Welcome, and thank you for choosing to work with our talented undergraduates!

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.

Here is the link to a regular PDF version of the Faculty Thesis Defense Form:  Thesis Defense Form

Here is the link to a fillable electronic version of the Faculty Thesis Defense Form:  Faculty Defense Form - Fillable

Looking for the dates of upcoming Honors Council meetings?  They are listed on the "Deadlines" document for each semester.  You will find student dates listed at the top and faculty dates listed at the bottom.  Click here to find the "Deadlines" documents for current and upcoming semesters:   https://www.colorado.edu/honors/graduation#registration_and_deadlines-104

Committee Members

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, Teaching Associate Professor (Senior Instructor), or Teaching Assistant Professor (Instructor). Additionally, faculty must hold a terminal degree in their field (usually a Ph.D.).  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 Honors Council Representative?

The Honors Council Representative is the liaison between the Honors Program and the student's major department.  They are responsible for making sure students follow the policies, procedures, and deadlines set forth by the Honors Program, and any additional policies and procedures the department has enacted.  The Honors Council Representative (HCR) is designated by each department, and may serve for a specific period of time or indefinitely, depending on the policies of a particular department.  Some departments have only one HCR, while the larger ones may have multiple faculty serving.  For the larger departments, such as Psychology and Neurosciences, they may have numerous representatives, but only a couple of their members attend the Council meetings and vote on designations, so that the representation of Council members at the meetings is even across the larger and smaller departments.  

Honors Council Representatives are expected to attend both the subcommittee meeting and the full Council meeting each semester if possible.  In the subcommittee/divisional meetings, Honors Council members in each division discuss theses in detail along with the committee recommendations for Latin honors, and in the full Council meeting the following day, the subcommittee recommendations are considered and brought to a vote.  If you have a student who is being considered for Latin honors, it is important for you to attend both meetings so that you can discuss their projects and associated recommendations.  For more details, please refer to your Honors Council Handbook.  

If you plan to serve on a student's committee as an Honors Council Representative, you should first review their project idea, prospectus, proposed committee members, timeline, and initial bibliography to ensure that it meets the standards of your department.  Once you've approved the project on behalf of the department and agreed to serve, the student can register their project with the Honors Program through our online registration form.  Please be sure to familiarize yourself with the student and faculty deadlines; you'll want to look at the document associated with the semester the student plans to defend.  The student will always need to register the semester prior to the one in which they intend to defend.  For a fall defense, that registration deadline is two days before the last day of spring classes, and for a spring defense, it is always the first Tuesday in October.  To see more about the registration form and deadlines, please click here:  https://www.colorado.edu/honors/graduation#registration_and_deadlines-104

What is the role of the Outside Reader?

This role is less defined, and often varies. The Outside Reader's primary role is to make sure that a student’s thesis is held to the same high standards as other departments, and thus must be from outside the student's major department.  The Outside Reader can offer a different perspective to students and be a key member in the student's research and writing process, or their participation can be more limited.  Whether or not the student or the committee feel the need for regular meetings can be negotiated. At the least, the Outside Reader should be prepared to read and give feedback on drafts of the thesis, attend the student's defense, and vote on the Latin honors recommendation.

In the case where a student's Thesis Advisor is outside the student's major department (which may or may not be allowed, depending on the policies of the individual department), it is possible for the Thesis Advisor to fulfil the role as Outside Reader as well.  In those cases, the student will still need a third committee member, and that member would be referred to as the additional committee member.

What if a student wants someone to serve but you're not sure they meet the eligibility requirements?

To submit a request for someone to serve that may not meet the eligibility requirements, either you or the student should email honors@colorado.edu with the following:

  • A list of the rest of the committee members
  • A brief description of why they want this person to serve
  • Attach a copy of the person's CV
  • If the student hasn’t registered already, include the student’s prospectus

We will submit the request to the director to see if they are willing to consider an exception.  If the person is approved, there are two options for serving:  They may be approved as a full committee member, or they may be approved in a non-voting capacity.  If approved as a non-voting member, they would be listed as an ex-officio member of the committee on the student's defense copy title page.  They would not be allowed to vote on the Latin honors designation, and therefore not included on the faculty defense form, but could participate in all other facets including attending the defense and discussing it afterwards.  We'll respond via email to relay the results, and we will indicate whether they've been approved as voting or non-voting.

I'm an Honors Council Representative. Should I attend the council meetings?

If possible, Honors Council Representatives are expected to attend both the subcommittee meeting and the full Council meeting each semester.  In the subcommittee/divisional meetings, Honors Council members in each division discuss theses in detail along with the committee recommendations for Latin honors, and in the full Council meeting the following day, the subcommittee recommendations are considered and brought to a vote.  If you have a student who is being considered for Latin honors, it is important for you to attend both meetings so that you can discuss their projects and associated recommendations.  For more details, please refer to your Honors Council Handbook, or reach out to us at 303-492-6617 or honors@colorado.edu - we are happy to help!

Thesis Defenses

How are defenses scheduled and conducted, and what documentation is required?

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

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). Please see the question "How do I fill out and submit the Faculty Defense Form electronically?" for details on how to fill out the form when the committee does not meet in person.  If there is a member of the committee that has been designated as a non-voting (ex-officio) member, they should not sign the defense form nor should they vote on the recommended designation when the committee is ready to vote.

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 (for remote defenses, please list the location as “via Zoom” or some other appropriate indication that it was held remotely)
  • 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 GPA (not rounded) and the quality of the thesis as well as the quality of the defense. The major GPA should also be listed.

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.

In the event of a two-step recommendation (up or down), two strong letters of recommendation/support are required. For a split vote, two letters are recommended but not required.  A two-step recommendation occurs when a student's cumulative GPA is two levels above or below the committee's recommendation.  For example, if a student's GPA is 3.3 (in line with a cum laude designation) and the committee recommends summa cum laude, that would be two steps up.  A one-step recommendation up or down does not require additional letters of support.

The defense form and narrative/letters of recommendation must be 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 3.300 qualifies a student to be considered for honors, cum laude;

• A minimum cumulative GPA of 3.500 qualifies a student to be considered for honors, magna cum laude;

• A minimum cumulative GPA of 3.800 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.  When considering GPA, the Honors Program does not allow for rounding; you must use the full GPA to the thousandths place.

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 simply remove them from our list of candidates if they are withdrawing from the process entirely. If the student wishes to defer their thesis defense to a later semester, we're happy to provide them infromation on what their next steps should be. There is no penalty for withdrawal or deferral.

How do I fill out and submit the Faculty Defense Form electronically?

Here are the steps to fill out, sign, and submit Defense Forms electronically:

  1. The Honors Council Representative (referred to going forward as "Rep") is usually in charge of filling out the form.  If a different committee member is designated as committee chair, they may complete the form instead; in that case, please then substitute "Rep" for "chair" in the rest of the instructions.
  2. The Rep will download a copy of the Faculty Thesis Defense Form PDF file to their computer.  If the Rep is unable to edit PDFs and wants to fill it out electronically, a Word document of the Thesis Defense Form is available instead.
  3. The Rep may then either print the form and fill out the majority by hand, or edit the file, as they wish.  They will fill out the student's name, department name, all committee members' printed names, their associated department abbreviations, and the number of votes received for each designation (for example, if all three committee members voted for magna cum laude, they can either put a "3" or the roman numerals "III" in the magna cum laude box.  Please do not put an "X").
  4. The Rep should then sign the form as usual, add "on behalf of the full committee" and send an electronic copy of the form to honors@colorado.edu in the naming format of "LastName FirstName Defense Form".  If the Rep is filling out the form electronically and they are unable to apply a signature in the form, the Rep can type in their name on the signature line and it will be considered a valid signature if the form is emailed from the Rep's account.  If the form was filled out by hand and there is no way to scan in the file, sending a photo of the form is fine as long as everything is readable.  If the Rep is filling out the form electronically and wants to add their signature using DocuSign, the Rep should add "on behalf of the full committee" below where they plan to place their signature, upload the form to DocuSign, electronically sign it, and email it to honors@colorado.edu.  For further information on DocuSign in general, please refer to OIT's DocuSign informational page.
  5. If other committee members wish to send additional email(s) to honors@colorado.edu in regards to the student's defense, they are welcome to do so.  They should be sure to include the full name of the student and their major.

Remember that the student must not be told what designation the committee has recommended.

Thesis Requirements

What does the Honors Program require from students?

First, they must register online where they will also upload their prospectus, preliminary bibliography, and timeline. Eventually they they will have to email us their unmodified defense copy of their thesis, before uploading their final copy 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.

In rare cases, the Director may approve a faculty member who otherwise does not meet the eligibility requirements to serve in a non-voting capacity.  In those cases, you'll see them indicated by an (NVM) designation appended to their name in any spreadsheet information we send out.  In a more official capacity, such as students' defense copies, we use the term "ex -officio" to indicate they are a non-voting member.  Ex-officios are not eligible to vote on a student’s designation, but they are welcome to attend their defense. Students are not required to list an approved non-voting member on their defense copy’s title page; however, if they'd like to do so, it would need to look like this:

Member’s Name (ex-officio)

Since ex-officio (NVM) members cannot vote, they should not be listed on the faculty defense form.

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 - an average of 8% of the A&S graduating class each year - 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.