Honors Thesis

University of Memphis (UofM) students who intend to graduate with the “University Honors with Thesis” designation must complete a senior thesis/creative project.  The honors thesis project is the culmination of an honors education at the UofM and epitomizes what honors education is all about—a student, in close consultation with a faculty member, carrying out intensive research and/or a creative experience appropriate to a serious undergraduate program.  

Advantages of an Honors Thesis 

Although undertaking thesis research is hard work, most students report that the thesis is one of their most prized academic achievements. Professors who work with students on the honors thesis can write meaningful letters of recommendation and may be able to place students in contact with colleagues at other schools or companies. Moreover, graduate schools frequently require writing samples as part of the application process, and an honors thesis frequently serves as the centerpiece for your application for awards, scholarships, or graduate or professional study. 

In conjunction with your undergraduate degree, the honors thesis signals to potential employers and prospective graduate schools that you have the maturity of intellect that will be applicable to whatever profession you choose. Your honors thesis provides ample evidence of your ability to pursue independent initiatives and to make a contribution to your profession. 

Types of Thesis Projects

Liberal Arts & Laboratory Sciences

For students in liberal arts or laboratory sciences the thesis may be a written piece of work. But writing a thesis differs from writing simply another research paper for two reasons. First, an honors thesis usually entails producing a work that is about 30-40 pages long, although some—particularly in math and the laboratory sciences—may be shorter. Second, the thesis should contain original insight into a discipline or body of knowledge. The honors thesis should go beyond merely summarizing the existing research and include a student’s own critical and creative thinking.

Drama, Art, Music, Film & Engineering

For students in majors such as drama, art, music, film, or engineering, the honors thesis may be a creative endeavor appropriate to the discipline. For example, an art student might create an exhibition of original works, a film student might produce a documentary, a creative writing student might write a collection of short stories, or an engineering student might design a prototype. If the honors thesis is a creative work, a substantive written description (approximately 15 pages) must accompany the project, detailing how the creative work meets the goals of a thesis.

Examples of Past Thesis Projects

  • Critical or textual analyses
  • Creative writing projects (e.g., portfolio of short stories or poems
  • Business plans
  • Teaching portfolios
  • Laboratory or field experiments
  • Creative performances or exhibits
  • Original creative products such as a Web site, musical composition, etc.

Timeline for the Honors Thesis

We recommend that you view the honors thesis as a two-semester, six-credit project. In the first semester of your senior year, you should enroll in directed research or independent study; in the second semester, you should enroll in honors thesis hours. Some departments offer an honors senior thesis which will satisfy the thesis requirement in the University Honors College.  If a department  does not have such a course, then you will need to enroll in UNHP 4999 Honors Thesis. 

If you do choose to write your thesis in one semester, plan ahead! A good background on the subject will give you the running start that you need to complete the thesis in one semester.
The following timetable is offered as a guideline. Students are recommended to begin the thesis research (UNHP 4900 Advanced Honors Projects or an equivalent course in the major department) in the fall of the senior year and complete the thesis (UNHP 4999 Honors Thesis or an Honors Thesis course in the major department) in the spring of the senior year.

Action Timeframe 
Select a topic Second semester of junior year
Approach faculty members about mentoring and reviewing Second semester of junior year
Register for UNHP 4900 Advanced Honors Project (a permit will be issued when application is approved) or register for an honors directed study in another department.  First semester of junior year
 Submit draft (or sufficient work worthy of 3 hours of research credit to the faculty mentor for approval. Faculty member will assign a grade for the course  Last day of class or equivalent
 Submit Application for Honors Thesis Form to the Honors College Prior to registering for UNHP 4999 Honors Thesis or equivalent course in another department.

Form MUST be submitted before the last day to add a class in the graduating semester.

Register for UNHP 4999 Honors Thesis (a permit will be issued) or an honors thesis course in another department.  Second semester of senior year
Submit final copy of the project to the Honors Office to be certified to graduate with University Honors Not later than study day of the semester you are enrolled in an Honors Thesis course.

Thesis Committee

In most cases, the thesis committee will consist of a thesis advisor, who will monitor your progress and grade your work, and another professor who serves as a second reader. Thesis advisors must be full-time, tenure-track faculty members at the University of Memphis, but second readers do not have to be full-time faculty members. Some departments (like English) may require more than two faculty members; check with your departmental honors coordinator to determine your department’s guidelines for forming a thesis committee. 

Thesis Advisor

Selecting your thesis advisor is one of the most important decisions that you will make during this process. Because you will have to work with this person closely for at least a semester, you should consider both the professor’s expertise and the potential for a close working relationship. The two of you must be able to communicate well and cooperate on your endeavor, because you will rely upon your advisor for help, encouragement, and support. 

The thesis advisor acts as your guide through the process of completing an honors thesis. The advisor will work with you to refine your interests into a suitable thesis, help you to identify a second reader, meet with you regularly (every two weeks is recommended), and read and comment on drafts of the thesis as it develops. 

Many students select a thesis advisor from a class or independent study and can connect their thesis topic to work they have already done with the professor. Other students may know that a certain professor shares their research interest, but they may not have been enrolled in a course with him or her. In either case, make an appointment with the professor to discuss your research topic and your desire for that person to serve as your thesis advisor. If you don’t know the professor personally, be prepared to present your qualifications. 

It is not unusual to speak to several faculty members before finding the right person to direct your thesis. If a professor you visit is too busy or feels unqualified to be your thesis advisor, ask the professor to suggest colleagues who may serve as your advisor. Your departmental advisor or the departmental Honors coordinator may also be a good source of information about faculty members who have similar interests to yours or who have served as thesis advisors in the past. 

As you approach a faculty member about being your thesis advisor, please explain that the University Honors Program thesis requirement is the baccalaureate-level equivalent of the master’s thesis for that area of study. While honors students are not expected to produce the equivalent of a master’s thesis, they are expected to engage in a research project or creative endeavor that approaches a master’s thesis in length and scope, using the same research methods and skills. 

Second Reader

Some academic departments require a second professor to serve on your thesis committee as a “second reader.” This committee member is responsible for providing guidance to you where appropriate, meeting with you occasionally, and reading and commenting on drafts of the thesis in later stages of its development. If you do not already have a professor in mind as your second reader, your thesis advisor can usually recommend someone. 

While you should have a general idea of your thesis topic, it is not necessary to have a definitive proposal before forming your thesis committee. In fact, your committee will probably help you to refine your research interests so that you will be on track to developing a “doable” thesis project. 

Selecting a Thesis Topic 

Think about topics in your course work that interested you. Are there any particular topics that piqued your interest? You may want to review the courses you have taken as an undergraduate and/or review papers that you have written, because a thesis topic often emerges from classes, directed studies, or internship experiences. 

Alternatively, perhaps you have a particular professor in mind who you think would make an ideal thesis advisor. Schedule an appointment with this professor to talk about his or her research interests. Often thesis topics emerge from a faculty member’s ongoing research projects, especially in the sciences where students are involved in laboratory work.

Keep in mind that you will be working on this project for a semester or even an entire year. Thus, it is important that you choose a topic that will hold your interest for this period of time. 

Application for Honors Thesis

The Application for Honors Thesis form must be filed with the Honors College office by the third Friday of the semester in which you are enrolled in an honors thesis. Prior to submission to the Honors College office, the application should be approved and signed by the faculty member responsible for directing the senior honors thesis, and by the departmental honors coordinator if applicable. The Application for Honors Thesis form MUST be submitted to the Honors College in order for a student to be certified to graduate with the designation of “University Honors with Thesis.” 

Registration for the Thesis Course 

You must have the approval of the faculty member who serves as the thesis director to register for a thesis course. All Honors College students must enroll in a thesis course. You will need to register for your honors thesis course (UNHP 4999 or an equivalent honors thesis course in your department) during the semester you actually write your thesis. 

Manuscript Structure, Format & Guidelines

Please review pages 6 - 10 of the honors thesis handbook for the structure, format and guidelines for the thesis manuscript (see below). 

Honors Thesis Handbook

The information on this webpage can also be found in the honors thesis handbook.

Final Submission Process

The UofM hosts an electronic repository for theses submitted to the Helen Hardin Honors College, and electronic submission of the final honors thesis is now a requirement to earn the “University Honors with Thesis” designation at graduation. The following section is intended to assist you in submission of your thesis document.

Embedding Document Fonts

All document fonts must be embedded. Embedding fonts simply means that your font information used to create your document will always look the same way it does when stored in a PDF file. If fonts are not embedded, Adobe Acrobat will substitute fonts on a reader’s computer, which can result in a loss of formatting.

How to Embed Fonts Using Microsoft Word 2010 on a PC:

  • On the word document, click the File tab > Options > Save, and make sure that "Embed fonts in the file" in the textbook is checked.

How to Embed Fonts Using Microsoft Word 2007 on a PC:

  1. Create your manuscript using one of the fonts mentioned in the thesis handbook (preferably Times Roman).
  2. Click the circular Office Button in the upper left-hand corner of Microsoft Word.
  3. A new window will open. In the bottom right-hand corner is a button called Word Options. Click that button.
  4. Choose Save from the left sidebar.
  5. Check the box next to Embed Fonts in the file.
  6. Click the OK button.
  7. Save your document. 

How to Embed Fonts in Earlier Versions of Microsoft Word:

  1. Create your manuscript using a TrueType font.
  2. On the Tools Menu, choose Options.
  3. Click the Save tab.
  4. Select the Embed TrueType Fonts check box.
  5. Save the document.

Using Microsoft Word on a Mac using Word 2011:

  1. Convert your document to PDF.
  2. Open the original PDF in the Preview application of your Mac.
  3. Select File: Print
  4. Click on the Preview button - a new document should be generated.
  5. Select File: Print again (you should be in the newly-created document when you do this).
  6. Click the PDF button, and then select Save as PDF...from the pop-up menu.
  7. Choose a filename and save the file; the file you just saves should have all of the fonts embedded.

Instructions for Electronic Submission

  1. Log into the UofM ETD website >
  2. Click on the My Submissions tab.
  3. Log in using your UofM UUID username and password.
  4. Choose the + Add New ETD option.
  5. At the top of the front matter page, you will be able to set an access level:
    • Unrestricted - open to anyone with Internet access.
    • Restricted - The author allows access only while on the University of Memphis campus and current University of Memphis faculty, staff or students who authenticate from off-campus.
    • No Access - Due to patents included or other intellectual properties, the author has chosen not to make their work available online.
  6. Your e-mail address and name will automatically populate (if this information is incorrect, please call 901-678-8888 or go to your account at my.memphis.edu to update your University records). You MUST use your UofM e-mail account during the electronic process.
  7. To complete the remainder of the form, you will need to have the following information handy:
    • Names and e-mail addresses of your committee members;
    • Exact title of your document, which must be entered using BOTH uppercase and lowercase letters (no ALL uppercase letters, please);
    • Up to 10 keywords that describe your document's contents for search engines;
    • Exact abstract from your document - 350 words or less for dissertations; 150 words or less for theses.
  8. Do not copy and paste your Word document abstract into the text box. Please type from scratch; remove the "header" paragraph containing your name, degree, university, date conferred, title, etc. The entire abstract must be single spaced; however, indent seven spaces at the beginning of each new paragraph. The font type and font size must be Arial, 12 point.
  9. Complete as much of the form as you want and then select Add.
    • When you access the form a second time, you will be asked to Save rather than Add. DO NOT ADD A NEW FORM TO THE SYSTEM. Work with your original submission.
  10. After the font matter has been completed, upload your document and any supporting files. Your document must be a single PDF file and must include all figures, graphics, and tables; you may submit up to 6 audio/visual supporting files.
  11. Once your document has completely uploaded, click the Submit button. Your document will be sent to the ETD manager in the Honors Program for final approval. Once you submit, you will NOT be able to change your file. (NOTE: If you do not click the Submit button, your document will go to the "In Progress" queue and will never be submitted to the Honors Program).
  12. You will receive e-mail notification once your document has been opened for review by the ETD manager. Notification will be sent only to your U of M e-mail account.
  13. If your document is not approved, you will receive e-mail notification of further needed changes.
    • Make these changes in the original version of your Word document. Convert once again to PDF format, connect to the ETD web site, and log in.
    • Click View to get to your document; click Edit and Delete the previously uploaded file (look for a "Trash Can" icon at the bottom of the form). Add your revised document, then click Submit again.

You will receive e-mail notification when your document has been approved by the ETD manager. Your document on the ETD server will be available immediately for public viewing, depending on your requested access level (see next section).

Honors Thesis Repository 

The UofM hosts an electronic repository that serves as an archive of all theses submitted to the Helen Hardin Honors College. 

Honors Thesis Repository >