The Writing Center • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Honors Theses

What this handout is about.

Writing a senior honors thesis, or any major research essay, can seem daunting at first. A thesis requires a reflective, multi-stage writing process. This handout will walk you through those stages. It is targeted at students in the humanities and social sciences, since their theses tend to involve more writing than projects in the hard sciences. Yet all thesis writers may find the organizational strategies helpful.


What is an honors thesis.

That depends quite a bit on your field of study. However, all honors theses have at least two things in common:

  • They are based on students’ original research.
  • They take the form of a written manuscript, which presents the findings of that research. In the humanities, theses average 50-75 pages in length and consist of two or more chapters. In the social sciences, the manuscript may be shorter, depending on whether the project involves more quantitative than qualitative research. In the hard sciences, the manuscript may be shorter still, often taking the form of a sophisticated laboratory report.

Who can write an honors thesis?

In general, students who are at the end of their junior year, have an overall 3.2 GPA, and meet their departmental requirements can write a senior thesis. For information about your eligibility, contact:

  • UNC Honors Program
  • Your departmental administrators of undergraduate studies/honors

Why write an honors thesis?

Satisfy your intellectual curiosity This is the most compelling reason to write a thesis. Whether it’s the short stories of Flannery O’Connor or the challenges of urban poverty, you’ve studied topics in college that really piqued your interest. Now’s your chance to follow your passions, explore further, and contribute some original ideas and research in your field.

Develop transferable skills Whether you choose to stay in your field of study or not, the process of developing and crafting a feasible research project will hone skills that will serve you well in almost any future job. After all, most jobs require some form of problem solving and oral and written communication. Writing an honors thesis requires that you:

  • ask smart questions
  • acquire the investigative instincts needed to find answers
  • navigate libraries, laboratories, archives, databases, and other research venues
  • develop the flexibility to redirect your research if your initial plan flops
  • master the art of time management
  • hone your argumentation skills
  • organize a lengthy piece of writing
  • polish your oral communication skills by presenting and defending your project to faculty and peers

Work closely with faculty mentors At large research universities like Carolina, you’ve likely taken classes where you barely got to know your instructor. Writing a thesis offers the opportunity to work one-on-one with a with faculty adviser. Such mentors can enrich your intellectual development and later serve as invaluable references for graduate school and employment.

Open windows into future professions An honors thesis will give you a taste of what it’s like to do research in your field. Even if you’re a sociology major, you may not really know what it’s like to be a sociologist. Writing a sociology thesis would open a window into that world. It also might help you decide whether to pursue that field in graduate school or in your future career.

How do you write an honors thesis?

Get an idea of what’s expected.

It’s a good idea to review some of the honors theses other students have submitted to get a sense of what an honors thesis might look like and what kinds of things might be appropriate topics. Look for examples from the previous year in the Carolina Digital Repository. You may also be able to find past theses collected in your major department or at the North Carolina Collection in Wilson Library. Pay special attention to theses written by students who share your major.

Choose a topic

Ideally, you should start thinking about topics early in your junior year, so you can begin your research and writing quickly during your senior year. (Many departments require that you submit a proposal for an honors thesis project during the spring of your junior year.)

How should you choose a topic?

  • Read widely in the fields that interest you. Make a habit of browsing professional journals to survey the “hot” areas of research and to familiarize yourself with your field’s stylistic conventions. (You’ll find the most recent issues of the major professional journals in the periodicals reading room on the first floor of Davis Library).
  • Set up appointments to talk with faculty in your field. This is a good idea, since you’ll eventually need to select an advisor and a second reader. Faculty also can help you start narrowing down potential topics.
  • Look at honors theses from the past. The North Carolina Collection in Wilson Library holds UNC honors theses. To get a sense of the typical scope of a thesis, take a look at a sampling from your field.

What makes a good topic?

  • It’s fascinating. Above all, choose something that grips your imagination. If you don’t, the chances are good that you’ll struggle to finish.
  • It’s doable. Even if a topic interests you, it won’t work out unless you have access to the materials you need to research it. Also be sure that your topic is narrow enough. Let’s take an example: Say you’re interested in the efforts to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s and early 1980s. That’s a big topic that probably can’t be adequately covered in a single thesis. You need to find a case study within that larger topic. For example, maybe you’re particularly interested in the states that did not ratify the ERA. Of those states, perhaps you’ll select North Carolina, since you’ll have ready access to local research materials. And maybe you want to focus primarily on the ERA’s opponents. Beyond that, maybe you’re particularly interested in female opponents of the ERA. Now you’ve got a much more manageable topic: Women in North Carolina Who Opposed the ERA in the 1970s and 1980s.
  • It contains a question. There’s a big difference between having a topic and having a guiding research question. Taking the above topic, perhaps your main question is: Why did some women in North Carolina oppose the ERA? You will, of course, generate other questions: Who were the most outspoken opponents? White women? Middle-class women? How did they oppose the ERA? Public protests? Legislative petitions? etc. etc. Yet it’s good to start with a guiding question that will focus your research.

Goal-setting and time management

The senior year is an exceptionally busy time for college students. In addition to the usual load of courses and jobs, seniors have the daunting task of applying for jobs and/or graduate school. These demands are angst producing and time consuming If that scenario sounds familiar, don’t panic! Do start strategizing about how to make a time for your thesis. You may need to take a lighter course load or eliminate extracurricular activities. Even if the thesis is the only thing on your plate, you still need to make a systematic schedule for yourself. Most departments require that you take a class that guides you through the honors project, so deadlines likely will be set for you. Still, you should set your own goals for meeting those deadlines. Here are a few suggestions for goal setting and time management:

Start early. Keep in mind that many departments will require that you turn in your thesis sometime in early April, so don’t count on having the entire spring semester to finish your work. Ideally, you’ll start the research process the semester or summer before your senior year so that the writing process can begin early in the fall. Some goal-setting will be done for you if you are taking a required class that guides you through the honors project. But any substantive research project requires a clear timetable.

Set clear goals in making a timetable. Find out the final deadline for turning in your project to your department. Working backwards from that deadline, figure out how much time you can allow for the various stages of production.

Here is a sample timetable. Use it, however, with two caveats in mind:

  • The timetable for your thesis might look very different depending on your departmental requirements.
  • You may not wish to proceed through these stages in a linear fashion. You may want to revise chapter one before you write chapter two. Or you might want to write your introduction last, not first. This sample is designed simply to help you start thinking about how to customize your own schedule.

Sample timetable

Avoid falling into the trap of procrastination. Once you’ve set goals for yourself, stick to them! For some tips on how to do this, see our handout on procrastination .

Consistent production

It’s a good idea to try to squeeze in a bit of thesis work every day—even if it’s just fifteen minutes of journaling or brainstorming about your topic. Or maybe you’ll spend that fifteen minutes taking notes on a book. The important thing is to accomplish a bit of active production (i.e., putting words on paper) for your thesis every day. That way, you develop good writing habits that will help you keep your project moving forward.

Make yourself accountable to someone other than yourself

Since most of you will be taking a required thesis seminar, you will have deadlines. Yet you might want to form a writing group or enlist a peer reader, some person or people who can help you stick to your goals. Moreover, if your advisor encourages you to work mostly independently, don’t be afraid to ask them to set up periodic meetings at which you’ll turn in installments of your project.

Brainstorming and freewriting

One of the biggest challenges of a lengthy writing project is keeping the creative juices flowing. Here’s where freewriting can help. Try keeping a small notebook handy where you jot down stray ideas that pop into your head. Or schedule time to freewrite. You may find that such exercises “free” you up to articulate your argument and generate new ideas. Here are some questions to stimulate freewriting.

Questions for basic brainstorming at the beginning of your project:

  • What do I already know about this topic?
  • Why do I care about this topic?
  • Why is this topic important to people other than myself
  • What more do I want to learn about this topic?
  • What is the main question that I am trying to answer?
  • Where can I look for additional information?
  • Who is my audience and how can I reach them?
  • How will my work inform my larger field of study?
  • What’s the main goal of my research project?

Questions for reflection throughout your project:

  • What’s my main argument? How has it changed since I began the project?
  • What’s the most important evidence that I have in support of my “big point”?
  • What questions do my sources not answer?
  • How does my case study inform or challenge my field writ large?
  • Does my project reinforce or contradict noted scholars in my field? How?
  • What is the most surprising finding of my research?
  • What is the most frustrating part of this project?
  • What is the most rewarding part of this project?
  • What will be my work’s most important contribution?

Research and note-taking

In conducting research, you will need to find both primary sources (“firsthand” sources that come directly from the period/events/people you are studying) and secondary sources (“secondhand” sources that are filtered through the interpretations of experts in your field.) The nature of your research will vary tremendously, depending on what field you’re in. For some general suggestions on finding sources, consult the UNC Libraries tutorials . Whatever the exact nature of the research you’re conducting, you’ll be taking lots of notes and should reflect critically on how you do that. Too often it’s assumed that the research phase of a project involves very little substantive writing (i.e., writing that involves thinking). We sit down with our research materials and plunder them for basic facts and useful quotations. That mechanical type of information-recording is important. But a more thoughtful type of writing and analytical thinking is also essential at this stage. Some general guidelines for note-taking:

First of all, develop a research system. There are lots of ways to take and organize your notes. Whether you choose to use note cards, computer databases, or notebooks, follow two cardinal rules:

  • Make careful distinctions between direct quotations and your paraphrasing! This is critical if you want to be sure to avoid accidentally plagiarizing someone else’s work. For more on this, see our handout on plagiarism .
  • Record full citations for each source. Don’t get lazy here! It will be far more difficult to find the proper citation later than to write it down now.

Keeping those rules in mind, here’s a template for the types of information that your note cards/legal pad sheets/computer files should include for each of your sources:

Abbreviated subject heading: Include two or three words to remind you of what this sources is about (this shorthand categorization is essential for the later sorting of your sources).

Complete bibliographic citation:

  • author, title, publisher, copyright date, and page numbers for published works
  • box and folder numbers and document descriptions for archival sources
  • complete web page title, author, address, and date accessed for online sources

Notes on facts, quotations, and arguments: Depending on the type of source you’re using, the content of your notes will vary. If, for example, you’re using US Census data, then you’ll mainly be writing down statistics and numbers. If you’re looking at someone else’s diary, you might jot down a number of quotations that illustrate the subject’s feelings and perspectives. If you’re looking at a secondary source, you’ll want to make note not just of factual information provided by the author but also of their key arguments.

Your interpretation of the source: This is the most important part of note-taking. Don’t just record facts. Go ahead and take a stab at interpreting them. As historians Jacques Barzun and Henry F. Graff insist, “A note is a thought.” So what do these thoughts entail? Ask yourself questions about the context and significance of each source.

Interpreting the context of a source:

  • Who wrote/created the source?
  • When, and under what circumstances, was it written/created?
  • Why was it written/created? What was the agenda behind the source?
  • How was it written/created?
  • If using a secondary source: How does it speak to other scholarship in the field?

Interpreting the significance of a source:

  • How does this source answer (or complicate) my guiding research questions?
  • Does it pose new questions for my project? What are they?
  • Does it challenge my fundamental argument? If so, how?
  • Given the source’s context, how reliable is it?

You don’t need to answer all of these questions for each source, but you should set a goal of engaging in at least one or two sentences of thoughtful, interpretative writing for each source. If you do so, you’ll make much easier the next task that awaits you: drafting.

The dread of drafting

Why do we often dread drafting? We dread drafting because it requires synthesis, one of the more difficult forms of thinking and interpretation. If you’ve been free-writing and taking thoughtful notes during the research phase of your project, then the drafting should be far less painful. Here are some tips on how to get started:

Sort your “evidence” or research into analytical categories:

  • Some people file note cards into categories.
  • The technologically-oriented among us take notes using computer database programs that have built-in sorting mechanisms.
  • Others cut and paste evidence into detailed outlines on their computer.
  • Still others stack books, notes, and photocopies into topically-arranged piles.There is not a single right way, but this step—in some form or fashion—is essential!

If you’ve been forcing yourself to put subject headings on your notes as you go along, you’ll have generated a number of important analytical categories. Now, you need to refine those categories and sort your evidence. Everyone has a different “sorting style.”

Formulate working arguments for your entire thesis and individual chapters. Once you’ve sorted your evidence, you need to spend some time thinking about your project’s “big picture.” You need to be able to answer two questions in specific terms:

  • What is the overall argument of my thesis?
  • What are the sub-arguments of each chapter and how do they relate to my main argument?

Keep in mind that “working arguments” may change after you start writing. But a senior thesis is big and potentially unwieldy. If you leave this business of argument to chance, you may end up with a tangle of ideas. See our handout on arguments and handout on thesis statements for some general advice on formulating arguments.

Divide your thesis into manageable chunks. The surest road to frustration at this stage is getting obsessed with the big picture. What? Didn’t we just say that you needed to focus on the big picture? Yes, by all means, yes. You do need to focus on the big picture in order to get a conceptual handle on your project, but you also need to break your thesis down into manageable chunks of writing. For example, take a small stack of note cards and flesh them out on paper. Or write through one point on a chapter outline. Those small bits of prose will add up quickly.

Just start! Even if it’s not at the beginning. Are you having trouble writing those first few pages of your chapter? Sometimes the introduction is the toughest place to start. You should have a rough idea of your overall argument before you begin writing one of the main chapters, but you might find it easier to start writing in the middle of a chapter of somewhere other than word one. Grab hold where you evidence is strongest and your ideas are clearest.

Keep up the momentum! Assuming the first draft won’t be your last draft, try to get your thoughts on paper without spending too much time fussing over minor stylistic concerns. At the drafting stage, it’s all about getting those ideas on paper. Once that task is done, you can turn your attention to revising.

Peter Elbow, in Writing With Power, suggests that writing is difficult because it requires two conflicting tasks: creating and criticizing. While these two tasks are intimately intertwined, the drafting stage focuses on creating, while revising requires criticizing. If you leave your revising to the last minute, then you’ve left out a crucial stage of the writing process. See our handout for some general tips on revising . The challenges of revising an honors thesis may include:

Juggling feedback from multiple readers

A senior thesis may mark the first time that you have had to juggle feedback from a wide range of readers:

  • your adviser
  • a second (and sometimes third) faculty reader
  • the professor and students in your honors thesis seminar

You may feel overwhelmed by the prospect of incorporating all this advice. Keep in mind that some advice is better than others. You will probably want to take most seriously the advice of your adviser since they carry the most weight in giving your project a stamp of approval. But sometimes your adviser may give you more advice than you can digest. If so, don’t be afraid to approach them—in a polite and cooperative spirit, of course—and ask for some help in prioritizing that advice. See our handout for some tips on getting and receiving feedback .

Refining your argument

It’s especially easy in writing a lengthy work to lose sight of your main ideas. So spend some time after you’ve drafted to go back and clarify your overall argument and the individual chapter arguments and make sure they match the evidence you present.

Organizing and reorganizing

Again, in writing a 50-75 page thesis, things can get jumbled. You may find it particularly helpful to make a “reverse outline” of each of your chapters. That will help you to see the big sections in your work and move things around so there’s a logical flow of ideas. See our handout on  organization  for more organizational suggestions and tips on making a reverse outline

Plugging in holes in your evidence

It’s unlikely that you anticipated everything you needed to look up before you drafted your thesis. Save some time at the revising stage to plug in the holes in your research. Make sure that you have both primary and secondary evidence to support and contextualize your main ideas.

Saving time for the small stuff

Even though your argument, evidence, and organization are most important, leave plenty of time to polish your prose. At this point, you’ve spent a very long time on your thesis. Don’t let minor blemishes (misspellings and incorrect grammar) distract your readers!

Formatting and final touches

You’re almost done! You’ve researched, drafted, and revised your thesis; now you need to take care of those pesky little formatting matters. An honors thesis should replicate—on a smaller scale—the appearance of a dissertation or master’s thesis. So, you need to include the “trappings” of a formal piece of academic work. For specific questions on formatting matters, check with your department to see if it has a style guide that you should use. For general formatting guidelines, consult the Graduate School’s Guide to Dissertations and Theses . Keeping in mind the caveat that you should always check with your department first about its stylistic guidelines, here’s a brief overview of the final “finishing touches” that you’ll need to put on your honors thesis:

  • Honors Thesis
  • Name of Department
  • University of North Carolina
  • These parts of the thesis will vary in format depending on whether your discipline uses MLA, APA, CBE, or Chicago (also known in its shortened version as Turabian) style. Whichever style you’re using, stick to the rules and be consistent. It might be helpful to buy an appropriate style guide. Or consult the UNC LibrariesYear Citations/footnotes and works cited/reference pages  citation tutorial
  • In addition, in the bottom left corner, you need to leave space for your adviser and faculty readers to sign their names. For example:

Approved by: _____________________

Adviser: Prof. Jane Doe

  • This is not a required component of an honors thesis. However, if you want to thank particular librarians, archivists, interviewees, and advisers, here’s the place to do it. You should include an acknowledgments page if you received a grant from the university or an outside agency that supported your research. It’s a good idea to acknowledge folks who helped you with a major project, but do not feel the need to go overboard with copious and flowery expressions of gratitude. You can—and should—always write additional thank-you notes to people who gave you assistance.
  • Formatted much like the table of contents.
  • You’ll need to save this until the end, because it needs to reflect your final pagination. Once you’ve made all changes to the body of the thesis, then type up your table of contents with the titles of each section aligned on the left and the page numbers on which those sections begin flush right.
  • Each page of your thesis needs a number, although not all page numbers are displayed. All pages that precede the first page of the main text (i.e., your introduction or chapter one) are numbered with small roman numerals (i, ii, iii, iv, v, etc.). All pages thereafter use Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc.).
  • Your text should be double spaced (except, in some cases, long excerpts of quoted material), in a 12 point font and a standard font style (e.g., Times New Roman). An honors thesis isn’t the place to experiment with funky fonts—they won’t enhance your work, they’ll only distract your readers.
  • In general, leave a one-inch inch margin on all sides. However, for the copy of your thesis that will be bound by the library, you need to leave a 1.25-inch margin on the left.

How do I defend my honors thesis?

Graciously, enthusiastically, and confidently. The term defense is scary and misleading—it conjures up images of a military exercise or an athletic maneuver. An academic defense ideally shouldn’t be a combative scene but a congenial conversation about the work’s merits and weaknesses. That said, the defense probably won’t be like the average conversation that you have with your friends. You’ll be the center of attention. And you may get some challenging questions. Thus, it’s a good idea to spend some time preparing yourself. First of all, you’ll want to prepare 5-10 minutes of opening comments. Here’s a good time to preempt some criticisms by frankly acknowledging what you think your work’s greatest strengths and weaknesses are. Then you may be asked some typical questions:

  • What is the main argument of your thesis?
  • How does it fit in with the work of Ms. Famous Scholar?
  • Have you read the work of Mr. Important Author?

NOTE: Don’t get too flustered if you haven’t! Most scholars have their favorite authors and books and may bring one or more of them up, even if the person or book is only tangentially related to the topic at hand. Should you get this question, answer honestly and simply jot down the title or the author’s name for future reference. No one expects you to have read everything that’s out there.

  • Why did you choose this particular case study to explore your topic?
  • If you were to expand this project in graduate school, how would you do so?

Should you get some biting criticism of your work, try not to get defensive. Yes, this is a defense, but you’ll probably only fan the flames if you lose your cool. Keep in mind that all academic work has flaws or weaknesses, and you can be sure that your professors have received criticisms of their own work. It’s part of the academic enterprise. Accept criticism graciously and learn from it. If you receive criticism that is unfair, stand up for yourself confidently, but in a good spirit. Above all, try to have fun! A defense is a rare opportunity to have eminent scholars in your field focus on YOU and your ideas and work. And the defense marks the end of a long and arduous journey. You have every right to be proud of your accomplishments!

Works consulted

We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.

Atchity, Kenneth. 1986. A Writer’s Time: A Guide to the Creative Process from Vision Through Revision . New York: W.W. Norton.

Barzun, Jacques, and Henry F. Graff. 2012. The Modern Researcher , 6th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Elbow, Peter. 1998. Writing With Power: Techniques for Mastering the Writing Process . New York: Oxford University Press.

Graff, Gerald, and Cathy Birkenstein. 2014. “They Say/I Say”: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing , 3rd ed. New York: W.W. Norton and Company.

Lamott, Anne. 1994. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life . New York: Pantheon.

Lasch, Christopher. 2002. Plain Style: A Guide to Written English. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Turabian, Kate. 2018. A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, Dissertations , 9th ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute the source: The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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How do I choose a topic and supervisor?

Before applying for Honours, you’ll need to choose a thesis topic and find an academic staff member within the school who agrees to supervise your project.  Once you’ve chosen your topic and a supervisor, you’ll write a short Research Proposal setting out your ideas to attach to your Honours application.

Supervisors can be in demand, so it’s good to start thinking about your topic and potential supervisors well before applications are due.  This process can take time, but don’t be intimidated or discouraged.  Remember – you can always contact us if you need help or advice.

Here are some hints and ideas to help you get started.

First, think about possible topics!

  • Identify a general area, problem or issue that you’d like to explore
  • If you’re having difficulty, think about any undergraduate courses, assignments or lecturers that stood out to you.  
  • Some students wish to pursue projects that overlap with their professional or political interests.

Second, identify potential supervisors

  • Check the listing of  our academic staff on the POLSIS website to see whose research or approach might interest you. It is very common to for students to approach potential supervisors without prior contact or any existing relationship - so don’t be nervous.
  • Consider contact you’ve had with POLSIS staff during your undergraduate studies
  • Be aware that some supervisors are in high demand, at full supervision capacity or going on research leave - so try to identify a few different possible supervisors.

Third, approach staff!

  • Once you’ve identified a preferred supervisor, email them directly
  • Introduce yourself, including a few paragraphs about your research interests and chosen topic – plus some research questions interest you in that area if possible.
  • Ask if they would be interested and able to supervise you.  If you are local, ask if they would consider meeting you to discuss the possibility. If they are not available or able to supervise you, ask for suggestions about other suitable supervisors.
  • Consider any feedback given and whether you need to refine your area of interest – is your topic too broad, too specific, or not a current question in the discipline?
  • If your preferred supervisor isn’t available, try again and approach someone else.

Fourth, develop a Research Proposal

  • Once you’ve secured a supervisor and had some advice on your topic, you’ll write a 300-500 word Research Proposal to attach to your application for Honours
  • Your Research Proposal is an outline of what your thesis project will involve. It should give background to your topic, your research question, identify methods you may use as well as some academic literature you may consult.
  • Your proposal isn’t expected to be polished or show advanced research, but Research Proposals should indicate a research project that could develop into a thesis with the time and support available.

If you have questions or need assistance finding a topic, identifying possible supervisors, or writing a Research Proposal, please contact the Honours Coordinator.


Updated January 2022

Honors English students, following Schreyer Honors College requirements, compose a thesis of significant scholarly research or creative writing. The thesis is completed in close consultation with a thesis supervisor during the semester before the student’s graduation semester, while the student is enrolled in English 494H.

In the graduation semester, students polish and submit their theses for approval by the thesis supervisor and the honors advisor and then submit them to Schreyer Honors College. Dates of final submission vary; please consult your honors advisor and the Schreyer website .

An Honors Thesis in English

An English honors thesis in scholarly research and interpretation should be an ambitious, well-researched, in-depth study focused on a topic chosen by the student in consultation with the thesis supervisor.

An English honors thesis in creative writing should be a sophisticated and well-crafted creative project written in consultation with the thesis supervisor, a project that demonstrates the student’s increasing proficiency of their chosen creative genre(s).

The Critical/Literary Studies Thesis

A critical / literary studies thesis might arise from a range of possibilities: a course paper you would like to extend; an interest you were unable to pursue in class; a connection between two classes that you’ve made on your own; an author, set of works, or theme you want to explore in greater depth; a critical question that has been puzzling you; a body of literature that you want to contextualize; a topic relevant to post-graduate plans (e.g., law school, graduate school, marketing career, writing career, and so forth). Consider also your skill sets, your workload and experiences, and the timeline for completion. The questions you’re asking should be open to productive analysis, questions worth asking.

The topic should challenge you, so that you’re neither summarizing nor skimming the surface of the primary and secondary work under consideration. Chapters within the thesis should build upon each other and connect to an overarching theme or argument. The thesis should be as clear and concise as possible. Make sure the argument is structured, with each chapter and each paragraph having a clear role to play in the development of the argument.

Because the thesis is a scholarly product, it will demonstrate good research skills and effective use of secondary readings. It will also be grammatically correct. Your work will be entering existing critical conversations with other scholarship, so your research should be sufficiently completed prior to your finalizing the thesis plan. Your work should have properly formatted notes and bibliography, whether in Chicago, MLA, or APA style.

Note length stipulations: Honors theses in critical / literary studies may be as short as 8,000 words but no longer than 15,000 words. If the thesis is shorter or longer than these advised limits, explain your thinking and decision-making in the introduction of your thesis.

The Creative Thesis

The creative thesis will be an innovative, stylistically sophisticated work, attentive to language and voice. The work should develop a sustained narrative or theme. Most students who write creative theses produce a collection of short stories or personal essays, a novella, a memoir, a research-based piece of creative nonfiction or a collection of poems. It is very, very difficult to write a novel in one semester, so unless you already have a novel underway, writing a novel is probably not a realistic thesis project. Creative works should be unified (by theme, by topic, or in some other way).

Students should already have taken a 200-level creative writing workshop in the chosen genre(s) and a 300- or 400-level workshop in this same genre(s). (You can be signed up to take the 400-level workshop in 494H semester.) Ideally, students will have studied creative writing with the faculty member who will serve as supervisor, but note that this is a suggestion and not a requirement. Schedule an initial meeting with your prospective thesis supervisor to discuss your plans for the execution of your creative work.

Note this requirement! Creative works will offer an introductory reflective essay (five to eight pages) outlining the project’s aims and placing the project into the context of the style and/or themes of work by other authors. The introductory reflection should address how your creative project complements or challenges work done by others. It should 1) explain the goals of the project and 2) place it into the context of relevant creative or critical texts. Any works referred to in this essay should be documented using Chicago, MLA, of APA style.

Note length stipulations: Honors theses in creative writing may be as short as 8,000 words but no longer than 15,000 words. If the thesis is shorter or longer than these advised limits, explain your thinking and decision-making in the introductory reflective essay. 

The Thesis Supervisor

Schreyer Honors College requires thesis proposals to be submitted in early April of the year before graduation. For this reason, you must have a thesis supervisor by March, so that you can draft your proposal under the supervisor’s direction.

The first step in finding a thesis supervisor is having a meeting with your honors advisor in order to talk through your thesis interests. When identifying a thesis supervisor, consider professors with whom you have a good rapport; professors whose creative or scholarly interests seem like they might dovetail with your own; professors willing to oversee experimental work. You do not need an exact match with any given professor’s work or interests. For instance, a professor’s methodology might fit yours, even if the focus of their research differs.

Before approaching a potential thesis supervisor, meet with your honors advisor to confirm that this would be an appropriate fit for you. After meeting with your honors advisor, you will be making an appointment to meet with the potential thesis supervisor. During that meeting, you will offer some plans with concrete ideas. Be open-minded. Be prepared to listen to alternatives. Discuss the professor’s willingness to supervise the thesis. (Sometimes faculty are already committed to other projects.) If a faculty member cannot agree to supervise, use the opportunity to ask for further suggestions about your topic and a potentially appropriate supervisor, then check back in with your honors advisor.

Crafting the Thesis Proposal

For students graduating in the spring semester of any given year, thesis proposals are due in early April of the prior year. As with other deadlines, the Schreyer Honors College will prompt you to complete the thesis proposal form on the SRS site. Start planning the thesis as soon as a supervisor has been identified. Look at other proposals and at completed theses for good models. Read one or two award-winning theses to get a sense of the scope and depth of a successful thesis: < >.

Critical / literary studies thesis proposals will articulate the questions being asked, identify the primary and secondary materials to be used, and hypothesize about a general argument to be made. You might not have specified your conclusions yet, but a well formulated set of questions is key.

Creative thesis proposals will identify the genre(s) of writing, identify the writing method and approach, and situate the work within the critical context of that genre.

Both kinds of theses require, at the proposal stage, a bibliography (in standard documentation format) of sources consulted. This will reveal how your project is in conversation with other relevant work.

Once you have drafted the thesis proposal, consult with your proposed thesis supervisor and your honors advisor, allowing them sufficient time to offer suggestions. Do not submit a proposal without getting the approval of your thesis supervisor and honors advisor! Expect to get feedback on your plans. Give your thesis supervisor and your honors advisor time to respond to your proposal draft, because it’s complicated to make changes once you submit the form for them to sign off on.

Planning the Project

One semester prior to the ENGL 494 semester, consult with your thesis supervisor to develop a reading list to be completed before you start writing. For theses written in the fall (for May graduation), this will be summer reading; for theses written in the spring (for December graduation), this reading will have to be compacted over the holiday break.

For critical / literary studies theses, read in both primary (the literature, films, authors, or evidence you are analyzing) and secondary materials (articles and books about your topic).

For creative theses , read primary texts in your chosen genre, along with such secondary sources as reviews of these works and articles and books about writing and the writer’s life.

Finding primary materials. The primary materials you’re using should extend beyond what you’ve done in classwork, but do not take on too much. In the end, the quality of the analysis matters much more than pages generated. If you can sustain an analysis of a single novel for fifty pages, offer a thorough account of the secondary criticism on that novel and make a real contribution to that criticism. Note, however, that a twenty-five page plot summary of a single novel is not worthy of honors in English.

Finding secondary materials. Look for important secondary studies offering fresh and provocative approaches to your topic or genre as well as studies that articulate the relationship between your topic and general literary history.

Library and internet databases will assist your work . Library databases of both primary and secondary writings can assist your background research. Think flexibly about useful keywords for searching databases. Also, consider using the resources found in the notes of scholars whose work you have discovered. Using other scholars’ resources will assist your work in identifying pertinent additional primary and secondary sources. If two or three very current articles cite the same older work, you have probably found a foundational critical study.

Look into possible grants to assist your work. Schreyer Research Grants, Erickson Grants, and Liberal Arts Enrichment Grants are available. Consult with the Schreyer Honors College about summer research funding, research travel funding, and other ways to support ambitious research projects. Erickson grants and Liberal Arts Enrichment Grants are available to rising seniors who will incur expenses for their research. If you are a Paterno Fellow, ask the fellows assistant if grants might be available to assist your work. Also consult this link:

Preliminary Research/Writing and the 494H Semester

During the semester and/or break before the 494H semester, set a rigorous schedule for reading and note-taking. Of course, you will continue to read while you are writing during that semester. But concentrate now on getting the foundation for what you want to say.

Work on developing connections and ideas across your readings. Take the time to take notes! As you continue reading, you might find that your ideas and goals change. That’s a success! Be aware that if your original idea isn’t going anywhere, you need to keep pushing to find a new idea. If your sources aren’t helping you develop new ideas, find new sources.

Try putting findings or notes or creative materials into a preliminary outline of your thesis chapters, so that you can construct a fuller outline before you formally start writing during the 494H semester. Writing is a form of thinking, so start writing and see where your ideas go. Drafting helps refine both ideas and purpose.

Keep in contact with your thesis supervisor. You can use email for this, or zoom, if your professor prefers. Let your supervisor know about how your reading is going and any new ideas you have.

Strategies for success in the 494H semester

Remember you are getting three honors course credits for ENGL 494, so treat this time commitment seriously! Three credits total 135 hours, so use your time wisely. Incorporate time into your schedule for the multiple drafts of each section.

Set aside time each week for your thesis preparation and writing.

Plan to meet with your thesis supervisor on a regular basis (every other week is typical) throughout the semester. Set up a schedule and keep to it. Remember that the thesis supervisor has agreed to help you with your work, so respect your supervisor’s time. Don’t miss meetings or have nothing to show. Set deadlines for the submission of each chapter with your thesis supervisor.

Be responsible: Aim to allow your supervisor two weeks to read and respond to your written work. Be in regular communication with your thesis supervisor. Also, don’t make your thesis supervisor or the honors advisors track you down. Arrive at meetings promptly. If the honors advisor or thesis supervisor drops you a line by email, answer it promptly. Even if – especially if – you fall behind, stay in communication with thesis supervisor and with the honors advisor.

Remember that advice is given to you to help you improve. Listen to your thesis supervisor’s advice and suggestions. If your honors advisor, your second reader, offers suggestions, listen to these suggestions, too! Follow the advice or else respond in a mature and informed way. If you disagree with suggestions offered you, or if you wish to go in another direction, initiate a fruitful dialogue with your supervisor or honors advisor about the project. Let your supervisor and honors advisor know that you are listening.

The Graded Thesis Draft Submitted During the 494H Semester

A complete draft of your thesis is due at the end of the 494H semester.

The thesis supervisor evaluates your consistent progress toward completion, your regular communication about your work, and your effort to acknowledge and use the supervisor’s feedback. Your supervisor is the one who determines your grade, even though the honors advisors are the professors of record for the 494H course. Remember that the grade for 494H evaluates your draft, not the final thesis.

The grade for 494H evaluates the student in the following areas: 1) consistent progress in thesis planning, research, and writing; 2) regular communication with the thesis supervisor through the 494H semester; 3) attention, in revision, to the supervisor’s advice. Thesis supervisors will take into account any additional expectations particular to a thesis topic, the ambition and originality of the developing project, and, in the case of critical / literary theses, the student’s growing skills in employing secondary sources in original ways.

Revision and Submission of Thesis

The final thesis is due according to the Schreyer Honors College’s deadline, near the middle of the student’s final semester. The Schreyer Honors College’s deadlines are firm. The first Schreyer deadline is for formatting approval. Students are responsible for making sure to follow the most up-to-date formatting and submission guidelines on the Schreyer website. See the guidelines:

At the time the thesis is submitted to Schreyer for format approval, submit the final draft to your thesis supervisor and honors advisor. The honors advisor might require revisions concerning the clarity of presentation to non-specialist readers, grammar and usage errors, and so forth. You must have the approval of your supervisor and your honors advisor for your thesis to be approved by Schreyer, so be sure to take seriously the feedback offered at this point.

The second Schreyer deadline is for final submission, at which point your thesis supervisor and your honors advisor must approve your thesis. Follow the Schreyer guidelines for submitting the final version of your thesis and getting the digital signatures of approval from your thesis supervisor and your honors advisor.

For questions, please contact the English Honors Co-Advisors, Professors Claire Colebrook and Carla Mulford .

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How to Choose a Dissertation Topic | 8 Steps to Follow

Published on November 11, 2022 by Shona McCombes and Tegan George. Revised on November 20, 2023.

Choosing your dissertation topic is the first step in making sure your research goes as smoothly as possible. When choosing a topic, it’s important to consider:

  • Your institution and department’s requirements
  • Your areas of knowledge and interest
  • The scientific, social, or practical relevance
  • The availability of data and resources
  • The timeframe of your dissertation
  • The relevance of your topic

You can follow these steps to begin narrowing down your ideas.

Table of contents

Step 1: check the requirements, step 2: choose a broad field of research, step 3: look for books and articles, step 4: find a niche, step 5: consider the type of research, step 6: determine the relevance, step 7: make sure it’s plausible, step 8: get your topic approved, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about dissertation topics.

The very first step is to check your program’s requirements. This determines the scope of what it is possible for you to research.

  • Is there a minimum and maximum word count?
  • When is the deadline?
  • Should the research have an academic or a professional orientation?
  • Are there any methodological conditions? Do you have to conduct fieldwork, or use specific types of sources?

Some programs have stricter requirements than others. You might be given nothing more than a word count and a deadline, or you might have a restricted list of topics and approaches to choose from. If in doubt about what is expected of you, always ask your supervisor or department coordinator.

Start by thinking about your areas of interest within the subject you’re studying. Examples of broad ideas include:

  • Twentieth-century literature
  • Economic history
  • Health policy

To get a more specific sense of the current state of research on your potential topic, skim through a few recent issues of the top journals in your field. Be sure to check out their most-cited articles in particular. For inspiration, you can also search Google Scholar , subject-specific databases , and your university library’s resources.

As you read, note down any specific ideas that interest you and make a shortlist of possible topics. If you’ve written other papers, such as a 3rd-year paper or a conference paper, consider how those topics can be broadened into a dissertation.

After doing some initial reading, it’s time to start narrowing down options for your potential topic. This can be a gradual process, and should get more and more specific as you go. For example, from the ideas above, you might narrow it down like this:

  • Twentieth-century literature   Twentieth-century Irish literature   Post-war Irish poetry
  • Economic history   European economic history   German labor union history
  • Health policy   Reproductive health policy   Reproductive rights in South America

All of these topics are still broad enough that you’ll find a huge amount of books and articles about them. Try to find a specific niche where you can make your mark, such as: something not many people have researched yet, a question that’s still being debated, or a very current practical issue.

At this stage, make sure you have a few backup ideas — there’s still time to change your focus. If your topic doesn’t make it through the next few steps, you can try a different one. Later, you will narrow your focus down even more in your problem statement and research questions .

There are many different types of research , so at this stage, it’s a good idea to start thinking about what kind of approach you’ll take to your topic. Will you mainly focus on:

  • Collecting original data (e.g., experimental or field research)?
  • Analyzing existing data (e.g., national statistics, public records, or archives)?
  • Interpreting cultural objects (e.g., novels, films, or paintings)?
  • Comparing scholarly approaches (e.g., theories, methods, or interpretations)?

Many dissertations will combine more than one of these. Sometimes the type of research is obvious: if your topic is post-war Irish poetry, you will probably mainly be interpreting poems. But in other cases, there are several possible approaches. If your topic is reproductive rights in South America, you could analyze public policy documents and media coverage, or you could gather original data through interviews and surveys .

You don’t have to finalize your research design and methods yet, but the type of research will influence which aspects of the topic it’s possible to address, so it’s wise to consider this as you narrow down your ideas.

It’s important that your topic is interesting to you, but you’ll also have to make sure it’s academically, socially or practically relevant to your field.

  • Academic relevance means that the research can fill a gap in knowledge or contribute to a scholarly debate in your field.
  • Social relevance means that the research can advance our understanding of society and inform social change.
  • Practical relevance means that the research can be applied to solve concrete problems or improve real-life processes.

The easiest way to make sure your research is relevant is to choose a topic that is clearly connected to current issues or debates, either in society at large or in your academic discipline. The relevance must be clearly stated when you define your research problem .

Before you make a final decision on your topic, consider again the length of your dissertation, the timeframe in which you have to complete it, and the practicalities of conducting the research.

Will you have enough time to read all the most important academic literature on this topic? If there’s too much information to tackle, consider narrowing your focus even more.

Will you be able to find enough sources or gather enough data to fulfil the requirements of the dissertation? If you think you might struggle to find information, consider broadening or shifting your focus.

Do you have to go to a specific location to gather data on the topic? Make sure that you have enough funding and practical access.

Last but not least, will the topic hold your interest for the length of the research process? To stay motivated, it’s important to choose something you’re enthusiastic about!

Most programmes will require you to submit a brief description of your topic, called a research prospectus or proposal .

Remember, if you discover that your topic is not as strong as you thought it was, it’s usually acceptable to change your mind and switch focus early in the dissertation process. Just make sure you have enough time to start on a new topic, and always check with your supervisor or department.

If you want to know more about the research process , methodology , research bias , or statistics , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.


  • Sampling methods
  • Simple random sampling
  • Stratified sampling
  • Cluster sampling
  • Likert scales
  • Reproducibility


  • Null hypothesis
  • Statistical power
  • Probability distribution
  • Effect size
  • Poisson distribution

Research bias

  • Optimism bias
  • Cognitive bias
  • Implicit bias
  • Hawthorne effect
  • Anchoring bias
  • Explicit bias

Formulating a main research question can be a difficult task. Overall, your question should contribute to solving the problem that you have defined in your problem statement .

However, it should also fulfill criteria in three main areas:

  • Researchability
  • Feasibility and specificity
  • Relevance and originality

All research questions should be:

  • Focused on a single problem or issue
  • Researchable using primary and/or secondary sources
  • Feasible to answer within the timeframe and practical constraints
  • Specific enough to answer thoroughly
  • Complex enough to develop the answer over the space of a paper or thesis
  • Relevant to your field of study and/or society more broadly

Writing Strong Research Questions

You can assess information and arguments critically by asking certain questions about the source. You can use the CRAAP test , focusing on the currency , relevance , authority , accuracy , and purpose of a source of information.

Ask questions such as:

  • Who is the author? Are they an expert?
  • Why did the author publish it? What is their motivation?
  • How do they make their argument? Is it backed up by evidence?

A dissertation prospectus or proposal describes what or who you plan to research for your dissertation. It delves into why, when, where, and how you will do your research, as well as helps you choose a type of research to pursue. You should also determine whether you plan to pursue qualitative or quantitative methods and what your research design will look like.

It should outline all of the decisions you have taken about your project, from your dissertation topic to your hypotheses and research objectives , ready to be approved by your supervisor or committee.

Note that some departments require a defense component, where you present your prospectus to your committee orally.

The best way to remember the difference between a research plan and a research proposal is that they have fundamentally different audiences. A research plan helps you, the researcher, organize your thoughts. On the other hand, a dissertation proposal or research proposal aims to convince others (e.g., a supervisor, a funding body, or a dissertation committee) that your research topic is relevant and worthy of being conducted.

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Department of Philosophy

Writing an Honors Thesis

An Honors Thesis is a substantial piece of independent research that an undergraduate carries out over two semesters. Students writing Honors Theses take PHIL 691H and 692H, in two different semesters. What follows answers all the most common questions about Honors Theses in Philosophy.

All necessary forms are downloadable and may be found in bold, underlined text below.

Who can write an Honors Thesis in Philosophy?

Any Philosophy major who has a total, cumulative GPA of at least 3.3 and a GPA of at least 3.5 (with a maximum of one course with a PS grade) among their PHIL courses can in principle write an Honors Thesis. In addition, students need to satisfy a set of specific pre-requisites, as outlined below.

What are the pre-requisites for an Honors Thesis in Philosophy?

The requirements for writing an Honors Thesis in Philosophy include

  • having taken at least five PHIL courses, including two numbered higher than 299;
  • having a total PHIL GPA of at least 3.5 (with a maximum of one course with a PS grade); and
  • having done one of the following four things:
  • taken and passed PHIL 397;
  • successfully completed an Honors Contract associated with a PHIL course;
  • received an A or A- in a 300-level course in the same area of philosophy as the proposed thesis ; or
  • taken and passed a 400-level course in the same area of philosophy as the proposed thesis .

When should I get started?

You should get started with the application process and search for a prospective advisor the semester before you plan to start writing your thesis – that is, the semester before the one in which you want to take PHIL 691H.

Often, though not always, PHIL 691H and 692H are taken in the fall and spring semesters of the senior year, respectively. It is also possible to start earlier and take 691H in the spring semester of the junior year and PHIL 692H in the fall of the senior year. Starting earlier has some important advantages. One is that it means you will finish your thesis in time to use it as a writing sample, should you decide to apply to graduate school. Another is that it avoids a mad rush near the very end of your last semester.

How do I get started?

Step 1: fill out the honors thesis application.

The first thing you need to do is fill out an Honors Thesis Application   and submit it to the Director of Undergraduate Studies (DUS) for their approval.

Step 2: Find an Honors Thesis Advisor with the help of the DUS

Once you have been approved to write an Honors Thesis, you will consult with the DUS about the project that you have in mind and about which faculty member would be an appropriate advisor for your thesis. It is recommended that you reach out informally to prospective advisors to talk about their availability and interest in your project ahead of time, and that you include those suggestions in your application, but it is not until your application has been approved that the DUS will officially invite the faculty member of your choice to serve as your advisor. You will be included in this correspondence and will receive written confirmation from your prospective advisor.

Agreeing to be the advisor for an Honors Thesis is a major commitment, so bear in mind that there is a real possibility that someone asked to be your advisor will say no. Unfortunately, if we cannot find an advisor, you cannot write an Honors Thesis.

Step 3: Fill out the required paperwork needed to register for PHIL 691H

Finally, preferably one or two weeks before the start of classes (or as soon as you have secured the commitment of a faculty advisor), you need to fill out an Honors Thesis Contract and an Honors Thesis Learning Contract , get them both signed by your advisor, and email them to the DUS.

Once the DUS approves both of these forms, they’ll get you registered for PHIL 691H. All of this should take place no later than the 5th day of classes in any given semester (preferably sooner).

What happens when I take PHIL 691H and PHIL 692H?

PHIL 691H and PHIL 692H are the course numbers that you sign up for to get credit for working on an Honors Thesis. These classes have official meeting times and places. In the case of PHIL 691H , those are a mere formality: You will meet with your advisor at times you both agree upon. But in the case of PHIL 692H , they are not a mere formality: The class will actually meet as a group, at least for the first few weeks of the semester (please see below).

When you take PHIL 691H, you should meet with your advisor during the first 5 days of classes and, if you have not done so already, fill out an Honors Thesis Learning Contract  and turn in to the Director of Undergraduate Studies (DUS) . This Contract will serve as your course syllabus and must be turned in and approved no later than the 5th day of classes in any given semester (preferably sooner). Once the DUS approves your Honors Thesis Learning Contract, they’ll get you registered for PHIL 691H.

Over the course of the semester, you will meet regularly with your advisor. By the last day of classes, you must turn in a 10-page paper on your thesis topic; this can turn out to be part of your final thesis, but it doesn’t have to. In order to continue working on an Honors Thesis the following semester, this paper must show promise of your ability to complete one, in the opinion of your advisor. Your advisor should assign you a grade of “ SP ” at the conclusion of the semester, signifying “satisfactory progress” (so you can move on to PHIL 692H). Please see page 3 of this document for more information.

When you take PHIL 692H, you’ll still need to work with your advisor to fill out an Honors Thesis Learning Contract . This Contract will serve as your course syllabus and must be turned in to and approved by the DUS  no later than the 5th day of classes in any given semester (preferably sooner).

Once the DUS approves your Honors Thesis Learning Contract, they’ll get you registered for PHIL 692H.

At the end of the second semester of senior honors thesis work (PHIL 692H), your advisor should assign you a permanent letter grade. Your advisor should also change your PHIL 691H grade from “ SP ” to a permanent letter grade. Please see page 3 of this document for more information.

The Graduate Course Option

If you and your advisor agree, you may exercise the Graduate Course Option. If you do this, then during the semester when you are enrolled in either PHIL 691H or PHIL 692H, you will attend and do the work for a graduate level PHIL course. (You won’t be officially enrolled in that course.) A paper you write for this course will be the basis for your Honors Thesis. If you exercise this option, then you will be excused from the other requirements of the thesis course (either 691H or 692H) that you are taking that semester.

Who can be my advisor?

Any faculty member on a longer-than-one-year contract in the Department of Philosophy may serve as your honors thesis advisor. You will eventually form a committee of three professors, of which one can be from outside the Department.  But your advisor must have an appointment in the Philosophy Department. Graduate Students are not eligible to advise Honors Theses.

Who should be my advisor?

Any faculty member on a longer-than-one-year contract in the Department of Philosophy may serve as your honors thesis advisor. It makes most sense to ask a professor who already knows you from having had you as a student in a class. In some cases, though, this is either not possible, or else there is someone on the faculty who is an expert on the topic you want to write about, but from whom you have not taken a class. Information about which faculty members are especially qualified to advise thesis projects in particular areas of philosophy can be found  here .

What about the defense?

You and your advisor should compose a committee of three professors (including the advisor) who will examine you and your thesis. Once the committee is composed, you will need to schedule an oral examination, a.k.a. a defense. You should take the initiative here, communicating with all members of your committee in an effort to find a block of time (a little over an hour) when all three of you can meet. The thesis must be defended by a deadline , set by Honors Carolina , which is usually a couple of weeks before the end of classes. Students are required to upload the final version of their thesis to the  Carolina Digital Repository  by the final day of class in the semester in which they complete the thesis course work and thesis defense.

What is an Honors Thesis in Philosophy like?

An Honors Thesis in Philosophy is a piece of writing in the same genre as a typical philosophy journal article. There is no specific length requirement, but 30 pages (double-spaced) is a good guideline. Some examples of successfully defended Honors The easiest way to find theses of past philosophy students is on the web in the Carolina Digital Repository . Some older, hard copies of theses are located on the bookshelf in suite 107 of Caldwell Hall. (You may ask the Director of Undergraduate Studies (DUS) , or anyone else who happens to be handy, to show you where it is!)

How does the Honors Thesis get evaluated?

The honors thesis committee will evaluate the quality and originality of your thesis as well as of your defense and then decides between the following three options:

  • they may award only course credit for the thesis work if the thesis is of acceptable quality;
  • they may designate that the student graduate with honors if the thesis is of a very strong quality;
  • they may  recommend  that the student graduate with highest honors if the thesis is of exceptional quality.

As a matter of best practice, our philosophy department requires that examining committees refer all candidates for highest honors to our Undergraduate Committee chaired by the Director of Undergraduate Studies. This committee evaluates nominated projects and makes the final decision on awarding highest honors. Highest honors should be awarded only to students who have met the most rigorous standards of scholarly excellence.

Grad Coach

How To Find A High-Quality Research Topic

6 steps to find & evaluate high-quality dissertation/thesis topics.

By: Caroline Osella (PhD, BA)  and Derek Jansen (MBA) | July 2019

So, you’re finally nearing the end of your degree and it’s now time to find a suitable topic for your dissertation or thesis. Or perhaps you’re just starting out on your PhD research proposal and need to find a suitable area of research for your application proposal.

In this post, we’ll provide a straightforward 6-step process that you can follow to ensure you arrive at a high-quality research topic . Follow these steps and you will formulate a well-suited, well-defined core research question .

There’s a helpful clue already: your research ‘topic’ is best understood as a research question or a problem . Your aim is not to create an encyclopedia entry into your field, but rather to shed light on an acknowledged issue that’s being debated (or needs to be). Think research  questions , not research  topics  (we’ll come back to this later).

Overview: How To Find & Choose A Research Topic

  • Get an understanding of the research process
  • Review previous dissertations from your university
  • Review the academic literature to start the ideation process
  • Identify your potential research questions (topics) and shortlist
  • Narrow down, then evaluate your research topic shortlist
  • Make the decision (and stick with it!)

Step 1: Understand the research process

It may sound horribly obvious, but it’s an extremely common mistake – students skip past the fundamentals straight to the ideation phase (and then pay dearly for it).

Start by looking at whatever handouts and instructions you’ve been given regarding what your university/department expects of a dissertation. For example, the course handbook, online information and verbal in-class instructions. I know it’s tempting to just dive into the ideation process, but it’s essential to start with the prescribed material first.

There are two important reasons for this:

First , you need to have a basic understanding of the research process , research methodologies , fieldwork options and analysis methods before you start the ideation process, or you will simply not be equipped to think about your own research adequately. If you don’t understand the basics of  quantitative , qualitative and mixed methods BEFORE you start ideating, you’re wasting your time.

Second , your university/department will have specific requirements for your research – for example, requirements in terms of topic originality, word count, data requirements, ethical adherence, methodology, etc. If you are not aware of these from the outset, you will again end up wasting a lot of time on irrelevant ideas/topics.

So, the most important first step is to get your head around both the basics of research (especially methodologies), as well as your institution’s specific requirements . Don’t give in to the temptation to jump ahead before you do this. As a starting point, be sure to check out our free dissertation course.

Free Webinar: How To Find A Dissertation Research Topic

Step 2: Review past dissertations/theses

Unless you’re undertaking a completely new course, there will be many, many students who have gone through the research process before and have produced successful dissertations, which you can use to orient yourself. This is hugely beneficial – imagine being able to see previous students’ assignments and essays when you were doing your coursework!

Take a look at some well-graded (65% and above) past dissertations from your course (ideally more recent ones, as university requirements may change over time). These are usually available in the university’s online library. Past dissertations will act as a helpful model for all kinds of things, from how long a bibliography needs to be, to what a good literature review looks like, through to what kinds of methods you can use – and how to leverage them to support your argument.

As you peruse past dissertations, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What kinds of topics did these dissertations cover and how did they turn the topic into questions?
  • How broad or narrow were the topics?
  • How original were the topics? Were they truly groundbreaking or just a localised twist on well-established theory?
  • How well justified were the topics? Did they seem important or just nice to know?
  • How much literature did they draw on as a theoretical base? Was the literature more academic or applied in nature?
  • What kinds of research methods did they use and what data did they draw on?
  • How did they analyse that data and bring it into the discussion of the academic literature?
  • Which of the dissertations are most readable to you – why? How were they presented?
  • Can you see why these dissertations were successful? Can you relate what they’ve done back to the university’s instructions/brief?

Dissertations stacked up

Seeing a variety of dissertations (at least 5, ideally in your area of interest) will also help you understand whether your university has very rigid expectations in terms of structure and format , or whether they expect and allow variety in the number of chapters, chapter headings, order of content, style of presentation and so on.

Some departments accept graphic novels; some are willing to grade free-flow continental-philosophy style arguments; some want a highly rigid, standardised structure.  Many offer a dissertation template , with information on how marks are split between sections. Check right away whether you have been given one of those templates – and if you do, then use it and don’t try to deviate or reinvent the wheel.

Step 3: Review the academic literature

Now that you (1) understand the research process, (2) understand your university’s specific requirements for your dissertation or thesis, and (3) have a feel for what a good dissertation looks like, you can start the ideation process. This is done by reviewing the current literature and looking for opportunities to add something original to the academic conversation.

Kick start the ideation process

So, where should you start your literature hunt? The best starting point is to get back to your modules. Look at your coursework and the assignments you did. Using your coursework is the best theoretical base, as you are assured that (1) the literature is of a high enough calibre for your university and (2) the topics are relevant to your specific course.

Start by identifying the modules that interested you the most and that you understood well (i.e. earned good marks for). What were your strongest assignments, essays or reports? Which areas within these were particularly interesting to you? For example, within a marketing module, you may have found consumer decision making or organisation trust to be interesting. Create a shortlist of those areas that you were both interested in and academically strong at. It’s no use picking an area that does not genuinely interest you – you’ll run out of motivation if you’re not excited by a topic.

Understand the current state of knowledge

Once you’ve done that, you need to get an understanding of the current state of the literature for your chosen interest areas. What you’re aiming to understand is this: what is the academic conversation here and what critical questions are yet unanswered? These unanswered questions are prime opportunities for a unique, meaningful research topic . A quick review of the literature on your favourite topics will help you understand this.

Grab your reading list from the relevant section of the modules, or simply enter the topics into Google Scholar . Skim-read 3-5 journal articles from the past 5 years which have at least 5 citations each (Google Scholar or a citations index will show you how many citations any given article has – i.e., how many other people have referred to it in their own bibliography). Also, check to see if your discipline has an ‘annual review’ type of journal, which gathers together surveys of the state of knowledge on a chosen topic. This can be a great tool for fast-tracking your understanding of the current state of the knowledge in any given area.

Start from your course’s reading list and work outwards. At the end of every journal article, you’ll find a reference list. Scan this reference list for more relevant articles and read those. Then repeat the process (known as snowballing) until you’ve built up a base of 20-30 quality articles per area of interest.

Reference list

Absorb, don’t hunt

At this stage, your objective is to read and understand the current state of the theory for your area(s) of interest – you don’t need to be in topic-hunting mode yet. Don’t jump the gun and try to identify research topics before you are well familiarised with the literature.

As you read, try to understand what kinds of questions people are asking and how they are trying to answer them. What matters do the researchers agree on, and more importantly, what are they in disagreement about? Disagreements are prime research territory. Can you identify different ‘schools of thought’ or different ‘approaches’? Do you know what your own approach or slant is? What kinds of articles appeal to you and which ones bore you or leave you feeling like you’ve not really grasped them? Which ones interest you and point towards directions you’d like to research and know more about?

Once you understand the fundamental fact that academic knowledge is a conversation, things get easier.

Think of it like a party. There are groups of people in the room, enjoying conversations about various things. Which group do you want to join?  You don’t want to be that person in the corner, talking to themself. And you don’t want to be the hanger-on, laughing at the big-shot’s jokes and repeating everything they say.

Do you want to join a large group and try to make a small contribution to what’s going on, or are you drawn to a smaller group that’s having a more niche conversation, but where you feel you might more easily find something original to contribute? How many conversations can you identify? Which ones feel closer to you and more attractive? Which ones repel you or leave you cold? Are there some that, frankly, you just don’t understand?

Now, choose a couple of groups who are discussing something you feel interested in and where you feel like you might want to contribute. You want to make your entry into this group by asking a question – a question that will make the other people in the group turn around and look at you, listen to you, and think, “That’s interesting”.

Your dissertation will be the process of setting that question and then trying to find at least a partial answer to that question – but don’t worry about that now.  Right now, you need to work out what conversations are going on, whether any of them are related or overlapping, and which ones you might be able to walk into. I’ll explain how you find that question in the next step.

Need a helping hand?

choosing an honours thesis topic

Step 4: Identify potential research questions

Now that you have a decent understanding of the state of the literature in your area(s) of interest, it’s time to start developing your list of possible research topics. There are (at least) three approaches you can follow here, and they are not mutually exclusive:

Approach 1: Leverage the FRIN

Towards the end of most quality journal articles, you will find a section labelled “ further research ” or something similar. Generally, researchers will clearly outline where they feel further research is needed (FRIN), following on from their own research. So, essentially, every journal article presents you with a list of potential research opportunities.

Of course, only a handful of these will be both practical and of interest to you, so it’s not a quick-fix solution to finding a research topic. However, the benefit of going this route is that you will be able to find a genuinely original and meaningful research topic (which is particularly important for PhD-level research).

The upside to this approach is originality, but the downside is that you might not find something that really interests you , or that you have the means to execute. If you do go this route, make sure that you pay attention to the journal article dates, as the FRIN may already have been “solved” by other researchers if the article is old.

Use the FRIN for dissertation topics ideas

Approach 2: Put a context-based spin on an existing topic

The second option is to consider whether a theory which is already well established is relevant within a local or industry-specific context. For example, a theory about the antecedents (drivers) of trust is very well established, but there may be unique or uniquely important drivers within a specific national context or industry (for example, within the financial services industry in an emerging market).

If that industry or national context has not yet been covered by researchers and there is a good reason to believe there may be meaningful differences within that context, then you have an opportunity to take a unique angle on well-established theory, which can make for a great piece of research. It is however imperative that you have a good reason to believe that the existing theory may not be wholly relevant within your chosen context, or your research will not be justified.

The upside to this approach is that you can potentially find a topic that is “closer to home” and more relevant and interesting to you , while still being able to draw on a well-established body of theory. However, the downside is that this approach will likely not produce the level of originality as approach #1.

Approach 3: Uncensored brainstorming

The third option is to skip the FRIN, as well as the local/industry-specific angle and simply engage in a freeform brainstorming or mind-mapping session, using your newfound knowledge of the theory to formulate potential research ideas. What’s important here is that you do not censor yourself . However crazy, unfeasible, or plain stupid your topic appears – write it down. All that matters right now is that you are interested in this thing.

Next, try to turn the topic(s) into a question or problem. For example:

  • What is the relationship between X, Y & Z?
  • What are the drivers/antecedents of X?
  • What are the outcomes of Y?
  • What are the key success factors for Z?

Re-word your list of topics or issues into a list of questions .  You might find at this stage that one research topic throws up three questions (which then become sub-topics and even new separate topics in their own right) and in so doing, the list grows. Let it. Don’t hold back or try to start evaluating your ideas yet – just let them flow onto paper.

Once you’ve got a few topics and questions on paper, check the literature again to see whether any of these have been covered by the existing research. Since you came up with these from scratch, there is a possibility that your original literature search did not cover them, so it’s important to revisit that phase to ensure that you’re familiar with the relevant literature for each idea. You may also then find that approach #1 and #2 can be used to build on these ideas.

Try use all three approaches

As mentioned earlier, the three approaches discussed here are not mutually exclusive. In fact, the more, the merrier. Hopefully, you manage to utilise all three, as this will give you the best odds of producing a rich list of ideas, which you can then narrow down and evaluate, which is the next step.

Mix different approaches to find a topic

Step 5: Narrow down, then evaluate

By this stage, you should have a healthy list of research topics. Step away from the ideation and thinking for a few days, clear your mind. The key is to get some distance from your ideas, so that you can sit down with your list and review it with a more objective view. The unbridled ideation phase is over and now it’s time to take a reality check .

Look at your list and see if any options can be crossed off right away .  Maybe you don’t want to do that topic anymore. Maybe the topic turned out to be too broad and threw up 20 hard to answer questions. Maybe all the literature you found about it was 30 years old and you suspect it might not be a very engaging contemporary issue . Maybe this topic is so over-researched that you’ll struggle to find anything fresh to say. Also, after stepping back, it’s quite common to notice that 2 or 3 of your topics are really the same one, the same question, which you’ve written down in slightly different ways. You can try to amalgamate these into one succinct topic.

Narrow down to the top 5, then evaluate

Now, take your streamlined list and narrow it down to the ‘top 5’ that interest you the most. Personal interest is your key evaluation criterion at this stage. Got your ‘top 5’?  Great!  Now, with a cool head and your best analytical mind engaged, go systematically through each option and evaluate them against the following criteria:

Research questions – what is the main research question, and what are the supporting sub-questions? It’s critically important that you can define these questions clearly and concisely. If you cannot do this, it means you haven’t thought the topic through sufficiently.

Originality – is the topic sufficiently original, as per your university’s originality requirements? Are you able to add something unique to the existing conversation? As mentioned earlier, originality can come in many forms, and it doesn’t mean that you need to find a completely new, cutting-edge topic. However, your university’s requirements should guide your decision-making here.

Importance – is the topic of real significance, or is it just a “nice to know”? If it’s significant, why? Who will benefit from finding the answer to your desired questions and how will they benefit? Justifying your research will be a key requirement for your research proposal , so it’s really important to develop a convincing argument here.

Literature – is there a contemporary (current) body of academic literature around this issue? Is there enough literature for you to base your investigation on, but not too much that the topic is “overdone”? Will you be able to navigate this literature or is it overwhelming?

Data requirements – What kind of data would you need access to in order to answer your key questions?  Would you need to adopt a qualitative, quantitative or mixed-methods approach to answer your questions? At this stage, you don’t need to be able to map out your exact research design, but you should be able to articulate how you would approach it in high-level terms. Will you use qual, quant or mixed methods? Why?

Feasibility – How feasible would it be to gather the data that would be needed in the time-frame that you have – and do you have the will power and the skills to do it? If you’re not confident with the theory, you don’t want something that’s going to draw you into a debate about the relative importance of epistemology and ontology. If you are shy, you won’t want to be doing ethnographic interviews. If you feel this question calls for a 100-person survey, do you have the time to plan, organise and conduct it and then analyse it? What will you do if you don’t get the response rate you expect? Be very realistic here and also ask advice from your supervisor and other experts – poor response rates are extremely common and can derail even the best research projects.

Personal attraction – On a scale of 1-10, how excited are you about this topic? Will addressing it add value to your life and/or career? Will undertaking the project help you build a skill you’ve previously wanted to work on (for example, interview skills, statistical analysis skills, software skills, etc.)?

The last point is particularly important. You will have to engage with your dissertation in a very sustained and deep way, face challenges and difficulties, and get it to completion. If you don’t start out enthusiastic about it, you’re setting yourself up for problems like ‘writer’s block’ or ‘burnout’ down the line. This is the reason personal interest was the sole evaluation criterion when we chose the top 5. So, don’t underestimate the importance of personal attraction to a topic – at the same time, don’t let personal attraction lead you to choose a topic that is not relevant to your course or feasible given your resources. 

A strong research topic must tick all three boxes – original, relevant and feasible. If not, you're going to run into problems sooner or later.

Narrow down to 3, then get human feedback

We’re almost at the finishing line. The next step is to narrow down to 2 or 3 shortlisted topics. No more!  Write a short paragraph about each topic, addressing the following:

Firstly,  WHAT will this study be about? Frame the topic as a question or a problem. Write it as a dissertation title. No more than two clauses and no more than 15 words. Less than 15 is better (go back to good journal articles for inspiration on appropriate title styles).

Secondly, WHY this is interesting (original) and important – as proven by existing academic literature? Are people talking about this and is there an acknowledged problem, debate or gap in the literature?

Lastly,  HOW do you plan to answer the question? What sub-questions will you use? What methods does this call for and how competent and confident are you in those methods? Do you have the time to gather the data this calls for?

Show the shortlist and accompanying paragraphs to a couple of your peers from your course and also to an expert or two if at all possible (you’re welcome to reach out to us ), explaining what you will investigate, why this is original and important and how you will go about investigating it. 

Once you’ve pitched your ideas, ask for the following thoughts :

  • Which is most interesting and appealing to them?
  • Why do they feel this way?
  • What problems do they foresee with the execution of the research?

Take advice and feedback and sit on it for another day. Let it simmer in your mind overnight before you make the final decision.  

Step 6: Make the decision (and stick with it!)

Then, make the commitment. Choose the one that you feel most confident about, having now considered both your opinion and the feedback from others.

Once you’ve made a decision, don’t doubt your judgement, don’t shift.  Don’t be tempted by the ones you left behind. You’ve planned and thought things through, checked feasibility and now you can start.  You have your research topic. Trust your own decision-making process and stick with it now. It’s time to get started on your research proposal!

Let’s recap…

In this post, I’ve proposed a straightforward 6-step plan to finding relevant research topic ideas and then narrowing them down to finally choose one winner. To recap:

  • Understand the basics of academic research, as well as your university’s specific requirements for a dissertation, thesis or research project.
  • Review previous dissertations for your course to get an idea of both topics and structure.
  • Start the ideation process by familiarising yourself with the literature.
  • Identify your potential research questions (topics).
  • Narrow down your options, then evaluate systematically.
  • Make your decision (and don’t look back!)

If you follow these steps, you’ll find that they also set you up for what’s coming next – both the proposal and the first three chapters of your dissertation. But that’s for future posts!

choosing an honours thesis topic

Psst… there’s more (for free)

This post is part of our dissertation mini-course, which covers everything you need to get started with your dissertation, thesis or research project. 

You Might Also Like:

Qualitative vs Quantitative vs Mixed Methods: How To Choose


Opio Joshua

I would love to get a topic under teachers performance. I am a student of MSC Monitoring and Evaluations and I need a topic in the line of monitoring and evaluations

Kafeero Martin

I just we put for some full notes that are payable


Thank you very much Dr Caroline


I need a project topics on transfer of learning

Fran Mothula

m a PhD Student I would like to be assisted inn formulating a title around: Internet of Things for online education in higher education – STEM (Science, technology, engineering and Mathematics, digital divide ) Thank you, would appreciate your guidance

Akintunde Raheem

Well structured guide on the topic… Good materials for beginners in research writing…


Hello Iam kindly seeking for help in formulating a researchable topic for masters degree program in line with teaching GRAPHIC ART

Jea Alys Campbell

I read a thesis about a problem in a particular. Can I use the same topic just referring to my own country? Is that being original? The interview questions will mostly be the same as the other thesis.


Hi, thanks I managed to listen to the video so helpful indeed. I am currently an MBA student looking for a specific topic and I have different ideas that not sure they can be turned to be a study.

Letkaija Chongloi

I am doing a Master of Theology in Pastoral Care and Counselling and I felt like doing research on Spiritual problem cause by substance abuse among Youth. Can I get help to formulate the Thesis Title in line with it…please

Razaq Abiodun

Hello, I am kindly seeking help in formulating a researchable topic for a National diploma program

kenani Mphakati

As a beginner in research, I am very grateful for this well-structured material on research writing.


Hello, I watched the video and its very helpful. I’m a student in Nursing (degree). May you please help me with any research problems (in Namibian society or Nursing) that need to be evaluate or solved?


I have been greatly impacted. Thank you.


more than useful… there will be no justification if someone fails to get a topic for his thesis


I watched the video and its really helpful.

Anjali kashyap

How can i started discovery

Zimbabwe Mathiya Ndlovu

Analysing the significance of Integrated reporting in Zimbabwe. A case of institutional investors. this is my topic for PHD Accounting sciences need help with research questions

Rohit Bhowmick

Excellent session that cleared lots of doubts.

Excellent session that cleared lots of doubts

Izhar Ul haq

Wow, This helped a lot not only with how to find a research topic but inspired me to kick it off from now, I am a final year student of environmental science. And have to complete my project in the coming six months.

I was really stressed and thinking about different topics that I don’t know nothing about and having more than a hundred topics in the baggage, couldn’t make the tradeoff among them, however, reading this scrubbed the fuzzy layer off my head and now it seems like really easy.

Thanks GRADCOACH, you saved me from getting into the rabbit hole.


  • Dissertation vs Thesis: What's the difference? - Grad Coach - […] we receive questions about dissertation and thesis writing on a daily basis – everything from how to find a…

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Writing an Honours Thesis Proposal

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How do you write an honours thesis proposal - here be some tips!

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This book has been authored with PhD scholars in mind. The author believes that this would be a good starting point for these scholars. The following chapters have been included: Chapters: 1. Introduction to Thesis Writing 2. Choosing a Topic and Developing a Thesis Statement 3. Conducting Literature Review 4. Methodology and Data Collection 5. Writing the Introduction and Background of Your Thesis 6. Presenting Your Findings and Analysis 7. Writing the Discussion and Conclusion of Your Thesis 8. Formatting and Structuring Your Thesis 9. Referencing and Citations 10. Defending Your Thesis: Preparing for the Viva Voce 11. Revising and Editing Your Thesis 12. Time Management and Staying on Track 13. Overcoming Writer's Block and Staying Motivated 14. Using Technology and Tools to Enhance Your Thesis Writing Process 15. Publishing Your Thesis and Next Steps. 16. Data visualization 17. Statistical tools This book also contains tips about choosing an ideal thesis topic. It also warns the student about the various pitfalls involved in choosing a research topic. The topic on referencing citations would be very useful for even a novice researcher. This book also introduces the researcher to the myriad of software tools that are available to the scholar. Using these software tools would make the life of the researcher that much easier.

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Honors & Theses

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The Honors Thesis: An opportunity to do innovative and in-depth research.  

An honors thesis gives students the opportunity to conduct in-depth research into the areas of government that inspire them the most. Although, it’s not a requirement in the Department of Government, the honors thesis is both an academic challenge and a crowning achievement at Harvard. The faculty strongly encourages students to write an honors thesis and makes itself available as a resource to those students who do. Students work closely with the thesis advisor of their choice throughout the writing process. Approximately 30% of Government concentrators each year choose to write a thesis.

Guide to Writing a Senior Thesis in Government  

You undoubtedly have many questions about what writing a thesis entails. We have answers for you. Please read  A Guide to Writing a Senior Thesis in Government , which you can download as a PDF below. If you still have questions or concerns after you have read through this document, we encourage you to reach out to the Director of Undergraduate Studies, Dr. Nara Dillon ( [email protected] ), the Assistant Director of Undergraduate Studies, Dr. Gabriel Katsh ( [email protected] ), or the Undergraduate Program Manager, Karen Kaletka ( [email protected] ).  

choosing an honours thesis topic

NUS Philosophy Epicure

Part 1 - making the decision (honours thesis), written courtesy of jereld pan jiayong.

So I wanted to write a review on the Philosophy Honours Thesis module but I felt like putting it in a review format might be too restricting. The module content is basically all agent-relative so having a general review of it would not be super beneficial anyways. Instead I suggested writing a blogpost or something about it giving some advice for those who are considering whether to do it over other 4k modules, and for those who are already doing it, and… here we are.

I’ll do this in five parts:

Part 1 – Making the Decision (This one)

Part 2 – Choosing a Topic

Part 3 – The Readings

Part 4 – Presenting Your Thesis

Part 5 – Writing the Thing

While the blog series is separated in this way and organised in a sort of chronological order, this doesn’t mean that you should think of these parts independently, or without any chronological overlap. Yes, each subsequent part does build on the previous one, but there can also be some ‘backwards causation’. For instance, you may realise that some readings are less relevant once you start doing some of your writing, or some readings persuade you to change your topic (either in a positive or negative way). Because of this, you can also start doing some of the writing while researching or start reading to help choose a topic.

Take note that the main aim of this blog series is to help you have a good and interesting experience doing your thesis, rather than to help you get a good grade in it. Of course, you might end up getting a better grade because you followed some of the advice given here, but that isn’t its purpose. I’ve seen some people struggling through the semesters because of thesis-related concerns, both students and professors. I hope, through this blog series, I can help create a better experience for everyone. I may have certain biases and it may not be good advice, but I think it might still be helpful to look through and see if anything speaks out to you. Also, please don’t read me as being passive aggressive in this, because I’m not trying to be. Unless pointing that out already comes off as being passive aggressive? Oh no.

Disclaimer: For those who are planning to do an Honours Thesis in a major other than Philosophy, I’m not sure how much of this applies to you. Of course, you’re still welcome to read on, and you might be able to learn something!

What is HT?

The department actually has a pdf describing the module in some detail, but it isn’t super elaborate: You can get most of the crucial info there, just keep it somewhere safe so you can refer back to look at some of the important requirements. A lot of people don't know this exists until it's too late, so make sure to spread this around! However, I take it you’re still reading this because it doesn’t seem like enough, so here you go.

The Honours Thesis module is basically an Independent Study Module, stretched out for a whole Academic Year, and worth 15MCs. You choose a topic, choose a supervising professor (and hopefully they accept), and you just write a whole essay on the topic of about 12,000 words. Side note: There is also an ISM that’s worth 5MCs which only lasts for one semester, but I’ll expand more on that later in this post.

The timeline works (roughly) like this:

Semester 1 is your reading semester, so you just read up on the topic and research on it. Semester 2 is your writing semester, which is when you start to formulate your thesis.

The distinction between the reading and writing semester is merely a suggestion: You can start writing as early as Sem 1, or you can put off writing until the end of Sem 2 and keep researching until then.

Throughout both Sem 1 and 2, you’ll have to meet your supervising professor, preferably on a routine basis. I met with my professor (Ethan Jerzak) every two weeks. Some people prefer it every week or starting off slower then ramping up until you reach the end. Talk to your professor to make an arrangement.

There’s also a presentation component, but it will depend on the AY, because I had it in Sem 2 but they recently moved it to Sem 1, so it’s a mystery when it will be when you’re doing it.

Grading Structure:

CA – 30% Final Thesis – 70%

And… That’s it. That’s all the grading there is. Pretty scary, huh? I think this is what intimidates people the most about doing a thesis, that so much of your grade is dependent on your final product. It’s like having another O/A levels. Plus, this grade counts for 3 whole modules too.

However, here’s some hope: From another perspective, the thesis is just another part of your CA. You are constantly updating your thesis and getting feedback from your supervising professor, so that at the end, your final product isn’t something churned out overnight (hopefully), but it’s something that has been cultivated from the very beginning. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, I will explain more about this in the next parts. I hope this at least takes some of the intimidation away.

What’s the 30% CA for then? This will primarily be composed of your professor’s scoring of how you do in your meetings with them and might also include how well you do on your presentation. This will depend on your supervising professor, so make sure to have a chat with them about it during the early stages if you can. I think as long as you’re enthusiastic and accepting of feedback, you’ll do perfectly well for CA.

Why Choose HT?

As I’ve mentioned before, you have a choice between taking a 5MC ISM versus taking this intimidating 15MC HT. Take note that this is a case of an exclusive ‘or’, so you cannot take both of them (they preclude each other). Well, actually, you can also take neither. The logical translation should rightly be (~ISM v ~HT). Compared to the thesis, the ISM is 5MCs with a much lighter workload. There are no predetermined assignments, all the grading and assignment workload is decided between you and the professor. But from what I heard from a friend who took it, the workload is very much like a normal module: Maybe a mid-term essay, and a 3,000-ish word essay at the end.

So, should you choose to do the HT module? As Prof Loy loves to say: Yes and no.

Good practice for grad school

Let’s say you’re like me and you want to apply for graduate school, or at least considering it. (Almost) everything on this list is something that you should be striving for, or at the very least, be comfortable with. Doing a thesis is a good test of your independence and passion for philosophy, and it will definitely make for a good writing sample if done well.

You get to do what you like, with the Prof you like

Since you get to choose the topic you’re interested in, as well as your supervising professor, you get a certain freedom of choice here. Of course, there’s always a chance that you find out the professor you like so much doesn’t feel the same way about you. But putting that aside, the professor might want to pass you over to a colleague because some other professor has more experience in the particular topic that you chose. If you’re adamant about working with that particular professor, you could always just change your topic to suit their experience in it. This pro also applies to ISM, so this is mainly a pro for choosing ISM or HT, but for HT…

You get to develop your ideas

And in a whole lot more depth than your regular essays. This is especially since you’re taking a full year to work on this topic, and also because you have the freedom of having 12,000 words to play with. This doesn’t mean that you just pad your essays with fluff everywhere, of course, but it does mean that you get to expand on certain ideas that a 3,000 word essay prevents you from doing. The thesis also allows for a lot more original thought. While in regular essays, sometimes it feels like you’re spending most of the words explaining things and maybe proving something very minute, the word count for the thesis gives a bit more room to develop your original ideas so that it doesn’t seem that trivial.

4k Module Selection

… is not great. Just for perspective, the 4k topics for this semester were Nietzsche, Epistemology, and Applied Epistemology. For next semester, there’s Political Philosophy, Logic, Language and Kant. Now, of course, these are pretty good and interesting topics to some people. But if you’re the type of person who is averse to certain topics (I, for one, would rather commit philosophical suicide than take Political Philosophy), or if you’ve taken some of these modules in previous AYs, then your choices are restricted. Furthermore, the modules offered can vary across different AYs, so the topic you’re interested in might not be available for that AY. By doing a thesis, it’s a way to avoid having to do certain topics you’re not interested in just to complete your degree.

For the grade

You might have to check this, but when I was doing my thesis, it was a prerequisite for getting first class honours, now called Honours (Highest Distinction). In other words, if you didn’t do the thesis, the most that you could get was a second upper. So, in a sense, doing a thesis is good for your grades. But, if none of the other pros appeal to you and you’re doing a thesis solely because you want to get good overall grades, I would discourage you from doing it, because it’s really not worth it then. Hence why I placed this as the last of the pros.

You do the same thing for an entire year

If you’ve ever taken a module on a topic that you just find to be boring, then you might know how it feels. Towards the later half of the semester, you’re just chugging along, trying to get things over and done with so you can move on to better things. But with regular modules, the module usually ends after one semester, and you can move on afterwards. Some of them are S/U-able, and at most it will only take up 5MCs. With a thesis, however, you’re stuck with it for an entire AY. You could choose to change the topic halfway through, but that just means there’s less time to develop your new ideas, and your previous efforts might just be wasted. So when you’re deciding whether to do your thesis, consider this: are you willing to work on the same topic throughout 2 semesters? Now, most of this can be circumvented if you have a topic you’re interested in already, but even then, sometimes you can lose interest. Only choose a topic you can see yourself working on for a whole year. (More on this in another part)

You need to be independent

With regular modules, there are clear deadlines set by the professors. Submit mid-term papers by a certain date, exams on a certain date, etc. When doing a thesis, there’s only one submission deadline for your thesis (mid-April for me, and likely for you too). That means that you have to set your own deadlines when reading papers, having drafts, and doing your revisions. You’ll also have to make sure that you understand the material and what you’re writing, because your professor isn’t going to do it for you, especially if there are readings they’re not entirely familiar with. This means that, during the meetings, you’ll have to clarify and ask the right questions. I’ve heard from some of my friends who’ve done their thesis under other professors that some Profs do set deadlines for their thesis students. Just take note that this is dependent on your supervising professor, and it’s not an obligation for them. In fact, I’ve heard stories of the opposite: Some of my friends end up chasing their professors for meetings instead. So if you do decide to do a thesis, prepare to be independent in your writing and research.

You need to come up with some original contribution

Well, this actually applies to all philosophical essays if you want to do well, but I felt like I should include it in this still. If you’re doing a thesis, I’m assuming you’re not taking it just for a passing grade. Either you want to do well or do something interesting. Hopefully both or at least the latter. Anyways, from what I’ve seen, the better essays tend to include some well thought out original contribution, so it may be one of the necessary conditions for doing well. And, from personal experience, the only essays that felt interesting to write were those where I felt like I made some original contribution. Whether I did so or not was a different story. So, based on my faux-Dilemma-Argument-plus-Hypothetical-Syllogism, the conclusion is that, if you’re doing a thesis, you need some original contribution, or at least to feel like you’re contributing originally. This is definitely not easy, so I hope you’re prepared for this before you decide.

Of course, some of you may find that the pros are actually cons or vice versa. This isn’t supposed to be a definitive classification, these are just some of the experiences I’ve had regarding the thesis. But if, after all that, you’re still willing to do a thesis (and not just for the overall grade), then I would say that you have a good reason to choose to do it.

Also, here’s more wisdom from Prof Loy, paraphrased because I have bad memory from when he said it last time: “Don’t do a thesis unless you want to for its own sake. Otherwise, you’ll just be wasting your time and the professor’s time.”

If there's anything in the series that I might not have covered or if you need some more personalised advice, feel free to message me on Telegram (I'm probably in one of the philosophy chat groups you are in too) or email me at [email protected]

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Understanding honours

Honours is an additional qualification where you can build on your undergraduate studies by completing a self-directed research project and disciplinary or research-focused coursework. This may be integrated into your undergraduate degree or require an additional year of study.

Overview and types of honours

  • Eligibility and preparing for honours
  • Honours awards and classes

You can undertake honours either as part of the combined Bachelor of Advanced Studies, or through an appended honours course after your undergraduate degree. Some professional or specialist degrees also have embedded or integrated honours.

Honours provides an opportunity to work on an independent but supervised research project and is usually completed as one year full-time study (some disciplines offer part-time options).

Under the guidance of an academic supervisor, you will choose a thesis topic, create a reading list and identify your method of research.

Academics in your faculty or school will provide supervision as you write your thesis. This thesis will document your research from proposal through to conclusion.

Why study honours?

Completing honours shows you have achieved high academic standards and gives you an honours-level award.

An honours pathway can open the door for further research study, equipping you with the prerequisite research skills to undertake a research degree such as the PhD.

Alternatively, if you decide to only complete an honours pathway without pursuing further research, you will graduate with a robust set of transferrable skills including:

  • time management and research skills
  • project management and delivery
  • showing future employers that you can investigate independently and achieve more complex goals.

What’s involved

Generally, honours will consist of three components:

  • an independent research project, mentored by your academic supervisor
  • additional units in research design/technical training
  • some honours and coursework units.

You will usually complete a dissertation or thesis and attend regular meetings with your supervisor to discuss your research.

Once you complete the requirements for your honours, you will graduate with an honours level award.

You can contact the faculty or school honours coordinator from the area of interest you are considering, for more information about honours. We also hold honours information sessions (usually in September) where you can discuss your options.

Types of honours

The type of honours you undertake depends on your individual study circumstances.

Honours in the combined Bachelor of Advanced Studies

If you are completing a combined Bachelor of Advanced Studies and are eligible, you can elect to complete embedded honours in either of your two majors in the final year of your studies. Be aware that some streams do not allow you to undertake honours in your second major or as an embedded component in the combined degree. Check our applying for honours pages  and your handbook for more information about options available to you. 

If you are completing an eligible degree and commenced your studies in 2018 or later (or transferred to the new curriculum version of your degree in 2018) and are on track to complete two majors by the end of your degree, you can apply to transfer to a combined Bachelor of Advanced Studies up until your penultimate semester of study. This adds an additional year to your single bachelor’s degree in which you will complete your honours, and means you will graduate with two bachelor’s degrees.

Transferring to the combined Bachelor of Advanced Studies

If you are a Commonwealth supported student (who commenced your degree prior to 2021) and you are considering transferring to a combined Bachelor of Advanced Studies degree, you’ll need to apply for a new course enrolment. This means you will be charged the new Jobs-ready Graduates Package fee rates for units you need to complete in your new degree. You won’t be re-charged the new fee rates for any units you already completed under the old rates.

Please carefully check information on our Tuition fees page and consider the implications of transferring courses before you take any action.

For more information regarding the Jobs-ready Graduates Package and fee changes, please visit

Appended honours

Appended honours is an additional course that you complete after you have finished your undergraduate degree. Generally, appended honours is available to both current University of Sydney students and external applicants. You’ll find information and eligibility criteria for most appended honours degrees in Find a course .

As a current student, often you'll need to apply through Find a course in the same way that external applicants apply, but may also need to submit an additional application form to your school or discipline. When searching for these on Sydney Courses (Find a course) these degrees will look like the Bachelor of Arts (Honours).

Embedded honours

Some bachelor’s degrees have honours embedded within them. You will complete your honours study in the final semesters of your current undergraduate degree by completing specific units. Honours will not increase the overall time taken to complete your studies.

Generally, you will apply for embedded honours directly to your faculty or school.

Integrated honours

There may be some specialist and professional degrees where you complete honours integrated within the duration of your degree. You won’t have to apply separately to do honours and won’t need to complete specific honours units. An example is the Bachelor of Engineering.

Double and joint honours

In some situations it is possible to complete either double honours or joint honours.

Double honours means you complete two separate honours theses in different subject areas. This normally takes an additional year, extending your studies to two years full time.

Joint honours is when you complete an honours thesis in two subject areas closely related to each other. A special program of study is designed that allows you to complete the course concurrently in one year.

To apply for double or joint honours, you need to meet the eligibility requirements for both honours.

Contact the honours coordinator in your faculty or school to discuss your options.

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Choosing a Topic and Mentor

Choosing a Topic  

Are you struggling to brainstorm a thesis topic? Try one of the following tips: 

  • Find a professor who does research in your broader area of interest. Most faculty have a description of their research or interests on their departmental (major) website.
  • Talk to the faculty in your department — or a particular faculty member you may be interested in working with — and tell them you are thinking about doing a thesis. If you are not sure exactly what you want to write about, ask if they have any suggestions for narrowing down your interests. They also may have a project in mind that you could help with.
  • If you are writing your thesis in a science discipline, your thesis could contribute to a bigger project or paper. Ask professors whose research you are interested in if they need help on any projects.
  • The Honors Office has a collection of theses that we have funded the past. They cover a range of topics and are a great way to get an idea of the structure, style and breadth of focus of a typical thesis. Visit the library in Washburn Observatory to page through the thesis books!
  • If you are planning (or required) to write a thesis proposal before beginning your work, you will need to do some preliminary research. This can also help you narrow your focus.
  • Read some academic journals in an area that interests you. Pay special attention to the article’s discussion section and/or suggestions for further research.
  • What makes a good thesis topic? If a potential topic interests you, poses questions you can’t answer and lends itself to a year of research (constrained, of course, by your own time and resources), then you are off to a good start!   

Choosing a Mentor

Looking for a thesis advisor? The following tips and considerations can help you forge a great relationship with a UW faculty member while getting your senior thesis off to a strong start. 

  • Think about professors whose courses you have enjoyed. What do they research? Does it relate to your interests? Even if they cannot advise you, they might be able to direct you to other faculty who have similar interests.
  • If you have no idea who would be a good mentor, talk to your departmental advisor. They know the department well and can most likely direct you to a faculty member who does research in your area of interest.
  • Most department websites feature profiles of their faculty members, including their publications and research interests. These can be great places to look for potential advisors. Many (although not all) faculty are open to working with students they have never met before as long as they have similar research interests.
  • When you find a mentor who interests you, go to his or her office hours or email him or her about your interests and ideas. See if he or she might be willing to mentor you!
  • If you do not already know the professor, think about what he or she would want to know about you. They will likely want to know what your interests are, what you want to study and your research skills or prior work. (And of course, your name!)
  • If you don’t know what you want to study, think of some possibilities and discuss these ideas with the faculty member. You might also ask him or her whether s/he needs help in a particular area of research.
  • Talk with the professor and make sure the mentorship will be a good fit personally and academically. You want to make sure you can have a good working relationship for an academic year.

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How to choose a PhD topic

How to decide on a PhD topic

Study tips Published 5 Apr, 2022  ·  4-minute read

Whether you’re diving right into your doctorate after a master’s degree or honours year, or you’re returning to study after a few years out in the field, working out how to choose a research topic for your PhD is an essential first step. We got some tips from two of our PhD candidates, Sarah Kendall and Chelsea Janke.

Some Doctor of Philosophy candidates are lucky. They start a PhD having already discovered their niche interest area, which means they never need to wonder how to choose a PhD topic.

Does this mean there’s something wrong with you if you don’t already have your thesis locked in?

Not at all.

Many students start their PhD journey with just a pure passion for research – a love for testing theories and making new discoveries – and figure out their specific research topic while working on their proposal . If you’re in this camp, or if you haven’t refined your thesis just yet, these tips can help you get there.

Sarah Kendall quote

Your PhD will take 3-4 years, so it's important that you choose something you're genuinely interested in.

How to choose a PhD topic

Sarah is the first to admit that choosing a PhD thesis topic is daunting. Her thesis examines lawyers’ approaches to prosecuting and defending domestic and family violence cases, but this topic didn’t come to her overnight.

“This can be really hard,” says Sarah.

“It took me years to decide on a PhD topic, and even then, it continued to change after starting my PhD.”

Chelsea, whose research explores ways to keep soil healthy while reducing environmental impact, agrees that your initial thesis may not necessarily stay the same throughout your PhD.

“Keep in mind that, as you progress through your PhD, your topic may change as you make new findings and discover some interesting things,” she says.

“This is fairly normal and is often why PhD topics aren’t always set in stone at the start.”

Remember this if you find yourself getting frustrated with how long it’s taking to pin down your research topic. You’ll be spending significant time ( at least 3 years ) researching this topic, so it’s reasonable to take a while on this decision. Make sure you land on a topic that truly inspires you, as you’ll need that inspiration to keep you motivated for the long haul.

With that said, though, there’s nothing wrong with picking a topic you’re 99% sure of and getting started sooner. As Sarah and Chelsea both say, adapting your thesis along the way is often part of the PhD journey.

Read, read, read

Chelsea Janke quote

Identify the things that really spark your interest and where you can find research gaps – that is, where there are still things we don't know.

Chelsea believes choosing your research topic begins with, well, research .

“Read widely on the general field that you’re interested in,” she says.

“Identify the things that really spark your interest and where you can find research gaps – that is, where there are still things we don’t know.”

Sarah agrees and acknowledges that sometimes this prior research can even translate into a separate project or even a degree.

“Do some research into the areas that interest you – this could take the form of an honours or other research project, or even a mock project that you do in your spare time,” she says.

“This will help you to decide your level of interest in the topic.”

Consider your subjects and speak with academics

Sarah recommends thinking about the courses from your current or previous program, as these can shine a light on what aspects of your field ignite your curiosity.

“Consider the subjects that you really enjoyed in your previous studies or those topics that you find really enjoyable to just learn about in your spare time,” she says.

“Narrow this down to a few areas, even if these are still pretty broad, then talk to as many academics as possible who do research in those areas. This is a really great way of finding out more about what’s topical in the area and what a potential project could look like.”

If you already know who you’d like to be your PhD supervisor, they are the obvious person to speak with first about refining your research topic. If not, learn how to find the right supervisor .

Check for openings on existing projects

Sometimes the best way to choose a PhD topic is to let the PhD topic choose you instead. Many academics keep open spots in their research projects for potential candidates to fill, providing opportunities for students to pursue their own thesis while assisting in a larger research team. We call these earmarked PhD projects .

In fact, this is what ended up helping Sarah select her thesis topic.

“Keep an eye out for projects that are being advertised by academics,” says Sarah.

“You might find one that fits with your area of interest, saving you much of the trouble of having to decide on your specific topic – this is how I came to be doing the project I’m currently doing!”

View available earmarked PhD projects at UQ

Ready to start researching your chosen topic? Discover the next steps for your PhD application.

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How to Pick a Master’s, Ph.D., or Undergraduate Thesis Topic

Last Updated: February 2, 2024 Fact Checked

  • Brainstorming Topics

Narrowing Your Focus

  • Crafting Your Question

This article was co-authored by Christopher Taylor, PhD and by wikiHow staff writer, Danielle Blinka, MA, MPA . Christopher Taylor is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of English at Austin Community College in Texas. He received his PhD in English Literature and Medieval Studies from the University of Texas at Austin in 2014. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 72,744 times.

Choosing a topic for your thesis , whether it be for a master’s, Ph.D., or undergraduate, can feel like a daunting task, but it can also be exciting. Your thesis is your chance to dive deep into a topic that interests you and contribute something new to your field. To pick the right topic for you, start by brainstorming potential topics without worrying if they're good or not. Then, narrow your topics based on feasibility and your personal strengths. Finally, start researching so you can craft a good thesis question.

Things You Should Know

  • Jot down your interests in your topic of study. Then, research your interests and go through your past papers to find unanswered questions in your field.
  • Narrow down your interests to potential topics you can add value to. Then, find a professor who has experience in your area of study.
  • To formulate your research question, research your topic. Brainstorm a few questions you might ask, then select the one you can best answer.

Brainstorming Possible Topics

Step 1 Write down your main interests related to your field of study.

  • Review all of the classes you've taken and the subjects you've covered.
  • Think about why you got into your field of study.
  • Consider what you like to read about in your free time, especially things related to your field. This might be books, news articles, or blogs.
  • Think of people in your field who you admire or aspire to be like. Then, ask yourself what you like about them.
  • Consider if you'll continue your academic studies after graduation, as well as what you'd want to study.

Step 2 Go through your past coursework to find papers you enjoyed writing.

  • Consider any lingering questions you had working on past projects as a starting point for your new thesis.
  • It’s best to stick to your recent work because it will better reflect your current knowledge and abilities.
  • You can use the same topic you used in your prior work, or you can use your old work to point you in the direction of a new topic.

Tip: Your past coursework can also tell you what you didn’t like studying. Consider the assignments that you struggled through and the research topics you hated. Then, avoid topics like them.

Step 3 Research current events to see what's happening in your field.

  • For example, let’s say you’re studying politics. You might read about current presidential candidates and reflect on how their platforms have diverted from the historical platforms for their political party.
  • If you’re writing a literature thesis, look at the novels that are being nominated for this year’s literary awards and consider their genre, theme, or style.
  • For a thesis on psychology, you might look for news about PTSD research or read articles about pop psychology that people are sharing on social media.
  • For an aeronautical engineering thesis, you could read up on what SpaceX is currently working on, or look into NASA’s most recent experiments.
  • Check prominent research journals in the field you’re interested in to see what current academic conversations look like.
  • Make a list of keywords that show up during your searches so you can look up published theses using sites like ProQuest. That way, you know what topics have already been covered.

Step 4 Look for gaps in current research related to your field.

  • You don’t need a topic that’s completely absent from research, as this would be difficult to examine.
  • One way to find a unique angle is to combine 2 topics together. Alternatively, you can build on someone else's work.
  • For example, let's say you're studying clinical psychology and want to write about PTSD. You might find that not much research has been done into how people with PTSD cope with workplace conflicts.
  • Similarly, let's say you're studying politics and want to look at how political party platforms evolve. You might find that there's a gap in research when it comes to evaluating how voters react to platform changes.

Step 5 Ask your professors which topic they think is right for you.

  • For instance, you might say, “I’m hoping to be a research professor one day, and I want to focus on modern poetry. Which of these thesis topics do you think would make me most attractive to doctoral programs?”

Step 6 Talk to your classmates about their lingering questions.

  • Focus on questions that can be researched and don’t have a simple answer. For instance, a question like, “How can we motivate people without offering them extrinsic rewards?” can be researched and doesn’t have a simple answer. Conversely, the question, “When did free verse poems start to become mainstream?” is easy to answer with a simple Internet search.

Step 7 Think about what type of work you plan to do in the future.

  • You don’t need to plan out your whole life. However, it’s good to have an idea about where you’re going.
  • Think about the type of work you want to do, the job title you want to attain, or the types of organizations you want to work with.
  • For instance, if you want to be a university professor, you might choose a topic that you plan to continue researching through your doctorate and career as a professor.
  • As another example, let's say you want to be a project manager for an engineering firm. You might choose a topic that encompasses both your knowledge of engineering and your interest in motivating other engineers to produce their best work.

Step 8 Make a list of 5-10 topics that might be interesting thesis topics.

  • Undergraduate theses may be more broad, while master’s or Ph.D. theses should be more specific.
  • Choose the best topics that came to you while you were brainstorming.
  • You might enjoy doing this activity with a classmate who’s also working on their thesis. You can bounce ideas off of each other.
  • For example, you might write down things like "evolution of political party platforms," "effect of civil war on cultural norms," "themes of literature immediately before and after a social crisis," "effects of robotics on the workforce," "mission to Mars," or "building intrinsic worker motivation."

Step 1 Eliminate topics that don’t seem to offer avenues for new research.

  • For instance, you might love William Shakespeare, but finding a new area of research about his work could prove difficult. Similarly, if you're studying psychology, you'll likely want to avoid writing about older ideas that aren't widely supported anymore, like dream analysis.

Step 2 Choose your thesis supervisor once you have a general idea of what you’ll research.

  • Say something like, “Hi, Dr. Gomez. I know you’re really knowledgeable about morality politics. I’m planning to write my thesis about a topic related to morality politics, so I hoped you might be my thesis supervisor.”

Tip: You don’t need to select your thesis topic before you find a thesis supervisor. Just get a general idea of what area you want to pursue.

Step 3 Discuss your top 1-3 topics with your thesis supervisor.

  • For example, you might say, "I'd like to write my thesis about modern American haiku structure, autobiographical expression in contemporary 21st-century poetry, or poetry in the Internet age."
  • Your thesis supervisor will likely want you to choose a topic that they know well and are interested in themselves.

Crafting Your Thesis Question

Step 1 Conduct research into your topic.

  • This will help you figure out what types of questions to ask about your topic.
  • If you can, highlight or mark important passages and summarize sections of text in the margins of the work.
  • Talk to your librarian. They can help you find materials that might be of interest to you, and they can pull books or journals related to your topic.

Tip: Save your research materials so that you can use them when writing your thesis. You may not use all of your early research, but some of it will be relevant.

Step 2 Write 5-7 potential thesis questions

  • How did 20th-century warfare alter literary themes?
  • How have expanding cultural norms impacted the criteria for literary awards?
  • What social changes have impacted diplomatic exchanges among world leaders?
  • How does detaching morality from public policy affect the efficacy of legislation?
  • How does culture adapt in the aftermath of a civil war?
  • How can robotics enhance early childhood education?
  • What are the best ways to motivate employees to work harder?
  • What treatment protocols can enhance recovery in PTSD patients?

Step 3 Identify the question you think you can best research and answer.

  • Think about the process you'd need to use to research the topic, such as a digital search, social experiments, or lab testing. Then, decide if you'd be able to complete these tasks with the time and resources you have.
  • List the research materials you have available to you, such as computer databases, library materials, or a laboratory.
  • Consider your thesis supervisor’s area of expertise.
  • Think about the courses you’ve taken and the skills you’ve developed.

For example... The thesis question "How have expanding cultural norms impacted the criteria for literary awards?" works well because it's researchable and debatable. You can explore cultural norms using social science studies, news or journal articles, and survey results from different decades. Then, study the themes and styles of award-winning literature using articles and books. From there, evaluate the relationship between them, which is up for interpretation.

Step 4 Select a final research question with the help of your thesis supervisor.

  • Listen to your thesis supervisor’s advice. They’ve likely been doing this for a long time, and they know what it’s like to be in your shoes.

Expert Q&A

  • Try to choose your topic as early as you can. This will help you stay on track to finish your thesis on time. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
  • It’s helpful to do additional research throughout the selection process. If you find texts that might be of use to you later, save them to use in your thesis. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
  • Since you’ll spend at least 1-2 years on your thesis, it’s best to choose a topic that interests you. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0

choosing an honours thesis topic

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Honours Thesis Handbook

This handbook,  effective September 1, 2016 , is the course outline for PSYCH 499A/B/C (Honours Thesis) from Fall 2016 and onward.

Table of contents

  • What is an honours thesis ?
  • Who should do an honours thesis ?

Prerequisites for admission to PSYCH 499

Selecting a topic for the honours thesis, finding a thesis supervisor.

  • Research interests of the Psychology faculty and recent honours thesis supervised

Class enrolment for PSYCH 499A/B/C

Warnings regarding a decision to discontinue psych 499.

  • Course requirements for PSYCH 499A progress report and thesis reviewer nominations
  • Course requirements for PSYCH 499B - oral presentation of the thesis proposal

Course requirements for PSYCH 499C - completing the thesis and submitting it for marking

Obtaining ethics clearance for research with human or animal participants, evaluation of the honours thesis, honours thesis award, annual ontario psychology undergraduate thesis conference, avoid academic offences, computing facilities, honours thesis (psych 499a/b/c), what is an honours thesis.

Psychology is a scientific approach to understanding mind and behaviour. Honours Psychology students all learn about the body of knowledge that exists in psychology as well as the scientific procedures for making new discoveries. The honours thesis course (PSYCH 499A/B/C) is an optional course for those who have a strong interest in conducting original research and wish to gain greater experience in research design, data analysis and interpretation.

Students carry out the honours thesis project under the supervision of a faculty member and present the findings in a scholarly paper. An honours thesis can be an empirical research project or more rarely a thesis of a theoretical nature. For an empirical project, the student develops a testable hypothesis and uses scientific procedures to evaluate the hypothesis. For a theoretical project, the student integrates and evaluates existing evidence to offer new interpretations and hypotheses. The difference between the two types of projects is basically the same as the difference between an article in Psychological Review or Psychological Bulletin , and an article in any of the experimental journals. A regular journal article typically reports the result of some empirical investigation and discusses its significance. A Psychological Review paper on the other hand, offers a theoretical contribution (e.g., suggesting a new theoretical approach or a way of revising an old one and showing how the new approach may be tested). A Psychological Bulletin article usually offers a review of an evaluative and integrative character, leading to conclusions and some closure about the state of the issue and future directions for research.

Students who plan to apply for admission to graduate school in psychology are typically advised to do an empirical research project for the honours thesis. Students who choose to do a theoretical paper should discuss their decision with the PSYCH 499 coordinator  (see below) early in the PSYCH 499A term.

The topic of investigation for the honours thesis will be based on a combination of the student's and the supervisor's interests .

Students in year two or three who are considering whether or not they want to do an honours thesis can learn more about what is involved in doing an honours thesis by doing any of the following:

  • attending an honours thesis orientation meeting. The meeting is typically the first week of classes each academic term. The official date and time of the meeting will be posted on the PSYCH 499 website .
  • attending PSYCH 499B oral presentations by other students. 
  • reading a few of the honours thesis samples that are available  online PSYCH 499 SharePoint site  (site only accessible to students currently enrolled in PSYCH 499) or via our Learn shell (only available when enrolled).

In addition to the student's honours thesis supervisor, another resource is the PSYCH 499 course coordinator . The PSYCH 499 coordinator conducts the thesis orientation meeting at the start of each term and is available to discuss any course-related or supervisor-related issues with potential students and enrolled students . If students have questions or concerns regarding the procedures for doing an honours thesis that cannot be answered by their thesis supervisor, they should contact the PSYCH 499 coordinator.

The honours thesis course (PSYCH 499A/B/C) is worth 1.5 units (i.e., 3 term courses). The final numerical grade for the thesis will be recorded for each of PSYCH 499A, 499B, and 499C.

Who should I do an honours thesis?

Honours Psychology majors are not required to do an honours thesis.

Good reasons for doing an honours thesis include:

  • An honours thesis is a recommended culmination of the extensive training that honours Psychology majors receive in research methods and data analysis (e.g., PSYCH 291, 292, 389, 390,  492). PSYCH 499 is a good choice for students who have a strong interest in, and commitment to, conducting original research and wish to gain greater experience in research design, data analysis and interpretation.
  • An honours degree in Psychology that includes a thesis is typically required for admission to graduate programs in Psychology.
  • Thesis supervisors are able to write more meaningful reference letters for students' applications for further studies, scholarships, or employment.

The prerequisites for PSYCH 499 are all of the following:

  • enrolment in honours Psychology or make-up Psychology
  • successful completion of PSYCH 291, 292, 391, and at least one of: PSYCH 389, 390, 483, 484
  • 60% cumulative overall average
  • 82% cumulative psychology average

* calendar descriptions as well as course outlines

The course prerequisites for enrolment in PSYCH 499A are strictly enforced because the courses provide essential background for success in PSYCH 499, and it is necessary to restrict the number of students enrolling in PSYCH 499. Appeals to enrol in all 3 of the following courses concurrently will not be accepted:

  • Advanced research methods course (PSYCH 389, 390, 483, 484)

In addition to the above formal prerequisites, we assume that all students who are enrolling in PSYCH 499 will have completed at least 4 of the "discipline core courses" (i.e., PSYCH 207, 211, 253, 257, 261) prior to the PSYCH 499A enrolment term.

See " Class enrolment for PSYCH 499A/B/C " below for further details regarding course enrolment, and the PSYCH 499 Application for students without the course prerequisites (e.g., PSYCH average between 81%-81.9%).

The topic of the honours thesis will be based on a combination of the interests of the student and his/her thesis supervisor. One approach for selecting an honours thesis topic is for the student to first find a thesis supervisor who has similar interests to his/her own, and then for the student and the thesis supervisor to develop an honours thesis proposal which compliments the faculty member's current research. Alternatively, some students have more specific research interests and will seek an appropriate thesis supervisor. Students are advised against developing an honours thesis project in too much detail before securing a thesis supervisor.

Review some of the honours thesis titles recently supervised by our faculty members.

See research interests of individual faculty members in the next section.

Each student who enrols in PSYCH 499 must find their own supervisor for his/her honours thesis project. A thesis supervisor must be finalized by the eighth day of classes for the PSYCH 499A term.

Full-time faculty members in the UW Psychology Department, and the four Psychology faculty members at St. Jerome's are all potential thesis supervisors. Think carefully about what you want to tell faculty members about yourself before making contact (think 'foot-in-the-door'). For example, inform a potential supervisor of the following:

  • for which school terms you are seeking a thesis supervisor (If not planning to do PSYCH 499 over back-to-back school terms, please explain why, e.g., co-op work term).
  • why you are interested in doing an honours thesis
  • the program that you are enrolled in (e.g., BA versus BSc, co-op versus regular stream)
  • your year of study and target date for graduation
  • when you will complete the prerequisites for enrolment in PSYCH 499A
  • your cumulative overall and psychology average (highlight improvement if applicable)
  • your grades for research methods and statistics courses
  • your educational and career goals
  • your volunteer/work experience that you have had previously and with whom
  • Did you work in his/her lab as a volunteer or paid research assistant?
  • Did you take a course with him/her previously?
  • Have you read articles that he/she wrote?
  • Do his/her interests relate to your interests for studies at the graduate level and/or future employment?
  • Were you referred by someone and why?

The search for a thesis supervisor will be easier if you establish rapport during second and third year with faculty members who are potential thesis supervisors. Ways to network with faculty members include the following:

  • get involved in the faculty member's lab. See ' Research experience ' on the Psychology undergraduate website for further details
  • the Associate Chair for Undergraduate Affairs - currently Richard Eibach
  • faculty members who attended the school(s) you are interested in applying to in the future. See the Psychology Department's Faculty listing for details
  • faculty members who have interests that relate to your future plans. See Research interests of faculty members in our department.
  • faculty members whose labs you worked or volunteered in
  • be an active participant in the class discussions for the advanced research methods courses (PSYCH 389, 390) and honours seminars (PSYCH 453-463).
  • enrol in a directed studies course (PSYCH 480-486) where you will receive one-on-one supervision from a faculty member. See the course application form for further details
  • read articles that the faculty member has written and discuss the material with him/her
  • attend departmental colloquia and divisional seminars where students can engage in discussions with faculty members about the material presented. Postings appear on the right sidebar of the Psychology Department home page

You may find that some faculty members that you approach will have already committed to supervising as many honours thesis projects as they feel able to handle for a given year. Be persistent in your search for a thesis supervisor and do not feel discouraged if you need to approach several (i.e., six or eight) people.

If you are unable to obtain a thesis supervisor, please speak to the PSYCH 499 coordinator .

Faculty members other than the thesis supervisor can also be very useful resources during the course of the thesis project. Feel free to discuss your thesis work with any relevant faculty (or graduate students).

Research interests of the faculty members in the Psychology Department and recent honours theses supervised

For research interests of faculty members please refer to the "Our People" page in the main menu and click on the faculty member's name. You can sort the list by "Name" or "Area of Study". Note that faculty members may not be available to supervise honours theses during sabbatical dates indicated on the web site.

For recent honours theses supervised by individual faculty members please refer to the honours theses supervised website.

Refer to the course enrolment information/instructions on the PSYCH 499 website.

The honours thesis (PSYCH 499A/B/C) is worth 1.5 units (i.e., 3 term courses). Students may not enrol for all of PSYCH 499A/B/C in one term. Students should consult with their thesis supervisor regarding the appropriate class enrolment sequence for PSYCH 499. Students can spread the class enrolment for PSYCH 499A, 499B, and 499C over three terms beginning in the 3B term or over two terms beginning in 4A. Those choosing to do the honours thesis over two terms will enrol in PSYCH 499A/B in 4A and PSYCH 499C in 4B. Alternative sequencing (e.g., 499A/B/C over three terms) should be discussed with the thesis supervisor. Although students can start an honours thesis in any term, the Fall term is typically recommended.

Factors that students should consider when deciding which terms to enrol for PSYCH 499A/B/C:

  • When will the prerequisites for PSYCH 499 be completed? For example, Honours Psych & Arts and Business Co-op students will not enrol in PSYCH 499A until the 4A term because the prerequisites for PSYCH 499 won't be completed until the 3B term.
  • Will the thesis supervisor be available to supervise the project during the terms that the student proposes to enrol for PSYCH 499A/B/C (e.g., is the supervisor planning a sabbatical leave or to retire)?
  • For co-op students, how will the work/school sequence interfere with the project?
  • The amount of time necessary to obtain ethics clearance varies depending on the participants required and research design.
  • When is the optimal timing for data collection? For example, if PSYCH 101 students will be participants for the study, one has to consider the ratio of PSYCH 101 students to researchers that are available in a given term. The Fall term is typically the best time to collect data from this population, Winter term second best, and the Spring term the poorest.
  • What other responsibilities does the student have (e.g., course selections, personal circumstances) in a given term?
  • The thesis supervisor requires a sufficient amount of time to get to know the student before he/she is asked to write the student reference letters (e.g., for applications for graduate school, scholarships, or employment).

Details are provided in the next 3 sections regarding the course requirements for each of PSYCH 499A, 499B, and 499C.

Students should be diligent about their responsibilities for the honours thesis. Procrastination leads to delays in firming up the research proposal, doing the oral presentation, obtaining ethics clearance, and beginning data collection. Ultimately procrastination can lead to poor quality work and/or a postponement of graduation.

Students should consult with their thesis supervisor and the Psychology undergraduate advisor before dropping any of PSYCH 499A, 499B, or 499C.

  • If a student wants to drop any of PSYCH 499A, 499B, and 499C in the current term, the individual course requests are governed by the same course drop deadlines and penalties (e.g., WD and WF grades) as other courses. Refer to important dates on Quest.
  • Dropping PSYCH 499B and/or PSYCH 499C in the current term does not remove PSYCH 499A or PSYCH 499B from earlier terms.
  • If a student does not complete the honours thesis, any INC (incomplete) grades for PSYCH 499A/B/C will be converted to FTC (Failure to Complete = 32% in the average calculations). Further, any IP (In Progress) grades for PSYCH 499A/B/C will be converted to FTC (=32%).
  • Honours students with INC and/or IP grades will be unable to graduate (e.g., with a General BA in Psych) until those grades are replaced by a final grade(s) (e.g., 32%) and the grade(s) has been factored into the average calculation. In such cases, the student must meet all graduation requirements, including overall average, Psychology average and minimum number of courses required.
  • Those who want any grades (e.g., INC, IP, WD, WF, FTC, 32%) for PSYCH 499 removed from their records are advised to submit a petition to the Examinations and Standings Committee. Before doing so, they should consult with the Psychology undergraduate advisor.

Course requirements for PSYCH 499A - progress report and thesis reviewer nominations

Students should attend the honours thesis orientation meeting during the PSYCH 499A term even if they attended a meeting during second or third year. The meeting is usually the first week of classes each academic term. The official date and time will be posted on the PSYCH 499 website . At the meeting, the PSYCH 499 coordinator will describe what is involved in doing an honours thesis and answer questions. Students will also receive information regarding library resources and procedures for obtaining ethics clearance.

Students must report the name of their thesis supervisor to the PSYCH 499 course administrator in the Psychology Undergraduate Office by the eighth day of classes for the PSYCH 499A term. During the PSYCH 499A term, students must

  • conduct background research on the thesis topic (e.g., formulate a research question, review relevant literature, formulate major hypotheses)
  • nominate potential thesis reviewers
  • submit a progress report to the PSYCH 499 coordinator .

Progress reports

Progress reports are due the last day classes for the PSYCH 499A term. The thesis supervisor must sign the progress report before it is submitted to the PSYCH 499 coordinator . Submit the progress report directly to the course coordinator's mailbox in PAS 3021A or via email, cc'ing the course administrato r and your supervisor to give confirmation that they have "signed off" on your progress report (this can pose as the signature). Students should keep a copy of their progress report because the reports will not be returned. The PSYCH 499 coordinator will contact individual students by email if there is a problem with their progress report.

The progress report should be about 5-10 pages in length and include the following information:

  • a title page identifying the document as a "PSYCH 499A Progress Report", with the proposed title of the project; student's name, address, telephone number, and email address; the student's ID number, the name of the honours thesis supervisor; and the signature of the supervisor indicating that he or she has read the report and approved it;
  • a statement of the general topic of the proposed research;
  • a brief account of the background literature the student has read, together with a brief explanation of its relevance for the project;
  • a clear statement of the research questions and/or the major hypotheses that the study will address;
  • a brief statement of the further steps that will be necessary to complete (e.g., settling on a research design, etc.) before the student will be ready to submit a research proposal and do an oral presentation.

PSYCH 499A students who are not concurrently enrolled in PSYCH 499B typically do not have a fully developed research proposal by the end of the first term of PSYCH 499. The progress reports should be submitted on time and should include as much detail regarding the research proposal as possible (see next section for further details).

Some PSYCH 499A students who are not concurrently enrolled in PSYCH 499B will firm up their research proposals earlier than expected and will want to do, and are encouraged to do, the oral presentation of the research proposal in the first term of PSYCH 499 (see next section for further details). In these cases, the IP (In Progress) grade for PSYCH 499B will be applied to the academic term in which the student formally enrols for PSYCH 499B.

Students who submit progress reports will receive an IP (In Progress) grade for PSYCH 499A; those who do not will receive an INC (Incomplete) grade for PSYCH 499A. INC and IP grades for PSYCH 499 do not impact on average calculations and students with either of these grades can be considered for the Dean's honours list. However, students with INC grades are not eligible for scholarship consideration. Note that INC grades convert to FTC (failure to complete = 32%) after 70 days.

Thesis reviewer

The thesis reviewer is due by the last day of classes for the term for students who enrol in PSYCH 499A only and they are due by the end of the third week of the term for students who enrol concurrently in PSYCH 499A/B.  You will work with your supervisor to decide who would be a strong reviewer and will plan this out with that reviewer. Once your reviewer is determined, please email the course administrator . The thesis reviewer’s duties will include reading the thesis proposal and attending the oral presentation in the PSYCH 499B term and reading and grading the final thesis at the end of the PSYCH 499C term.

Full-time faculty members in the UW Psychology Department and the four Psychology faculty members at St. Jerome's are all potential thesis reviewers. (Note: the student’s thesis supervisor cannot be the thesis reviewer). Students may consult with their thesis supervisors for advice about which faculty members to request as potential thesis reviewers. Several types of considerations might guide whom students seek as potential reviewers. For example, a student may seek a reviewer who has expertise in the topic they are studying, or they may seek breadth by requesting a reviewer with expertise in a quite distinct area of study, or they may seek a reviewer who has expertise in a relevant type of statistical analysis. It is up to the student, in consultation with their supervisor, to determine what factors to prioritise in selecting potential reviewers.

Course requirements for PSYCH 499B - oral presentation of the thesis proposal

During the PSYCH 499B term, students must finalize the research proposal for their honours thesis project and present this information orally to their thesis reviewer and the student’s thesis supervisor. Although the presentation is not graded, it is a course requirement that must precede the completed thesis. The presentation gives the student an opportunity to discuss their research proposals with a wider audience and to receive feedback regarding their literature review and the scope, design, testing procedures, etc., for their projects.

It is also essential that students who are doing an empirical research project involving human or animal participants formally apply for ethics clearance, and that they receive ethics clearance before beginning data collection (see 'Obtaining Ethics Clearance for Research with Human or Animal Participants' for further details).

Students should contact the   PSYCH 499 course administrator in the Psychology Undergraduate Office early in the PSYCH 499B term to book the date and time for their oral presentation. When booking, students are asked to indicate if they will be presenting virtually, or in-person and should mention if the presentation is open to other students to attend. Students are asked to book their presentation as early as possible to ensure space is available The thesis reviewer will attend and conduct the presentation. Presentations occur during the first three months of each term (available dates/times and current presentation schedule are posted on the PSYCH 499 website ). The presentation should be 25 minutes in length followed by a 25 minute period for discussion and questions. Students are encouraged to attend other students' presentations when available.

A written version of the research proposal must be submitted to the mailbox or email of the thesis reviewer at least two business days prior to the scheduled date of the student's oral presentation of the proposal (meaning no later than 4:30pm Thursday for a Tuesday presentation). For empirical research projects, the proposal must include the following: a title page identifying the document as a "PSYCH 499B Research Proposal"; a brief review of the relevant scientific literature; a clear statement of the research question and major hypotheses to be examined; the planned method, including the number and types of participants, the design, the task or tests to be given, and the procedure to be used; the statistical tests and comparisons that are planned; and the expected date for beginning data collection. For a theoretical research project, the proposal must include a clear review of the issues, theories, or constructs to be analyzed; a description of the scholarly database to be used (including a list of important references); and a clear account of the intended contribution of the work (i.e., how it will advance understanding).

The research proposal must be approved and signed by the student's thesis supervisor before the proposal is submitted to the thesis reviewer . Students can get a better idea of the content and format required for the research proposal by referring to the methods section of completed honours theses. Students should keep a copy of their research proposal because the copy that is submitted to the  thesis reviewer will not be returned.

All PSYCH 499 students must complete the ' TCPS 2 Tutorial Course on Research Ethics (CORE) ' before the research ethics application on which they are named is submitted for approval. In addition, all PSYCH 499 students must complete a "Researcher Training" session with the REG Coordinator .

Students who have completed the oral presentation requirement will receive an IP (In Progress) grade for PSYCH 499B; those who have not will receive an INC (Incomplete) grade for PSYCH 499B. INC and IP grades for PSYCH 499 do not impact on average calculations and students with either of these grades can be considered for the Dean's honours list. However, students with INC grades are not eligible for scholarship consideration. Note that INC grades convert to FTC (failure to complete = 32%) after 70 days.

Students who enrol in PSYCH 499A and 499B in the same term and satisfy the oral presentation requirement that term will not be required to also submit a progress report.

On-line surveys

Honours thesis students who require assistance regarding research software and the development of on-line surveys, beyond advice from the honours thesis supervisor, may wish to seek advice from Bill Eickmeier (Computer Systems Manager and Research Programmer; PAS 4008; ext 36638; email  [email protected] ). Students are expected to manage much of this process independently and will be given access to a self-help website. Most students will be able to work independently using a Qualtrics account provided by the thesis supervisor, or using the  web form template notes  Bill has posted on the web. However, Bill is available to provide additional guidance if he is given at least three to four weeks advance notice.

Caution regarding off-campus data collection

If you are planning to collect data off-campus, please read carefully the " Field Work Risk Management " requirements provided by the University of Waterloo Safety Office. "Field Work" refers to any activity undertaken by members of the university in any location external to University of Waterloo campuses for the purpose of research, study, training or learning.

We assume that insurance for private vehicles is up to the owners and that insurance for rental vehicles, if applicable, would be through the rental company. Further details of University of Waterloo policies regarding travel .

Please discuss your plans for off-campus data collection with your thesis supervisor and the  PSYCH 499 coordinator in advance to ensure that all bases are covered with regards to waivers, insurance, etc.

In the PSYCH 499C term, students will complete the data collection for their project (see the previous paragraphs if using on-line surveys or doing off-campus data collection), analyze/evaluate the data, and finish writing the honours thesis. The honours thesis must be written in the form indicated by the American Psychological Association (APA) Publication Manual (available at the Bookstore), but may be more abbreviated than a regular journal article. Sample honours theses can be found in the Learn shell.

For an empirical research project, the following sections are required in the thesis:

  • introduction (literature review and the hypothesis)
  • methods (participants, design, task or test to be given, testing procedures, measures)

It is not necessary to append ORE application forms to the completed honours thesis. However, a copy of the formal notification of ethics clearance is required.

The sections and subsections required for theoretical papers will be slightly different than for empirical research projects, and will vary according to the topic being studied. If possible, students should plan the layout for the theoretical paper in the PSYCH 499B term because the plan may guide their literature review. Students should consult with their thesis supervisor and the  PSYCH 499 coordinator  about the layout.

Normally students will receive feedback from their thesis supervisor on at least one or two (and often more) drafts of the thesis before the final paper is submitted for marking. Be sure to leave adequate time for this process.

Submitting the thesis for marking

The final version of the thesis is due the last day the class period for the PSYCH 499C term.  However, due dates do change each term dependent on grade submission deadlines held by the registrar’s office, so it is important to follow the due date on our official due date page.  See 'Extensions on the thesis submission deadline' below regarding requests for extensions.

In order for the Psychology Department to track theses that are submitted for marking and ensure that marks are forwarded to the Registrar's Office as quickly as possible, students must submit an electronic copy of the honours thesis to  the PSYCH 499 course administrator  who will coordinate grading by the thesis supervisor and the thesis reviewer , and will submit PSYCH 499 grades to the Registrar's Office. The honours thesis does not need to be signed by the thesis supervisor. The marking process is as follows:

  • Receipt of the thesis will be recorded and an electronic copy of the thesis will be forwarded to the student's thesis supervisor and reviewer with a grading form for comments.
  • The thesis supervisor will return the grading form with comments and a grade recommendation to the PSYCH 499 course administrator and the thesis reviewer.
  • The thesis reviewer will be responsible for assigning the final grade and will return the completed grading form to the PSYCH 499 course administrator .
  • T he PSYCH 499 course administrator will notify the student and the Registrar's Office of the final grade. The final numerical grade for the thesis will be recorded for each of PSYCH 499A, 499B, and 499C.
  • Page 2 of the grading form will be returned to the student.

Extensions on the thesis submission deadline

We will do our best to ensure that students graduate at the preferred convocation date; however, we cannot guarantee that students who submit honours theses for marking after the deadline will be able to graduate at the preferred convocation date.

Students should refer to the PSYCH 499 website on a regular basis for information regarding PSYCH 499 deadlines that may affect the target date for submitting the honours thesis for marking (e.g., for getting one's name on the convocation program, for sending transcripts and/or letters regarding completion of the degree to other schools for admission purposes, to be considered for awards, etc.).

We strongly advise that students submit the thesis for marking at least four to six weeks prior to the date of convocation. Further, they should confirm that their thesis supervisor will be available to grade the thesis within a few days following submission of the thesis.

Students who do not submit an honours thesis for marking by the end of the examination period for the PSYCH 499C term require approval for an extension from their thesis supervisor. After speaking with the thesis supervisor, the student must report the revised date of completion to the PSYCH 499 course administrator . They will be given an IP (In Progress) grade for PSYCH 499C if they have done the oral presentation for PSYCH 499B and if they are making reasonable progress on the thesis. Otherwise, an INC (Incomplete) grade will be submitted for PSYCH 499C. INC and IP grades for PSYCH 499 do not impact on average calculations and students with either of these grades can be considered for the Dean's honours list. However, students with INC grades are not eligible for scholarship consideration. Note that INC grades convert to FTC (failure to complete = 32%) after 70 days.

Notes: 1. Honours students with INC and/or IP grades for PSYCH 499ABC will be unable to graduate (e.g., with a General BA in Psychology) until those grades are replaced by final grades (e.g., 32%) and the grades have been factored into the average calculation. In such cases, the student must meet all graduation requirements, including overall average, Psychology average, and minimum number of courses required. 2. If IP grades for all of PSYCH 499ABC remain on the record for 12 months following the PSYCH 499C term, the Registrar's Office will convert the IP grades to FTC (failure to complete = 32%). If this occurs, consult with the Psychology undergraduate advisor regarding your options.

Capture your thesis on video!

As of Fall 2012, we are asking honours thesis students if they'd like to take part in a voluntary "video snapshot" of their work. This is a great way to tell others about your thesis, and your experience at the University of Waterloo.

Upon completion of your thesis and submission of your 499C document, we are asking students to arrange for someone from their supervisor's lab to take a short 1-2 minute video clip of you the student.  In that video, we'd like to hear a 'grand summary of what you researched, and what you found out'. We'd also love to hear about 'what you learned in the honours thesis course'.

These video clips can be taken with a smartphone (or other video camera), then emailed to the PSYCH 499 coordinator  or the PSYCH 499 course administrator . Alternatively you can arrange a time to be videotaped by the course administrator (ideally when handing in your 499C final thesis document).

Completing a video is optional, and should be done ideally within two weeks of submission of your thesis. Whether or not you choose to capture your thesis on video will in no way affect your grade in the 499 honours thesis course. Once we have reviewed the video we will upload it to our Psychology website for general viewing by the public. Permission forms to release your photo/video on the Department of Psychology’s website will be available from the  PSYCH 499 coordinator . The Model Release Form can also be found on Waterloo's Creative Services website.

Convocation awards

Each year the Psychology Department nominates a student(s) for the following awards: Governor General Silver Medal (university level), the Alumni Gold Medal (faculty level), and the Psychology Departmental convocation award. These awards are only given at the June convocation. Typically, only honours students who have final grades for all course work, including the honours thesis, by the first week of May can be considered for these awards. Students whose overall and Psychology averages fall in the 88-100% range are strongly encouraged to adhere to the thesis submission deadlines noted above.

The Office of Research Ethics (ORE) at the University of Waterloo is responsible for the ethics review and clearance of all research conducted on and off-campus by University of Waterloo students, staff, and faculty that involves human and animal (live, non-human vertebrates) participants.

Research involving human or animal participants must not begin until notification of full ethics clearance has been provided by the ORE.

Information regarding the application and ethics review process for research involving human participants is available on the Office of Research Ethics web site. However, specific information regarding the ethics application process for Honours thesis research is provided below.

Information regarding the application and ethics review process for research involving animals is also available on the Office of Research Ethics web site.

For individual contacts in the ORE, see 'Contacts' in this handbook.

Ethics Application: Once the rationale and hypotheses for the thesis project have been formulated and basic design and procedures have been determined, the student may submit the project for ethics review and clearance.

In order to ensure that students have a good understanding of the ethics review process and guidelines they are required to complete the TCPS2 -2022 CORE Tutorial (described below) prior to preparing your ethics application.

Upon completion of the CORE Tutorial, the student may begin the ethics application by signing onto the Kuali System for Ethics located at UWaterloo Ethics either starting the application on their own, or having the Thesis Advisor begin it. Please note that the student will need to have accessed the Kuali system in order for the Advisor to add them to the protocol. The advisor should be listed as the Principal Investigator and the level of research should be Senior Honours Thesis.

All Thesis projects require new ethics unless alternative arrangements have been made to make use of a currently running project. This should be discussed with the thesis advisor and approval should be obtained from the department to create an amendment for the project.

Upon receipt of Full Ethics Clearance, and if the student and supervisor are sure that there will be no revisions to the design or procedures, then data collection may begin. Whenever possible though, we encourage you to complete the Research Proposal and Oral Presentation before you begin data collection.

Note that procedures for applying for ethics clearance vary according to the type of sample -- for example, university students versus children in the Early Childhood Education Centre, etc. Further details are provided below.

Study Modifications: Based on feedback provided at the student’s Oral Presentation, the student and thesis supervisor may decide to make some modifications to the research plans. If the ethics application has not yet been submitted for review, then the changes can be incorporated into the application. If you have received ethics clearance, then you will need to submit an amendment by logging into Kuali and selecting the amendment option from the right hand side.

Human Participants in Research

Honours Thesis students must read and be familiar with the University of Waterloo guidelines and procedures for conducting research with human participants before submitting their applications for ethics clearance to conduct research.

The following is an excerpt from the guidelines:

“The ethics review process is intended to offer a level of assurance to research participants, the investigators and the University that research participants will be involved in ethically sound and well-designed research, and will be engaged in a prior consent process that is fully informed and voluntary. The ethics review process also ensures adequate protection of individuals’ privacy as well as confidentiality of information they provide. In addition, the ethics review process increases the probability that all known and anticipated risks associated with the research are identified and adequately communicated to participants prior to participation. Moreover, it ensures that the known and potential risks are judged to be outweighed by potential benefits from conducting the research. Procedures used to recruit participants are examined to ensure they are free of explicit or implicit coercion and enable participants to withdraw their consent at any time without fear of reprisal.”

Research conducted in the Psychology department follows the ethical guidelines set out in the Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans, 2nd edition (TCPS 2 - 2022).

Please note that effective January 1, 2024 you will need to be up to date with your TCPS to include the 2022 version. If you have only completed the TCPS2 you will need to renew your certification.

Associated with the TCPS 2-2022 is an online tutorial called Course on Research Ethics (CORE). CORE is comprised of 9 modules, is self-paced and includes interactive exercises and multi-disciplinary examples. A certificate of completion is provided. CORE replaces and updates the earlier TCPS Tutorial. In order to ensure that you have a better understanding of the ethics review guidelines you are required to complete the CORE Tutorial prior to submitting your ethics application. Please note that if you have already completed the CORE Tutorial as an RA for example, you are not required to complete it again. Upon completion of the CORE Tutorial please send a copy of the Completion Certificate to the DERC Officer . The link to CORE is:

The particular procedures for applying for ethics clearance for research with human participants depends on the population from which participants are obtained; however, all projects require the submission of an application form to the Office of Research Ethics (ORE).

Note : All research ethics applications must include:

  • REG (Sona Description), PSYCPool (email/phone scripts), SLC (Flyer/Poster)
  • Information/Consent Letter (+ Post-debriefing Consent if deception)
  • Feedback/Appreciation Letter (+ Oral Debriefing if deception)
  • Survey/Questionnaire/Interview items/Stimulus Appendices
  • Research Proposal

Thesis supervisors and reviewers are given the following guidelines when they are asked to recommend a final grade for the honours thesis:

Each year, the Psychology Department recognizes the achievement of a small number of students who have produced the most outstanding honours theses. Theses will be considered for a thesis award if the thesis supervisor nominates the student and the thesis receives a final grade of 93 or above. Theses submitted for marking after the second Friday in May will not be considered for a thesis award. Nominated theses will be reviewed to select the award recipients and the recipients will be notified by the Psychology Undergraduate Office.

The thesis conference is an informal forum for students to present (orally or in poster format) a summary of their honours thesis to a friendly and enthusiastic audience of their peers and to discuss their work with others who have similar interests.

Registration is required. There is no registration fee for presenters or thesis supervisors and lunch is provided. Participants report that the event is very worthwhile and enjoyable. Clearly a great way to end fourth year!

The conference is typically held at the end of April or early May. If you will be presenting at the conference, data collection for the thesis should be completed by March. You are not required to present a complete analysis of your thesis results at the conference.

Further details about the thesis conference

Failing to adhere to established standards in the conduct of research is a serious offence. Please refer to "Obtaining ethics clearance for research" above for further details.

Students should also familiarize themselves with Policy 71 (Student Academic Discipline Policy) as well as the advice from the Faculty of Arts regarding avoiding academic offences .

Please check the Information Systems & Technology (IST) Department website for information regarding setting up your University of Waterloo computer account, accessing the internet, costs for printing, accessing your account from off-campus, etc. If you are enrolled in the Faculty of Arts, please also check the Arts Computing Office website for information.

The University of Waterloo computer accounts give students free access to applications such as word processing, statistical and graphics packages, spreadsheets, and electronic mail. Students also have access to the internet which allows them to use Waterloo's Electronic Library including the electronic journal article databases. Students are charged for printing and can put money for printing on to their resource account at various locations across campus including PAS 1080 using their WatCard.

It is critical that the University (e.g., administration, instructors, academic advisors, etc.) can reach you reliably by email (e.g., regarding academic standing, degree requirements, deadlines, etc.). If you are using a web email account such as Hotmail or Yahoo, we strongly encourage you to consider using a more reliable email account such as your Waterloo account. Your Waterloo account is just as easy to use from off-campus as other free web accounts but is more secure. You can access your Waterloo account from the " mywaterloo " website.

If you are using an email address other than your Waterloo email address you should do one of the following two things:

  • change the email address that you want posted on the university directory, or
  • activate your Waterloo account and arrange for the email from your Waterloo account to be forwarded to your alternate email address. The alternate email address will not appear on the university directory.

Intent to Graduate Forms and general convocation information is available on the Registrar's Office website. Students who want to graduate in June must submit an Intent to Graduate Form to the Registrar's Office before March 1. The deadline to apply for  October convocation is August 1. Students who apply to graduate, but do not complete their honours thesis in time to graduate at the preferred convocation must submit another Intent to Graduate Form for the next convocation.

Those who submit their thesis for marking beyond the end of the final examination period for the PSYCH 499C term should refer to " Extensions on the thesis submission deadline " for further details regarding graduation deadlines.

Office of research ethics

Psychology department.

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Honors Thesis Topics

Listed below are previous Neag School of Education Honors thesis topics from 2006 to present:

2023 Education Honors Graduates

Jannatul Anika , Secondary Biology Education Thesis Supervisor: Catherine Little Expanding Teacher Diversity and Learning Achievements: Understanding and Supporting the Teaching Career Decision Making of Minoritized Students

The purpose of this study is to explore how college students of color who are considering (or have considered) the teaching profession describe the internal and external factors that are influencing their career decision. This project translates the observations and experiences around the lack of diversity in the teaching workforce and aims to understand the underlying reasons there is a shortage of teachers of color, with the goal of recommending solutions. In Connecticut during the 2021-22 academic year, 89.9 percent of public school teachers identified as White, while Connecticut’s population of students of color is more than 45 percent (Blanco, 2021; State of Connecticut, 2021). Students of color at two Connecticut universities participated in open ended surveys and interviews to share their reflections. The responses from students were complemented by interviewing current educators of color who shared their perspective on the field and their identities. The methods of this research emphasized the importance and value of listening to college students of color first in identifying points of dissonance in choosing the teaching profession before proposing recruitment policies and programs.

Jessi Cooper , Elementary Education Thesis Supervisor: Catherine Little Autism, Gender, and Identity in College Students

Existing literature on autism’s relationships with identity and gender is sparse, and this study aims to investigate what few have: how do autistic females view these variables and their relationships? This is a qualitative, interview-based study of 10 college students who identify as autistic and identify as female and/or were assigned female at birth. Participants shared their experiences with autism diagnosis, gender identity, and navigating their sense of self. The study found four themes among participants’ responses: (i) Many types of diagnosis obstacles exist, as do mitigating factors for some of these obstacles, (ii) Various motives led participants to camouflage, but negative effects motivated many to reduce camouflaging behavior, (iii) Autism is related to both perceptions and enactions of gender, and (iv) Autism impacts identity in multiple ways outside of gender. These themes largely agree with and build on patterns found in the minimal existing literature.

Emily Dell’Orfano , Music Education Thesis Supervisor: Cara Bernard Mission Statements and the Online Presence of Children’s Choruses: A Content Analysis

The language used in an organization’s mission statement implies the values held by that organization. Common music education values have been top-tier education, musical excellence, and the cultivation of high-achieving, well-rounded individuals. However, during the post-2020 rise in attention to social justice, organizations have either extended or reworded their mission statements to reflect a greater pursuit of equity, inclusion, and accessibility. In recent literature there have been discussions of a conflict between the values of arts organizations, as standards of elite musical excellence are inherently in conflict with community accessibility due to the socioeconomic factors that determine a student’s access to the education, training, and resources that are required for a “high achieving” student. This study examined the mission statements of several well-known children’s choruses, as well as the same choruses’ Facebook pages, to analyze how certain values are projected in the mission statements, and how those values are made manifest in other aspects of online presence.

Taylor Emmerich , Elementary Education Thesis Supervisor: Catherine Little Family Engagement in Connecticut Public Elementary Schools

In this study, I explored how Connecticut public elementary schools foster family engagement, including what patterns may differ based on aspects of school demographics, including indicators of general geographic location (i.e., rural, suburban, urban) and socioeconomic status of the population served. I was focused on examining the different strategies that schools use to foster family engagement and how educators perceive that these efforts may affect student success.

Carly Marinstein , Secondary Mathematics Education Thesis Supervisor: Megan Staples A Study of Math Teachers’ Perspectives on Equity

Equity is a central focus in the educational system. It is part of the conversation in every professional learning context and in any educational article. Math classrooms, in particular, are increasingly entering the dialogue; previously, some thought equity did not apply to mathematics and that math was free of biases. In reality, along with all other subjects, math has barriers to break down to ensure success of all students in the classroom. As educators wrestle with the question of how to make schools more equitable, they must consider what equity means and how stakeholders come to understand it. In this study, I examined aspects of this understanding by exploring what classroom teachers think about equity and how they define it. I analyzed definitions of equity from 19 seasoned Alliance District teachers in Connecticut and compared them to how key researchers are defining equity in the math classroom. I considered these questions: How are current teachers thinking about equity? Do their thoughts overlap with what the literature says about equity? Through my analysis, I found three major themes in the teacher responses: Relevance, fairness, and comfort. The literature describes an equitable math classroom as having four dimensions: Access, achievement, identity, and power. When comparing the three themes from teachers to the themes in the literature, I found many connections. Many commonalities were found when cross coding the data’s three themes to the literature’s four themes. Strong connections were found between identity and relevance, identity and fairness, and access and fairness. The heavy crossover between established works and teacher perspective highlights a set of collective views surrounding equity in mathematics classrooms.

Derek Mason , Special Education Thesis Supervisor: Catherine Little Special Education Teachers’ Stress and Stress Management in the Era of COVID-19

Previous research has indicated that teaching is a highly stressful career across subject areas, even before the Covid-19 pandemic. The additional duties and demands that special education teachers face warrant particular attention and investigation into their experience of stress. This study explored the perceived stressors, stress levels, and stress management techniques of current special educators in the field. The influence of the Covid-19 pandemic on how the participants describe their experience of stress and stress management was also examined. 37 special educators across the northeastern United States participated in an anonymous online survey consisting of a 29-item adapted version of the Teacher Stress Inventory (TSI; Fimian, 1988), three researcher-developed open ended questions, and a series of demographic questions. Results indicate that the special educators surveyed shared common stressors and stress management techniques throughout the pandemic and across their careers, the extent to which the teachers claimed the pandemic influenced their stress varied, and the participants ranked their levels of stress descriptively higher than in previous research.

Stephanie Millicker , Secondary Mathematics Education Thesis Supervisor: Del Siegle An Examination of Elementary School Students’ Opinions About Mathematics

Math is a class every student takes in school each year. Some students love math, some students hate math, and many students lay somewhere on the spectrum between those two extremes. To learn more about students’ opinions surrounding math, we surveyed Florida elementary school students at the beginning of the school year with questions related to their enjoyment and self-perceptions of their math ability. During the school year, an additional survey was administered after each math unit that asked them to quantify their levels of interest, challenge, engagement, and amount of new information learned in each unit. The survey results were examined to find correlations between categories and between a category and students’ grades in their math class. Eight statistically significant relationships were found. The relationships were between students’ self-perception of their math ability and perceived challenge of math lessons, self-perception of their math ability and enjoyment of math, self-perception of math ability and scores on math unit tests, perceived enjoyment of math and interest in math units, perceived engagement in math class and amount of new math learned, perceived engagement in math class and interest in math, and amount of new math learned and interest in math.

Chuck O’Coin , Secondary Mathematics Education Thesis Supervisor: Del Siegle Higher Education Burnout: The Effect of Burnout on Students

Burnout is a syndrome that has stark negative effects on multiple populations, including students in higher education. Burnout among students can be sourced from lofty expectations, heavy workloads, feeling unimportant, having high levels of empathy, personal struggles outside of the classroom, and experiencing depression or related mental illnesses, and it can drastically change the outcome of students’ time in school. The purpose of this study was to analyze the extent of burnout among students at UConn and whether differences exist in burnout experiences by student’s gender identity, academic year, and field of study. The outcome measures were the three core categories of burnout – exhaustion, cynicism, and self-efficacy. We found no difference between males and females with any categories of burnout. Education majors experienced lower cynicism levels and higher self-efficacy rates than majors not categorized into STEM, Arts/Humanities, or Education, and Education majors also experienced higher self-efficacy rates compared to STEM majors. There was no difference among any majors regarding exhaustion. Lastly, Juniors in college experienced higher levels of exhaustion than Graduate students, and Seniors experienced higher levels of self-efficacy than Freshman.

Alexa Schwartz , Special Education with a minor in American Sign Language Thesis Supervisor: Hannah Dostal An Evaluation of A Year-Long Instructional Writing Approach in Relation to the Spelling Skills of Elementary Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students

Through assessing the spelling skills of 40 deaf and hard of hearing (DHH) students in grades 3-5, the goal of this study is to evaluate a year-long instructional writing approach called Strategic and Interactive Writing Instruction (SIWI). Students were administered the WJ III Subtest 3, Spelling, which measures a person’s ability to correctly write words that are said orally. The 40 students were administered the spelling subtest at the beginning and end of the academic year as a pretest and posttest to measure student growth. The Multilinguistic Coding System (MLC) was used to analyze the students’ pretests and posttests. The hope of this research is to bring more knowledge regarding emergent writing development, specifically spelling skills, to educators who work with DHH students in the educational system. Additionally, through assessing the impact of the intersection of identities, such as deafness, bilingualism, and disability, a more holistic understanding of emergent development will be achieved.

Photo of two honors students

Micaela Collins Elementary Education “Really? You’re Puerto Rican?”: An Autoethnographic Exploration of a Multiracial Preservice Teacher Advisor: Grace Player

This thesis is an autoethnographic look by a multiracial pre-service teacher at her experiences in both K-12 classrooms and higher education, as a multiracial student and future teacher. The paper highlights some of the critical moments in the researcher’s life as they relate to her identity as a multiracial woman. These critical moments are then be used to further explore and explain the research that has already been done around multiracial students’ perspectives, with the hopes of expanding upon the research and offering another perspective and experience to the existing scholarship. The hope of the researcher is that the work presented here will help her to reflect on how her experiences have affected, and will affect, who she is as a teacher, show other pre-service and in-service teachers the importance of understanding multiracial student experiences, and add another account of a multiracial perspective to the growing literature around the issues presented in this paper.

Michael Flaherty English Education Educators’ Transfer of Educational Technology Skills From the COVID-19 Pandemic Advisor: Del Siegle

The Covid-19 pandemic presented unforeseen and completely unprecedented challenges for educators. With the entire world in lockdown, educators and students were forced to adapt on the fly to fully remote instruction utilizing a variety of technologies and applications to fit districts’ individual needs. However, as we eagerly return to the in-person classroom it is worth reflecting on the skills educators and students gained regarding specific educational technologies. There has been evidence that, when correctly implemented, technology integration improves student understanding of content area material as well as their relevant technology skills as required by state standards. We surveyed a variety of educators who attended the University of Connecticut iPad conference to see how working educators utilized technology during the pandemic and how they have used technology upon returning to the in-person classroom. Keeping with current research, some uses of technology have increased student engagement and help students stay organized in the midst of the semester and have seen continued success in the in-person classroom. However, utilizing technology for every student in every activity can be misguided, as risks of burnout and disengagement were found when students were asked to be on their devices for 7 hours a day, as during the pandemic. While this survey had a limited demographic, some of these larger concepts might guide teachers looking to incorporate technology wisely in their in-person classroom.

Photo of Honors 2021

Francesca DePalma Elementary Education Female Representation in Popular Children’s Literature Advisor: Catherine Little

Female representation in literature is an important topic of study. Representation is important for many reasons, including the ways people connect with and see themselves in what they read. It is important for children to connect to characters and to see role models in what they read; such connections may support children emotionally and encourage them to read more. This study was a content analysis of a sample of popular children’s texts published over the last 40 years. The book sample included best-selling children’s and young adult literature in each decade from the 1980s to the 2010s, including stand-alone novels and novels that were part of a series. Each book was reviewed to document aspects of female representation. Some of the questions answered include frequency of male to female characters included in titles, the types of jobs that the protagonist’s guardians have, whether female characters need “saving” by male characters, and whether a female plays a key role in the plot of the story. While there were not significant changes to patterns over time, some results overall showed patterns. Some areas that show a pattern include jobs of female guardians, which tended to be fewer and less well described than jobs of male guardians, and female characters needing to be saved, which happened on a fairly regular basis across texts.

Madison Levine Biology Education Preservice Teachers’ Perceptions in the Pandemic Advisor: Catherine Little

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, teaching as a profession is going through changes, as teachers and students alike learn to navigate distance and hybrid learning, technology, and entirely new ways of teaching and learning. While some teachers are viewing the pandemic as a way to reimagine education, others are struggling with the changing demands of online learning. Teacher shortages are not a new problem, but now have the possibility of worsening due to the new challenges that have surfaced during the pandemic. Preservice teachers are in the position of observing all of these events and challenges while engaging in professional preparation programs, and they also are experiencing unexpected challenges related to their access to schools and classrooms and the expectation to learn their future work under great uncertainty. A survey of preservice teachers and their attitudes towards their career choice shows findings of new factors that may play a role in their want to continue on this career path. Those factors include issues specific to the pandemic and other current events, such as safety concerns, adapting to virtual teaching and learning, student interaction, the uncertainty of school in the future, and antiracist teaching. These factors are situated within broader ideas that have changed or resurfaced throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, such as support and protection of teachers, classroom environment, student interactions, and equity concerns. Again, these are situated within persisting factors that influence the retention of teachers such as classes and materials, student relationships, community, and shaping future generations.

Natalie Y. Wong Music Education The Role of Extracurricular Activities in the College-Decision Making Process Advisor: Catherine Little

Extracurricular activities play a vital role in a student’s education. Studies have shown that extracurricular activities improve educational outcomes, organizational skills, communication abilities, and social awareness. In this study, we asked college students how they recall prioritizing extracurricular activities in their college decision-making process. We also wanted to know if students who did participate in extracurricular activities continued from high school to college and why. The data were collected through a survey with both multiple choice and open ended questions. There were 285 participants who were either in college or had recently graduated. We used five main categories of extracurricular activities for our survey: prosocial activities, team sports, school involvement activities, performing arts, and academic clubs. Participants said they did consider extracurricular activities in their decision-making process, but such activities were not the main deciding factor for most participants. We also found that participants did continue their extracurricular involvement, most often because they enjoyed their activity in high school and wanted to continue it. When asked why they enjoyed participating, respondents cited social enjoyment, academic success, and connections in their career field.

Photo of 2020 Honors Students Doing Virtual Presentations

Kiana K.A. Foster-Mauro Elementary Education Thesis Supervisor: Dr. Grace Player Mirrors of Our Own: Multiracial Representation in Children’s Picture Books

In this study, I analyzed the representation of multiracial individuals in children’s picture books, ages newborn-8. Specifically, this study closely analyzed 75 board and picture books published in the United States between the years 2009 and 2019 that feature mixed race characters. The identified texts were analyzed in a critical content analysis using a framework based upon Critical Race Theory. Through this framework, the researcher examined how multiracial characters in the texts are portrayed, the power dynamics, and what the texts say about various aspects of culture, including race, class, and gender. The researcher also analyzed the authors and illustrators of the selected texts, looking closely at the role that this plays in the dynamics of the texts. This study provides a closer look at representation within children’s picture books and children’s picture book authors/illustrators.

Kayla Fuhst Music Education Thesis Supervisor: Dr. Catherine Little A Study of Teacher Questioning in an Elementary Mathematics Classroom

In this study, I examined patterns in teacher questioning in an elementary mathematics classroom. The focus was on transcribed recordings of lesson components in which instruction was specifically focused on mathematical vocabulary within the context of the curriculum unit in use. The primary participant was a kindergarten teacher teaching in a summer enrichment program for students referred by their teachers for showing evidence of advanced academic potential in the classroom.  Twelve rising first graders registered for the summer class, which was provided as an intervention component of Project SPARK. Several patterns emerged in the teacher’s questions over the 3-week curriculum. After several rounds of coding, the findings demonstrated that the intersection of question form and question intent resulted in overlapping patterns, such as Eliciting Additional Response questions, or talk moves, generally being classified as Building Conversation questions, and the majority of closed and leading questions aligning with the Building Content Understanding questions.

Jonah Garcia Music Education Thesis Supervisor: Dr. Cara Bernard Teaching Practices, Institutional Cultures, and Access to Music Learning

The mission of the National Association for Music Education is “to advance music education by promoting the understanding and making of music by all” (NAfME, n.d.-b). Despite these aspirations of equality, research suggests that both demographics and geography have a role in determining who is able to participate and who will choose to participate in school music (Elpus & Abril, 2019; Salvador & Allegood, 2014). This study examined the factors that influence school music participation and the representation of student populations in the music programs of two Connecticut secondary schools. Names of schools and participants have been changed to preserve anonymity. This study utilized a collective case study approach, and participants included four music educators and the principals of the two schools. Data were collected through a document review and semi-structured interviews with each participant. Using a cross-case analysis, data showed that factors at the community, school, and program levels affected access to music classes and student interest in music learning opportunities. The findings suggest that certain teacher and administrator philosophies, policies, and practices are particularly effective in preserving and expanding music programs that serve socioeconomically diverse populations.

Elizabeth George Elementary Education Thesis Supervisor: Dr. Richard Gonzales How Teachers Manage Resource Inequity in Different Educational Contexts: A Case Study and Recommendations

This study explores how teachers make decisions and navigate different contexts to support their students. I investigated how teachers use agency, ownership, and learning in the positive, adaptive choices they make to achieve better student outcomes. The purpose of this honors thesis is to surface ideas about how teachers can serve students in different schools with various needs and different amounts of resources.

The research questions framing the study are as follows: (1) How do teachers make choices about how to utilize their professional support network? (2) How do teachers make choices about their instructional approach to support students? (3) How do teachers make choices to demonstrate they like, care, and think about their students? In the study, four practicing teachers from two different school districts are surveyed on their teaching experiences in their given district.

Overall, the results showed some common themes about decisions teachers make based on the interviews conducted. When discussing how they use their professional support network, many teachers mentioned the importance of collaboration with colleagues, as well as feeling supported, and meeting the needs of educators. In terms of instructional approach, teachers discussed their focus on students and the importance of having professional choice. When demonstrating care for students, teachers mentioned a love for the community and taking time to learn about students and their culture. In conclusion, the results show that regardless of the district and varying resources available, teachers used similar methodology when making decisions to support their students. The results are important as they show how teachers manage resource inequity in different contexts with similar beliefs and teaching practices.

Emily Rakers Special Education Thesis Supervisor: Dr. Joseph Madaus Examination of Online Accommodation Information for College Students with Disabilities in New England

The purpose of this study is to report on the status of information available to college students with disabilities on the websites of New England colleges’ centers for students with disabilities. Primarily, this study focused on information about the application process for a student to receive accommodations. Data was generated by compiling a list of common factors on the websites of centers for students with disabilities at colleges not in New England, and then searching the New England websites to see if they included these factors on their own websites. Three separate categories of schools were included in the study: 2-year schools, 4-year public schools, and 4-year private schools. The data was analyzed to find what information is most common on centers for students with disabilities websites and to describe any patterns by specific types of schools. The most common features on the websites were guidelines for disability documentation and a phone number or email address for a point of contact at the center for students with disabilities. Most schools also stated on their websites that IEPs, 504-Plans, and Summaries of Performance would not be sufficient documentation. It is hoped that the findings from this study will inform transitioning high school students with disabilities when they are researching the accommodation process in college.

Jillian Rutstein Elementary Education Thesis Supervisor: Dr. Dorothea Anagnostopoulos Helping Beginning Elementary Teachers Teach Mathematics Ambitiously: Resources and Impediments

As beginning teachers, novices often strive to find the most productive teaching strategies to support their students’ learning. Those practices involve conceptual, procedural, modeling, and feedback skills, all encompassed in the term ambitious teaching. As educators move towards developing the practices of ambitious teaching, they push past methods of memorization to engage their students in deeper, more conceptual thinking and problem solving. This study examines how one beginning teacher develops ambitious teaching practices during his first three years of teaching. It seeks, in particular, to understand the resources and materials that enable him to do so. Specifically, we seek to understand which social, conceptual, and concrete materials enable the beginning teacher to teach ambitiously in mathematics and which impede his efforts to do so.

The data for this study include interviews and observations. During his first three years of teaching, the novice teacher participated in seven interviews. Interviews asked about the resources and support the teacher used in his teaching, his views of students’ engagement, and learning in mathematics. Researchers observed the teacher teach nine mathematics lessons, three each year. Scores rated the ambitiousness of his instruction using the Protocol for Language Arts Teaching Observation (PLATO) adapted for mathematics instruction. PLATO scores showed an overall increase in ambitiousness from the first to third years of teaching and especially in the domains of instructional strategies and representation of content. The increase was supported by a consistent mathematics curriculum and resources from colleagues that supported teaching procedural skills. Despite the increase, we noted that the teacher struggled to teach conceptual strategies. This appears to be related to a decrease in support from instructional coaches and an increased focus on standardized test preparation from administration. The findings of this study help identify the resources that can support beginning teachers in teaching mathematics ambitiously.


Photo of honors students

Samantha Cronin Elementary Education Thesis Supervisor: Catherine Little

Teacher Perceptions of Inclusive Pedagogies

Broad changes in demographics in the U.S. are also altering classroom compositions, such that teachers are now responsible for a much more diverse group of students. Although teachers often recognize the importance of responding to a wide range of student needs, they may express difficulty in actually doing so. In this study, I explored the ways in which teachers define and implement three prominent inclusive pedagogical approaches toward education: multicultural education, teaching for social justice, and culturally responsive teaching. By surveying elementary school teachers from across the United States, I was able to analyze the ways in which teacher definitions connect to actual practice, as well as the associated challenges with implementation in general. Overall, the participating teachers appeared to have only a basic understanding of inclusive pedagogies in practice. They tended to focus on content integration instead of deep-rooted, fundamental changes to school and social structure. This demonstrates a need for professional learning opportunities in which teachers are encouraged to expand their understanding of inclusive pedagogies in reasonable increments.


Nicole Gerardin English Education Thesis Supervisor: Hannah Dostal

An Interdisciplinary Education: Just a Bridge Away

U.S. high school classrooms may not be reflective of what students will encounter outside of their walls. Many high schools separate subject area teaching and learning and, therefore, may not thoroughly provide students with multiple, discipline-specific and authentic lenses for interpretation to understand important concepts and solve complex problems. Existing discussions on the topic of providing students with an interdisciplinary secondary education note various benefits of the implementation of units that are inclusive of more than one discipline.

In this qualitative study, I sought to further my understanding of the benefits of and barriers to implementation of interdisciplinary units in five Connecticut high school classrooms. Semi-structured interviews were conducted, and these interviews were then transcribed and coded. Following the initial coding of the interviews, codes were categorized under three major themes: benefits of interdisciplinary units, barriers to implementation of interdisciplinary units, and aids and effective strategies for implementation. Commonly purported benefits included an increased level of student independence and choice in the classroom, an enhanced and more authentic educational experience, and the ability to provide students with multiple lenses for interpretation. Barriers to implementation included departmentalized and restricted interaction between teachers, lack of specified professional development opportunities, and teacher skepticism.

Kathrine Grant Secondary English Education Thesis Supervisor: Dr. Elizabeth Howard

Investigating the Influence of Peer Tutoring for Supporting Students Learning English as an Additional Language

This project explored the use of peer-to-peer tutoring for students learning English as an Additional Language by surveying high school students currently participating in such a program at a local high school. The mixed methods study relied on student and teacher interviews as well as survey data to investigate the perceptions of peer tutors, tutees, and the teacher facilitator of the program on the academic benefits of the program, the contextual factors that supported their learning of English, and their recommendations for continual programmatic growth. Key findings indicate that the academic benefits include language learning, content knowledge, and leadership. Important contextual factors that affect students learning English were identified as shared identity, motivations, importance of peer relationships, socialization component of the club, and discomfort that was experienced in other academic and social situations. The study concludes with suggestions for programmatic improvement.

Isabella Horan Elementary Education Thesis Supervisor: Dorothea Anagnostopoulos

It’s Hard to Do Everything: Keeping Beginning Teachers of Color in the Profession

Beginning teachers are leaving the profession at higher rates than in the past (Lloyd & Sullivan, 2012). Teachers of color are leaving at even higher rates than their white colleagues; one in five teachers of color state will leave the profession within their first five years (Ahmad and Boser, 2014). With the increase of culturally and linguistically diverse students in the nation’s public schools, it is imperative that we both increase the number of teachers of color and enable them to stay in teaching (Dilworth & Coleman, 2014).  In this research study, we sought to identify some of the conditions that help teachers of color stay in teaching through the case study of Angel, an early career teacher of color. The data includes seven interviews with Angel over his first three years of teaching, collected as part of a larger study of beginning teachers’ preparation for ambitious instruction.  Analysis of these interview data show how Angel’s relationships with his students, colleagues, and principal were important to his staying in teaching.  These relationships provided him with a sense of professional competence and purpose as well as support and resources to develop his teaching practices.  Early opportunities for school leadership also helped integrate Angel into the school community.  At the same time, tensions with colleagues related to race and gender as well as mounting frustrations stemming from district and school testing mandates somewhat diminished Angel’s enthusiasm for teaching.  The study concludes by identifying the implications of these findings for research and practice.

Clarey Pass Elementary Education Thesis Supervisor: Catherine Little

Teacher Perceptions of Book Selection Practices in Reading Instruction

Leveled text systems are extremely common in elementary schools today. These systems group texts in order to guide students through a sequence of texts to improve their fluency and accuracy. While leveled text systems are meticulously designed to support students’ skill development, there is no real emphasis on motivation or enjoyability within these texts. It is well-documented that appropriate level of texts is important in supporting students’ skill development. Leveled texts place great importance on a book being challenging enough to promote problem-solving skills in reading, but not so difficult that it causes frustration or poses an impossible task to developing readers. However, it is also well-documented that motivation is a big factor in helping students gain skills in reading. These different emphases in reading instruction led to questions about how teachers felt about books they were selecting for their students, as well as their perceptions of what their students felt were important in selecting books. This research study seeks to find patterns in factors that teachers use when selecting books for their students to read, as well as their thoughts on what their students hold as important when self-selecting books. Teachers are also asked about their experiences working with leveled text systems, and their feelings of strengths and weaknesses within those systems. The findings of this study include that the promotion of skill development within a book as well as the interest level of the reader were two of the most prevalent factors teachers took into consideration when selecting books for students.

Clarissa Tan English Education Thesis Supervisor: Catherine Little

A Paradox of Identities: Perspectives of East and Southeast Asian American Students on Living and Learning in Predominantly White Communities

Many educators and policymakers—and society at large—view the Asian American experience through the narrowed lens of the model minority myth, which defines these students around academic success. While seemingly positive, these conjectures problematically oversimplify this student population’s experience. In this qualitative study, I sought to add to existing discussions and strengthen educator understanding of how East and Southeast Asian American students in predominately White schools interpret their own educational experiences with relation to their cultural identity. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with second- and third-generation East and Southeast Asian American undergraduates, who read Gene Luen Yang’s American Born Chinese as a study text used to further facilitate discussions. Open-ended interview responses were coded and analyzed for common themes. Common trends included that students perceived the model minority stereotype as both beneficial and detrimental. Due to negative encounters, lack of visibility, and the absence of community in their educational environments, students struggled to accept and reconcile their cultural identities as Asians and as Americans. Students frequently described an existing need for culturally aware, inclusive, and proactive teachers and education systems.

Jami Zolotor Special Education Thesis Supervisor: Jennifer Freeman

The Educational Outcomes of 22q11.2 Deletion Syndrome: A Comprehensive Literature Review

Despite the prevalence of 22q11.2 deletion syndrome (22q11.2DS), there is still very little known about the educational outcomes of students with this genetic syndrome. Without knowing the educational outcomes of students, teachers and other educational professionals do not know how to intervene to improve the educational success of students with 22q11.2DS. There is a multitude of research that focuses on a particular area of weakness or strength in children and adolescents with 22q11.2DS, but there are no articles that describe the overall educational outcomes. Describing the educational outcomes of students with 22q11.2DS is a necessary first step in better understanding how to meet the educational needs of students with the genetic syndrome. The purpose of this systematic literature review was to gather descriptive information on what is known about the educational outcomes of students with 22q11.2DS. This study examined both qualitative and quantitative articles published about students with 22q11.2DS and systematically reviewed those sources using a mixed methods review to describe what is known about the educational outcomes of the students. This research found that students with 22q11.2DS have specific impairments in working memory, cognitive flexibility, inhibitory control, visuospatial ability, motor ability, social skills, communication skills, intellectual ability, and academic achievement that impact the educational outcomes of children with 22q11.2DS. Implications for further research include using this knowledge of educational outcomes to implement interventions and accommodations related to the specific impairments and testing the effectiveness of these interventions and accommodations.

choosing an honours thesis topic

Amy Hetherington-Coy , Secondary Science Education – Biology Patrick Pierce, Secondary Science Education – Physics Thesis Supervisor: Todd Campbell Negotiating Coherent Science Teacher Professional Learning Experiences across University and School Settings This research investigates the assumptions underlying the work of a research practice partnership (RPP) made up of university science teacher educators and mentoring science teachers. With increased attention to what have been described as significant shifts proposed in science teaching and learning connected to recent standards documents in the U.S., increased attention and possibilities exist for collaborative work with inservice mentoring teachers to not only focus on professional learning connected to these standards documents, but to do so in ways that can increase the coherence between science teacher education programs and the local schools in which preservice science teachers find themselves navigating as they learn to teach. Drawing on the design-based research paradigm connected to conjecture mapping, this research articulated and tested, through qualitative methods, the design conjectures underlying mentor teachers’ experience within professional learning as part of the RPP. In the end, design conjectures that supported teachers to take on “learner hat” experiences in early stages of the RPP followed by engagement in curriculum co-design and implementation supported mentor teachers in beginning to reconceptualize visions of their teaching and learning, while also appropriating and tuning high-leverage tools to support a focus on student ideas in science classrooms. Finally, issues related to the complexity of teacher education programs were identified for needed increased attention into the future.

Bryan Kirby , Secondary Science Education – Biology Thesis Supervisor: Del Siegle Controversial Topics and State Approved Biology Texts: More Talk than Walk This study was a content analysis of how seven controversial topics were covered in four biology textbooks, half of which were the national editions while the other half were versions made specifically for the states of South Carolina and Texas.  The books were analyzed qualitatively and quantitatively for scientific accuracy, depth of coverage, level of discussion encouraged, and overall number of pages covered. The seven issues examined were climate change, race, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), evolution, stem cells, vaccines, and the health effects of technology. Overall, there were few differences between the state adopted book and the national editions, as well as between both national editions in their coverage of the seven controversial issues.

Annie MacLachlan , Comprehensive Special Education Thesis Supervisor: Del Siegle Preservice Teachers’ Referral of Students for Special Education The purpose of this study was to understand which students teachers nominate for special education services, and what student qualities influence the nomination. Specifically, in this study, we investigated whether a student’s ethnicity and classroom behavior influence his or her nomination for special education. We created six profiles in which we varied ethnic names and classroom behaviors, and asked juniors and seniors in a selected teacher preparation program to evaluate the profile they were given. They were then asked to indicate whether or not they would refer their given hypothetical student for special education services, and to provide justification for their choice. The major quantitative findings of this study were that, in the selected teacher preparation program, there was not a statistically significant influence of (a) student race, (b) student behavior, or (c) the interaction of the two on preservice teachers’ referral decisions. The participants’ qualitative responses agreed with the quantitative results with regards that student race did not have an impact on referral. However, many preservice teachers cited student behavior in their open-ended justification statements as a significant influencer of their referral choices. The information from this study will help better prepare teachers to serve students with diverse learning needs.

Eva-Maria Maher , Elementary Education Thesis Supervisor: Dorothea Anagnostopoulos Examining the Relationship between Clinical Placements and Pre-service Teachers’ Attitudes towards Diversity and Multicultural Education The purpose of this study was to determine, using survey data, whether undergraduate pre-teaching students experienced a change in racial bias/attitudes after taking a multicultural education course, and whether there was a difference in attitude change between students who were placed in urban, suburban, or rural settings for their clinical observation hours. Educators’ racial bias is becoming an increasingly important issue as demographics in America’s public schools are shifting, while the majority of American teachers are white (NCES, 2014). Because many preservice teachers lack genuinely diverse experiences before entering teacher education programs, many of these programs have been attempting to prepare pre-service teachers to work with diverse student populations by offering coursework and field experiences specifically designated for multicultural or diversity education (Valenti, 2006). Because multicultural or diversity education courses are often the first experience that preservice teachers have with diversity education, it is important to research whether or not these courses have the desired effect of creating culturally responsive teachers. This data reflected a statistically significant decrease in racial bias from the beginning of the semester to the end of the semester for the whole group. Of the three groups of pre-service teachers, suburban teachers experienced the most significant decrease in racial bias.

Anna McCormick , Elementary Education Thesis Supervisor: Jean Marsden Exploring Problems and Resolutions in Multicultural Children’s Literature Children’s literature can serve as a mirror , reflecting children’s own lives or cultures, and as a window helping them to see and understand other cultures (Naidoo, 2014). When children don’t see their culture or other cultures represented it can send messages that that culture is not important enough to include, but many cultural groups are still underrepresented in children’s literature. Specific awards exist to bring light to some of these much-needed multicultural children’s books and the authors that write them. For this study, I selected 50 children’s books that had received awards for diverse children’s literature within the past 10 years and I performed a content analysis of key elements of the text, looking at specific aspects of character, problem and resolution to identify patterns regarding character identity and role in the problem and resolution. My findings indicated that across these texts the cultural identities of the characters tended to be critical to the problem and resolution. A common pattern in books where external growth occurred was that the environment and people in the environment became more accepting of and knowledgeable about differences and diversity, and in most of the books the characters had agency in resolving their problems. This study might serve to help teachers, librarians, and parents identify books that follow patterns of award winning literature in areas that are typically underrepresented and seek and find quality multicultural literature to share with children.

Benjamin Murray, Secondary History and Social Studies Education Thesis Supervisor: Catherine Little Perceptions of Advanced Courses in Relation to Gifted Secondary Education High school students are taking a large number of advanced and AP courses, and at an ever-increasing rate. Yet there has been little research into the effectiveness of these programs at supporting gifted secondary students. This study addressed the research question “In what ways do administrators and educators in secondary education perceive advanced courses such as Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), or Early College Experience (ECE) to meet or fail to meet the needs of secondary gifted students?” I conducted a survey of administrators in public school districts in Connecticut about these perceptions. Survey respondents frequently expressed beliefs that the entry-level college experience and challenging level of coursework offered by AP, IB, and ECE programs were these programs’ greatest benefits, while commonly expressed drawbacks of these programs included strict curriculum alignment and pacing, as well as over-enrollment. Benefits of other gifted program components included a higher level of challenge for students, as well as offering increased opportunities for student choice and independence. Limitations of other programs largely centered around logistical difficulties with funding and personnel.

Jacqueline Ose , Secondary Science Education – Biology Thesis Supervisor: Morgaen Donaldson Effects of Project Opening Doors on AP Enrollment and Passing Rates in Connecticut High Schools Project Opening Doors, an Advanced Placement Incentive Program in Connecticut, aimed to increase access to Advanced Placement courses and exams for low-income and minority students. This study evaluates the effect of Project Opening Doors on the total number of AP exams taken, the total number of AP exams passed, and the percentage of total AP exams passed. It evaluates a longevity effect between pre, during, and post enrollment and passing rate data. Based on the results of this study, Project Opening Doors was successful in significantly increasing the number of exams taken and the number of exams passed from pre-program to post-program. Unexpectedly, after funding was removed, participation and success rates on AP exams did not fluctuate. The average passing rate of all AP exams taken across all school districts was consistent and did not change significantly between pre, during, and post program years.

Molly Pines , Elementary Education Thesis Supervisor: Douglas Kaufman Teacher Perceptions of Arts Integration into General Education Curriculum In elementary schools, art is often taught as a supplement to general education, and it is frequently separated from academic subjects with “pullout programs.” However, incorporating arts into the general education classroom, and into academic subjects can potentially have positive outcomes such as allowing students to broaden their conceptions of the world and themselves and to make authentic connections across disciplines. The purpose of this research study was to examine teacher reports of the frequency and quality of arts integration into general education curriculum, as well as what teachers perceived to be its benefits or drawbacks. Thirty-one educators associated with a large university in the northeast United States completed a survey. The educators are special educators, specials teachers (educators who facilitate pullout programs for the arts, languages, or physical education), and classroom teachers. Most participants indicated that they saw the need for arts integration in general education curricula, although many described feeling constraints from district or curriculum requirements. Results show that most educators view the arts as beneficial for students’ cognitive retention of material, understanding of material, or emotional intelligence.

Abigail Plouffe , Elementary Education Thesis Supervisor: Catherine Little An Analysis of Education Apps The use of apps on phones and tablets is on the rise for children, and many parents and teachers looking for educational ways for children to spend their screen time download apps from the education category of the app store. However, the labeling of an app as an “education app” does not actually mean that it has educational value. This study analyzed the top 30 apps listed in the iTunes app store to determine if the apps demonstrated key elements of learning theory, as well as curriculum alignment. Using a study by Hirsh-Pasek et al. as a framework, I developed a coding system to determine the level with which these key elements were present in each app. Each app was coded in four categories: Active Learning, Engagement, Meaningful Learning, and Social Interaction, with three criteria analyzed in each. The apps were also analyzed for Curriculum Alignment. Results revealed a high amount of Active Learning and a low amount of Social Learning. There  was a greater spread of Engagement and Meaningful Learning across the apps. About two-thirds of the apps lacked Curriculum Alignment. These results emphasize that consumers need to research or engage with apps more diligently to determine their educational value instead of merely purchasing based on the top lists on the app store.

choosing an honours thesis topic

Jacqueline Bickley , Secondary English Thesis Supervisor: Catherine Little High School English Teacher Perceptions of the Use of Academic Journaling In this qualitative study, individual interviews were used to explore high school English teachers’ beliefs about the purposes and benefits of reflective academic journaling and to uncover the ways in which they might implement this practice. The purpose of this study was to develop a deeper understanding of the purposes and practice of reflective academic journaling within the classroom, and to explore teachers’ perceptions of this practice in light of their teaching experience. Major findings included the discovery of reflection itself as the primary purpose for reflective academic journaling, followed by content and skill-related journaling. I also found that a prevalent indirect benefit is the improvement of student-teacher relationships, as well as the fostering of self-expression. It was more common for teachers to tie journaling to a specific artifact, as opposed to allowing students to free-write, and to create a dialogue that most commonly exists between students and teachers. I also found that many reflective academic journals are used in teachers’ assessment of students, and have an intentional academic focus. The most frequently mentioned significant challenge presented by reflective academic journaling is a lack of student motivation and understanding of its purpose.

Rachel Elizabeth Forte , Secondary History/Social Studies Education Thesis Supervisor: Catherine Little Teacher Perceptions of the Purposes of Social Studies Education Social studies as a subject in schools covers so many disciplines and has been so broadly defined that much debate has occurred over the way it should be taught. The way in which a subject is taught is directly relational to why it is taught, and thus this study established social studies teachers’ beliefs about the purposes of social studies education for students. Nine practicing social studies teachers and one current instructional coach from the Northeast United States participated in this study. Participants were interviewed in person and asked to consider their personal beliefs about the purposes of social studies education and how those beliefs manifest in their instructional practices, and they were additionally asked to rank in order of importance a set of purposes given to them. Based on the information obtained from interviews, the study concluded that the most frequently top-rated choices for possible purposes of social studies education from the teachers were promoting empathy, preparing students for civic engagement in a democratic society, and promoting critical thinking skills. Furthermore, all ten participants placed the purpose of instilling a sense of patriotism or national pride in students as the least important purpose (of a provided set of 10) in their classroom. Additionally, discussion with teachers highlighted certain tensions that some felt influenced their decisions, including educational system expectations of teachers and the current political climate’s role in the classroom. These findings matter because teacher reflection on the purposes of teaching social studies can help teachers to reexamine how these purposes explicitly appear in their instructional practices which directly affects how students learn in their classrooms.

Kelsey Ann Iwanicki , Elementary Education Thesis Supervisor: Catherine Little Teacher Interpretation of High-Potential Behaviors during Critical and Creative Thinking Response Lessons Educators and researchers in gifted education are exploring multiple ways of addressing issues of underrepresentation of some populations of students in gifted programs. Multi-dimensional approaches to identification include working with teachers to recognize and to elicit high-potential academic behaviors from students. In this study, research team members conducted critical and creative thinking “Response Lessons” in K-2 classrooms while teachers observed for behaviors that might indicate high academic potential in their students. Teachers completed a pre-lesson survey indicating behaviors they anticipated and a post-lesson survey indicating what they observed. The purpose of the surveys was to demonstrate how teachers are interpreting high potential and to what extent a relationship exists between the behaviors indicated in the written lesson and the actual behaviors exhibited by students. Across surveys completed by 30 teachers, results indicated high consistency between expected behaviors and observed behaviors, and the behaviors expected and observed most frequently related to students’ curiosity, ability to learn quickly and easily, and inventiveness, while the least expected and observed behaviors included making advanced connections. Study results will inform ongoing efforts to support teachers’ observation of critical and creative thinking in young students.

Kaitlin Kamalei Jenkins , Elementary Education and English Thesis Supervisors: Doug Kaufman and Victoria Ford Smith Empathy and Empowerment in K-2 Read Aloud Sessions: An Analysis of the Inclusion of Multicultural Children’s Literature This study explored K-2 teachers’ perspectives on the use of multicultural children’s literature as read aloud books and those books’ connection to cross cultural empathy and cultural empowerment. It was guided by the following research questions: (1) Are teachers using multicultural children’s literature (MCL) for their read aloud books? Why or why not?; (2) How are teachers using MCL during their read aloud sessions?; (3) To what degree are teachers considering the development of cross cultural empathy in their students while picking out read aloud books?; (4) To what degree are teachers considering the development of cultural empowerment in their students while picking out read aloud books?; (5) What character elements of the MCL read aloud books promote the development of cross cultural empathy and cultural empowerment? How do they do so?; and (6) What character elements of the MCL read aloud books work against the development of cross cultural empathy and cultural empowerment? The data demonstrated that teachers do consider the development of cross cultural empathy and cultural empowerment through multicultural children’s literature. They do use multicultural children’s literature, but not frequently, because of a lack of resources. A model for multicultural children’s literature was developed at the end of this study to aid teachers.

Julia Kipphut, Elementary Education Thesis Supervisor: Del Siegle Parent Attitudes Regarding K-5 Homework The goal of this study was to provide educators with insight into parents’ perceptions of homework practices in K-5 education. Specifically, I was curious to see the role that parents had in their child’s homework and their perceptions of homework assignments. The results showed families who reported homework having a higher impact on them saw it as less beneficial. Families who saw communication between teachers and parents as clearly defined found homework more beneficial. Additionally, fathers thought that homework had less of a negative impact on families than mothers.

Amanda MacDonald , Elementary Education Thesis Supervisor: Catherine Little Teacher Perceptions of Math Anxiety in Themselves and their Students Math anxiety is generally defined as a nervousness and a condition in which a person has an adverse response to a mathematically-related task or activity either physically or mentally that obstructs that person’s mathematical performance and learning experience. Prior research suggests that math anxiety is a real concern for students, as it may potentially harm their performance in the subject as well as deter them from many math-related activities in their lives due to the negative reactions that the anxiety can cause them physically, emotionally, or mentally. While many students may develop math anxieties in elementary school, it is also important to recognize that their teachers might also share some of these same math anxieties. The purpose of this study was to gather information on teachers’ perceptions of both their own and their students’ math anxiety. The research questions focused on (a) to what degree and in what contexts teachers perceive students to have math anxiety, (b) to what degree and in what contexts teachers perceive themselves to have math anxiety, and (c) what teachers know about addressing math anxieties. Fifty-eight teachers completed a two-part online survey with closed- and open-ended questions. Key findings showed that in general, teachers have a good idea about what math anxiety is and that it can negatively affect student learning, and about two thirds of participants reported teaching students who show signs of math anxiety. Nearly all participants were interested in learning ways to assist their students. About 40% of responding teachers reported having math anxiety themselves at least occasionally, and 30% reported having math anxiety while teaching math. The implications of this study include the importance of teachers’ preparation around math instruction and specifically around ways in which they can address math anxiety in the classroom context.

Jake Mulé , Secondary Science – Physics Thesis Supervisor: Del Siegle Perceived Benefits of Marching Band Participation for College Students College students have a limited amount of time to devote to a multitude of activities, and thus understanding the benefits of certain activities can prove invaluable. This study investigated the perceived benefits of participation in a college marching band for students. Members of the University of Connecticut Marching Band completed a survey about their perceived benefits of marching band participation. Based on the survey results, the study concluded that participants experience many positive benefits from participating in the collegiate marching band, the most prominent being social benefits. Furthermore, female participants reported higher levels of commitment, time investment, and physical health benefits than male participants. Many of the benefits were related to each other.  Only GPA was not correlated with any other category. The findings of this study are important because they can help guide students in selecting activities to participate in and highlight the benefits of marching band participation.

Jennifer Lynn O’Brien, Elementary Education Thesis Supervisor: Catherine Little A Study of Parent Perceptions of Advanced Academic Potential in the Early Grades Parents are key stakeholders in children’s education; this project, which is part of a larger study about effects of early identification of high potential, focused on parent awareness of the behaviors that indicate high potential and the kinds of resources that would support developing academic potential in the early grades (grades K-2). This project consisted of an online parent survey and a parent workshop with a card sort component in which parents indicated what kinds of resources would be priorities. The study took place in three school districts with large populations of families from low-income backgrounds. A total of 38 parents completed the survey, and 57 card sets were collected during workshops. Findings demonstrated that parents emphasized several key behaviors indicating high potential such as being highly curious; learning quickly and easily; and finding useful, often original ways to spot and solve problems. Overall, parents thought it was important to allow for independence, creativity, and critical thinking; as well as time together for fun and academics. Parents were interested in learning more about the best parenting practices for gifted students, ways to teach their children academic skills at home, and ways to partner with their children’s schools.

Emma Pavano , Elementary Education Thesis Supervisor: Morgaen Donaldson Teacher Evaluation: Methods and Perspectives While much to do with the current education system is constantly in flux, the main goals of teacher evaluation have been present for decades. While phrased in a variety of ways, the purpose of teacher evaluation is generally defined by researchers as twofold: teacher accountability and professional development. In the past, these objectives have been met inadequately, but through our research into New Haven, Connecticuts’s TEVAL program we hope to shed some light on how other districts can improve their evaluation methods to better reach these goals.

2016 Neag Honors Graduates

Erica Ambrogio , Elementary Education Thesis Supervisor: Dr. Brandi Simonsen The Effects of Self-Monitoring on the On-Task Behavior of a Student in the General Education Classroom The current study served to expand upon previous research about managing the off-task behavior of students who exhibit off-task behavior in the general education classroom. Self-monitoring has been identified as an effective and reliable strategy for increasing on-task behavior in various settings with students. The 6-year old, first grade student was selected by referral from his general education teacher and school staff. He attended an elementary school in an urban school district in Connecticut. The study employed an alternating treatments design with a baseline phase.  Specifically, after an orientation for both the student and teacher in using the Direct Behavior Rating tool to record behavioral data, the student was randomly assigned to self-monitor during one of two observation periods each day (during the unassigned period, he did not engage in self-monitoring).  Data did not support a functional relation between self-monitoring and off-task behavior; however, limitations related to data collection may have affected study results.  These limitations and implications for future research are discussed.

Alexandria Bottelsen , Secondary English Education Thesis Supervisor: Dr. Tom Deans Defining Writing: Teacher Perceptions of High School Writing Centers under the Common Core This study examines how secondary school teachers see the relationships among the Common Core State Standards for writing, their own teaching practices, and peer writing centers. Through conducting interviews with teachers across subject areas at two high schools with peer writing centers, the researcher discovered a paradox: that most teachers praised the concept of writing centers in general even as they saw them as not especially relevant for their own students and subject areas. While the standards did not appear to have a meaningful impact on teacher practices, the way these teachers defined writing significantly affected how they viewed the writing center as it pertained to their students. While all the participants highly valued writing as a process, they believe it is an individual—or otherwise non-social—process that differs significantly from subject to subject. Based on these findings, several implications and suggestions can be made for both schools and writing centers to better improve their relationship and the overall culture of writing across the curriculum.

I sabella Chantel Denay Gauthier , Special Education Thesis Supervisor: Dr. Rachael Gabriel Gender and Reading Proficiency: Is There a Significant Relationship for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders? School achievement studies have consistently shown that female students demonstrate higher levels of reading achievement and intrinsic reading motivation when compared to male students (Schwabe, McElvany, & Trendtel, 2015). Many studies tend to focus on the general education population when comparing scores between female and male students, and not the special education population. The purpose of this honors thesis is to provide quantitative data that will explore the relationship of reading achievement scores and gender with students who have been diagnosed with Autism spectrum disorders. The study methodology includes a quantitative two-way analysis of variance (ANOVA). The results from the study indicate that there is no significant difference between the grades, or between genders, or with the interaction of the two when looking at reading achievement scores of students who have been diagnosed with Autism spectrum disorders.

Michelle Heyder , Secondary Mathematics Education Thesis Supervisor: Dr. Catherine Little Sources and Experiences of Math Anxiety in Post-Secondary Students Math anxiety is experienced on a regular basis throughout the country. In this study, I explored possible sources and experiences of math anxiety in post-secondary students, so as to inform the practice of teachers and those who are affected by math anxiety. For this study, university students completed a survey detailing their reported age of development, current frequency, and predicted frequency of math anxiety. From survey respondents, participants were purposefully selected to be interviewed to expand on their responses to the survey. Survey and open-ended interview responses were coded and analyzed for common themes, while multiple choice survey responses were analyzed for themes among frequency data. Common trends included that students often compared themselves to high-performing peers and considered having the inability to do math part of their identity. Students also frequently claimed that relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, as well as positive relationships with teachers and role models helped them manage their math anxiety best.

Alexandra Jabick , Elementary Education Thesis Supervisor: Dr. Tamika La Salle Examining the Relationship between Student Race, Socioeconomic Status, and Gender and Kindergarten School Readiness Early childhood education is a topic of great interest. As gaps in achievement persist, policy makers are looking for ways to help children enter into school better prepared to succeed. A recent study lead by the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering (CASE) examines the effects of attending Connecticut’s state-funded preschool program on a child’s future school readiness skills. The current study extracts a subset of data from this study to examine early achievement in kindergarteners from across Connecticut, specifically to determine whether a child’s socioeconomic status, as defined by free or reduced lunch status, gender, or race have an effect on the child’s early academic skills. Significant differences in performance were only found between lower and higher SES groups and SES was a significant predictor of performance on PPVT-4, Oral Language, Math Facts, and Calculation.

Jessica Liu , Elementary Education Thesis Supervisor: Dr. Catherine Little Classroom Discourse: Teacher Questioning and Student Participation in a Mathematics Summer Enrichment Program The purpose of this study was to observe what classroom discourse looks like within the context of a summer program for high ability students from underrepresented backgrounds. Fifteen classroom observations were conducted across three teachers’ classrooms to document teacher and student engagement in class discussions. Teacher statements and questions were classified into five major categories: informing, directing, deepening, connecting, and guiding. Results demonstrated that when teachers model talk moves, such as linking, students are more prone to use these strategies as well.

Pam McDonald , Elementary Education Thesis Supervisor: Dr. Rachael Gabriel Literacy Across Disciplines: An Investigation of Text Used in Content-Specific Classrooms This pilot study focused on literacy within the higher grades, where classes are content-specific and organized into varying levels. Teacher views on literacy instruction as well as the types of texts used across the disciplines and course levels were explored. The following research questions guided the study: 1) Do early high school teachers view their class’ reading tasks as more discipline- or content-focused? 2) Does the complexity of the texts assigned in early high school vary across the various course levels? 3) Does the complexity of the texts assigned in early high school vary across the disciplines? 4) Does the authenticity of the texts assigned in early high school vary across the various course levels? Interviews from a total of 21 ninth and tenth grade teachers were analyzed, as well as sample texts from their classes. Teacher interviews were examined to determine their views—either more content-area based or disciplinary based— on literacy instruction within their content-area classrooms. The sample texts’ Lexile levels were analyzed across discipline (Language Arts, Math, Science, Spanish, and Social Studies) and course level (A, B, DI) in order to find any relationships that existed between text complexity and discipline or level. Finally, the authenticity of the sample texts—in relation to the course level they were being used in—was explored. Results indicated that most content-specific teachers view their literacy instruction as having a more content-area focused purpose rather than a disciplinary focus. Although no relationship was found between the complexity levels of texts across the course levels, a relationship was found between the complexities of texts in certain disciplines. Lastly, results did not show any significant relationship between the authenticity of a text and its course level.

Hannah Ragonese , Elementary Education Thesis Supervisor: Dr. Catherine Little The Underrepresentation of Minorities in Gifted and Talented Programs: Educators’ Perceptions of Giftedness and Educator Referral Systems This study focuses on the underrepresentation of minority populations in gifted and talented programs, and more specifically teacher perceptions of high potential as they might relate to referrals of minority students for gifted and talented programs. In this study, 37 teachers of grades K-2 completed a survey about their perceptions of high potential. The survey also explored whether teachers were more or less likely to refer hypothetical students of different backgrounds to gifted programs. Findings indicated that teachers tended to look for physical academic output as the most important characteristic of giftedness. Findings also indicated that teachers participating in this survey were not influenced by students’ demographic characteristics (race, socioeconomic status, or English language skills) in making referrals to gifted programs. Suggestions for future research are noted regarding teacher role within the larger issue of underrepresentation.

Jessica Stargardter , Elementary Education Thesis Supervisor: Dr. E. Jean Gubbins Underrepresentation of Minorities in Gifted and Talented Programs: A Content Analysis of Five District Program Plans Many educators and researchers recognize the issue of underrepresented minority groups in gifted and talented education programs. Since the landmark Supreme Court case Brown vs Board of Education in 1954, policies, laws, and standards have been attempting to establish equity in educational programs. This content analysis explores how select districts in the metropolitan region of Colorado align with the NAGC’s standard 2. The research showed that the majority of these districts followed NAGC’s standard 2, but the underrepresentation of minority groups within the metropolitan region of Colorado continued. National, state, and local districts need to do more to promote equity and diversity.

Anthony Steady , Secondary Social Studies Education Thesis Supervisor: Dr. Alan Marcus Engagement in the Social Studies Classroom Social studies education literature has indicated that students are not engaged in their social studies classes.  Within this view are a variety of theories attempting to explain why students are not engaged.  Surveys were administered to 184 suburban high school students in order to answer the question of which of these different views on how to engage students in the social studies classroom were most accurate.  The results from the survey showed that students found social studies to be more engaging than previously indicated, and that within students who either enjoy or do not enjoy social studies, there are common trends of instructional and curricular strategies that should be considered for improving engagement.  Among these strategies were more focused history courses, different classes based on preferred learning methods, and a need to continue researching methods to engage students despite the encouraging results that were found.

2015 Neag Honors Graduates

Daniel Arndt , Secondary Biology Education Thesis Advisor: Dr. Jonathan Plucker Evaluation of Gifted Education using A-F School Grading Accountability Systems

A recent trend in accountability systems in the United States has been grading schools on an A-F scale. Some of the evaluation components included in these systems are standardized test proficiency rates and student growth measures. Traditionally, these systems have not emphasized accountability for gifted education programming or services. The accountability systems of the sixteen states in the U.S. under these A-F systems were analyzed for indicators that involve gifted education, which does not have a federal mandate or centralized decision-making. The frequencies of evaluation components were compared at the high school and elementary school levels. The only gifted education-specific components were based on AP and IB testing in high school. The lack of gifted education inclusion into these systems represents the current climate for gifted education in the United States.

Terra Briody, Elementary Education Thesis Advisor: Dr. Catherine Little Parent Perceptions of Children’s Learning About Nutrition

At both the preschool and young adolescent age, modeling has a significant influence on the nutritional habits and physical activity levels of children. Parents set up the first routines regarding the availability of food, meal structure, and eating practices in the home, and they are also the primary models for young children. This study explored parent perceptions of elementary-aged children’s eating habits, with a specific focus on breakfast as a sample of eating behaviors, and the parents’ perceptions of themselves as nutritional models. The study also explored how parents engage children in nutrition-related activities. A total of 81 parents completed an online survey. Results indicated that parents support children’s engagement with nutrition by giving children support for making informed choices about food and by having children help with preparing food. Parents also demonstrated some awareness of themselves as models, but about a third of responses indicated that they rarely or never eat breakfast with their children.

Andrew Catanese , Secondary Mathematics Education Thesis Advisor: Dr. Del Siegle Investigating the Mozart Effect with University Students

The purpose of this study was to shed further light on the concept of the Mozart Effect. This is the debated phenomenon that listening to Mozart may cause temporary increases in cognitive ability in certain kinds of tasks. Forty-two students from the University of Connecticut participated in a test involving mental rotation tasks; approximately half listened to Mozart while taking the test, and the other half took the test in silence. There was not a statistically significant difference between these two groups. However, the sample size was relatively small. The average test scores of the Mozart group was approximately 8.16, as opposed to approximately 5.87 for the group not listening to Mozart. Given this difference, it is possible that a study performed on a larger sample size would have enough power to show that a statistically significant difference exists.

Rachael Cerutti , Elementary Education Thesis Advisor: Dr. Michael Coyne Study of Teacher Perspectives on Vocabulary Instruction

Direct vocabulary instruction is a key component of an early reading program, and effective vocabulary instruction may be significant in raising student achievement in reading. This qualitative study investigated kindergarten through 3 rd grade teachers’ perspectives of their reading programs’ vocabulary instruction. The study took place across 3 different schools, all of which use the same core reading program. The study aims to discover the participating teachers’ overall opinions of the quality of the vocabulary instruction, as well as other factors including time available to complete instruction, level of difficulty of the given vocabulary words, and the teachers’ own fidelity of instruction.

Amy Christensen , Elementary Education Thesis Advisor: Dr. Tutita Casa An Investigation of Grade Three Students’ Vocabulary Usage in Written Mathematical Communication

While the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics has long emphasized communication in the teaching and learning of mathematics, renewed attention is being given to this process with the advent of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Not only does the CCSS for Mathematics encourage teachers to have their students develop expertise in constructing viable arguments and critiquing the reasoning of others, but the CCSS for English language arts stresses writing across academic areas. The CCSS-related assessments’ claim that they will measure students’ ability to communicate their reasoning cements the importance of this practice. Writing particularly about one’s mathematical reasoning naturally calls for students’ use of academic vocabulary. The Project M 3 units, developed for mathematically promising upper elementary students, emphasize reasoning-based oral and written communication, which includes mathematical vocabulary. This study investigates the differences between intervention and comparison groups of third graders’ vocabulary use in their writing on an open-response assessment, including formal and informal mathematical language. Intervention group students had been exposed to a communication-rich math curriculum, while comparison group students were instructed with their existing traditional math curriculum. Results showed comparison group students used slightly more precise language, while intervention group students tended to write more, and about more mathematical concepts.

Emily Gauthier , Elementary Education Thesis Advisor: Dr. Catherine Little Teacher Perceptions of Students from Background Information

Teacher expectations influence student experiences in the classroom. This thesis explored teacher expectations; specifically, the study focused on the types and sources of information teachers purposely look at and use to form expectations of their incoming students prior to the beginning of the school year. The study also included exploration of whether or not those choices vary by the grade levels at which teachers have experience, as well as how teachers perceive conflicts between student performance and expectations of student performance. A total of 85 participants responded to a survey of open- and closed-ended questions. Results demonstrated that teachers attend to academic information over behavioral, that teachers avoid certain information to give students “fresh starts,” and that teachers’ choices regarding the information they use vary somewhat by the grade level experiences they report.

Julie Grossman , Secondary Social Studies Education Thesis Advisor: Dr. Alan Marcus Political Cartoons as Tools for Developing Historical Empathy in Social Studies Classrooms

Political cartoons are visually complex, abstract images which citizens are frequently exposed to as a part of American civic life. Evaluating them is a necessary skill for productive citizenship and is one that should be taught in school. Social studies classes are perfect settings for students to analyze political cartoons because of their focus on effective citizenship and their use of historical thinking skills such as historical empathy. This skill is what allows students to emotionally engage with the discipline by understanding historical events from multiple perspectives and in the context of the appropriate time period. There is a dearth of research on the use of political cartoons to help foster historical empathy and that is where this research lies. Data were collected from 13 ninth grade students analyzing a set of political cartoons about slavery and a set of cartoons about police brutality. Their responses were coded for accuracy, recognition of the varied perspectives featured in the political cartoons, and reconciliation of personal opinions with the opinions of the political cartoons. One major result was that five out of thirteen students referred to slaves from the 19th century anachronistically as “African-Americans.” This showed that students struggled to think beyond the modern era and within the time period of the cartoons. Another major finding was that a majority of students chose the cartoon which aligned with their personal views instead of a more balanced perspective when asked to choose the cartoon which best portrayed the issue. This represented an inability and possibly an unwillingness of students to recognize the validity of perspectives besides their own and to think empathetically. Political cartoons, visual and biased representations of multiple perspectives, are challenging for students whose default thought processes are deeply situated in the present day and largely dependent on their own personal opinions. Social studies teachers should consider these issues when using political cartoons.

Alison Labaire , Elementary Education Thesis Advisor: Dr. Catherine Little Teachers’ Perceptions of Student Reading Patterns

Reading motivation has been shown to have an effect on overall academic performance, with a strong positive relationship with reading achievement. Currently, there is a lot of concern about literacy achievement specifically pertaining to boys. This study surveyed teachers about their perceptions of students’ reading preferences and reading behaviors. We asked teachers to share supports and barriers to reading behaviors as well as students’ preferred books and genres. The genres most frequently reported as popular with boys were Comedy, Fantasy, and Science Fiction. The genres most frequently reported as popular with girls were Fantasy, Realistic Fiction, and Historical Fiction. Participants surveyed reported that having a range of topics, using props, and having engaging literature with relatable characters were all successful ways to increase interest to their students.  Participants reported that a wide selection of texts not only increases interest for students but also allows for differentiation, self-selection, and increased literary independence, according to participants.

Jennifer Moore , Secondary Mathematics Education Thesis Advisor: Dr. Del Siegle Underachieving Gifted Students’ Achievement Patterns Beyond High School

The purpose of this study was to follow-up with underachieving middle school students from an NRC/GT Increasing Academic Achievement study, who are now of college age or slightly older. We were interested in determining how well they performed in high school and college, whether they turned around their academic underachievement, and what factors they perceived influenced their achievement or lack of achievement. Out of the 280 students who previously participated in the study, we located 90, and seven completed a survey. Out of those seven, five students were chosen. These five students, who were identified as underachieving gifted students in middle school, indicated that their academic achievement never improved throughout their school career and early into life because they failed to find meaning and value in their tasks. They wished their teachers had understood them better and reported being happy, but not fulfilled in their current work positions.

Bailey Muchin , Special Education Thesis Advisor: Dr. Mary Truxaw Self-talk+ and Strategic Teacher Moves Aimed at Cognitive Advancement in Linguistically Diverse Elementary Mathematics Classrooms

This study’s objective was to determine the purposes of self-talk and related forms of talk (self-talk+) in linguistically diverse elementary mathematics classrooms, teacher moves that are often associated with self-talk+, and the relationship between self-talk+ and strategic teacher moves. This study analyzed transcripts, audio recordings, and video recordings from several elementary mathematics classrooms in dual language programs in order to determine the relationship among self-talk+ and strategic teacher moves. This study specifically focused on the purposes of self-talk+ that contributed to, or had the potential to impact, student cognitive advancement. The results of data analysis were mapped in order to visualize the relationships among self-talk+, strategic teacher moves, and cognitive advancement. The results associated with each research question were grouped by topic: purposes of self-talk+, teacher moves related to self-talk+, and relationship among self-talk+ and strategic teacher moves. The purposes of self-talk+ identified and aligned with the literature were found to include the following: ruminate on a difficult matter, increase understanding of a novel concept, redirect/restructure thought process, focus on technical aspects of a skill, effectively engage with a task, and increase understanding of a novel concept. Teacher moves used in conjunction with self-talk+ were found to include wait time, modeling, and prompting. Finally, it was found that when self-talk+ and these strategic teacher moves were used together, students were more likely to make significant cognitive advancements.

Jorie Predmore , Special Education Thesis Advisor: Dr. Joseph Madaus Self-Concept of a High School Student with Cerebral Palsy in the General Education Classroom and Resource Room

This paper explores the different domains of self-concept for a student in high school with cerebral palsy. This case study provides a qualitative analysis of the self-concept of a specific student in the resource room versus this student in the general education classroom. The domains of self-concept examined were academic self-concept, social self-concept and general self-concept. The study also researched the difference in importance beliefs of academics and socialness in the two educational settings. The student’s academic and general self-concept appeared to be similar across the two settings, but his social self-concept was higher in the general education classroom. His importance beliefs about academics and socialness were also higher in the general education classroom.

Matthew Rescsanski , Music Education Thesis Advisor: Dr. Joseph Abramo High School Musicians and their Perceptions of Music in Academic and Non-Academic Settings

Contemporary research has shown that school music programs have increasingly struggled with relevancy in recent years, as students primarily experience music outside of school through informal practices of popular music and culture. It is therefore extremely important for music educators to better understand the perceptions their students have of music in both of these settings. In this study, students were asked via survey and interview about their perceptions of the music they make in school and in other settings, such as at home, with friends, or as a part of a religious activity. Findings included a wide range of statements and numerical data from students about preferences and perceived differences between in school and out of school music, suggesting that a mixture of informal and formal classroom practices are needed in all music classrooms in order to better reach students with diverse musical experiences outside of school.

Melissa Scarbrough , Secondary World Languages: French Thesis Advisors: Dr. Catherine Little and Dr. Valerie Saugera Use of Phonetics in the Beginner French Classroom: A Look at Textbooks

World Language classrooms, as a result of their subject matter, delve heavily into Linguistics, most specifically in an area of Applied Linguistics known as Second Language Acquisition (SLA). This subcategory emphasizes determining learning differences between a first language and a second language. Within this, there is the focus of Phonology, and Phonetics, which analyzes how sound information affects SLA. Recent research has shown that explicit training in the phonetics of a second language supports overall growth in learning and using a second language. In this study, three of the most commonly used French as a foreign language textbooks were examined to determine the prevalence of exercises and activities from these books that support phonetics teaching. Results demonstrated a strong emphasis on the practicing of phonetic information, through speaking exercises, but limited instruction and support of phonetic principles.

John A. Bengston, Social Studies Education Thesis Advisor: Dr. Alan Marcus Teaching Genocide: Problems and Possible Solutions

If students are to have a complete and well-rounded social studies education, there will be histories covered that are both disturbing and painful, and thus, controversial. This study examines how teachers teach a specific kind of controversial issue, genocide, to demonstrate the difficulties and methods involved. In branching out to teachers from different backgrounds and school districts, I sought to describe how specific individuals approach teaching genocide and how they solve various challenges surrounding this type of instruction. Such a description may inform other teachers about how to teach genocide effectively. Helping teachers recognize these issues would serve to open genocide education issues to both discussions and solutions that can only increase the quality of student education.

Kimberly Burk, Elementary Education, and Kathryn Fernberg, Elementary Education Thesis Advisor: Dr. Catherine Little Influential Factors in Teacher-Student Relationships in the Classroom

We investigated practicing teachers’ perceptions of their relationships with their students in general and also focused on how their perceptions varied based on their gender and teaching experience. We surveyed teachers using the Problems in Schools Questionnaire, along with several researcher-generated questions. We received 252 responses to the survey from teachers with a wide range of levels of experience. We found few differences related to teacher gender, although when asked to describe a negative relationship they had had with a student, most teachers described a male student. Teacher experience was significantly negatively related to an approach that emphasized control in the classroom as opposed to student autonomy, suggesting that teachers may become less control-oriented and possibly more autonomy-oriented with more experience. Results also indicated that teachers considered trust, respect, communication, and a safe classroom environment to be critical to developing positive relationships with students.

Rebecca Duchesneau, Social Studies Education Thesis Advisor: Dr. Catherine Little The Content of Teacher Questions in Individualized Reading Conferences

This study examined reading instruction in third through fifth grade classrooms, by analyzing individualized reading conferences conducted by five different teachers. Each teacher recorded conferences with three students: a struggling reader, an average level reader, and an advanced or higher level reader. I sought to examine what types of content teachers were addressing in these conferences, at what level teachers were asking students to analyze the text, and how teachers were differentiating for students with differing reading abilities. The results showed that teachers were addressing the follow content: plot, character, author, genre, setting, reading behavior, and vocabulary, with the largest emphasis on plot, character, and reading behavior. Teachers asked students to analyze the text on the surface, go further within the text, and go further beyond the text. Surface was the most popular out of this category, and even when teachers asked students to go beyond the text it was mostly to make connections. Lastly, while there was some differentiation, particularly with the low level readers, it did not seem systematic or planned.

Sarah Forte, English Education Thesis Advisor: Dr. Catherine Little Time Patterns in Teacher Questions and Student Response

For this honors thesis, I conducted a qualitative and quantitative study to examine individualized reading conferences between five elementary school teachers and their students. Expanding from previous study, audio recordings of the one-on-one conferences were coded, timed, and analyzed. This study focused on the patterns between teacher talk and student talk, specifically on questioning, types of questions asked, and student responses. Three research questions were examined in this study: 1.What are the patterns evident in ratios of teacher talk time to student talk time in individualized one-on-one conferences? 2. What relationships are evident between function of teacher question and length of student response, as measured in words spoken and time elapsed? 3. What are the patterns evident among students of different reading levels in individualized conferences? Several key findings emerged from the study. Teachers talked for a greater percentage of time than their students, though students of a higher reading level generally spoke more during individualized conferences than students at average or lower levels of reading performance. The types of questions that got students to speak for a longer amount of time and speak more words were not always the questions that students were most often being asked to respond to. Questioning is an essential classroom practice, and this study suggests implications for teacher practice in the classroom and further research.

Laura Kent, Comprehensive Special Education Thesis Advisor: Dr. Joseph Madaus Impact of Introduction to Exceptionality and Collaboration Course

The inclusion of students with disabilities in the general education classroom requires that all teachers have the ability to teach students with disabilities and the ability to collaborate within the school environment with a variety of staff members within the school. Teacher preparation programs must incorporate the teaching of these skills into their curriculum. This study focused on determining the effects a class on exceptionality and collaboration had on preservice teachers’ self-efficacy for teaching students with disabilities and understanding of professional collaboration in schools. A survey was administered to a population of special education majors attending a university at the beginning and the end of their first semester in a teacher education program. Analysis of these surveys found that there was a statistically significant improvement in the preservice teachers’ self-efficacy for teaching students with disabilities, but there was not a large development in the understanding of professional collaboration in schools. While the preservice teachers did demonstrate an increase in understanding about the environment of professional collaboration in school, the understanding in other domains was limited. There did also seem to be a slight increase in knowledge of educational terminology that allowed the respondents to express their knowledge in different ways. The results from this study can be used to hone further studies on the influences on preservice teachers’ preparation for the field, and to influence how to improve preservice teachers’ understanding of professional collaboration in schools.

Jeffrey T. Moore, Comprehensive Special Education Thesis Advisor: Dr. Del Siegle Honors Preparation: Examining Honors Students’ Perceptions of Preparation for Their Honors Program

Gifted students are some of the most promising learners in the country. This group contributes 6% of the total student population. Programming for these gifted students varies from school to school. Because there is no universal program for gifted students, they enter college with very different experiences. This study aimed to investigate which experiences and services in high school programs best prepared these gifted students for their college Honors courses and conversions. Juniors and Seniors in the UConn Honors Program completed a survey regarding their perceptions of their high school and college programs. Students’ perceptions of preparation for college Honors courses and conversions were related to feelings of challenge in high school classes, high school classes requiring complex thinking, and having a high level of choice in the content of college Honors courses and conversions. The number of Honors or AP classes that students completed in high school was not related to their feelings of preparation. There were no differences based on gender, class standing, and the time of acceptance to the UConn Honors Program.

Kelly Nelson, Mathematics Education Thesis Advisor: Dr. Morgaen Donaldson Satisfaction with Teacher Preparation and Movement of Beginning Teachers

Keeping quality teachers in the classroom is a concern of policy makers, administrators, and other members of the education community. Teacher preparation programs strive to prepare graduates for the myriad challenges that teachers encounter in their profession and help graduates stay in education. This study seeks to determine what factors associated with teacher movement are reported by graduates of a teacher preparation program with two different populations of graduates. Recent alumni of the program were surveyed about their current job status, reasons for any decisions to change careers or schools, and satisfaction with their preparation program. Responses from 149 alumni were analyzed. Satisfaction ratings of the program were also examined to determine whether those who left the field of education or moved within the field of education felt differently about the quality of the program than those who stay in their first school. While there were no significant differences between satisfaction responses of the leavers, movers and stayers in education, other factors associated with teacher movement that were reported align with those found in the literature.

Camille Thomas, Mathematics Education Thesis Advisor: Dr. Catherine Little Middle School Student Perceptions of Homework in Mathematics

Homework has been a source of debate in schools for the past several decades and will continue to be an important topic in the future. It is a traditional part of education but some debate its importance in the classroom. This study explored student perception of homework and their reported performance in middle school mathematics. The research questions focused on student attitudes about homework, the relationship of students’ self-efficacy and support resources to their homework completion, and the relationship of students’ general level of achievement in mathematics to their attitudes about homework. The study involved a survey of 230 middle school students and their mathematics teachers. The survey did not demonstrate reliable measurement of the hypothesized factors of purpose, self-efficacy, and support resources related to students’ overall perceptions about homework. However, overall, students reported positive attitudes and grades in math class. Gender and general level of achievement in mathematics class did show a relationship with certain aspects of students’ responses regarding homework.

Glen Ullman, Music Education Thesis Advisor: Dr. Del Siegle Aspects of the High School Music Program and their Relationship with the College Marching Band Experience

A quality musical ensemble requires the director to be attentive to the needs and abilities of its members. This study examined various aspects of students’ musical and academic preparation in relation to their current experience with music in college. With more insight about the backgrounds of college musicians, and the way those backgrounds relate to their experiences in performing ensembles, music directors will be better able to tailor instruction to the needs of their musicians. For this study, a survey was distributed to members of the University of Connecticut Marching Band about their demographics, education, past musical experiences, and current attitudes toward music and marching. The study found that most participants were majoring in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics. However, participants who studied in these areas did not report any greater confidence in learning new formations than did participants in other majors. While a sizeable portion of the band comprised music, drama, and art majors, they were concentrated in the woodwind and brass sections, rather than percussion and color guard. The study also found that among the music activities participants completed prior to coming to college, the duration of private music study made a significant difference in students’ acceptance to the travelling pep band, whose members are selected based on their musical ability. The results suggest that individualized instruction is more effective than large group rehearsals for the purposes of developing individual musical ability. They also suggest that college marching bands might consider recruiting in underrepresented majors such as humanities.

James Wendt, Jr., Mathematics Education Thesis Advisor: Dr. Megan Staples Developing Justification Skills in Middle School Mathematics

This study sought to examine justification learning in secondary school mathematics. It is often the case that students graduate from high school with few to no mathematical proof and reasoning skills. The goal of this study was to identify teacher practices in secondary school math classes that aided or hindered students’ learning of justification skills. This study was an examination of existing research data from a larger, NSF-funded project titled JAGUAR (Justification and Argumentation: Growing Understanding of Algebraic Reasoning). Data for this study comprised student pre- and post-tests as well as transcripts of lessons from seventh- and eighth-grade classes. Student pre- and post-tests for twenty-two classes were used to identify classes that could be compared meaningfully through a comparative case study. In-depth analyses of four focal classes and their implementations of JAGUAR justification tasks were conducted to identify practices that support or hinder students’ growth in justification and reasoning in middle school math classes. Across the four focal classes, frequent funneling by the teacher and acceptance of incomplete or less rigorous arguments was associated with little student learning of justification skills, while more pressing from the teacher coupled with a demand for higher-level arguments was associated with enhanced student learning of justification skills.


Comparing Students’ Abilities to Conduct Online Research and Teacher Internet Use in Two States: A One-to-One Laptop State and a State Without a One-to-One Laptop Program Jennifer Berke , Comprehensive Special Education Thesis Advisor: Dr. Donald J. Leu

New online literacies, through which individuals read and understand information on the Internet, are becoming essential for today’s students to develop, so that they can be proficient at using the Internet to locate, synthesize, evaluate, and communicate information online. While an achievement gap traditionally exists among today’s students in economically advantaged and disadvantaged states when examining offline reading comprehension test scores, it is important to examine students’ online reading abilities to determine whether an achievement gap exists in this area as well. This research study focuses on students and teachers in two states of differing economic statuses, Connecticut and Maine. While Connecticut is an economically advantaged state, Connecticut’s students do not have access to a one-to-one laptop to student ratio. On the other hand, while Maine is an economically challenged state, its students have access to a one-to-one laptop to student program. This indicates that students in Maine have 24/7 access to laptops & the Internet. This study examines whether or not a one-to-one laptop program can help to overcome the traditional achievement gap found among economically advantaged and disadvantaged states, by looking at Connecticut and Maine students’ online research comprehension scores on an assessment called the ORCA. It also examines teachers’ Internet practices in Maine and Connecticut, through a Teacher Internet Use Survey (TIUS), to determine whether or not teacher Internet practices have an effect on their students’ online reading comprehension abilities. The results of the study demonstrate that overall, there is no mean difference between the ORCA scores of students in Connecticut and in Maine. Additionally, the results indicate that teachers in Maine more frequently use the Internet for class assignments, and that they explicitly teach their students how to locate information online more often than teachers in Connecticut. These results suggest that teacher Internet practices, in addition to having full access to laptops and Internet, may help students perform better on online reading comprehension assessments.


Academic Self-Concept and Student Preferences for Grouping Formats in Elementary Reading Instruction Lindsay Brand , Elementary Education Thesis Advisor: Dr. Susan Payne

This study explored the relationship between students’ perceptions of grouping practices used in reading instruction and their academic self-concept levels. This study sought to identify students’ preferences regarding a variety of grouping formats, with specific attention paid to same- versus mixed-ability grouping, and to determine whether these preferences were related to differing levels of academic self-concept. Participants were 36 third grade students enrolled at an urban Connecticut elementary school. Data were collected using two questionnaires that surveyed participants about their attitudes toward different types of reading instruction and their self-ratings regarding ability and enjoyment in reading and in school in general, respectively. Subsequent quantitative analyses and qualitative comparisons were used to investigate the significance of this relationship. The goal of this study was to provide data and draw conclusions that would aid classroom teachers at the test site in identifying and implementing the types of reading instruction that their students preferred and found most desirable, with an eye to promoting student engagement. Students reported that same-ability groups were most well liked, followed by mixed-ability groups, whole-class instruction, and same-ability pairs. Working independently was liked the least. Same-ability groups were viewed as most desirable for nonreaders and least desirable for poor readers. No significant relationship was found between students’ preferences for grouping practices or perceptions of these groups and their academic self-concept levels. However, correlations between responses to pairs of individual items as well as key descriptive differences between the preferences and perceptions of students of high, middle, and low academic self-concept were further discussed.

Defining Mathematics: Academic, Social, and Personal Factors that Influence How Students Conceptualize Mathematics Jonathan Bruneau , Mathematics Education Thesis Advisor: Dr. Megan Staples

What is math? This is a fundamental question that researchers have explored by looking at how students conceptualize mathematics. The student’s conceptualization of mathematics is how the student understands, defines, and feels about mathematics, a combination of both attitudes and perceptions. Using a survey, this study explored current student conceptions of mathematics at the secondary level. After analysis of survey results, a select group of students were interviewed regarding their responses to the survey to better understand the factors that played a critical role in the formation of their conceptualization of mathematics. Findings from the study indicate students agree that mathematics is a conceptual process, dealing with the logic system and usefulness of mathematics to solve problems, as well as a procedural process, looking at algorithms and computations. Common themes that run throughout the interviews indicate that the most important factor that influences a student’s conceptualization of mathematics is prior mathematics classroom experiences. The applicability of mathematics also seemed to play an important role, whereas taking standardized tests had less of an influence on student conceptualization of mathematics.

Practicing and Preservice Teachers’ Sense of Efficacy for Character Education Carolyn Lowe , Elementary Education Thesis Advisor: Dr. Catherine Little

This study explored preservice and practicing teachers’ perspectives on their preparation to support students’ character development and their sense of efficacy in implementing classroom practices related to this area of education. The research questions framing the study were as follows: (1) What levels of efficacy around character education do practicing and preservice elementary teachers from the same teacher preparation program report? (2) How do efficacy levels differ between practicing and preservice teachers? (3) What influences on their efficacy for character education do practicing and preservice teachers report? The study involved a survey of 79 practicing and preservice teachers, with similar group sizes between the two groups. Results overall were similar to previous research using an instrument assessing teacher efficacy for character education, with overall scores somewhat positive about teachers’ efficacy in this area. Descriptive results also suggested a possible pattern of slightly higher levels of efficacy for character education among preservice teachers as compared to practicing teachers, although the difference did not prove to be statistically significant. Teacher responses also indicated the importance of both personal and professional experiences in developing skills for supporting student development in this area.

How Teachers Approach Student Disengagement in Secondary Mathematics Classrooms Kelly Macko , Mathematics Education Thesis Advisor: Dr. Megan Staples

Boredom is a negative emotion which plagues the high school mathematics classroom, but there are strategies that teachers can use to try to decrease boredom and its negative effects. Once teachers identify that students are disengaged, strategies that increase self-efficacy and task value are used to decrease disengagement. In this study these strategies are classified as proactive or reactive. Seven teachers, three from an urban school and four from a suburban school, were interviewed and observed to identify which of the strategies are actively used. Both proactive and reactive strategies were used in both settings, with the proactive strategy of relating to the students’ lives and the reactive strategies of giving students an opportunity to engage being the most common. There was not a significant difference in the strategies used in the urban and suburban settings, but the methods used to implement these strategies varied slightly. While not all strategies were used, many of the researched methods of decreasing disengagement can be seen in the secondary mathematics classrooms.

Exploring Challenges and Barriers Faced by Educational Aid Organizations Operating in Sub-Saharan Africa Julie McGarry , English Education, and Paul Steller, Mathematics Education Thesis Advisor: Dr. Anysia Mayer

The deadline for the fulfillment of the Millennium Development Goals is 2015 and represents a unified effort through the United Nation to relieve the world’s people from poverty (United Nations Development Programme 2012). One goal calls for the achievement of universal primary education. This study seeks to identify the challenges and barriers faced by educational aid organizations operating in Sub-Saharan Africa (non-profits, NGOs, branches of UNESCO, etc.). Prior research shows that these challenges and barriers can be grouped into six critical success factors: achievement of gender equality, poor health, poor geographic location, the presence of armed conflict, low quality educational professionals, and the structural design of buildings. A survey was administered and responses made to represent action and confidence composite scores for each organization’s experience with each critical success factor. This study seeks to compare various organizations’ experiences with these factors and compare the findings with the literature. Additionally, the study seeks to compare experiences between and within organizations and establish any patterns. The results showed a moderate correlation of organizations’ action and confidence composite scores related to armed conflict as well as between the action and confidence composite scores of eight organizations.

Pre-Service Teachers’ Perspectives on Extrinsic Rewards, Motivation, and Student Autonomy Bridget O’Connor , English Education Thesis Advisor: Dr. Wendy Glenn

Intrinsic motivation is characterized by a willingness to complete a task out of internal interest, while extrinsic motivation describes the motivation to complete a task due to external pressures. Different types of rewards in the classroom can promote extrinsic or intrinsic motivation within students. This study examined Neag IB/M students’ attitudes on extrinsic rewards and student autonomy, and explored whether those attitudes affect how future teachers plan to reward students and motivate them in their future classrooms. The study also sought to determine if there is a dissonance between the types of rewards Neag IB/M students find most intrinsically motivating, and what they will be able to realistically implement in their own classrooms. Participants in the study were Neag School of Education Integrated Bachelor/Master Teacher Preparation students. Participants included juniors, seniors, and fifth-year students enrolled in the program during the Fall 2012 semester. Participants were given an anonymous online survey to determine their attitudes on extrinsic rewards and autonomy.

Hitting Both Ends of the Spectrum: Examining Neag IB/M Preservice Teacher Identification of Twice-Exceptional Students Kathryn Schneider , Elementary Education Thesis Advisor: Dr. Del Siegle

This study examined the willingness of juniors and master’s year preservice teachers in the Neag School of Education to recommend twice-exceptional students to a gifted program. Preservice teachers were presented with three different hypothetical student bios that contained descriptions of a gifted student, a nongifted student, and a possible twice-exceptional student. The preservice teachers ranked their willingness to refer these students to a gifted program. Of 193 total students in the Neag School of Education surveyed, 109 were juniors, and 84 were master’s year students. Preservice teacher responses were collected and examined using both qualitative and quantitative methods. Overall, the preservice teachers were significantly more willing to Definitely Recommend or Recommend with Reservations students who were just gifted or gifted with ADHD, and less likely to recommend students who had a learning disability in addition to their giftedness.

Practicing Teachers’ Self-Efficacy Beliefs Regarding their Use of Culturally Responsive Teaching Practices Margaret L. Seclen , Elementary Education Thesis Advisor: Dr. Catherine Little

Rapidly changing demographics in our country indicate that teachers are more likely today to encounter culturally and linguistically diverse students in their classrooms than at any other point in the last half-century. Culturally diverse students may often regard schools as alien and hostile settings because they find that some of the teaching methodologies are usually unfamiliar to them. Culturally responsive teaching (CRT) offers potential to effectively address these low levels of academic performance because CRT practices allow students to learn in meaningful ways by connecting classroom learning to students’ interests, prior experiences, and cultural backgrounds. CRT appears to be an appropriate pedagogical and instructional approach that can positively contribute to the learning and school experience of culturally diverse students. However, it appears that teachers may not be adequately prepared in CRT pedagogy and instruction, preventing them from properly addressing the needs of their culturally diverse students. This study explored practicing elementary school teachers’ perspectives on their own use of CRT practices and their confidence in implementing these same practices. As expected from previous research, teachers felt more efficacious in their ability to execute general teaching practices that do not necessarily require an in-depth knowledge of their students’ cultural background than teaching practices that do incorporate students’ culture.

A Comparative Analysis of Repertoire Selection Patterns for All-State Choral Music Christopher Wasko , Music Education Thesis Advisor: Dr. Catherine Little

Selecting concert repertoire is one of the most challenging components of teaching high school choral music, because the teacher must choose music that is both pedagogically valid and programmatically sound. Professional literature has cited several criteria for selecting quality repertoire, including a wide diversity of musical styles and genres, accurate representations of multicultural music, and music that is challenging but still accessible both to the singers and to the audience. This study juxtaposes these published criteria with patterns that emerge in the repertoire selections of All-State concert programs, which are assumed to use challenging and accessible music given the high-profile, competitive nature of the All-State program. The study focuses specifically on the prevalence of certain stylistic periods or genres, composers, and individual pieces, as well as whether or not a piece has accompaniment, English text, or is written or performed in the familiar Western choral tradition.

Brenna Claire Dunnack, Elementary Education Thesis Advisor: Dr. Elizabeth Howard Reading Instruction Strategies for English Language Learners in Dual-Language and Mainstream Classrooms

This study investigated the reading instruction strategies utilized in dual-language and mainstream classrooms. A review of literature that focused on strategies for English Language Learners, specifically Spanish-English bilinguals, provided a basis for the observations. Two classrooms, an English dual-language classroom and a mainstream classroom, in a school with a high English Language Learner population were observed for this study. The student researcher observed each classroom five times to determine the usage of reading instructional strategies. After observations were conducted, each teacher was interviewed to learn about their perceptions of working with ELLs. In addition, the Spanish dual-language teacher was interviewed. Both classrooms effectively utilized instructional communication and leveled questioning. The mainstream classroom utilized more comprehension strategies such as questioning and predicting during reading activities. The dual-language classrooms displayed vocabulary support by identifying vocabulary. However, some strategies were not utilized during observations. Reading instruction could include more modified materials to suit the needs of Spanish-English bilinguals. The instruction in the classrooms was more focused on phonics and decoding as opposed to comprehension.

Sarah E. Harris, Secondary Social Studies Education University Scholar Major Advisor: Dr. Catherine Little Associate Advisors: Dr. Preston Britner, Dr. Peter Baldwin, and Dr. Diane Quinn Educator Preparation to Respond to the Needs of Homeless Children & Youth: Perceptions of School Personnel

American poet John Howard Payne commented on a universal idea, writing, “Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home.” Yet, for 1.5 million children in the United States each year, Payne’s words fail to capture reality. As they move from shelter to shelter with their families or live in group homes while waiting to be placed in foster care, these children have no place to call home. With schooling that is inconsistent in location and in curriculum, and living conditions that are not conducive to homework and study, they often struggle to maintain academic achievement. Students experiencing homelessness need extra support from schools, yet too often they get “lost in the crowd.” This study examined educators’ perceptions of homelessness and the academic and social needs of homeless students, as well as the preparation that teachers and other school personnel report that they have received in pre-service preparation programs and through professional development opportunities to address the unique needs of homeless children and youth. The project explored educator preparedness to respond to this population of students, in connection with federal legislation and professional recommendations on the issue. Survey and interview data were collected from educators in four New England school districts, two small suburban districts and two larger urban districts. Survey data across all districts indicated that educators are confident in their roles as “mandated reporters.” Despite this general awareness, however, respondents indicated much lower levels of knowledge about the requirements of the McKinney-Vento Act, federal legislation that outlines schools’ responsibilities regarding the support of students in homeless situations. Interview data indicated that educators perceive school leadership and communication between school administration, faculty and schools as the most important factors in shaping schools’ response to this unique population. Data collected in this study have been used to create an online guide that will provide resources to help educators more effectively respond to the needs of homeless students.

Briana Hennessy , Secondary Mathematics Education Thesis Advisor: Dr. Megan Staples Getting to the “Why”: Teacher Practices that Support Sound Student Justifications

Though the mathematical and education communities both value justification and argumentation in the middle grades classroom, teachers have historically found these practices difficult to support.  This paper discusses teaching practices that are associated with high levels of mathematically acceptable argumentation by students. Data were collected on seven committed teachers who explored justification and then implemented the same justification task over two years. Thus, the data reflected fourteen different implementations of the same task, allowing us to compare lessons directly. The findings describe how teachers’ Focusing Students’ Mathematics and Providing Scaffolding Questions are consistently associated with high levels of justification, while Leveraging a Critical Classroom Community and Providing Task Specific Tools are only sometimes associated an increased level of justification in a classroom. There are implications for teachers wishing to implement their own justification tasks, and researchers wishing to further study justification at the middle school level.

Robert K Janes III, Secondary Mathematics Education Thesis Advisor: Dr. Megan Staples Bar Graphs and Baselines: Student Perceptions of Distortions in Real World Graphs

It is important for every educated member of our society to be able to read, comprehend, and interpret graphs. To that end, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) and the Common Core State Standards have endorsed a kindergarten through eighth-grade mathematics curriculum that is rich in data analysis and graphical literacy skills. These skills are important, as graphs in the public sphere may include certain features that can cause misperceptions of the data. Such features may be intentional or unintentional and can include non-zero baselines, representing data with extra dimensions, stretching and shrinking graphics, not displaying outliers, and more. It is unclear whether the recommended mathematics curriculum prepares students to accurately comprehend these kinds of common graphs. This study investigated how effectively the kindergarten through eighth-grade public mathematics curriculum prepares students to read graphs that contain distortions. It focuses on student perceptions of the data through interpretation of bar graphs. A survey instrument was created to measure student perceptions; it included multiple graphical comprehension questions about a set of bar graphs with zero baselines and others with non-zero baselines. The instrument was used to assess 159 ninth-grade students in a school in a New England suburb. Each student had successfully completed eighth grade. Students were asked to answer a variety of comprehension questions about graphs that accurately represented and misrepresented data. The results from this survey suggest that many students are susceptible to graphical misperceptions while comprehending a graph with a non-zero baseline. While the current curriculum gives students strategies to solve mathematically rigorous graph comprehension problems, it may not give students the skills to make  qualitative  conclusions about real world graphs. It is the hope of the researchers that this study may inform future curricula on a local and state level.

Kara LaMonica, Elementary Education Thesis Advisor: Dr. Mary Truxaw The Perceptions that Linguistically Diverse Students have Regarding Effective Mathematics Instruction

The study’s objective was to determine what strategies elementary aged students found effective when they were learning mathematics, with a particular focus on linguistically diverse students. This study compared the views of groups of linguistically diverse students and monolingual students regarding what strategies helped them learn mathematics. The linguistically diverse group of students was self-identified as having knowledge of a language other than English. This group is referred to as the SWALK (Students With Additional Language Knowledge) group.  This study also looked at how often teachers used the strategies that students identified as most effective. Teachers and students were given surveys that used a five point Likert scale. The surveys were designed to include strategies organized according constructs that were found in the research literature to be helpful for English language learners.  Experts validated surveys and constructs.  The constructs included the development of academic language, linguistic scaffolding, conceptual scaffolding, social scaffolding, and cultural scaffolding. Students were asked to rank how helpful they found a strategy, and teachers were asked to rank how frequently they used the same strategies.  Questions were grouped by construct, and means and standard deviations for each construct were examined for all groups and subgroups. The research found that students reported that conceptual scaffolding was the most helpful construct.  Teachers reported using most strategies very frequently, but the construct that teachers reported using most often was social scaffolding; interestingly, no group or subgroup of students reported social scaffolding as being the most helpful construct. Students reported that the least helpful construct was cultural scaffolding, which was also the construct that teachers reported using least frequently.

Julia Leonard, Special Education Thesis Advisor: Dr. Michael Faggella-Luby Changing Roles: Special Education Teachers in the Response to Intervention Model

In response to policy, research, and practice, the field of special education evolves to meet the demands of the current education system.  The most current educational model, Response to Intervention (RTI) has prompted changes in all aspects of special education service delivery. The purpose of this honors thesis is to provide quantitative and qualitative exploration of the changing roles of special educators as a result of RTI implementation. The study methods included a quantitative 48-question survey and a qualitative follow-up interview. The results from the study indicated that special education teachers perceive an increase in the amount of time they spend collaborating with others and assessing students. The results of the study also indicated changes related to the essential components of RTI including increases in universal assessments and progress monitoring. The qualitative analysis revealed additional themes related to job stress and general education accountability.

Dana Lovallo, Secondary Spanish Education Thesis Advisor: Dr. Manuela Wagner High School and University Students within the Spanish Classroom: Comparing Attitudes toward Native and Non-Native Spanish Teachers and Overall Preferences

This research study examined and compared student preferences within the Spanish classroom at both the high school and university levels.  Attitudes toward native and non-native Spanish teachers were also examined and compared.  A survey was administered to 347 high school and university students.  Data showed differences in motivation between the grade levels as well as different uses of Spanish, a variety of favorite activities within the classroom, and more.  Other subcategories were also explored such as the difference in preferences between the students who had native Spanish teachers and those who had non-native Spanish teachers as well as differences in attitudes based on the “level” of Spanish the students were taking.  This research can be used to help Spanish teachers become more aware of student preferences within the classroom and adjust instruction, boost teacher efficacy, influence language teacher preparation programs and more.

Juliana MacSwan, Elementary Education University Scholar Major Advisor:  Dr. M. Katherine Gavin Associate Advisors: Dr. Fabiana Cardetti, Dr. Tutita Casa, Dr. Catherine Little Kindergarten Mathematics:  An Observational Study of Learning Centers in Diverse School Settings

This qualitative research study investigated how centers were used in kindergarten math classes and students’ mathematical engagement and authority within centers in five classes field-testing the Project M2: Mentoring Young Mathematicians measurement and geometry units. Data were collected from three observations in each of the five classes as well as observations from trained professional development staff working on the field-test and teacher exit interviews.  Results indicated that in four of the five classes two-thirds of the centers related to the unit objectives and students spent over 90% of time in unit related centers.  There were a variety of centers using geometry and measurement activities to reinforce unit objectives that students engaged in across classes.  The main mitigating factors were the number of adults, transitions between centers, hands-on centers, and writing centers.  Results showed that providing students with mathematical centers related to the unit objectives can increase students’ mathematical authority in the classroom, giving students the opportunity to engage in the mathematics independently. Effective classroom management, a carefully designed and practiced center transition system, and one or two additional adults in the classroom promote the optimal student engagement and authority in mathematics.

Britteny McMullen, Secondary Mathematics Education Thesis Advisor: Dr. Alvaro Lozano-Robledo Perceptions of Peer Tutoring in a Post Secondary Setting

Research shows that peer tutoring has been effective in helping students learn mathematics in elementary school and middle school levels.  However, very little research has been done on the effectiveness of peer tutoring in a higher lever setting.  This purpose of this study was to learn about student perceptions on the effectiveness of peer tutoring on their own math classes and abilities.  The implications of this study present support that peer tutoring is very effective in post secondary math classes.

Rebecca Mears, Special Education Thesis Advisor: Dr. Brandi Simonsen Exploring the Use of Point Cards With and Without Home-School Communication for Students With Autism and Similar Disabilities

Research has shown that point cards are an effective Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) intervention.  Research has also demonstrated that communication between home and school leads to positive results for students.  This study investigated whether a home-school communication system, when added to the established use of a point card, decreased off-task behavior in students with autism and similar disabilities.  I conducted two experiments using a modified reversal design.  Two students and at least one teacher participated in each of the experiments.  Participants alternated between two forms of the point card, one incorporating the home-school communication system and one without.  For one student in the second experiment, the researchers also investigated if there was a functional relationship between the plain point card intervention and student off-task behavior.  Results indicate that there was not a functional relationship between home-school communication and the effectiveness of point cards with students with autism and similar disabilities: the point card with communication system did not lead to decreased off-task behavior when compared to the point card without the communication aspect.

David Pyrch, Secondary Mathematics Thesis Advisor: Dr. Tutita Casa Teachers’ Use of Real World Connections in Secondary Mathematics

This study investigated teachers’ use of real world connections in mathematics.  A survey was conducted with 29 practicing high school math teachers in Connecticut to determine what types of real world connections are used, how often they are used and what the purpose of their use is.  Teachers reported using word problems with realistic contexts and mentioning real world examples while teaching as the most frequently used type of real world connection.  Sixty percent of the teachers reported that the need for more resources, ideas, or training about what connections to make or how to make them is at least partly a reason for not making more real world connections.

Caroline Ronk, Elementary Education Thesis Advisor: Dr. Catherine Little Teachers’ Perceptions of Student Motivation for Achievement and Learning in the Classroom

Students’ self-perceptions and their perceptions of how others view them have a tremendous influence on their motivation and their achievement.  How students view themselves plays a large role in potential or lack of academic achievement. Teachers need to understand their students’ self-perceptions and be aware that teachers’ own perceptions of their students impact student achievement, performance, and goals. Through semi-structured interviews, this qualitative study aims to examine teacher perspectives on students’ varying achievement goal orientations and motivation and explore how teachers try to shape student motivation given these potential factors. Findings indicate that teachers observe several influences that affect student motivation for learning and achievement such as self-efficacy, personal relationships, connectedness to school, and school environment. Actions teachers take to shape student motivation include tracking student progress, setting high expectations, providing individualized instruction, and creating a positive and safe learning environment.

Danielle Schindler, Special Education Thesis Advisor: Dr. Catherine Little Teacher Approaches to Preparing Students Emotionally and Motivationally for Standardized Tests

Extensive attention has been given in recent years to the academic preparations students and teachers complete prior to standardized testing. However, somewhat less attention has gone to the strategies teachers use to respond to students’ stress levels or to ensure that students are sufficiently motivated to do well on tests. There is some research to demonstrate how teachers are trying to reduce test anxiety among students, yet the literature also suggests that teachers often use “fear appeals” to provide motivation. This study explores the degree to which teachers explicitly connect their strategies with students’ test anxiety and the ways teachers respond to student concerns regarding tests. Six elementary school teachers were interviewed about what they do to prepare students for upcoming tests. Results demonstrated that teachers have observed students with test anxiety in their classes and are using test-taking strategies and providing students with words of encouragement to try to reduce anxiety.

Eileen Stewart, Secondary History/Social Studies Education Thesis Advisor: Dr. Catherine Little Gifted Educators’ Perceptions of Response to Intervention

Response to Intervention (RTI) is a model that involves a school-wide effort to improve academic progress for all students. For students who do not respond to typical classroom instruction, they are moved through levels of intensive interventions and tiers that help them meet their individual goals. RTI can potentially be applied to the other outlying population of students, those who achieve significantly above the normal academic level. Students identified as gifted, or above average, have frequently not received instruction targeting their needs because their achievement levels lie above the level of their typically-achieving age peers. Looking forward to the future, some individuals propose using RTI to address the needs of students identified as gifted. This study examines gifted educators’ perceptions of RTI in order to better understand the future implications of RTI as applied to gifted education. This study examined gifted educators knowledge of RTI, whether they felt RTI was applicable to gifted education, self-confidence with RTI, and whether they were witnessing actual implementation in their schools. The results of this study support the idea that there is more research to be done in order to fully understand how RTI could be used within gifted education. Currently, many gifted educators are not witnessing RTI implementation in regards to gifted students, and many have not received professional development or training in terms of RTI within gifted education. However, the study demonstrated that gifted educators do desire professional development related to RTI.

Alexi Wiemer, Secondary Education and English Thesis Advisor: Dr. Del Siegle Examining Pre Service Teacher Knowledge of Student Rights and Tort Liability

This study explored how knowledgeable preservice teachers in the Neag School of Education at the University of Connecticut were in the field of student rights and tort liability. This field has grown in importance due to a recent increase in student lawsuits and the expectations that teachers know these laws when they become certified. A total of 183 students were given a survey in their education classes with 27 statements of famous misconceptions about student rights and tort liability. Students were asked to determine if these statements were true or false and how confident they were in their answer. The average percentage of correctly answered questions for student rights and tort liability was 59.15% and 50.27% respectively. There was no statistically significant difference for questions answered correctly based on differences in gender, major, or class standing. A total of 54% of students surveyed cited the Neag School of Education as their most common source of legal knowledge.

Examining Preservice Teachers’ Perceptions of Creativity John Ehlinger Elementary Education Thesis Advisor: Del Siegle

This study examined the attitudes of preservice teachers about creativity and compared them with those of inservice teachers. Preservice teachers completed an instrument that has previously been used to analyze inservice teachers’ perceptions of creativity, and results were compared to the norms of the instrument. Participants were taken from a population of junior year students accepted into the IB/M program in the Neag School of Education at the University of Connecticut. The participants completed a 37-question survey with 12 demographic/short answer questions. The hypothesis was that preservice teachers would value creativity and have higher hopes for the implementation of creative practices within their classrooms than teachers already practicing in the field. However, results showed that inservice teachers held a significantly higher creativity-based teacher self-efficacy, t(796) =6.209, p<.001, and societal value of creativity, t(796) = 8.802, p<.001, than preservice teachers.

The Role of Discourse in Students’ Learning in the Mathematics Classroom Ashley Ruegg Secondary Mathematics Eduction Thesis Advisor: Megan Staples

Research has shown that students in classrooms oriented toward conceptual discourse display higher levels of engagement and enjoy learning more than their peers in traditional classrooms. The study sought to investigate student learning, dialogue, and perceptions in classrooms oriented toward conceptual discourse. Do students in classrooms oriented toward conceptual discourse differ in their mathematical understanding from students in traditional classrooms? The study centered on two high-level seventh grade Pre-Algebra classrooms. One class was more oriented toward conceptual discourse than the other class. Throughout the course of the study, eight classroom lessons were observed, and 6 students were interviewed. The interviews consisted of mathematical problems designed to assess the students’ conceptual understanding and questions about the students’ opinions regarding mathematics and discourse. Classroom observations focused on the conceptual nature of student dialogue. Results indicated that the students in the class oriented toward conceptual discourse performed better on a common end-of-unit assessment than the students in the other class. As expected, the students in the classroom oriented toward conceptual discourse engaged in more conceptual dialogue than the students in the more traditional classroom. There was no discernable difference in the opinions about mathematics and discourse between the students in the two classes.

Middle School Students’ Perceptions and Conceptual Understanding of Reading Kelly Shea Secondary English Education Thesis Advisor: Catherine Little

Middle school students’ perceptions and conceptual understanding of reading were measured. A total of 1,371 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students in two urban middle schools in Connecticut took the Likert scale Perceptions of Reading Survey, which addressed students’ reading habits and definitions of reading and literacy. Analysis suggests that students’ conceptual understandings of reading are complex and context-based. Students perceive reading mostly as a school-related activity and are not likely to associate many forms of New Literacies with reading. Despite these limited definitions, these students have positive self-images of themselves as readers, and they believe reading to be useful for their future, entertainment, and daily lives. A correlation exists between perceiving reading as useful and exhibiting a range of reading habits. Perceiving reading as useful also showed a significant positive correlation with defining literacy as including not only comprehension but higher-level text analysis as well. Data from the Perceptions of Reading Survey were also compared to reading achievement data; results demonstrated a significant positive relationship between several subscales, notably the Self-Image subscale, and the achievement measures.

Elementary Students’ Attitudes toward Science: An Exploratory Study Tara Stockmon Elementary Education Thesis Advisor: David M. Moss

The objective of this research was to examine fifth grade students’ attitudes toward science at a grade 5-6 upper elementary school. A total of 236 participants completed a questionnaire titled the Simpson-Troost Attitude Questionnaire, Revised (STAQ-R; Owen, Toepperwein, Marshall, Lichtenstein, Blalock, Liu, Pruski, & Grimes, 2008), along with two additional open-ended questions developed for this study. Student attitudes were examined with respect to differences in gender and primary school attendance, along with any previous science-related experiences that may have influenced their beliefs. Data from the questionnaires were analyzed using descriptive statistics for each subscale. The five subscales included Motivating Science Class, Self Directed Effort, Family Models, Science is Fun for Me, and Peer Models. Reported averages indicated minimal gender differences, yet greater variation was seen among students grouped by primary school. Responses to the open-ended questions were coded based on students’ self-reported reasons for liking or disliking science. The majority of the students indicated they liked science, overwhelmingly citing the nature of science as the reason for their attitude. Examining student attitude toward science will serve to inform ongoing curricular reform initiatives.

The Effect of Study Abroad on Preservice Teachers Katherine Swedberg Elementary Education Thesis Advisor: Del Siegle

Study Abroad experiences are growing in popularity at leading U.S. college institutions. The University of Connecticut Study Abroad website states that “There is no better way to learn about yourself, expand your worldview, acquire marketable skills, and, importantly, develop the habits of mind and action that will prepare you to tackle the global issues facing our time.” Because these aims describe professional skills as well as individual growth, it is useful to survey individual students who take part in these programs and gather from them a retrospective account of what they have taken away from the experience. This study examined the effects of studying abroad on a group of education graduate students enrolled in the Neag School of Education. The researcher surveyed 8 of the 12 students who went abroad in the Fall of 2010 to London, England, with the Neag School of Education. Questions targeted a reflective process of what knowledge the preservice teachers were able to gain and what challenged them while abroad, as well as what effect this has had on their ideas of teaching for the future. Recommendations included adding a study abroad element as a requirement in the school to fulfill the multiculturalism and diversity requirement as well as to give their highly prepared teacher candidates the most comprehensive and embedded knowledge of how to be teachers of an increasingly diverse community of learners.

Reading Interests and Preferences Among Middle School Students Christine Barile Secondary English Education Thesis Advisor: Catherine Little

The purpose of this study was to explore patterns in the reading interests and preferences of middle school students. A 56-question survey was administered twice in a school year to 592 students in grades 7 and 8 in an urban school district in Connecticut. The surveys inquired about the students’ reading preferences across twelve different factors, and were analyzed on the basis of pretest vs. posttest as well as male vs. female reading preferences. The students’ topic preferences did not change significantly from the pretest (administered in September) to posttest (administered in April), but did differ significantly by gender. Females indicated a higher interest than males in reading about interpersonal relationships, human sciences, art, music, fantasy, and writing, whereas males indicated a higher interest than females in reading about money, technology, athletics, business, social studies, and mathematics. For both groups, money was the most highly preferred topic, and writing was the least preferred.

Relationships Between Participation in Out-of-School Time Activities and Urban High School Students’ Attitudes Toward School Kelly Kennefick Elementary Education Thesis Advisor: Rene Roselle

This study looked at the relationship between attitudes toward school and participation in out-of-school time (OST) activities for urban high school students. The study compared students’ attitudes toward school, their academic self-perceptions, and attitudes toward teachers and classes in relation to their participation in various OST activities. The study used the School Attitude Assessment Survey, a questionnaire using a Likert scale, and a participation survey about the activities the students participate in and for how many hours. Data indicated that students agreed with the positive academic self perception statements, as well as the positive statements towards their teachers and attitudes, but varied responses were found for the attitudes toward school statements. A recommendation to schools is to encourage students to participate in out-of-school time activities in order to receive potential positive benefits.

Experienced Teachers’ Views on Classroom Management: Investigating How Management Skills Are Learned Peter Macala Elementary Education Thesis Advisor: Del Siegle

Classroom management has repeatedly been found to be an area of struggle for beginning teachers, and it often takes several years for teachers to become comfortable with their management styles. Examining the ways that experienced teachers finally developed successful management strategies could help to inform methods of making novice teachers better prepared in their first professional years. This study looked at the classroom management practices of successful teachers and the way that these teachers developed their management styles. The researcher conducted and completed observations and interviews with 7 teachers over the course of 2 weeks. These teachers were nominated by their elementary principals as having exhibited exemplary classroom management techniques. The teachers that were interviewed in the study employed a variety of management techniques in their classrooms, which in turn were learned from a variety of sources. These sources included preparation programs, professional seminars, observations of other teachers, and intuition. Recommendations for future teachers included finding a variety of ways to observe classroom settings at a specific grade level, seeking opportunities to collaborate with other staff members, and having a plan to manage classroom behaviors prior to the start of the school year.

Reactions and Attitudes: How Elementary Male Students Described Their Summer Reading Experiences Allison Magdefrau Elementary Education Thesis Advisors: Catherine Little & Sally M. Reis

For approximately ten months of the year, children attend school. In that time, they will have gained knowledge and progressed, especially in their reading skills. The foundation of success in multiple content areas is dependent on one’s ability to read. During the summer, children’s experiences differ, and without the shared experience of school, the progression or regression of their reading skills will vary considerably. Educators, researchers, and parents need to think about the summer months and the implications that those months have on a child’s future academic success, because evidence suggests that many students lose ground on their reading skills during the summer without access to books or strong encouragement to read. Part of encouraging students to read involves allowing students the opportunity to express which book topics and genres interest them the most. This qualitative study was designed to explore aspects of the questions of what students read during the summer and what motivates them to engage in summer reading. Within that context, the study explored the following more specific research questions: How do students respond to receiving a bag of books to read during the summer? How do students describe their summer reading experiences? How do students’ choices for summer reading reflect their self-identified reading interests? Five boys were provided with books matching their expressed interests and contacted regularly over the summer. Results demonstrated that all five took advantage of the opportunity to read one or more of the provided books, and that the interpersonal contact with the researcher seemed to be an important influence on their decisions to read.

Teachers’ Views of Human Rights Education Sarah Stockmann Elementary Education Thesis Advisor: John Settlage

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) states that education should be “directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms… promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups.” This study surveyed 53 teachers on their views of Human Rights Education, including their familiarity with the concept, their self-efficacy with teaching it, and conditions that would increase the likelihood of their teaching it. The study found that, regardless of familiarity with the topic, years of teaching experience, or school location (urban/suburban), most teachers were open to teaching Human Rights Education. They did identify the need for better resources in the form of lesson plans, teaching materials, and professional training. In addition, support from other teachers, administration, and parents was felt to be important in order for them to undertake Human Rights Education. The best strategy to move forward with Human Rights Education would be to provide resources and support for teachers so that we can be living up to the expectations put forth in the UDHR.

Jennifer M. Jaruse Thesis Advisor: Brandi Simonsen The Functional Relationship between Type of Reinforcement (Verbal and Tangible) and Behavior for a Student with an Emotional/ Behavioral Disorder

This study looked at the functional relationship between type of positive reinforcement and problem behavior in a case study of a teenage student with an Emotional or Behavioral Disorder (E/BD).  The study compared the effectiveness of type of reinforcement (tangible, verbal or combined) that showed evidence of significantly decreasing a problem behavior in this student.  The study used an alternating treatment method; the student was presented with either a desired motorcycle picture (tangible item), behavior specific praise statements (verbal), or both reinforcers for 12 minutes per day.  Using a 30-second partial interval data sheet, the student’s behavior was coded, data were graphed, and visual analysis was used to determine which type of reinforcement implemented decreased the target behavior.  Following training, data indicated that all conditions decreased the problem behavior but tangible positive reinforcement had the most impact on decreasing the problem behavior of teasing peers and increasing positive social interactions.

Kelly Nicole Almeida, Secondary Mathematics Thesis Advisor: Del Siegle Motivation and Learning in Mathematics Pre-service Teachers

Based on a review of literature of conceptual and procedural knowledge and motivation, the purpose of this study was to test the relationship between conceptual and procedural knowledge and intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Thirty-eight education students with a mathematics focus (elementary or secondary) in their junior, senior, or fifth year completed a survey with a Likert scale measuring their preference in learning (conceptual or procedural) and their motivation type (intrinsic or extrinsic). Findings showed that secondary math-focused students were more likely to prefer learning mathematics conceptually than elementary math-focused students. However, secondary and elementary math-focused students showed an equal preference for learning mathematics procedurally and sequentially. Elementary and secondary students reported similar intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Extrinsically motivated students preferred procedural learning over conceptual learning. While there was no statistically significant preference with intrinsically motivated students, there was a trend favoring preference of conceptual learning over procedural learning. These results tend to support the hypothesis that math-focused students who prefer conceptual learning are more intrinsically motivated, and math-focused students who prefer procedural learning are more extrinsically motivated.

Scott J. Bonito, Spanish Education/Spanish Thesis Advisor: Manuela Wagner Motivational Factors Affecting Secondary Foreign Language Learners

The purpose of this research was to find what factors affected secondary foreign language learners in two schools in Connecticut. A 40-question Likert-style survey was used to gain student perspective on what they felt contributed to their level of motivation to continue foreign language study. The survey was given to students in one urban and one suburban school. There were three factors that came out significantly different during the study, using t tests comparing results from the two schools: parental use of language, level of intrinsic motivation, and classroom décor. Students in the suburban school rated intrinsic motivational factors and classroom décor more highly than students in the urban school, while students in the urban school indicated a higher rate of parental use of the language. It seemed, on a general scale, that a higher level of parental use of the foreign language didn’t necessarily contribute to a higher level of intrinsic motivation to take the foreign language, as students in the urban area (an area where the foreign language was used more often) had a lower level of intrinsic motivation. Further study to isolate these factors can be done using the basic information gleaned from this study.

Thomas J. Broderick, Secondary Social Studies Thesis Advisor: Rene Roselle Teacher Retention and Lived History

Teacher retention issues beleaguer the nation’s poorest schools. The poorest schools are often in urban centers and enroll primarily non-white students. Access to a qualified teacher is one of the best determinants to student achievement, and the ability of an inner-city, non-white school system to retain such teachers can only contribute to the district’s future success. The purpose of this qualitative study was to examine urban teacher retention through an individualized economic framework by interviewing two diverse urban educators. Through the results from a series of iterative, in-depth phenomenological interviews, this study provides information as to why teachers remain in urban schools and points to key characteristics of these individuals, including personal acceptance, a history of working with children, and personal awareness. This study finds that there is no replicable “model” set of characteristics for teachers who remain in the profession.  It suggests that teacher retention is a product of an individual’s lived history.  For administrators this study suggests that spending some time interviewing potential teachers about their personal lives would better indicate who will remain teachers down the line.

Shelly E. DeSisto, Secondary English Thesis Advisor: Jason Stephens Assessing Student Perceptions of Classroom Goal Structure and Autonomy Support: The Creation and Validation of a Vignette-Style Instrument

This study sought to create and validate a vignette-style measure of students’ perceptions of classroom goal structure and autonomy support.  Seventy-nine seventh grade students from a suburban middle school completed the newly developed four-vignette instrument. Each hypothetical vignette depicted, in varying degrees, two dimensions of classroom environment: achievement goal structures (mastery and performance) and level of student autonomy. Reliability analyses yielded strong alphas for all three scales across the four vignettes.  Results from the manipulation check indicated significant differences in perceived goal structures (mastery and performance) as intended but an unpredicted result for perceptions of autonomy support.  Specifically, students’ perceptions of classroom goal structures appear to moderate their perceptions of autonomy support in that classroom.

Elizabeth A. Hines, Special Education Thesis Advisor: Brandi Simonsen The Relationship Between Pictures and Problem Behavior for a Young Student with Autism

This study looks at the relationship between functional communication training using picture icons and problem behavior in a case study of a young student with Autism. The study used an alternating treatment method; the pictures were available to the student for 10 minutes and then were not available for 10 minutes during three phases of baseline, teaching, and maintenance. Using a 10-second partial interval data sheet, the student’s behavior was coded, data were graphed, and visual analysis was used to determine if a functional relationship was evident. Following training, data indicate that the presence of picture icons was related to a (a) decrease in problem behavior, (b) an increase in appropriately engaged behavior, and (c) an increase in correct use of the pictures to request a preferred item during both conditions.

Brian McDermott, Secondary Mathematics Thesis Advisor: Megan Staples The Impact of Cooperative Learning in Mathematical Problem Solving on High School Students

This study investigated students’ reactions to a cooperative learning environment by assessing their performance before and after being part of a cooperative group and by soliciting their opinions on cooperative work that they had just completed. Several instruments, including two surveys that used Likert-scale based responses, as well as Math Crossword puzzles, were used in this study. Participants completed an individual mathematical logic problem then had the chance to solve a similar logic problem as a member of a randomly assigned group. They then attempted to solve the first logic problem again, and the changes in individual student scores were noted. There was an increase in the number of students who correctly solved the individual mathematical logic problem after having been a part of the cooperative groups. There was also a strong connection between the students who provided incorrect answers to the individual problem during the second administration and the success of their cooperative group. The findings suggest that students who are part of successful cooperative groups are more able to perform well on individual tasks that are closely related to the tasks on which the group worked. The questionnaire used to measure student confidence before and after the cooperative group experience also showed that students were slightly more confident in their responses after having been a part of a cooperative team. Students’ written responses also indicated that they felt favorably about the chance to share thoughts and ideas with their peers before solving an individual problem. These findings suggest that teachers who provide a cooperative learning environment that is productive can expect students to approach individual mathematical tasks with a greater level of confidence and perform at a higher level on tasks on which they must work alone.

Marissa Meade, Elementary Education Thesis Advisor: Catherine Little Student and Parent Attitudes and Behaviors in Reading

This study explored reading attitudes and behaviors of the parents of elementary students, as a way of trying to determine connections between parental behaviors related to reading and their children’s attitudes toward reading. The study involved the development of an instrument to measure parent attitudes and behaviors; an instrument was piloted with a smaller group of parents and children and then tested with a larger group. The three factors the final instrument measures are personal interest, confidence, and reading interactions. The sample included a total of 99 parents of elementary aged children, in the two separate survey groups. The student participants in this study were the children of the adult participants, and were in the first through the fourth grades. The students completed a survey assessing their attitudes toward reading on two scales, their academic reading attitudes and their recreational reading attitudes. Results showed limited relationships between student attitudes and parent behaviors, which may be indicative of an issue with one or both instruments. Results of the parent survey alone indicated several patterns, including a negative correlation between the number of children in the family and the amount of time spent reading together by a parent and child. There was also a relationship between the birth order and the amount of time spent reading with a parent, which revealed that the children in this study who were the oldest in their families spent more time reading with a parent than children who were either middle children or youngest children. Additionally, children in this study who spent more time watching television than reading with a parent spent significantly less time reading overall than children who spent more time reading than watching television.

Aimee Pont, Elementary Education Thesis Advisor: Sarah Hodgson School Environments and Behaviors of Students on the Autism Spectrum

This study explores the relationship between the different environments within a school and the stereotyped behaviors of students with autism.  The study seeks to identify whether the behaviors of these students are similar or different in the different environments, testing the idea of environment as a stimulus for these behaviors.  The study is a naturalistic observational study, and a change in prevalence of these stereotyped behaviors during the duration of the study is not a focus of this study.

Nicole Smith, Elementary Education Thesis Advisor: Del Siegle The Mathematics Teaching Efficacy of Pre-Service Teachers: Exploring the Relationships with Mathematics Self-Efficacy, Attitude, and Courses Taken

Teachers’ beliefs about their own ability to influence student learning effectively have been shown to have a positive relationship with student achievement, as well as other positive student and teacher behaviors. Teachers with strong self-efficacy beliefs are more likely to be better teachers. The current study explores the factors that relate to the development of teaching efficacy for pre-service teachers just entering the beginning semester of their teacher education program. In the study, 48 education students reported their previous college mathematics course experience and completed a Mathematical Attitudes Survey, a Mathematics Self-Efficacy Scale, and a Personal Mathematics Teaching Efficacy Scale. Findings showed that previous course experience, attitudes towards mathematics, and mathematics self-efficacy all had a significant positive relationship with personal mathematics teaching efficacy. Between-group comparisons were also conducted using ANOVAs. Mathematics concentration majors reported higher levels of mathematics teaching efficacy, mathematics self-efficacy, and positive attitudes towards mathematics than non-mathematics concentration majors. For elementary and secondary education majors, the only difference found was in mathematics teaching efficacy, with elementary education majors reporting higher levels than secondary education majors. This type of information is crucial for teacher education programs that wish to improve the training and education of future teachers.

Danielle Tower, Elementary Education Thesis Advisor: Jaci VanHeest Relationship Between Athletic and Academic Success: A Pilot Study

This study aims to reveal that a competitive sports culture exists in the United States, and due to this sports culture and competitive disposition, student athletes are more motivated in academic endeavers. Previous research describes sports cultures; however, the current study investigated the factors impacting academic motivation and sport motivation. Furthermore, the interrelationship of these two factors was assessed. A qualitative approach, using semi-structured interviews with four high school varsity student athletes (two male; two female), was used as the tool in attempts to support these claims. The research hypothesis suggested that high school students who participate in the equivalent of college non-revenue sports, have a competitive disposition which also motivates them to perform well in school.

Donald E. Briere III, Special Education Thesis Advisor: Del Siegle The Effects of a Unified Sports Basketball Program on Special Education Students’ Physical, Social, and Global Domains of Self-Concept: Four Case Studies

This study sought to explore the effects of a Unified Sports basketball program on disabled students’ physical, social, and global domains of self-concept. The program included both disabled and non-disabled participants. Teams learned about and practiced the game of basketball twice a week (during their gym class) and then ventured to competitions across Connecticut to play against other schools. The competitions occurred towards the end of the program. Four students were involved in this study: three females and one male. The students’ disabilities varied and included mobile impairment, traumatic brain injury, and learning disabilities. The study used a pre- post-test survey approach, with a 32-item survey instrument. Each item measured one of the three domains of self-concept being studied. One-on-one interviews were also conducted by the researcher with each participant upon the participant’s completion of the Unified Sports basketball season. The participants’ high ratings on the pre-survey’s five-point scale limited room for growth on the post-survey. When both survey results and one-on-one responses were synthesized on the whole, the Unified Sports basketball program was shown to have a positive effect on students’ attitudes. All participants verbally expressed their highly positive feelings about the program, and all recommended that the program be continued in the future. Social self-concept demonstrated the most significant positive change, and physical self-concept showed the least.

Jeffrey Corbishley, Secondary Mathematics Education Thesis Advisor: Mary Truxaw Mathematical Readiness of Entering College Freshmen: A Comprehensive Exploration of Mathematics within Connecticut Public Universities and Colleges

A central goal of many college admissions officers in the United States is to admit entering students who are prepared for the college curriculum at their university or college. Professors within the universities and colleges are the people who determine the level of readiness, or ability to successfully perform well in college mathematics courses, for incoming students. The results from previous studies have shown that students in the United States rank below the international average in mathematics achievement at the end of secondary school. This implies that the United States as an entire entity fails to produce high-level mathematicians by the final year of secondary school. It is therefore important to see how well entering college freshmen are prepared for the rigor of college mathematics. This study attempted to answer the question of how well the students entering different universities and colleges throughout Connecticut meet the readiness expectations of professors and other faculty members who teach mathematics courses. Twenty-two faculty members from seven Connecticut colleges and universities responded to an online survey asking them to rate entering student skill level in key areas of the NCTM standards, to rate the importance of these constructs, and to comment on student areas of strength and weakness in mathematical readiness. Participants rated student readiness levels in the poor or very poor range in all skill areas, while also rating all of the skill areas as important to very important. Overall, participants do not view students as prepared for college mathematics. Implications for secondary mathematics education are discussed.

Katherine Elizabeth Ferrise, Elementary Education Thesis Advisor: Catherine Little Middle School Teachers’ Sense of Efficacy and how it Relates to Teacher Characteristics and School Profile

This study explored the concept of teacher efficacy, which includes the constructs of personal teacher efficacy and general teaching efficacy. Personal teacher efficacy is defined as a teacher’s personal belief about how successful he or she can be in gaining positive results with his or her own students. General teaching efficacy is defined as a teacher’s belief that the teaching profession as a whole is powerful enough to encourage learning regardless of a student’s background, economic status, or any external school factors. Previous research has demonstrated a positive relationship between teacher efficacy and student achievement. This study was performed in order to explore how teachers’ self-efficacy relates to other variables in the educational system, including overall student achievement in a district and individual teacher variables such as experience, grade level taught, and subject area taught. The aim of the study is to begin to develop understanding of these relationships so as to explore, in the future, ways to promote and support both teacher self-efficacy and student achievement. This study focused on teachers in two public middle schools. The sample consisted of 19 fourth to eighth grade teachers. Participants completed a survey assessing perceptions of general teaching efficacy and personal teaching efficacy. Descriptive statistics were calculated for the sample overall and for relevant subgroups. An independent samples t test revealed no differences between the teachers at the two schools, despite large differences in the school demographics and achievement results for each school overall. The only teacher characteristic that appeared to have a relationship to self-efficacy results was years of teaching experience. Across the sample, personal teacher efficacy scores were higher than general teaching efficacy scores, and scores throughout demonstrated moderately positive perceptions of efficacy. Although study results are not generalizable, further study of middle school teachers as a specific teacher population is recommended.

Sherryl Hauser, Secondary Mathematics Education Thesis Advisor: Catherine Little Relationship of Mathematics Self-Efficacy Beliefs to Mathematics Anxiety Much is being done to strengthen mathematics education and provide support for students, with the aim of improving mathematics performance. One approach to this effort involves considering the emotions and motivations that students bring to the classroom and that provide the context from which students perform. Some factors that may contribute to student performance are math self-efficacy, or students’ beliefs about their own mathematical abilities, and math anxiety, or feelings of uneasiness that students may experience in association with mathematics. This study examined the relationship between the two in undergraduate students enrolled in an introductory statistics course. As hypothesized, results showed that a significant inverse relationship exists between math anxiety and math self-efficacy. While no significant differences were found among age groups, the research uncovered differences between groups that perform at different levels in math classes, with students who reported higher grades in math courses also reporting higher math self-efficacy. Gender also played a role, as males exhibited higher levels of mathematics self-efficacy than females. Implications for practice are discussed, including directing more attention towards helping students both to increase their math self-efficacy and to lower math anxiety.

Kate Krotzer, Secondary Spanish Education Thesis Advisor: Mark Olson Student Interest and Participation in a Secondary Spanish Classroom

This study was an exploratory study that aimed to describe students’ interest levels and participation patterns in Spanish class. Participants were 17 students from a mid-sized, urban high school in New England. The participants completed a survey about their interest and appreciation for Spanish class. The participants were also observed in their Spanish classroom for their participation incidences, which were recorded for type and content. Interest level in Spanish class overall was found to be high for both males and females. For participation, there were more called on by name incidences than hand raising incidences and there were noted gender differences. The content for the majority of the participation incidences was for homework and grammar. No relationship was able to be determined between student interest level and participation; however, this study provides a means to describe student interest and their participation patterns which can be applicable in the classroom.

Linda Tran, Secondary Mathematics Education Thesis Advisor: Del Siegle Relationships among Male and Female Middle School Students’ Attitudes and Achievement in Mathematics

This study explored the relationships among sixth-grade students’ attitudes toward mathematics and achievement with regard to gender. Students’ attitudes toward mathematics were examined by using the Attitudes Toward Mathematics Inventory (ATMI), which gathered information about students’ self-confidence, value, enjoyment, and motivation in mathematics. Mathematical achievement was measured by student scores on the Iowa Algebra Aptitude Test and the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills. The results of the study showed that significant differences existed between male and female students’ achievement in mathematics. However, no significant differences between male and female students’ attitudes toward mathematics in any of the four constructs were indicated. Furthermore, there were no strong relationships found between students’ attitudes toward mathematics and achievement in mathematics.

Tara Tully, Elementary Education Thesis Advisor: Del Siegle Career Beginnings: Investigating the Impact and Effectiveness of College Preparation Programs on Elementary Students

Since the mid-1970s, college enrollment for White, non-Hispanic youths has increased significantly, jumping from only 33% in 1976 to nearly 45% in 1997 (Report of the National Postsecondary Education Cooperative Working Group on Access to Postsecondary Education, 2001). According to this USDOE report, students from historically underrepresented minority groups have not shared in this substantial growth in college-going rates. As a result, a number of initiatives, such as the Hartford Consortium for Higher Education’s Career Beginnings program, have been developed to help facilitate underrepresented student populations’ transition to college. Career Beginnings, like many other college-access programs, has traditionally been marketed towards high school juniors and seniors, although it has recently begun to target its campaign at a significantly younger audience. Partnering with various Connecticut colleges and universities, Career Beginnings has begun sending fifth grade students to tour these establishments. This study aimed to investigate the effectiveness of these advanced intervention programs by comparing Hartford fifth graders’ thoughts on college before and after a March 31, 2006, visit to the University of Connecticut. After the visit, students indicated they knew more about college and were more likely to believe that they could be successful in college. Males’ confidence in being successful in college grew more than females’ confidence. Students whose family members had not attended college showed the greatest drop in not knowing about college. Overall, the students indicated more positive attitudes about college attendance.

Erica Berg Secondary Education – English Thesis Advisor: Courtney Bell

This Was Not on the Syllabus! An Examination of First-Year Urban Teachers’ Self-Efficacy

Many first-year teachers find it difficult to meet the needs of all their students, partially because they feel their college coursework left them ill-prepared for the complexity they face in the classroom. This feeling is particularly true among urban teachers who often face crowded classrooms of diverse students with a wide range of instructional needs. This study is a comparative case study of two University of Connecticut graduates during their first year teaching in urban schools. Using mixed-methods, the study draws on interviews, questionnaires, and videotape data shared as a part of a monthly teacher study group of similar graduates. The study also draws on group conversations in which teachers discussed their ability to reach the needs of all of their students, as this was related to their preservice coursework. My findings suggest that many first-year teachers feel university coursework failed to help them in many ways. One teacher felt the coursework did not help her at all, while the other teacher felt it helped her but she still could not meet all of her students’ needs. The study supported the concern that many first-year, urban teachers do not feel confident in the classroom as a result of their preparation from preservice coursework. With this lack in confidence, the teachers may be more likely to leave their urban positions, contributing to the high turnover of teachers in urban placements.


Elizabeth Condon Secondary Education – Science Thesis Advisor: Del Siegle

Why Education Students Believe They Underachieve

One hundred fifty-eight junior and senior pre-service teachers (UConn education majors) completed a 20-question survey on which they indicated reasons for doing poorly in classes. A factor analysis on the 20 reasons for underachievement produced a six-factor solution. Reliability analysis of the factors resulted in the selection of three factors: Poor Academic Skills, Lack of Importance, and Inability to Concentrate. Males were more likely than females to indicate that poor academic skills and lack of importance were reasons for attaining poor grades. There were no differences between juniors and seniors or among elementary, middle, and secondary prospective teachers.

Rebecca Curtin Special Education Thesis Advisor: E. Jean Gubbins

Effects of Music Therapy on Children with Autism

Autism is a serious developmental disorder with onset in early childhood. The disorder is characterized by repetitive and restricted patterns of behavior, impairments in social interaction, and an inability to communicate effectively. Music therapy has been shown to be a successful means towards improving these deficits. Most people with a diagnosis on the autism spectrum have been reported to respond positively to music, making it an excellent therapeutic tool. This honors thesis reviews the current literature on the practice of music therapy within autistic populations. This honors thesis also seeks to determine if there is consistent research to support the use of music therapy as a way to increase social interaction and communication skills in individuals on the autism spectrum.

Elyse Davis Secondary Education – Mathematics Thesis.Advisor: Catherine Little

Differentiation in the Mathematics Classroom: Teacher Practices and Perceptions

The purpose of my thesis was to explore current methods of differentiation being used to respond to the needs of gifted mathematics students in grades 2-4 in an urban school district. Specifically, the study used a survey to explore the frequency of teachers’ self-reported use of a variety of specific instructional methods in mathematics with both average students and gifted students, with comparison of the mean differences in strategy usage with the two groups. In addition, through literature review and expert interview, the study explored the supports and barriers to differentiation for advanced students in elementary mathematics classrooms. Eight teachers completed the survey. Across the group teachers indicated relatively infrequent use of all instructional strategies on the survey, and there was little distinction between strategies used with gifted students and those used with average students. Strategies used somewhat more frequently included selected questioning and thinking strategies; however, it was uncle whether teachers used these strategies to respond specifically to student differences. Survey results echoed interview comments and previous research regarding the infrequent use of differentiation strategies, particularly those strategies requiring more preparation and those specifically suited to the needs of the gifted.

Stephanie Eleck Elementary Education Thesis Advisor: Sally Reis

Students’ Perceptions of Renzulli Learning Systems

In this study, students’ use of and reactions to Renzulli Learning System (RLS) were examined. RLS is an online profiling system, assessing students’ interests, learning styles, and product styles and matching them to a unique, individualized database of enrichment activities. Of particular interest in this study were students’ interests in the use of RLS with project ideas to extend their learning. Data were collected using questionnaires and student observations. Findings suggest that students enjoyed using RLS in school and that the majority had ideas for projects using RLS. Students who used RLS had positive experiences in learning about their own interests and furthering their learning using planned enrichment activities.

Jenna Ferrara Elementary Education Thesis Advisor: Catherine Little

Preservice Teacher Preparation in Meeting the Needs of Gifted and Other Academically Diverse Students

The issue of how to respond to the diverse academic needs of students is one of the central challenges of teaching. For my Honors Thesis, I conducted a project to study how preservice teachers develop an awareness of the needs of academically diverse learners and how they intend to implement and/ or modify instruction to meet those needs. Participants were preservice teachers from one university. They were surveyed to investigate (a) their attitudes and beliefs towards academically diverse learners; (b) the teaching practices they would utilize in response to academic diversity in their classrooms; and (c) the confidence they have in their abilities to identify and address these various needs in their classrooms. Several strategies, including activities to enhance creativity, cooperative learning, individual instruction, problem-solving activities, and projects, were indicated by participants to be appropriate for all students. Small differences were found based on the preservice teachers’ year of placement in the School of Education, indicating that as students progress through this program, they may learn more about different techniques and when and for whom they are appropriate; hwever, differences across groups were not statistically significant. Results also indicated that across the different years in the program, preservice teachers did not have very high or very low confidence in addressing these issues in their own classrooms. Each grouping of preservice teachers scored around the midpoint on the confidence scale.

Jillian Klapatch Secondary Education – English Thesis Advisor: E. Jean Gubbins

Analysis of Reading Strategies Used by High School Juniors

The purposes of the study were to determine to what extent students are strategically active when reading text for literatqre/English class and to find out if there is a correlation between reading strategy use and motivation to read. Four classes of Juniors in a suburban high school completed the survey about reading strategies used in English and literature classes. Students were also asked to respond to a four-question survey about their motivation to read. Oerall, students do not use reading strategies to a large extent. Some strategies were used more than others, and the use might differ based on content area. High achievers were more likely to use the strategies more frequently, but the differences in percentage of use were not vast. The results indicate that there was a low correlation between reading strategy use and motivation to read. Motivation correlated with Self Reflection Strategies but not with Monitoring While Reading and Post Reading Evaluation Strategies. The data gathered about motivation indicate that motivation and enjoyment are moderately correlated, but reasons such as grades, parents, and college did not have a strong relationship with overall motivation.

Danielle Maher Secondary Education – English Thesis Advisor: Wendy Glenn

Gender and Literacy: The Student Perspective

The purpose of the study was to further research regarding how boys and girls feel about the gender gap in reading and literacy, or if they do not believe there is a gender gap at all. The study was also designed to find out how these students feel about their own individual performance in reading. It examined students’ perceptions of themselves as readers in comparison to their own gender, as well as the opposite gender. The research questions that guided this study were as follows: (1) Do boys and/ or girls believe one gender enjoys reading more than the other? (2) Do boys and/ or girls believe one gender is naturally better at reading than the other? (3) How do boys and girls feel about how gender affects interest and performance in English class? (4) Where do these student opinions originate? The study was conducted with the cooperation of 46 randomly selected students at Johnston Middle School located in a suburban Connecticut town. Surveys about gender and reading were completed by all 46 participants. Three boys and three girls were randomly selected from the group to participate in individual interviews that also probed student understandings with respect to gender and reading. The data from the surveys and interviews were organized and analyzed in tables and charts according to general themes that emerged. It was discovered that many of the perceptions students held regarding gender and reading were not necessarily true. For example, a majority of boys and girls believed that girls pleasure read more during both the school year and the summer than boys do. In actuality, girls and boys reported pleasure reading the same amount during both the school year and the summer. Implications for the study include the importance for expanding educator and student knowledge about the stereotypes that exist among students regarding gender and reading and the origins of those stereotypes. It is important to recognize these stereotypes in order to understand how the students see a division between genders. If these stereotypes are ever going to be overcome, they first need to be recognized. Secondly, educators should be aware of the integral part that book choice plays in a student’s motivation to read. Lastly, educators and parents have to be aware that· how students feel about themselves as readers in comparison to their peers affects self­efficacy and motivation to read.

Stacy Marcus Special Education Thesis Advisor: Joseph Madaus

Asperger Syndrome: Historical Developments and Current Trends

Asperger syndrome is a condition that affects the way a person communicates and relates to others. Although Aspergei syndrome is a disorder on the Autism spectrum and it shares a number of common traits with autism, including difficulty in social relationships and limited imagination and creative play, people with Asperger syndrome usuaily have fewer problems with language than those with autism. People with Asperger syndrome are often of average or above average intelligence. Asperger syndrome was classified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV in 1994; thus, the research on Asperger syndrome is only beginning. As a result, the nature of this puzzling social disability is largely unknown. Furthermore, the number of individuals being diagnosed is rising, creating new challenges in schools. This honors thesis summarizes research presently available on Asperger syndrome and considers current trends and educational implications.


Emily McCoy Special Education Thesis Advisor: Joseph Madaus

Obsessive Compulsive Perfectionism

Obsessive Compulsive Perfectionism or’ OCP has become a very well-known disorder seen in individuals in the United States. Perfectionism falls on a continuum of beneficial or good to negative or harmful forms. The positive form of perfectionism can drive an individual to accomplish great things, whereas the negative form can hinder normal, everyday actions and paralyze an individual. In this form, perfectionism is the irrational belief that a person and his or her environment must be perfect, and it causes individuals to strive to be the best, to reach the ideal, and’to never make a mistake. High levels of perfectionism have been observed in individuals with eating disorders and individuals suffering from depression; the disorders appear to be linked.Institutions throughout the United States are seeing a rise in both males and female patients suffering from Compulsive Perfectionism. The disorder has become more prominent in the field of mental disorders and thus more research is being conducted to determine the symptoms, any causes, and the harmful and helpful effects of the disorder.

Katherine Rinaldi Elementary Education Thesis Advisor: Catherine Little

Acts of Friendship: An Examination of the Interpersonal Relationships of a Child with Autism within an Inclusive Classroom

Research has indicated that children with autism display socially inappropriate behaviors in their interactions with others (American Psychiatric Association; Scheuermann & Webber; & Simpson and Myles, cited in Simpson, de-Boer, & Smith-Myles, 2003). Yet, it is critical for all children to have the opportunity to forge peer relationships (Bagwell, Newcomb, & Bukowski, 1998). High-functioning children with autism must be placed in environments in which peer interactions are available. However, this integration must be carefully organized because of the special needs of the child. The type of environment, the extent to which the environment is monitored, and the amount of information disclosed with regard to the child’s disorder all must be considered (Cole, Vandercook, & Rynders, 1988; Ochs, Kremer-Sadlik, Solomon, Sirota, 2001; Simpson, de Boer-Ott, & Smith-Myles, 2003). This case study of one 8-year-old child with autism used classroom observations and interviews with the parent and school personnel to examine interpersonal relationships, specifically focusing on acts of friendship. An act of friendship is defined as the behaviors of two or more children who engage in play, partake in conversations, and/or help those in need (Gross 2002). The collected data were analyzed using the procedure of inductive data analysis. Each category of data was reviewed in order to acquire a general sense of the information and to consider its greater overall meaning. Next, a list of all occurring topics was generated and coded. The data were then interpreted to formulate generalized assertions. Interviews and a questionnaire revealed that the adult participants held differing perspectives as to what constitutes friendship. Due to these varying perceptions, the degree to which the child’s interactions were viewed as positive or negative in nature differed respectively among the adults. Observations of play indicated that the child with autism initiated a greater number of acts of play with her peers than they did with her. The issue of children with autism forging interpersonal relationships within an inclusive class requires further examination. Future research possibilities include the study of inclusive classroom transitions, maturational issues, and the special needs child’s own perception of friendship.

Mary Serrell Elementary Education Thesis Advisor: Del Siegle

A Case Study Investigating Literacy Activities in the Home

A large body of research documents the positive influence of routine involvement in literacy activities on young children’s achievement. Studies have researched the impacts of home environments in which the quantity and diversity of print is rich, and in which there are extensive opportunities to participate in literacy activities. Yet, not all parents and guardians are aware that they should not just be reading to their children but involving their families in fun and creative literacy activities. In this research, the results of qualitative interviews are reported and numerous new literacy activities that engage young children based on these interviews are proposed.

Amanda Vogel Special Education Thesis Advisor: Catherine Little

Effective Reading Instruction in Elementary Classrooms: Promoting Strategies that Respond to Student Needs and Interests

Reading instruction is crucial to all students’ education, and it has implications on an individual’s entire academic and personal life. Educators face a variety of challenges as they consider how best to provide literacy instruction to their students, because of the large number of differing instructional principles, pedagogies, and methods for teaching reading. The focus of this thesis was an in-depth literature review of effective reading instructional practices in elementary schools, with key :findings including emphasis on the need for appropriate texts, adequate time with texts, suitable reading tasks, and dedicated teachers. The review was paired with an exploration of the key component of responding to student interests. Students’ reading interests were studied through a reading interest survey completed by 158 elementary students participating in a voluntary after-school program. The data indicated that a majority of students in this study have positive attitudes about reading and that they have clear interest in specific types of books and literacy activities. Preferred book genres within the sample included novel/ chapter books, fantasy books, mystery books, and scary books, while preferred activities included talking about the book with a friend, creating a game or puzzle, writing a story or poem, and watching a movie about a book that was read. Research on literacy instruction suggests that such interests can be incorporated into literacy activities and text selection as a way of promoting effective reading instruction.

Courtney Worcester Secondary Education – History Thesis Advisor: Alan Marcus

”I Have a Normal Life, They Definitely Did Not”: How Students Identify With History Through Feature Films

Students’ identification with history, one way of supporting a student’s historical understanding, has become an important goal for history teachers. Helping students to identify, or see themselves in history, typically not only catches students’ interests but also affects how they evaluate historical events and figures. While the ways in which students identify with history through print sources and photographs have been widely studied, my research, a part of a larger study performed by Dr. Alan Marcus, looks at how students identify with historical figures portrayed in film. With the increase in teaching aids throughout the past decade, including VCRs and projectors for educational use, teachers now have the technological capacity to show more films in the classroom. Knowing how students identify with films will help teachers choose films in a more purposeful and meaningful way. To explore the question of student identification with film,1 analyzed student survey responses to a variety of feature films shown in two history classrooms, one in an urban district and another in a suburban district. The two most common ways students identified with the films wre with regard to their personal experiences, or more specifically their struggles, and their values. These :findings were contrary to previous research based on print sources, which found that students identified with characters of their own ethnicity and gender. This may reflect the fact that unlike a person in a photo, a character portrayed in film is more than just a face without a voice. It is very apparent that they are involved in problems and react according to their values. For teachers, it is important when choosing films for history classes to understand the struggles students face’ everyday and their values; this may make the difference between providing an experience through which students identify with history and one in· which they do not.

Teresa Yelenik Elementary Education Thesis Advisor: M. Katherine Gavin

An Examination of Gender Differences in Mathematics Performance by Fourth Grade Students in an Innovative Gifted Mathematics Program

Over time gender differences in mathematics performance have decreased, yet they have not vanished. In particular, males continue to outperform females in mathematics on standardized tests (e.g., National Assessment of Educational Progress [NAEP], 2005; Trends in International Math and Science Study [TIMSS], 2003). Studies have been conducted in the hope of finding ways to increase female mathematical performance. Research has shown five components of classroom instruction that increase females’ performance in mathematics. The five strategies include the use of writing, the use of practical problems, verbal discourse, the use of manipulatives, and cooperative group work (e.g., Gurian & Henley, 2001; Sadker & Sadker, 1994). This study examines gender differences in mathematical achievement of fourth grade males and females participating in an innovative gifted mathematics program, Project M3: Mentoring Mathematical Minds. The goals of the program include the five components, listed above, that have been shown to increase girls’ mathematics performance. The subjects, ninety males and eighty-nine females, began participating in the program in third grade and were fourth graders at the time of this study. The students were from ten schools, eight in Connecticut and two in Kentucky. The schools were of varying socio-economic status, with seven considered as low socio-economic status. All of the students were identified as having mathematical talent potential. The participants were given two pretests at the beginning of their fourth grade year, the mathematics section of the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills and a mathematics open-ended response assessment. At the end of their fourth grade year the students were given the same two tests as a post-assessment. The scores were examined from pre to post in search of growth and gender differences. The results of this study found significant growth in mathematical achievement and mathematics open-ended response achievement from pre- to post-testing .. There were no gender differences in scores found on either one of the tests. There were also no significant gender differences in the amount of growth, pre to post, on either one of the tests. The results of this study support the five research-based ineans of improving females’ mathematics achievement. It appears that the goals of Project M3 are working since all students in the program, both male and females, are improving from pre- to post-testing. The fact that this study shows no gender differences among participants in the program is also encouraging, perhaps suggesting a means of improving all students’ mathematical achievements.


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  1. Honors Theses

    Introduction What is an honors thesis? That depends quite a bit on your field of study. However, all honors theses have at least two things in common: They are based on students' original research. They take the form of a written manuscript, which presents the findings of that research.

  2. PDF Writing and Defending an Honors Thesis

    The structure and specific sections of the thesis (abstract, introduction, literature review, discussion, conclusion, bibliography) should be approved by the student's faculty advisor and the Honors Council representative. The thesis should have a title page, as described in the preceding paragraphs (section II.1.10). 2.

  3. How to Write an Undergraduate Honors Thesis

    In this article, I share 10 hard-earned pieces of honors thesis wisdom, including how to find a supervisor, choose a topic, and structure your paper. An honors thesis is basically just a long research paper. Depending on the department, your paper may be required to be anywhere from 40-60 pages long.

  4. PDF Honors Thesis Guide 2019

    Congratulations on embarking an Honors Thesis project! Your thesis is a synthesis of at least two semesters of independent research and represents one of the most important documents you will write at UC Berkeley. It is critical that you turn in your very best work. This guide is designed to help you write your Honors Thesis.

  5. How do I choose a topic and supervisor?

    Before applying for Honours, you'll need to choose a thesis topic and find an academic staff member within the school who agrees to supervise your project. Once you've chosen your topic and a supervisor, you'll write a short Research Proposal setting out your ideas to attach to your Honours application.

  6. Honors Thesis Guidelines

    An Honors Thesis in English. An English honors thesis in scholarly research and interpretation should be an ambitious, well-researched, in-depth study focused on a topic chosen by the student in consultation with the thesis supervisor. An English honors thesis in creative writing should be a sophisticated and well-crafted creative project ...

  7. How to Choose a Dissertation Topic

    Step 2: Choose a broad field of research. Step 3: Look for books and articles. Step 4: Find a niche. Step 5: Consider the type of research. Step 6: Determine the relevance. Step 7: Make sure it's plausible. Step 8: Get your topic approved. Other interesting articles. Frequently asked questions about dissertation topics.

  8. Writing an Honors Thesis

    The requirements for writing an Honors Thesis in Philosophy include. having taken at least five PHIL courses, including two numbered higher than 299; having a total PHIL GPA of at least 3.5 (with a maximum of one course with a PS grade); and. successfully completed an Honors Contract associated with a PHIL course; taken and passed a 400-level ...


    The honours experience in turn gives you an idea of what postgraduate education or a career in academia involves. A thesis also serves as a solid grounding in a particular topic that can be developed further at the Master's or Doctoral level. IDENTIFYING A RESEARCH TOPIC The process of finding a research topic is different for every honours ...

  10. How To Choose A Research Topic For A Dissertation

    Step 5: Narrow down, then evaluate. By this stage, you should have a healthy list of research topics. Step away from the ideation and thinking for a few days, clear your mind. The key is to get some distance from your ideas, so that you can sit down with your list and review it with a more objective view.

  11. Writing an Honours Thesis Proposal

    How to Write Your PhD Proposal: A Step-By-Step Guide Dr. Qais Faryadi Download Free PDF View PDF Otolaryngology online From Proposal to defense: Navigating the Thesis Writing Process 2023 •

  12. Honors & Theses

    The Honors Thesis: An opportunity to do innovative and in-depth research. An honors thesis gives students the opportunity to conduct in-depth research into the areas of government that inspire them the most. Although, it's not a requirement in the Department of Government, the honors thesis is both an academic challenge and a crowning ...

  13. Part 1

    Part 2 - Choosing a Topic. Part 3 - The Readings. Part 4 - Presenting Your Thesis. ... The Honours Thesis module is basically an Independent Study Module, stretched out for a whole Academic Year, and worth 15MCs. You choose a topic, choose a supervising professor (and hopefully they accept), and you just write a whole essay on the topic ...

  14. PDF McGill University Department of Linguistics

    Students in this program must also write a thesis, which addresses a topic common to both fields. The Linguistics half of the thesis course is LING 481. This document is intended to give you some general advice on writing a thesis. Except where indicated, this advice applies to both Honours and Joint Honours students.

  15. Understanding honours

    Honours provides an opportunity to work on an independent but supervised research project and is usually completed as one year full-time study (some disciplines offer part-time options). Under the guidance of an academic supervisor, you will choose a thesis topic, create a reading list and identify your method of research.

  16. Choosing a Topic and Mentor

    The Honors Office has a collection of theses that we have funded the past. They cover a range of topics and are a great way to get an idea of the structure, style and breadth of focus of a typical thesis. Visit the library in Washburn Observatory to page through the thesis books! If you are planning (or required) to write a thesis proposal ...

  17. How to choose a PhD topic

    PhD Candidate. Chelsea believes choosing your research topic begins with, well, research. "Read widely on the general field that you're interested in," she says. "Identify the things that really spark your interest and where you can find research gaps - that is, where there are still things we don't know.". Sarah agrees and ...

  18. How to Choose a Topic for Your Thesis: Easy Steps & Tips

    1. Write down your main interests related to your field of study. Since you'll likely spend 2 years or more working on your thesis, it's best to pick something that interests you. Plus, this topic could shape the path you take in the future by directing where you go for your further studies or what type of job you get.

  19. Honours Thesis Handbook

    Those choosing to do the honours thesis over two terms will enrol in PSYCH 499A/B in 4A and PSYCH 499C in 4B. Alternative sequencing (e.g., 499A/B/C over three terms) should be discussed with the thesis supervisor. Although students can start an honours thesis in any term, the Fall term is typically recommended.

  20. Honors Thesis Topics

    Honors Thesis Topics. Listed below are previous Neag School of Education Honors thesis topics from 2006 to present: 2023. Jannatul Anika, Secondary Biology Education. Thesis Supervisor: Catherine Little. Expanding Teacher Diversity and Learning Achievements: Understanding and Supporting the Teaching Career Decision Making of Minoritized Students.

  21. How to Come Up With a Thesis Topic

    A good thesis topic is a general idea that is in need of development, verification or refutation. Your thesis topic should be of interest to you, your advisor, and the research community. If it is not, it may be difficult to stay motivated or to "sell" the idea. When searching for a topic, remember that your thesis should attempt to solve a ...

  22. Topics for undergraduate honours thesis? : r/psychologystudents

    The actual topic will come from what you find in the lit review. You'll read lots and lots of past research and find that this usually results in that, but no-one has ever tested the results of x. So, you'll fill that gap. An honours thesis is obviously constrained by time, so you shouldn't pick a specific topic just yet. You'll need to discuss ...

  23. Choosing a Thesis Topic

    It's hard to choose a topic that's feasible enough for your lab report. It can be really difficult to brainstorm an idea for your creative writing class. But we all know our honors thesis is a whole new beast. The word thesis even sounds scary; it covers so much ground that Webster has four definitions for the word.

  24. Suci Utami Nurwidia on Instagram: "Never imagined finishing my MSc in

    444 likes, 58 comments - auchys on November 11, 2023: "Never imagined finishing my MSc in Paris during the final of an international business competitio..."