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Senior Thesis

In the final year of undergraduate study, Honors College students complete a thesis. The thesis is a serious project, representing a valuable opportunity for UHP students to work closely with senior faculty. To begin the thesis, students must take the Thesis Seminar offered through the Honors College each fall and spring terms. After passing the Thesis Seminar students write the thesis over one to two terms and give a short presentation upon completion.

Thesis Seminar: 4 credits

The first part of the thesis is the 4 credit Thesis Seminar (HON 403), which may be taken in the spring term of your junior year or the fall term of your senior year. During the Thesis Seminar you will find a thesis adviser and compose a prospectus.

Thesis: By Arrangement: 4-6 credits

Once you have completed the Thesis Seminar with approval from your thesis adviser and the Thesis Seminar instructor, you may register for thesis credits using a By Arrangment form. You receive 4-6 credits for the thesis, which may be distributed as you wish over one or two terms. The thesis is due in the 8th week of the final quarter of work on the project. There is a D2L component of the thesis which you will be enrolled in beginning with the Thesis Seminar and for the duration of your thesis project.

Thesis Presentation

The last part of the thesis is a 5 minute presentation you will give in front of a faculty committee (comprised of the director of the Honors College, your thesis adviser, and third faculty member, preferably from your major department). Faculty and students in the Honors College and your guests are encouraged to attend. Review the Thesis Presentation Guidelines to prepare for your presentation.

Students also have the option of presenting their thesis project at the PSU Student Research Symposium in early May each year. Proposals for the Student Research Symposium open each year at the end of February and are due by early April.

Digital Archives in PDXScholar

Honors theses are stored online through the PSU Library. Read past Honors theses online at PDXScholar.

Getting Started and General Thesis FAQs

What is a thesis?

A thesis is like a very in depth two term research paper. You can read past theses written by Honors students in the PDXScholar archives.

Will I be assigned a thesis topic?

No. Your thesis is your project, thus your ideas and responsibility. This gives you freedom, which can be intimidating, but also an opportunity to explore what your interests are. Consider topics relevant to graduate studies so that you can write about your research in your statement of purpose or talk about in an interview.

What does my thesis do for me?

In the practical and literal sense, it completes your graduation requirements for Honors. In a bigger picture sense, your undergraduate thesis can be used as a “practice thesis” for graduate school. Further, you can submit it for publication in a journal, write about it in graduate school applications, talk about it in graduate school interviews, expand on the research you started for your masters thesis or doctoral dissertation, or have a line to add to your CV. In the end, you will have a deeper understanding of a topic that interests you and be able to say that you did something HUGE (and pretty awesome)!

How do I develop a relevant thesis question?

You are the expert in your topic, thus you know what the important current issues are. Do your research so that you are in the know. Graduate programs are interested in your ability to be current and know what is relevant.

What is the purpose of the thesis seminar?

The goal of the 4 credit thesis seminar is to assist you in finding a topic, narrowing the topic to an answerable question or project that you can do within the time allowed, find a thesis adviser in your major with expertise in your topic, and advise on how to accomplish the task of research and writing the thesis. You also form a community of thesis writers that you will work with until your project is completed.

When should I take the thesis seminar?

The thesis seminar is offered during the spring and fall quarters. If you intend to collect your own data, you should plan on taking the thesis seminar during the spring of your junior year. If you are doing a project that does not need IRB approval, you can take the thesis seminar during the fall of your senior year.

How many credits do I need to take for my thesis?

You will end up taking a total of 8-10 credits. Your thesis can be 4 or 6 credits in addition to the 4 credit thesis seminar. You may also take research or thesis credits through your major department. If you plan to register through your major, please let us know so that we can add this to your DARS to count towards your Honors requirements.

I can do a thesis in one term while taking other classes, right?

No. We know that you are intelligent, but don’t overload yourself in the home stretch! This is your final project and it will be submitted to the PSU library archives. Your thesis is your Honors legacy. This is your chance to show the Honors faculty, PSU faculty, future and current Honors students, and perhaps graduate programs what you can do.

How do I find a thesis advisor?

In an ideal world, the search for a thesis adviser should begin in your sophomore or junior year. When you take classes from a professor in your major who teaches a subject that resonates with you and with whom you think you can build a mentor relationship, approach them and begin to ask them questions about their interest and research. If they have a lab, ask if you can join it. When it comes time to ask them to be your thesis adviser, the relationship that you have built with the professor will go a long way in convincing them that you are a serious student and the investment they put in your thesis will be beneficial to them in some way. In a pinch, if you are unable to find an adviser and you are coming up on a deadline, approach a professor in your major who teaches something you are interested in and has expertise in the area you are interested in. Some majors have assigned thesis advisers. Check with your major to see if your major is one of them.

I have someone that is not associated with PSU that I would like to advise me on my thesis. Can I do that?

Honors will accept this on a case by case basis. Come meet with us to discuss it.

How long does my thesis have to be?

It depends on your discipline. 

When is my thesis due?

Your thesis is due by Friday, week 8 of the term that you take your final thesis credits. If you take your thesis credits the term that you graduate, this deadline is very important! If there are any problems with your final draft on week 8, you have a small window of time to correct it. If you are late turning it in, there is no time for correction which could affect your graduation.

How do I register for my thesis?

You must complete the Thesis Seminar before you can register for thesis credits. Register for your thesis using a By Arrangement Request form each term you will be taking thesis credits. Your thesis adviser and the Honors Director will need to sign this form. Instructions are here.

How do I sign up for thesis presentations?

Your presentation should be the end of the term in which you finish the thesis and submit your final draft to the library. In spring term, Honors will host several days of thesis presentations in late May. Sign up through Honors at the beginning of spring term. You can also submit a proposal to present at the Student Research Symposium, PSU's academic conference for undergraduate and graduate level research on campus, held in early May. If you are selected to present (poster presentations don't count) this will meet your thesis presentation requirement. If you finish your thesis durning the fall, winter, or summer, email Nora at to set up a presentation time.

What counts as a thesis presentation?

Your thesis presentation must fulfill the following requirements:

  • Dr. Fallon and your thesis adviser must attend.
  • Your presentation must last 5 minutes with an additional 10 minute question and answer session afterwards.

When do I present my thesis?

Honors prefers for you to present your thesis during the quarter that you finish it. If you take your thesis credits in the winter and complete your thesis, we want you to present in the winter.

How is the thesis graded?

You must use the Research (B) grading option on the By Arrangement form, which allows your thesis adviser to grade your thesis as In Progress if you need to extend another term, then change the grade to a letter grade or Pass once the thesis is complete.

Who grades my thesis?

Your adviser and Honors. Your adviser recommends the grade and Honors approves the thesis.

I’m thinking about doing a research project which involves collecting data. Do I need IRB approval?

Please refer to PSU’s Human Subject and Review Committee’s page sections 1.1, 1.3-4, 4, 10, and 11.

What is the difference between an undergraduate thesis and graduate thesis?

An undergraduate thesis is generally studying existing knowledge (vs producing new knowledge), you discuss holes in the existing knowledge, it is shorter than a graduate level thesis, and you have limited resources (time, no archives, etc.). You can think of it as a two term in depth research paper or “practice thesis”.