What is the Process for Completing a Senior Honors Thesis?

If you have already determined that you meet the minimum qualifications to submit a Senior Honors Thesis proposal, the information provided on this page will help you to develop a plan of action to initiate the process and meet the necessary expectations and deadlines.


Before reading the following information about the Senior Honors Thesis process, please be sure that you qualify to submit a proposal.

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 outlines the general procedures for the College of Arts & Sciences Senior Honors Thesis process. If you encounter questions or concerns that are not addressed on any of these pages, please call the Etscorn Honors Center at 502-852-6293 for a current schedule of deadlines, forms and further information.

Preparing and Submitting Your Thesis Proposal

Guidelines for a Creative Senior Honors Thesis

Your Thesis Committee: Preparing for and Scheduling the Thesis Defense

Oral Defense Protocol

Notification of Thesis Approval

Archiving Your Thesis

Preparing and Submitting Your Thesis Proposal

To initiate the process of preparing and submitting a proposal for a Senior Honors Thesis, you should consider contacting the appropriate departmental honors faculty contact.  These faculty members can provide information regarding the expectations and opportunities for undergraduate research within their department as well as the requirements and opportunities provided by that department's honors program (if applicable).  Your departmental honors faculty contact can also help you to identify a potential Senior Honors Thesis supervising faculty mentor related to your research area of interest.  Once you identify an appropriate supervising faculty mentor for your thesis, you can then begin planning for the rest of the thesis process together.


It is highly recommended that you meet with your faculty mentor, using the thesis initiation packet (see Printable Forms) as a guide, to discuss your research plan prior to writing your thesis proposal.


You must complete the thesis initiation packet along with your thesis proposal during the second month of your senior year (see posted deadlines). Failure to submit all Senior Honors Thesis proposal materials by the published deadlines will result in forfeiture of eligibility for College of Arts & Sciences year-end awards (i.e. Woodcock Medal, Best Thesis, etc).  Although your thesis proposal should be e-mailed directly as an attachment to the thesis coordinator (s.springer@louisville.edu), the thesis initiation packet 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.  The form must be signed by your department chair OR the department honors faculty contact 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 packet 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 ten to twelve 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 will notify you via e-mail of the committee's action.


Guidelines for a Creative Senior Honors Thesis

A creative senior honors thesis gives serious critical consideration to an original literary, theatrical, or musical composition; a body of original visual art, or a significant creative role in a theatrical or musical performance.

In the case of a musical or theatrical composition, for example, a student may choose to write about his/her inspiration, or the background to acting in a role or directing a play.  For a thesis in the visual arts, a student should consider artistic influences and inspiration, as well as the cultural context for the creative project. A literary project (poetry or prose) might draw inspiration from one or several authors or literary works, using them to develop a student’s own stylistic approach.

A significant component of the creative thesis will address the critical research process through which the student has made certain creative choices. This critical component, in other words, should reflect the scholarly sources or influences used to motivate the writer’s own inspiration for his or her project. It should detail the evolutionary process leading to a performance or composition; the resulting work of art, ideally, makes a contribution to an existing body of creative work, rather than merely replicating a form or style. Following the General Guidelines for the University Honors Thesis, the creative thesis should be accompanied by a bibliography (see General Guidelines for other such requirements).

Like all theses, a creative senior honors thesis necessitates long-range planning under the direction of a faculty advisor who is an academic expert in the field.  In addition to supervising the student’s creative work, the advisor will direct the student on the research component of the thesis and recommend faculty in disciplines whose expertise may be helpful.  The thesis committee may include these faculty members, in addition to an extra-disciplinary faculty member appointed by the Honors Thesis Committee.


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 faculty member 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 (Sarah Springer) 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). When writing and presenting your thesis, please keep in mind that the Senior Honors Thesis Committee representative will often be from outside your discipline and might not be familiar with some disciplinary jargon or assumed background.  Thus, thesis writers are required to include a brief lay summary of their thesis projects in addition to any formal abstract that may be typical within your chosen discipline.  Ideally, the final draft of the thesis (i.e., already approved by your supervising faculty member) 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 through the Honors Program: Honors House, HR 204 and the Etscorn Honors Center, TH 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 honors@louisville.edu, 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.


Oral Defense Protocol

The defense is a formal oral presentation of the thesis to the committee. Even though all defense 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 supervising faculty member on format, timing, etc. Keep in mind that the Senior Honors Thesis Committee representative 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), supervising faculty members often sign the concluding section once revisions have been completed and submitted.


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.  After you have submitted the final version of your thesis (revised if necessary) to the thesis coordinator (Sarah Springer) via e-mail (s.springer@louisville.edu), this information will be submitted to the College of Arts and Sciences Dean's Office so that your graduation honors will be noted on your permanent record, diploma and in the Commencement program.  Please note: If you do not submit the final version of your thesis before the deadline for printing the Commencement program, your level of graduation 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.


Archiving Your Thesis

After successfully defending your thesis, your final task is to provide the thesis coordinator (Sarah Springer) with an electronic copy of your final version of your thesis including an appropriately formatted title page (see Printable Forms for a sample).  Please send this final version as a Microsoft Word document (.doc or .docx) or Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) e-mail attachment to the thesis coordinator (s.springer@louisville.edu).  In the body of the e-mail, please include five to seven key words or phrases that best describe the topic of your research to assist in indexing your thesis in the College of Arts & Sciences Senior Honors Theses searchable digital collection.

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.  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 digital collection)

University Honors Program

Etscorn Honors Center

Threlkeld Hall

University of Louisville

Louisville, Kentucky 40292

Office Hours

Etscorn Honors Center: M-F 8:00am to 4:30pm

Honors Overseers' House: M-F 9:00am to 4:30pm


P. (502) 852-6293

F. (502) 8523919