Senior year is fast approaching, and if you’re an Honors student, you know what that means: It's Honors Thesis time! For the last three years, any Honors-related conversation I had always involved the Honors Thesis, and it's unreal how fast time has flown by.

If you’re new here, the Honors Thesis is a six - credit research project where Honors students pursue advanced scholarship into a topic they’re interested in. Honors Theses can be completed either through a Thesis Seminar or an Individually Contracted Honors Thesis, and I’m doing the latter. Most students choose to do it over a year (with three credits each semester), but other options are available to do it all in one semester as well.

To start your Honors Thesis, students have to submit an Honors Thesis proposal in the summer/winter prior to the semester you begin your project. I’m starting my thesis in fall 2023, so I just submitted my proposal during summer 2023! 

There’s numerous steps to take before completing your project, so here’s my guide to submitting the Honors Thesis proposal for an Individually Contracted Thesis.

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Find labs/professors you want to work with

There’s endless research options at UMass Amherst, so finding a lab or professor you want to work with can be tricky. I’ve been working in the Peyton Lab since junior year, so I’ll be contracting my thesis with professor Shelly Peyton. 

If you’re unsure about what research you want to do or how to find groups you’re interested in, reach out to the Office of Undergraduate Research and Studies (OURS). Their staff are excellent in helping you find a good research fit. 

You can also reach out to advisors and different professors to learn more about the work done in that department, and what their research culture is like.

I recommend reaching out and finding things you’re interested in the semester before (spring 2023 for me), as everyone is hard to contact during the summer/winter. 

Communicate Regularly with Your Thesis Advisor

Once you’ve found the research you want to do. and a professor to work with, it's time to build your proposal! Start communicating regularly with your Thesis advisor (the professor you’re working with). The proposal asks for how often you’ll meet with them and various deadlines for work you’ll submit through the period of your thesis, so it's important to ensure you’re on the same page as your advisor. 

The proposal also has sections about the goal of your thesis, the methods you will use, key readings you’ve gone through, and any training you’ll need before starting it. Make sure to talk about all of these with your advisor when you get the chance!

Write and submit the proposal! 

Ideally, you start this process towards the end of the semester prior to the proposal, but you can work on it through the summer as well! Once you have all the details ironed out with your advisor, it's best to start filling out the proposal on CHC PATHS. Since I’m doing it over two semesters (fall 2023 & spring 2024), I submitted the 499Y proposal. The deadlines vary based on the semester, but the earlier the better. Make sure to ask your advisor to look over everything before submitting it! They can log into PATHS and make recommendations, but I wrote everything in a google doc and sent it to my advisor who made comments there. Once all that’s done, hit submit and let the CHC staff take care of the rest!

So that’s the process I went through to write my Thesis proposal. I was fortunate enough to take ENGIN 351H, which is the Honors version of a junior - year engineering writing course where we had to write a Thesis proposal. So I could use the proposal I wrote there for my actual project. 

Do you have any tips for writing an Honors Thesis proposal? We’d love to communications [at] honors [dot] umass [dot] edu (hear) from you!

Article posted in Academics for Current students