Policy 3002
Preparing a Senior Honors Project

This document outlines the procedures that are to followed in preparing an honors project. It is a supplement to the policies and procedures given by the Honors Program.
These policies and procedures apply to all physics majors wishing to submit an honors thesis.
The selection of a senior honors project must meet several general criteria to be accepted by the department. These are:
  1. The project must be within existing budgetary constraints. While every effort will be made to accommodate the purchase of software, hardware, and support necessary travel, there is no guarantee that expensive items can be obtained. This is usually settled by a negotiation among the student, the advisor, the department and the Honor's program.
  2. The project must generally be feasible using existing equipment and instrumentation in the University. Off-campus equipment may be included in the proposal if it is needed rarely or is available
  3. The execution of the project must not present an unacceptable risk to students, faculty or facilities. What constitutes an unacceptable risk will be determined by the advisor and the department head in consultation.
  4. The project must not violate any university rules or local, state or federal laws.
  5. The project must not violate the property or civil right of any person or entity.

It is expected that most projects that violate one or more of the above guidelines when initially proposed can be modified to be an acceptable project. However, if this should prove impossible, the student will not be allowed to proceed.

A student interested in pursuing an honors thesis should begin by discussing possible thesis topics/projects with a faculty member. Only once the student and the faculty advisor agree on the scope, intent, and method should the process move forward. In the course of this discussion, the topic will, in general, be refined to be one that is has educational merit and is possible given the constraints of time, money and expertise.

Minimum GPA in physics:
Ultimately, the honors thesis is an agreement between a student and advisor to complete a significant research project. As such, the faculty advisor is in the best position to determine that the student has sufficient coursework, motivation, and maturity to undertake the project. In addition to a GPA requirement of 3.25 imposed by the honors program, the physics department also requires a major GPA of at least 3.25. It is also expected that these GPAs are maintained during completion of the project and that failure to maintain a 3.25 GPA is grounds for termination of the project.

Required research credit:
Research for the honors thesis is expected to last at least 2 semesters in length. A summer research experience is strongly encouraged, but determined by the student and advisor. For example, at minimum, research would be conducted in the spring of the junior year and fall of the senior year. This is an additional requirement, beyond the honors requirement of a single 3-credit fall semester of research. One research credit is traditionally equivalent to 5 hours/week in the lab, so the research expectation is significant, with around 10 hours per week dedicated to research for at least two semesters as a minimum expectation.

The 2-credit course specified by the Honors program to write the thesis in the spring of the senior year is unaffected. The proposal in the fall does not have any credits associated with it, but the expectation is that the student in collaboration with his/her advisor will determine a suitable project to be started by spring. In total, there are 6 credits associated with the honors thesis.

A summer research experience may count for a 2-credit research experience or supplement the honors thesis requirements as agreed upon by the advisor and student.

In summary, the 1-3-2 credit sequence specified by the honors program becomes a 2-2-2 credit sequence where the proposal is completed in advance.

It is at the discretion of the thesis advisor to determine the amount of time required to complete a quality honors thesis project. This policy is not intended to limit the total time, merely set the minimum.

Mid-year report:
A mid-year report is required by the second week of the fall of the senior year. Options include a talk or informal conversation with the 3 members of the student's committee or a written summary of the status of the project which may serve as a starting point for the thesis. The goal is to assure that adequate progress is being made in order to complete the project as planned.

Draft of thesis:
A draft of the thesis is due by February 1st with a final draft due by April 1st. The thesis must be written using Latex, the typesetting program used in writing physics journals which is currently used in the introductory lab (Physics 247) for students. A Latex style file is available to simplify the writing process and insure that the formatting requirements of the Honors College are met.

Students interested in completing an honors project should consult the faculty member with whom they intend to work to determine the scope of the project. The proposal for the honors thesis must be submitted to the physics department by October 20 of the student's junior year and the department will forward the application to the honors program by their deadline of Nov. 10. The progress report is expected at the beginning of their senior year and the draft by February 1, as described above. This is summarized in the following table:

Date Acad. Year Activity Credits
October 20
Submit thesis proposal to department
November 10
Thesis proposal submitted to Honor's College
Spring Semester
Thesis project must start no later than this semester
Jr - Sr
Research may continue here
0 (usually)
2nd Week of Fall Semester
Mid-year report
February 1
Initial draft of thesis
April 1
Final draft of thesis

Dissemination of results:
Both a hard copy and an electronic copy must be submitted to the physics department in addition to the required submission for the honors program. The department will have one hard copy bound to be kept in a library of honors theses in the department.

Presentation of results in journal articles, conference talks, or conference posters is usually required.

Honors thesis oral exam:
In addition to the written thesis, the student will present the results in a public talk. The three faculty advisors will be present, but the talk is also open to the public. A brief presentation by the student is expected, followed by questions from the committee and audience.

It is the student's responsibility to follow the rules and keep their advisor abreast of their progress.
Where the procedure specified by the Honors College differs from the procedure described here, this procedure take precedence. Otherwise, the policies and procedures of the Honors College apply.

Creation Date: November 3, 2005 Updated: March 18, 2008