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If we don't answer your questions here, your issue may be something normally handled at the departmental level. Departmental Honors thesis questions should be first addressed to your department's Honors Council representative. If you are advising a General Honors thesis, you should contact the General Honors faculty member on the committee or the Honors Program Office. You should also become familiar with our Graduation with Honors FAQ.

Thesis Advisors

Am I qualified to be an honors thesis advisor or serve on a thesis committee?

To be eligible to serve on a thesis committee one must be a regular full-time faculty member or a multi-year contract instructor involved in an instructional program at the University of Colorado Boulder. In terms of rank, this means Professor, Associate Professor, Assistant Professor, Senior Instructor, or Instructor. Graduate students are not allowed to serve on thesis committees.

What is the role of the thesis advisor?

The honors thesis advisor is very much like a graduate thesis advisor. The presumption is that the advisor's scholarship or interest will be close to the student’s topic. Thesis advisors should also be willing and able to meet with the student on a regular basis - the most common factor in a failed thesis attempt is a breakdown in communication between the advisor and the student.

In those cases where the thesis advisor is a member of the Honors Council and is serving as both thesis advisor and as Honors Council representative, we recommend that one of the other committee members also be a member of the Honors Council.

While Directors of the Honors Program and the Honors Council have never attempted to stipulate the duties and responsibilities of honors thesis advisors, it is ordinarily the case that the thesis advisor will:

  • Know the Honors Program deadlines and work with the department’s Honors Council representative(s) to keep the student on track;
  • Ensure that the thesis topic has been appropriately defined and that the student has identified the relevant scholarly literature or creative context for the project;
  • Meet with the student periodically during the research and writing of the thesis to discuss the project and its significance;
  • Read and comment on drafts, returning them in a timely way;
  • Provide whatever advice and assistance is necessary in preparing the student to defend the thesis, and participate in the defense as one of the examiners;
  • Agree, as appropriate, to write letters of reference or recommendation on the student’s behalf.

These guidelines reflect typical practices in the College of Arts and Sciences, and are not formal requirements. Departmental expectations governing the responsibilities of thesis advisors will necessarily vary according to disciplinary standards and institutional customs.

What is the role of the outside representative?

This role is less defined, and often varies. The outside representative can offer a different perspective to students, but whether or not the student or the committee feel the need for regular meetings can be negotiated. At the least, the outside representative should be prepared to read and give feedback on drafts of the thesis.

Thesis Defenses

How are defenses scheduled and conducted?

The deadline to defend is always the same day that the defense copy is due to the Honors Program Office.

The honors thesis defense format is similar to a graduate thesis defense, and in most departments scheduling a time and place is the student’s responsibility. Many departments also ask the student to bring an unofficial copy of their transcript to the defense. The Honors Program doesn’t need to know when the defense will take place – that’s between the student and their committee.

Do encourage your student to schedule their defense as soon as possible and, ideally, not on the last day to defend. Colorado’s weather can be unpredictable, and there’s no room in the thesis timeline for extensions. In addition, if the thesis requires revisions for the final copy, the more time your student has to complete them after the defense the better.

One critical note: there is one area where the honors thesis defense diverges from the defense of a graduate thesis. Whereas graduate students are typically told whether they passed or failed following their defense, this is absolutely not the case for the honors thesis. The student MUST NOT be told what the committee recommendation will be. The Honors Council’s honors recommendation can in some circumstances differ from the committee’s.

After the defense, the committee completes the thesis defense form and decides who will write the required narrative (some departments require that the Honors Council member do so, while others prefer the thesis advisor). The narrative is a letter of recommendation addressed to the Honors Council and written on behalf of the entire examining committee.

The narrative must include the following:

  • when, where and who conducted the defense, with the thesis advisor specified;
  • a clear statement of the recommendation as well as the vote (if the vote is unanimous, state that explicitly; if the vote is not unanimous, a clear indication of the split must be provided);
  • a rationale for the recommendation. This should include statements regarding the cumulative and major GPA and the quality of the thesis as well as the quality of the defense. 

Beyond those requirements, it is typical for the narrative to include pertinent information about the student's thesis, including the argument the thesis makes and how that argument is defended, how the student conducted themselves not only during the defense but during the research and writing phase of their project, and why the thesis is important to the discipline. If the thesis is exceptional within the department's history of undergraduate theses, or more closely resembles graduate work, those types of statements and rationales supporting them are also welcome.

The defense form and narrative must be delivered directly to the Honors Program Office or scanned and emailed to honors@colorado.edu. Please do not use campus mail.

What are the GPA requirements for graduating with a certain level of Latin honors?

While GPA is only one part of the equation, there are guidelines:

• A minimum cumulative GPA of 3.3 qualifies a student to be considered for honors, cum laude;

• A minimum cumulative GPA of 3.5 qualifies a student to be considered for honors, magna cum laude;

• A minimum cumulative GPA of 3.8 qualifies a student to be considered for honors, summa cum laude.

While these guidelines qualify a student for consideration for a given level of honors, any honors earned are also based on the quality of the thesis and thesis defense. Depending on the quality of the thesis and thesis defense, a defense committee may recommend an honors designation other than what the guidelines suggest.

My student no longer wants to defend/wants to defer their thesis. What do they need to do?

As far as the Honors Program is concerned, all they need to do is let us know. We remove them from our list of candidates and shred their paperwork. There is no penalty for withdrawal or deferral.

Thesis Requirements

What does the Honors Program require from students?

First, the registration paperwork and attachments (a prospectus, preliminary bibliography, and timeline), and eventually a printed and unbound defense copy of the thesis, then the final copy (uploaded to the Undergraduate Honors Theses Repository on CU Scholar).

The defense copy of the thesis is just that - the same version of the thesis that was defended before the committee. This is the copy of the thesis that an honors recommendation is based on. The final copy can incorporate changes suggested by the committee, but any changes made cannot change the level of honors the student may earn.

What information needs to be on the thesis title page?

Title pages must include the student’s name, department, thesis title, and defense date as well as the names and departments of each of the committee members, with the thesis advisor specified. Most format requirements are set by individual departments. As long as our requirements are met, the title page format can vary.

Resources for Students

Can students get funding for their research?

Students from all disciplines can apply for Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program grants.

Is course credit available for research and writing?

Yes. All departments and programs who participate in the College of Arts and Sciences Honors Program have the ability to give students thesis credit through the department. Only General Honors students can receive thesis credit through the Honors Program.

How can my student get writing assistance?

The easiest thing to do is direct your students to the Writing Center. The Writing Center also recommends the Purdue OWL for writing tips and resources.

If your student has a semester or two before they defend, you can suggest they take HONR 3220: Advanced Honors Writing. HONR 3220 is designed for students from any discipline who will be defending a thesis at least one semester after taking the course. This course also satisfies the upper-division writing requirement; juniors and seniors are welcome.

A brief description of the course: “This course introduces honors students to analysis and argumentation as they are rendered in longer prose forms. The course addresses the intellectual and rhetorical challenges of producing a major piece of scholarship, often a section or aspect of your honors thesis, and or a major paper that can be used as a prelude to a possible honors thesis. As such, the course provides excellent preparation for writing an honors thesis. The course explores the intellectual challenges of defining and refining the thesis topic and formulating a specific research question, as well as the rhetorical challenges of preparing a thesis prospectus.”

Are there copyright/fair use resources available to students?

The Scholarly Communications page on the Libraries' website is a good place to start. They also point to the Copyright Advisory Office at Columbia University, where there are a number of tools that can help you navigate what is and is not fair use.

The Undergraduate Honors Theses Repository

Where are honors theses archived? Are they available online?

In Spring 2014, the Honors Program joined CU Scholar, the institutional research repository for the University of Colorado Boulder. All thesis students are required to upload the final copy of their thesis to the Undergraduate Honors Theses repository. Individual departments or programs may still require printed copies, but the Honors Program does not.

Theses defended before Spring 2014 are now housed in the University Archives. Members of the community wishing to access specific theses from the archive will need the thesis title, author’s name, and the semester the thesis was defended.

My student’s thesis has unpublishable data. Can the thesis be embargoed?

Theses with confidential data can be embargoed. CU Scholar maintains records of embargoed theses, including student information, committee information and the abstract. While there is also a a download link visible, the theses themselves are not accessible. Anyone attempting to download an embargoed thesis will receive this notification: "NOTE: The full-text of this Thesis/Dissertation is currently under embargo. It will be available for download on [date embargo expires]."


Is there an honors graduation ceremony?

Of course! It’s called the Honors Convocation, and you are welcome to attend. The Honors Convocation includes speeches by the Director of the Honors Program, the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, and the Outstanding Undergraduate of the College. Students who have earned Latin honors are then invited on stage to receive their honors medal. A catered reception follows.

How are honors notated on the diploma and transcript?

Latin honors are included on the diploma and as part of the graduation data in the Degrees, Certificates and Licensure section of the transcript (only available after degrees are posted).

Do I need to describe the honors thesis process in recommendation letters?

It’s a good idea to do so. Unlike many universities, who award Latin honors to undergraduates based solely on GPA, the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder requires the successful writing and defense of an honors thesis in order to earn Latin honors. As our thesis process is one of the most rigorous in the nation, students who complete this process - typically between four to seven percent of each graduating class - have chosen to go above and beyond many of their peers not only at CU-Boulder but nationwide. That process and how the student navigated it are well worth talking about.