Frequently Asked Questions

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What is an Honors Thesis in Education?

An Honors Thesis in Education is an original, inquiry-based project that will contribute to existing research and/or theoretical/analytical literature in the field of education. Education theses can be empirical or theoretical/analytical papers.

An Empirical Paper is based on an empirical research project on an educational topic. It is guided by a clear, concise and original research question. Based on data collected, it theorizes as to what the answer to that question might be and offers evidence to support a conclusion or argument. This paper is typically formatted in the model of a conventional research journal article.

A Theoretical/Analytical Paper investigates a new or unique idea in the field of education, conceptually and analytically. This may involve examining a little-studied issue in education or conceptually linking different disciplines or schools of thought to develop a new way of thinking about a long-standing problem. As a work of both scholarship and interpretation, a thesis might undertake extensive research into a given subject and make a critical argument about it. A theoretical/analytical thesis aims to master relevant background and thinking in an area of inquiry, while making a fresh contribution to ongoing scholarship. This requires a considerable amount of reading in the field and analysis, synthesis, and critique of existing research and theory. The format a theoretical/analytical paper (decided upon by the student and Thesis Committee Director) will vary based on the nature of the work.

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How do I get ready for a thesis project and come up with a topic?

The Education Program will offer informational sessions in the fall and spring semesters of your junior year to help students think ahead about writing an honors thesis. In these sessions, faculty will help interested students to better understand the thesis requirements and procedures and think through potential topics and projects. In order to do an honors thesis, you will be expected to have identified a topic and potential project and submit a proposal in the first week of classes in your senior year. Thus, if you are interested, we strongly encourage you to attend an informational session in your junior year.

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How do I propose an honors thesis project?

You must submit a two-page proposal to the Honors Thesis Coordinator, preferably during the spring of your junior year and no later than the end of first week of classes in the fall semester of your senior year.  In the proposal you must outline:

  1. the topic of your proposed project,

  2. what you anticipate doing for the project and how,

  3. the significance of the project (e.g., Why do you think your project is important and how do you think it can contribute to educational research, theory, policy, and/or practice?), and

  4. related readings you have done and professional and/or personal experiences that have prepared you for your proposed project.

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What are the components of the thesis?

Theoretical/analytical theses can take different forms based on the project. Which components it will contain will be worked out between the student and the Honors Thesis Director.

Empirical theses typically contain the following components:

  1. a concise and clearly stated research question,

  2. an overview and critique of the relevant scholarly literature,

  3. a justification of the import of the research question and a defense of the approach used to answer the question,

  4. a discussion of the data that will be used to answer the question and a description of the methodology employed,

  5. coherently written chapters that discuss the findings of the study, and

  6. a conclusion that uses the research to answer the research question.

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How long is a thesis?

The length of a thesis varies but it is typically 70-100 pages.

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How frequently must I meet with my thesis director? How many hours per week must I work on my thesis?

There are no fixed standards. However, it is very important to the success of your thesis that you meet regularly with your advisor. Very early on in the advising process, you and your advisor should reach an understanding of how often you will meet and determine your individual calendar for thesis completion.  Completing the thesis requires sustained work. It is NOT something you can put off until the end of the semester. It is expected that you will work on some aspect of your thesis each week throughout the fall and spring semesters.

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Can I complete a thesis in one semester?

Given the intensity of the work, we expect a student to work for two semesters on a thesis. Students studying abroad in the fall semester of their senior year must consult with the Honors Thesis Director and Coordinator in the spring of their junior year to agree on a plan of work.

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What if I start an honors thesis project and then find that I can’t finish it?

If a student is not making adequate progress (see timeline) on their honors thesis project, as determined by the Thesis Director and the Honors Thesis Coordinator, he or she may be asked to discontinue the project. A progress evaluation meeting will take place at the end of the fall semester for each student working on an honors thesis, attended by the student, the Thesis Director and Coordinator. At this time, students will receive feedback and guidance on their work and progress. A student discontinuing an honors thesis project before completion will still receive credit for all for-credit courses completed.

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What are ED165a and the Honors Thesis Seminar, and do I have to take them?

Education studies majors must take ED 165a Reading (and talking back to) Research on Education. It is intended to assist students with their first-time effort to do serious social science research and teaches students how to formulate a research question, structure a research design, gather data/evidence, and organize a research paper. ED 165a meets weekly in the fall semester and is typically taken in one’s sophomore and junior year. Additionally, those completing an honors thesis must attend the Honors Thesis Seminar, which will meet several times over the course of the year.

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How many copies of my thesis must I submit?

You submit three (3) copies of your thesis (one to each of the readers and the honors director) prior to the oral defense. After revisions, you will also submit one to the Library.

The Archives & Special Collections Department requires that you submit a completed Senior Honors Thesis Release Form along with your thesis. In addition, they have specific requirements for the formatting of their copy. The cover sheet should contain the following information in this exact order: 1) Title; 2) Author; 3) Senior Honors Thesis; 4) Education Program; 5) Brandeis University; 6) current year. In addition, they ask that you submit a loose, unbound copy since they will be bound in hard-cover by the library (do NOT hole-punch).

Ideally, your thesis should be printed on acid-free paper to ensure its longevity; however, we recognize that not all students are able to do this.