Honors Thesis Supervision

Honors Thesis Supervision


Your experience in the Honors Programs will culminate in the production of a thesis or creative project. This set of guidelines is intended to answer your questions about the thesis/project process and provide rules regarding the submission of your work. That said, you may very well have questions that are not covered in this document. If so, please feel free to contact the Office of Honors Programs at hbghonors@psu.edu or 717-948-6062.


Usually, an honors thesis or creative project is accomplished by a student during his or her senior year; however, there is no rule preventing students from starting and finishing the work ahead of schedule, such as in the junior year. Consult your honors adviser if you are not sure.

Thesis Preparation Class

Take HONOR 494M & HONOR 495H (three credits combined) no later than two (regular) semesters prior to the semester you intend to graduate. You can take the class earlier, if you choose to do so. These classes are typically offered every spring. These classes prepare you to formulate research questions/hypotheses, choose appropriate data and methodology, submit a proposal to Penn State’s Institutional Review Board, complete a thesis proposal, and draft a literature review chapter. For almost all majors, HONOR 494M and HONOR 495H can be used to satisfy degree requirements.

Thesis/Project Proposal

At the end of the HONOR 494M & 495H, you should have a completed Thesis/Project Proposal (see Thesis/Project Proposal form in Canvas). For students who will graduate in Spring 2014 or later, you must submit the proposal one year prior to graduation. See the submission deadline in Canvas.


Once you have taken HONOR 494M & HONOR 495H, you are ready to begin your thesis or project. At this time, you should register for HONOR 496H (note: you cannot register for HONOR 496H until you have submitted your Proposal). Though HONOR 496H is a three credit- hour class, you will be mainly working on your own, with the assistance and supervision of your thesis readers. Like HONOR 494M and HONOR 495H, HONOR 496H can be used to satisfy degree requirements for almost all majors.

Thesis Supervisor (First Reader)

Your thesis supervisor will also be the first reader of your thesis. The Honors Programs will not assign this person to you. Rather, you must choose the faculty member with whom you want to work and secure that individual’s consent. The thesis supervisor must be a full-time, tenured or tenure-track faculty with professorial rank (assistant, associate, or full professor) or a member of the graduate faculty. If you are unsure, contact the Office of Honors Programs or ask your honors adviser.

In making the decision, you should select a tenure-line faculty member who knows the general field in which your thesis or project is situated. That said, he or she does not need to be an expert on your specific topic. Also, be sure to choose someone with whom you have a good working relationship. In making this decision, ask yourself the following questions about candidates you are considering approaching: “Will the faculty member be generous with his or her time?” “Will she meet with me when I need help or will she be hard to find?” “Will he read drafts of chapters in a timely fashion and provide feedback?” Usually, the best strategy is to ask a faculty member whose classes you have taken, performed well in, and enjoyed.

The thesis supervisor holds several responsibilities that are critical to the honors student’s ability to write a thesis successfully. He or she needs to hold regular meetings with the student to provide guidance and expertise. More specifically, the supervisor needs to assist the writer in all steps of the thesis-writing process. He or she must help the student formulate a topic, select a second reader, create a timetable with realistic deadlines, undertake research, and get started writing. Throughout the thesis year, the adviser must be ready to read drafts of chapters in a timely fashion and provide constructive feedback. When the thesis is complete, the thesis adviser serves as the first reader. His or her signature, when combined with that of the second reader, indicates that the final document submitted to the Capital College Honors Program or Schreyer Honors College is of acceptable quality.

Faculty Reader (Second Reader)

The second reader can be in the same school or program as the first reader. However, sometimes students obtain positive results when they ask a faculty member from a completely different field to serve as a second reader. For example, if your thesis or project exists in the field of Engineering, consider asking someone from Humanities or Public Affairs. Why?  You want to write a thesis that can be understood not only by experts in your field but also by general readers. If a second reader outside your field can comprehend and see the merits of your research, you have written a document accessible to all. Your faculty reader should also be a full-time, tenured or tenure-track faculty with professorial rank (assistant, associate, or full professor) or a member of the graduate faculty.

Due Dates

You will be working with your thesis supervisor and faculty reader throughout the semester (and year) you are enrolled in HONOR 496H. Thus, you should work with the faculty members to set dates for submitting drafts. DO NOT PROSCASTINATE. A thesis takes time to write and rewrite.

Starting fall 2013, the final version of your thesis, with all signatures, is due about three weeks before the last week of classes of your graduation semester. About five weeks before the last week of classes, you must also submit a draft of your thesis for format check. Check the deadlines in Canvas. There is no exemption and due date cannot be changed because the graduation list must be verified.

Electronic Submission

Students are required to submit a draft copy for format check and the final copy of thesis online.

For the Capital College Honors Program students, submit both in PDF to hbghonors@psu.edu. For Schreyer Honors College students, upload your draft and final version in PDF at Schreyer Honors College’s website. Note that Schreyer Honors College requires a processing fee for a thesis. If you need a PDF conversion, contact the Office of Honors Programs.

All theses are open access to the public. If you have concern about open access, contact the Office of Honors Programs.

For the final copy, print out the signatory page and delete the page. Submit the signatory page with all signatures in hard copy to the Office of Honors Programs.

Technical Requirements

The Honors Programs at Penn State Harrisburg use the formatting requirements of the University’s Schreyer Honors College. Please see Canvas for a detailed listing of the technical requirements and a thesis template.