Senior Honors Thesis Guidelines

Why Write a Senior Honors Thesis?

HSSP Majors are invited to develop and conduct an independent study involving original work in close consultation with a faculty advisor, culminating in a Senior Honors thesis. Undertaking a thesis is a unique opportunity for you to develop and hone your intellectual ability to conceptualize, implement and complete an original health-related, field-based research project. It provides a venue to engage in an extended conversation with faculty on a topic of your choosing.

Ideally, undertaking a thesis results in a product that can be useful in showcasing your abilities as you go forward in your professional journeys. Successful completion of a thesis allows students to graduate HSSP with honors, distinguishing themselves as exceptional scholars.

1. Criteria for a Thesis

To write a thesis, you must have at least a 3.25 overall GPA or a 3.5 GPA in your HSSP courses, and obtain the approval of the HSSP Chair.

2. The Basics

A thesis is to be written in a scholarly manner and should address a particular problem or question relevant to HSSP as well as have a theoretical underpinning. It is critical that all three elements of HSSP (i.e., science, society and policy) be represented in the thesis.

If your thesis involves primary data collection as a major portion of your methods, it may count as fulfilling the HSSP “Hands on Experience” (HOE) requirement. Examples of research methods appropriate to HSSP Theses include laboratory-based analyses, surveys, qualitative interviews, ethnography, historical/archival research, and secondary analysis of large quantitative datasets. Check with the HSSP Honors Coordinator, Professor Thomas if you are unsure whether your project would satisfy the “hands-on experience” (HOE) requirement.

Joint theses that count for multiple majors are sometimes possible depending on the department involved and might require separate “99” requirements and advisors. Consult with the HSSP Chair, Associate Chair, or Honors Coordinator if you have questions.

3. Finding a Thesis Advisor

Your thesis advisor must be an HSSP faculty member (exceptions may be made in special circumstances). You will also form a review Committee of three faculty members, including your thesis advisor. You are strongly encouraged to find a thesis advisor early in the second semester of your junior year.

It is very helpful to prepare and submit a one or two-page concept paper to a potential advisor; include:

  1. The HSSP topic you are interested in.


  2. Why it is important, from a science, society and policy point of view.


  3. The questions that you will examine in your research.


  4. The research methods and data that you would like to use to answer these questions.


  5. A brief review of relevant literature.

4. Committee for the Protection of Human Subjects in Research (IRB)

When conducting research with human subjects, you must submit a protocol to Brandeis University’s IRB. You and your thesis advisor should submit your application as soon as you have agreed on a topic and a study design, since it can take 2-3 months to prepare, submit, revise and receive final approval for an application. You can not collect any data for your thesis prior to IRB approval, unless it is part of another project that is already IRB approved. For more information regarding human subject, research see the IRB website

5. Thesis Timeline for 2017-2018

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Junior Fall/Spring
  • Determine an area and general topic that you would like to study.


  • Find a thesis advisor.


  • Think about and discuss potential focused thesis topics with your advisor.


  • If conducting human subject research for your thesis: 


    • while abroad, obtain approval for an IRB protocol before going abroad.


    • during the summer, submit IRB protocol by August 14, 2020.


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Senior Fall
  • Before the end of the enrollment period, submit the HSSP 99d registration form to the Registrar’s Office.  


    Note: You must register for HSSP 99d in both of your two final semesters, one of which, if passed satisfactorily, will count toward the HOE requirement. If you have completed your HOE requirement prior to your senior year, you may still be eligible to undertake senior honors thesis research and if desired, to seek HSSP Honors if you meet the GPA requirements.

  • By September 16, 2019, submit your thesis prospectus to your thesis advisor (e.g., problem statement, literature review, research question, methods, significance, a list of bibliographic and other sources to be consulted, and a preliminary outline of the proposed work).


  • If applicable, submit your IRB application by mid-September 2019.


  • By December 2, 2019, submit first major installment of your work to thesis advisor.


  • By the end of the 2019 Fall semester, be well on your way in collecting human subject data.


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Senior Spring
  • By January 15, 2020, submit second major installment of your work to your thesis advisor.


  • Have a discussion with your thesis advisor about the other members of your review Committee. Consult with the Chair or Associate Chair of HSSP if there is any difficulty finding other Committee members.


  • March 2, 2020, is the last day to drop your thesis course without a “W”.


  • By March 16, 2020, submit a complete draft of the entire study to each of your departmental and outside readers.


  • March 30, 2020, is the last day to drop this course with a “W”. The complete final draft of your thesis is also due to each member of your review Committee.


  • By April 13, 2020, completed review of all reader’s suggestions and conferred with on the final part.


  • Schedule your Thesis defense hearing. This is typically done in April or early May just before graduation.

6. The Thesis Review Committee

Typically, students work with the thesis advisor to identify two other faculty members to serve as readers on the review committee. One of these two other members must also be HSSP faculty. The committee must be approved by the Chair or Associate Chair of HSSP. Decisions about committee membership should be made as early as possible.

7. Thesis Defense

Towards the end of the second semester, you will defend your thesis to the committee in an oral hearing. This is typically done in April or early May.

8. Wrapping Up

Before departing campus you are required to:

  1. Deliver one hard copy of your thesis, including a Senior Honors Thesis Release Form (pdf), with the University library.


    Note: The library requires this copy to be clean, unstapled, and unbound so that they can bind it themselves. The final page of this document is the signed Release Form necessary for your thesis to be included in the Brandeis archives.
  2. Deliver one hard copy to HSSP Honors Coordinator, Prof. Thomas’ office in Heller-Schneider 215.

  3. Email an electronic PDF copy to Ms. Kathryn Howell, the HSSP Department Administrator. 


9. Resources

Majors contemplating writing a thesis are advised to look through successful theses of the past, which can be found in the Archives & Special Collections section in the library.

Note: Theses from 2013-present can be found online