Senior Honors Thesis

Why do a Senior Honors Thesis?

Honors research can be among the most significant and rewarding activities of any undergraduate career. Successful completion of honors research requires a substantial, sustained effort, but can repay that effort many times over. In carrying out an honors project, a student has a chance to make good use of a great many skills acquired in classrooms, laboratories and libraries. An honors project also gives the student a chance to acquire many new, valuable skills, including (1) knowledge of how to manage a large, in-depth study of a single, challenging problem; (2) an understanding of what it means to work as part of a research team; (3) sharpened organizational and communication skills; and (4) an appreciation of how real scientific inquiry is carried out.

Most students who successfully complete honors in psychology report that this process was the most valuable part of their academic training at Brandeis. The following is meant to explain honors' prerequisites and mechanics.

Qualifications for Undertaking Honors

Psychology majors who wish to do honors research must have both an overall and a psychology concentration GPA of 3.3 at the end of their junior year. PSYC 51a (Statistics, or MATH 36b or ECON 83a) and PSYC 52a (Research Methods) should be completed by the end of their junior year. To be awarded honors, students must have an overall grade point average of 3.3 by the end of their senior year and a psychology concentration GPA of 3.3. PSYC, NPSY, some LING and cross-listed courses are used in the computation of the psychology GPA. Psychology courses listed in the 90s are not included in the computation.

Procedures for Undertaking Honors

Typically more students want to do honors than there are professors available to advise them. Therefore, students should start their search for an advisor early. It is wise to find a potential primary advisor by the end of the sophomore year and identify a topic by the end of the junior year. In this way, students can begin their literature reviews in the summer and start work on the project early in the senior year. A student who has found a willing advisor should sign up for PSYC 99d both semesters of their senior year by completing an add/drop form found on the Registrar's website. (advisor's signature required). Additionally the student will need to obtain a second psychology faculty member as a second reader and one expert reader from outside the department (who must have at least a doctorate or MD), a total of three, who will serve on the final evaluation committee. On rare occasions, a primary advisor outside the Psychology Department is approved; however, a psychology professor must be willing to chair the honors committee.

Honors projects must be empirical studies. A research proposal and a blank Evaluation of Honors Proposal Form must be submitted by November 15 of the senior year to a committee comprised of the two department faculty members whom the student has chosen as readers. The proposal includes journal-style introduction and methods sections. Both members of the committee must approve the project as a viable honors study before data collection can proceed. Failure to obtain such approval will automatically terminate the honors project. The major advisor and second reader will complete and sign the Evaluation of Honors Proposal Form and submit it to the Psychology Office by December 15. 

Before collecting data from human subjects, honors students must work with their advisor on a human subject protocol that will be reviewed by the IRB BCPHS (Brandeis Committee for the Protection of Human Subjects). In addition, completion of Citi training must be completed prior to the submission of the human subject protocol. Forms are available online at the Office of Sponsored Programs, including a link to the appropriate Citi training document. IRB training workshops are available (and strongly encouraged) through the Human Subjects in Research program at Brandeis University.

Additional Timetable Guidelines

Funding may be available through the Dean of Arts & Sciences and through the Provost's Undergraduate Fund. Interested students should plan ahead if they anticipate any research costs. The psychology budget does not support honors research.

Students who wish to participate in the Greater Boston Research Conference must submit brief reports of their research by March 15.

Students should allow at least one month before the thesis due date for data analysis and thesis writing. This means that data collection should be completed as early as possible in the spring semester. The first draft of the written thesis is due to the advisor by April 1. The final thesis must be completed and submitted to all three committee members by the day before final exams begin, usually the first week of May (please see the academic calendar). It must be written in APA journal style.

Evaluation of Honors Thesis

The final thesis is evaluated by the student's thesis committee of three people; two Brandeis psychology professors and one expert reader outside the Psychology Department. Each of the three readers should be given a Reader's Report on Senior Honors Thesis Form to complete, according to the assessment that each reader is asked to make. In addition the major advisor must complete the Rating of Initiative of Honors Work Form.

The letter grade for the honors work will be determined by the major advisor, who will take into account the entire year's work, as well as the letter grade assigned by the psychology department reader.

The level of honors (honors, high honors, or highest honors) will be determined by the psychology faculty in a special meeting after the oral presentation.

As a minimum requirement, a GPA in psychology courses of 3.3 is required for honors, a GPA of 3.5 for high honors, and a GPA of 3.7 for the highest honors. (Psychology courses listed in the 90s are not included in the computation.)

Major Advisor

Second Reader in the Department

Outside Reader


In addition to having the option of submitting a paper copy of their honors theses to the University Archives, seniors now submit a digital copy to the Brandeis Institutional Repository. All theses submitted to the repository are viewable by the public and searchable by Google as well as other search indexes.

We have put together instructions for students, who will upload their final theses into the Institutional Repository. Those instructions appear on a page of the Libguide for Thesis Writers. Please make sure you format the cover sheet for your thesis correctly. The template of a cover sheet proposed by various members of the faculty can be downloaded on that site or you can find a template here. If you have students who would like to digitally submit their theses with an embargo, they may request it with the Petition for Thesis Embargo Form.

Directions for submitting paper copies are included in the Libguide for Thesis Writers mentioned above.

Oral Presentation

As a culminating experience for all honors students, each student will give a conventional PowerPoint presentation of the thesis to the entire faculty immediately after finals. Each student will usually be allotted 20 minutes; 10-15 minutes will be allotted for their presentation with the remaining time for answering any questions from the audience. Students and faculty will be notified when a date for presentations is chosen.