Honors Thesis Guidelines

The Campus Writing Board looks for educational opportunities that require students to express, reformulate, or apply the concepts of an academic discipline through writing. The emphasis on writing is not intended to give students additional practice in basic composition skills but to encourage students to think more clearly and express their thoughts more precisely. The Board prefers that all students complete the two-course WI requirements through the regular WI curriculum; in fact, completing two or more WI courses would be excellent preparation for writing an Honors Thesis. However, some departments and students may use the option of an Honors Thesis to fulfill the second WI requirement. Application should be made so that the Campus Writing Board can certify the WI process prior to the student’s undertaking the project.

For the WI designation, the Board will consider 3.0-hour Honors Theses that take a two-pronged approach to learning: (1) the student’s providing drafts of sections of the thesis, and (2) the professors’ guiding the improvement of the student’s performance by giving feedback and requiring revision.

The success of a Writing Intensive Honors Thesis will depend far more on the teacher’s and student’s commitment than it will on following a rigid formula that may not conform to the conventions of each and every discipline. The following guidelines adapt MU’s longstanding Guidelines for Writing Intensive Courses to the WI Honors Thesis option. These guidelines give faculty a picture of the sort of educational experience the Board envisages. Alternative means to the same end will be considered.

  1. The WI Honors Thesis option should ensure that the supervising faculty member works closely with the Honors student to design and execute the project. As with WI courses, the thesis supervisor will submit a regular New Proposal to the Campus Writing Board for WI certification.
  2. The thesis topic should be complex enough to require substantive revision, and the writing process should include multiple drafts as well as other preliminary writing. Length of final versions of the thesis will correspond to the specific discipline’s conventions, but in no case will they be less than 5000 words (or 20 pages).
  3. The thesis topic should address a question in the student’s discipline for which there is more than one acceptable interpretation, explanation, analysis, or evaluation. The thesis will demonstrate critical thinking (assertions backed by appropriate evidence) in the discipline.
  4. The writing process should be distributed over time, with drafts of the work in progress given to both the thesis supervisor and at least one other thesis committee member who then provide feedback that will help the student revise and improve the work. The WI Honors Thesis may not be submitted to the supervisor or the committee as one whole finished first draft, without benefit of faculty response.
  5. The WI Honors Thesis may satisfy only one Writing Intensive course credit and must be for 3.0 credit hours.
  6. Supervising faculty and their students are encouraged to avail themselves of the support of the Campus Writing Program and Writing Intensive Tutorial Services. Faculty are encouraged to attend a Campus Writing Program workshop.
  7. In the proposal form:
  • Please describe (a) the plan of work, (b) the manner in which you will provide feedback for this student, (c) the revision process you expect this student to follow, and (d) the timeline that you have devised for completion of this thesis project.
  • Please describe the way in which this student’s topic addresses a question for which there is more than one acceptable interpretation, explanation, analysis, or evaluation.
  • Please describe why it is necessary or advantageous for this Honors student to fulfill the second Writing Intensive requirement with an Honors Thesis rather than from the regular WI curriculum in your department.