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You are here: Home Enrichment Opportunities Senior Honors Theses Guidelines for A&S Honors Theses

Guidelines for A&S Honors Theses


The nature of the senior honors thesis may vary from department to department. In all cases honors theses shall reflect a significant investment of intellectual effort, and greater originality, scope and quality than is normally expected in an upper-division course in the major department. The standards of scholarship of the discipline apply, and the written portion of the thesis should conform to the style and format of the discipline. The following paragraphs outline the general procedures for the college honors thesis. Consult the Honors website, or call the Honors office (502.852.6293) for a current schedule of deadlines, forms and further information.

Eligibility to Graduate Summa or Magna Cum Laude

To be considered for graduation with college honors, you must have earned a minimum of 60 hours of degree credit in residence in the College of Arts and Sciences, and completed all requirements of a degree program in the College of Arts and Sciences. Graduation summa cum laude requires a university g.p.a. and an expanded university g.p.a. of 3.75 or higher and successful completion of a departmental or independent thesis defended and approved by the Senior Honors Thesis Committee. Your final semester's grades are calculated in both g.p.a.s. The EXPANDED UNIVERSITY G.P.A. takes into account ALL grades earned at the university level, including grades that have been replaced through the "repeat" option or eliminated through bankruptcy, as well as work done at other institutions (even courses in which you may have earned a D or an F).

You may consider completing a senior honors thesis even if you are relying on your final year's grades to achieve averages of 3.75 or higher. If your university and your expanded university g.p.a. will both fall between 3.65 and 3.75, you may graduate magna cum laude if you also complete an honors thesis successfully. If you are currently in this category, follow the procedures listed below.


Latin Honors Honors upon Graduation Required Expanded GPA WITHOUT Thesis Required Expanded GPA WITH thesis
Summa cum laude Highest  honors  N/A 3.75-4.0
 Magna cum laude Higher honors  3.75-4.0  3.65-3.74
 Cum laude* High honors  3.5-3.74 N/A


*Only students who qualify for magna or summa are eligible to submit an initiation form and thesis proposal to the A&S Senior Honors Thesis Committee for consideration.


Thesis Initiation Form and Proposal

You must submit the thesis initiation form with your proposal to the Honors Office during the second month of your senior year (see posted deadline). Although your thesis proposal should be e-mailed directly as an attachment to the thesis coordinator, the Thesis Initiation Form must be printed, completed, signed, and turned in to the attention of the thesis coordinator in the Etscorn Honors Center in Threlkeld Hall by the advertised deadline.  Your departmental honors advisor will assist you in identifying a professor to supervise your senior honors thesis. The form must be signed by your department chair OR the department honors director after he or she has read and approved your thesis proposal.

Occasionally, students will have a primary research mentor who is not a U of L faculty member (for example, research conducted at another institution).  In this situation, you must identify a U of L faculty member to serve as your local mentor and the U of L mentor must sign the thesis initiation form to indicate that he/she is willing to serve in this role.

The proposal can be one to five pages long and must include a bibliography or other appropriate indication of your thesis's research base. The proposal must state clearly the objective of the thesis and the method(s) you will use to accomplish that objective. Organize your proposal to provide answers to the following questions: What is your topic? Why does this topic merit further study? What is the context for your investigation of this topic (in other words, what relevant secondary materials have been published on your topic)? How are you going to investigate this topic? What conclusions do you anticipate? Essentially, you are formulating a tentative thesis about your topic, and proposing a line of argument and methodology to support it. Be absolutely certain that you understand the difference between a topic (defined area of study) and a thesis (a statement of the argument you intend to make): proposals that address a topic without venturing a thesis are unlikely to be approved. The bibliography should contain a minimum of 10-12 specific secondary sources and use the documentation style relevant to your subject. Your proposal will be reviewed by the Senior Honors Thesis Committee, and it may be returned to you with suggestions for revision. When your proposal is reviewed, the thesis coordinator (Kirsten Armstrong) will notify you via e-mail of the committee's action.

Library Resources

When you are working on a college honors thesis, be sure to take advantage of the services offered by the reference librarians in Ekstrom Library, with whom you may make an individual research appointment to identify sources applicable to your topic. You will find their advice extremely helpful as you initiate and develop your research. Also, the University Writing Center (Ekstrom Library, Rm. 312) offers composition specialists who are trained to assist writers with help in argument and structure, as well as with editing and documentation. If you like, you may request an assignment to a closed carrel in the Ekstrom Library during the semester(s) in which you are completing your research. Carrels will be assigned through the Honors office subject to availability; see Kirsten Armstrong in the Etscorn Honors Center in Threlkeld Hall to apply.

Your Thesis Committee; Preparing for and Scheduling the Thesis Defense

You will be examined on your completed thesis by a committee of three faculty members who shall be: 1) your supervising professor, 2) a college faculty member assigned from the Senior Honors Thesis Committee, and 3) a faculty member knowledgeable in the subject, agreed upon by you, your supervising professor and the Honors Program; this faculty member’s teaching and/or research interests should be close enough to your topic that as reader, they can adequately evaluate your thesis and defense of it. At least one member of your committee (generally the representative of the Senior Honors Thesis Committee) must be based in a department other than your major. Start looking for a third reader at least a month before the deadline and advise the thesis coordinator (Kirsten Armstrong) of your choice once this individual is confirmed.

Because the end of each semester is typically very busy for all involved, please start polling all committee members well in advance for available days and times for the oral defense. Leave enough time between the defense and the deadline for turning in the final thesis to allow for revisions (about one week). Ideally, the final draft of the thesis (i.e., already approved by the mentor) should be delivered to committee members two weeks in advance of the scheduled defense; if less than this, permission should be sought by all committee members. Some committee members prefer hard copies and others electronic versions; ask committee members for their preference and make the document available to them accordingly.

Students are required to seek out room reservations at least two weeks in advance of their proposed defense date. Also, students are encouraged to seek spaces in their major departments to hold their defenses before they consult Honors for room availability. There are only two classrooms available to students to use for defenses: Honors House, room 204 and the Etscorn Honors Center, room 132. Defenses are limited to hours during which the Honors Program operate (8 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. during the semester) and during which classes are not taking place in the room. Any special arrangements for the review of the thesis (such as an art exhibition or theater performance) shall be handled by the student. When scheduling a defense location, please send your request to, along with your proposed date and time and a subject line 'Thesis Defense Request'. At your U of L e-mail address, you will receive confirmation or a rejection of this reservation in a timely fashion.

Defense Protocol

The defense is a formal oral presentation of the thesis to the committee. Even though all committee members will have read the document, the defense should present it as if they have not, providing background and context to set up the argument and findings. The actual format of the presentation will vary by discipline, so advice should be sought from the mentor on format, timing, etc. Keep in mind that the college honors committee member will often be from outside your discipline and might not be familiar with some disciplinary jargon or assumed background. After the formal presentation, the committee will ask questions and discuss any revisions requested. Usually, the student will be asked to step out for a few minutes during final committee discussion and voting. If the unanimous committee votes to “pass,” all present will sign the Defense Evaluation Form (available on the Printable Forms section of this website), so be sure to bring it to the defense. If the “pass” is conditional (more than minor revisions needed), mentors often sign the concluding section once revisions are complete.

Notification of Thesis Approval

Once the thesis evaluation form is complete with all required signatures, you must return it to the Etscorn Honors Center in Threlkeld Hall by the advertised deadline (see Calendar section).  After you have submitted the final version of your thesis (revised if necessary) to the thesis coordinator (Kirsten Armstrong) via e-mail, this information will be submitted to the College of Arts and Sciences Deans Office, so that your graduation honors will be noted on your permanent record, diploma and in the commencement program.

Archival Copies of Honors Thesis

After successfully defending your thesis, your final task is to provide the Honors office with an electronic copy of your final version of your thesis including an appropriately formatted title page (see the Printable Forms section of this website for a sample).  Please send this final version as a Microsoft Word document (.doc or .docx) or Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) attachment to the thesis coordinator (Kirsten Armstrong).  In the body of the e-mail, please include 5-7 key words or phrases that best describe the topic of your research to assist in indexing your thesis in the searchable online undergraduate thesis archive.

In addition to submitting your thesis electronically, you will also need to submit two completed, signed forms to the Etscorn Honors Center in Threlkeld Hall to the attention of the thesis coordinator (Kirsten Armstrong).  Both of the following forms can be accessed through the Printable Forms section of this website:

  1. Defense Evaluation Form (including signatures indicating final approval)
  2. Nonexclusive License Agreement form (granting permission for your thesis to be archived on Ekstrom Library's searchable Archives website)


Please note: if you do not submit the final version of your thesis before the deadline for printing the commencement bulletin, your level of honors may not be designated appropriately. Instead, you will be listed as receiving the level of honors you would have earned on the basis of your university and expanded university GPAs only.

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