The honors thesis can be terrifying, but it doesn’t have to be. Associate Dean of the Honors College and Professor of History Dr. Amy Livingstone gives some helpful advice. 

Where should students look to get more information about beginning the thesis process?

There are several resources for students to help them kickstart their honors thesis.

One great resource is the “Official Guide for Honors Theses” written by our own Dr. Berg. Here students will find all sorts of useful information about getting started and about the honors thesis process itself. A copy of this guide is sent to students when they call to make their first thesis appointment, but students should also feel free to reach out to the Honors College to get the Official Guide to the Honors Thesis at any point.

The Honors College faculty can also be excellent sounding boards for getting the thesis ball rolling. If a student has had a class or investigated a topic they found particularly interesting, they should talk to the professor to get more ideas and to brainstorm about the thesis.

Fellow honors students could also be helpful in exploring ideas for a thesis. Those in the midst of thesis work could provide useful guidance for those just getting started.

I am also happy to talk to students about their thesis at any stage in the process, and so are Dr. Emert and Dr. Stedman.

When should students begin thinking about starting their thesis?

It really never is too early to start thinking about the thesis. 😊 However, given the skills required for taking on a thesis, serious thinking about a topic should probably start at the end of sophomore year. While it’s always good to get a head start, students may want to wait until they’ve had sufficient exposure to courses in their major and/or minor, as well as the honors curriculum before starting to really nail down their thesis topic.

Who should students contact for help?

The Dean’s office—Dr. Emert, Dr. Livingstone and Dr. Stedman—are always ready and willing to help students with their thesis. Honors College faculty can also provide helpful guidance.

What happens if students don’t complete their thesis before graduation?

A student may be a Ball State graduate if they receive grades for all of their courses and have no outstanding incompletes. A student will receive their honors diploma once the thesis has been turned in and approved.

What are some patterns you’ve seen in students that write/create/design a “winning” thesis?

For a student to excel at their honors thesis, in my experience, they need to love “their thesis to pieces,” as Dr. Lang would say. 😊 It is vital that a student find a topic that really calls to them, that excites them, and that makes them curious. Having this sort of dedication and enthusiasm, makes for a good thesis and for a good thesis experience.

Not surprisingly, those students who work with their faculty mentor to develop a timeline and deadlines for when parts of the thesis will be delivered to the mentor for comment tend to produce a high quality honors thesis. Communication with and feedback from the faculty mentor is essential for a “winning” thesis.

Having the discipline to carve out time consistently and regularly to work on the thesis, i.e. coming up with a schedule and sticking to it, also contributes to a successful thesis. Thesis work is essentially independent work, which means students have to be motivated and dedicated to making time to work on their thesis. Remember, the thesis is a three credit course so students should expect to give as much time to thesis as they would any other three credit hour class in their major or the Honors College.