A step-by-step guide for students interested in writing a thesis in pursuit of honors or high honors in psychological and brain sciences or neuroscience.


Step-by-Step Guide

The Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences and the Neuroscience Program have prepared these guidelines to help students in deciding whether to pursue honors and high honors. They can also be used to help students stay on track along their honors research journey.

Suggested Timeframe: Junior year, early spring semester

What to do: Use what you know about research going on in the department, along with the department research opportunities webpage, to get an idea of which faculty member(s) have research interests similar to yours. E-mail or meet with professors to discuss the honors process.

Suggested timeframe: Junior year, when you receive an email requesting that you do so, in late February or early March (before spring break)

What to do: Report what you learned in Step 1 on the questionnaire provided in the email. The department’s research coordinator will match you with the faculty member best suited to supervise your project.

Suggested timeframe: End of junior year, over the summer, or beginning of senior year

What to do: Learn more about your faculty adviser’s recent research. Listen to their suggestions for your honors work. Discuss research ideas that fall within your faculty adviser’s area of expertise. Consider whether you would like to collaborate with other students on your honors project. You might meet with your adviser in person or discuss these issues by e-mail.

Suggested timeframe: First few weeks of senior year

What to do: Set up a one-hour regular meeting with your research adviser and collaborators (if any) to brainstorm ideas. Read research done on the problem(s) you are considering. Narrow down and evaluate potential ideas. This phase requires significant independent work. Roughly 10 hours per week of reading journal articles is the norm.

Suggested timeframe: Immediately following Step 4, consult your research adviser

What to do: Decide on the study design and methodology you will use. This process varies by research area, so you will need to work closely with your faculty adviser throughout this process. Some advisers will require you to write a proposal abstract that summarizes the plan for your study.

Suggested timeframe: By the fourth week of your senior year

What to do: Together with your faculty adviser, identify another professor in the department who will provide additional guidance on your study. In some cases, professors outside our department can be useful co-advisers. However, if the second adviser for a project is drawn from another department, the student should also seek a third adviser so that they have two from within the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences or Neuroscience Program.

Suggested timeframe: Deadline varies based on committee

What to do: Draft a proposal to have the Institutional Review Board (IRB) or the Animal Care and Use Committee review your research. You can find the guidelines on the department’s student resources page [LINK TO: 1.8.245 Student Resources – Psychological and Brain Sciences]. Your adviser will review drafts that you prepare before submission.

Suggested timeframe: By the fourth week of your senior year

What to do: Informally present preliminary plans for your study. Some faculty will request that you send them something in writing. Your second adviser will be an important resource for you as you plan your study. Take their perspective into consideration as you finalize your methodology and begin conducting your study. Consult with your second adviser about any aspect of your honors project about which you have questions or concerns.

Suggested timeframe: Usually by end of first semester of senior year (consult your adviser).

What to do: Thoroughly review the literature and prepare a document that includes an introduction, method, and sections along with an APA style reference list. Your adviser will give you more information about the specific requirements for this document. Share this document with your primary and second advisers, then revise according to their suggestions.

Suggested timeframe: Varies by research area; may take up to 20 hours per week for 3-4 weeks.

What to do:

  • Prepare research materials, stimuli, programs, etc.
  • Write the script for administering the study.
  • Collect and analyze your data.
  • In some cases, honors theses will involve conducting a second study. For many students, this will take place before Step 9.

Unless the project requires it, students are not expected to work on weekends and breaks. Students are permitted to work during those times if they choose to do so.

Suggested timeframe: By the end of the 13th week of the spring semester of your senior year

What to do: Prepare a full report in APA style describing your research. Your adviser may have you submit sections one at a time and will provide feedback and assistance as needed. Both your primary and secondary advisers need to approve this paper prior to your honors presentation, and the second adviser may ask for changes to the paper.

Suggested timeframe: Wednesday of finals week of the spring semester of your senior year

What to do: Prepare a 15-minute PowerPoint presentation summarizing your research. Practice your presentation to check the timing and polish your delivery. Honors students often practice with each other to offer feedback. Be prepared to answer questions from faculty in the department following your presentation. The questions will likely address the specifics of your study, as well as the implications of your findings and the broader literature your study has addressed.

If you successfully complete these steps, you will graduate with Honors or High Honors depending on your overall GPA and GPA within the major, based on the guidelines presented in the university catalog.