 499 or an approved course equivalent). SCHC 499 is a letter-graded independent study. Students work with their thesis directors to determine “assignments,” due dates and evaluation criteria for a successful thesis project. We recommend that students and thesis directors develop a learning contract, especially during the first semester of thesis work, to ensure that expectations are clear.
Most students enroll in SCHC 499 in their final year at USC and split the credits across two semesters, taking 1 credit hour in the fall and 2 credit hours in the spring. Students should have an initial conversation about their thesis timeline with their Honors advisor late in their sophomore year. BARSC students can read more about the thesis requirements and timeline for their major here.
All thesis projects include a written component, though the paper accompanying a creative or applied thesis project is typically shorter than that associated with a research-based thesis. Students should consult with their thesis directors about specific writing guidelines, as length and format may vary considerably based on the discipline and the nature of the thesis project. More information about the required components for all thesis papers can be found here.
Students are expected to share a final draft of the thesis paper with their committees at least two weeks before the thesis defense.
The thesis defense (part presentation/part conversation) is an opportunity for students to demonstrate what they have learned throughout the thesis process. Students should focus on addressing three main points in the defense: (1) the primary answer to the question they set out to explore, (2) the evidence and interpretations that support that answer and (3) their response to possible objections or alternate answers.
The defense also allows the committee to offer further feedback and to engage in a dialog with the student about the project. Both the director and second reader must be present at the thesis defense, and students are welcome to invite friends, family members and interested others to participate as well.
The defense should take place at least one week before the end of the semester in which the student plans to submit the thesis at a time and place agreed upon by the student and committee members. Students must submit their thesis defense plans to the Honors College (available here). Students are responsible for reserving a room for the defense. Rooms in HRH can be reserved by completing this online form.
The thesis defense requirement may also be met by participation in the Honors Thesis Symposium. More information about the symposium is available here.
Following the defense, students will make any edits requested by the thesis committee and have the director and second reader sign the thesis title page. The title page should include a space for the dean’s signature, but students are not required to obtain the signature prior to submission. The thesis submission should include the following items in a single Word or PDF document:
- Thesis title page (Use the template provided online.)
- Thesis summary or abstract
- Table of contents
- Body of thesis paper with pages numbered consecutively
In order to certify a student as an Honors College graduate, the thesis must be submitted by the last class day of the semester in which the student completes the project. The thesis is submitted via an online form. In addition to the thesis paper, students may upload one additional file (e.g., documentation of a creative or applied project, plan sets for engineering projects).
File size is limited. Large supplementary files should be stored on an accessible cloud server with a link included in the thesis paper. Students should contact Dr. Tracy Skipper if they encounter problems submitting their thesis.
We encourage students to publish their Honors thesis in Scholar Commons, an institutional repository established through Thomas Cooper Library providing open access to information. In some cases, another publishing venue may be more appropriate. Students should consult their thesis directors about other publishing opportunities prior to submitting their thesis to Scholar Commons.
Students may also elect to have copies of the thesis bound for their own use or for presentation to their thesis committee members. University Printing Services provides binding services, as does the HF Group via Thesis on Demand.
Important dates for fall 2023
|8/14||Thesis grant application for the fall semester opens.|
|8/30||Students beginning the first semester of SCHC 499 should submit the thesis director contract if they have not already done so.|
Students in the final semester of thesis preparation may request to change thesis topic (revised proposal and director approval required).
Second reader information is due to the Honors College (not required for CEC or Pharmacy students).
Submission portal for Fall Thesis Showcase opens
Application deadline for Fall Thesis ShowcaseStudents can present at the showcase in lieu of a traditional thesis defense if both the director and second reader are present.
|11/3||Thesis grant applications for the fall semester close.|
|11/17||Students in the final semester of thesis preparation submit thesis defense plans to the Honors College.|
|11/28||Fall Thesis Showcase (Harper College 320)|
|12/1||Last day to hold thesis defense for students graduating in December (CEC students will follow the presentation deadline for their capstone course.)|
|12/8||Last day to submit thesis to Honor College for students graduating in December|
Important Dates for Spring 2024
|1/8||Thesis grant application for the spring semester opens.|
|1/16||Students beginning the first semester of SCHC 499 should submit the thesis director contract if they have not already done so.|
|1/22||Students in the final semester of thesis preparation may request to change thesis topic (revised proposal and director approval required).|
Thesis Symposium submission link opens.Students can present at the Symposium in lieu of a traditional thesis defense if both the director and second reader are present.
|3/1||Deadline to submit for Thesis Symposium|
|3/29||Thesis grant application for the spring semester closes.|
|4/1||Students in the final semester of thesis preparation submit thesis defense plans to the Honors College.|
|4/12 (tentative)||Thesis Symposium|
Last day to hold thesis defense for students graduating in May(CEC students will follow the presentation deadline for their capstone course.)
Last day to submit thesis to Honor College for students graduating in May