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Commonwealth Honors Project Guidelines

2013-2014 Academic Year

Introduction  |  The Process  |  Download Forms  |  2013-2014 Honors Thesis/Project Schedule


Every student in the University Honors Program must complete an Honors thesis or project in order to graduate as a Commonwealth Scholar. Your project may take the form of a research project, a critical or philosophical analysis, a computer program, a performance, an art exhibit, a public service project, or any other original work that makes a significant contribution to your field of study. By undertaking and completing an Honors thesis or project, you will demonstrate your ability to work independently in your chosen field—precisely the quality sought by all employers and graduate school admissions committees.

Work on the thesis/project typically takes place over two consecutive semesters, beginning in either the second semester of the junior year or the first semester of the senior year, but single-semester projects are also possible. The thesis/project may simultaneously fulfill a college or departmental thesis or capstone project requirement. Typically, students earn three academic credits per semester for thesis/project work, but the number of credits may be higher or lower if your college or department has different requirements. You may take thesis/project credits in a major department or in the Honors Program, where HON 490 and 491 are set aside for this purpose. Important note: Credits earned for work on the thesis/project cannot be counted toward the minimum 15 credits of Honors coursework required for graduation as a Commonwealth Scholar.

If the project is a traditional thesis, its scope and length should reflect the norm for undergraduate theses in your major field. It should be written or otherwise presented in a professional or academic style characteristic of the subject matter or discipline of the thesis, and it should contain documentation that is appropriate to the field. If the project is a performance, presentation, exhibit, or public service project, it should be of sufficient scope and quality to demonstrate competence in the field. Your thesis/project advisor will help you to determine what is appropriate for your field.

Some theses are entirely written, while others, such as those in the visual or performing arts, consist of both written and non-written components. However, all theses and projects should have a written component, which includes the following elements:

  • the purpose of your project, such as the question addressed or artistic goal;
  • a review of what has been done before, such as the prior literature on a research topic, or an analysis of previous artistic works and traditions that set the stage for your current project;
  • a written description of your individual work, which may include visual illustrations;
  • an explanation and discussion of your own individual contribution to the field in which you have chosen to work, including policy recommendations and/or suggestions for future work.

Finally, all theses or projects must be presented at least once in an appropriate public venue. This can take the form of a traditional thesis defense before the student's committee, a public performance or display, and/or conference presentation. All students are encouraged to present their theses or projects at the annual Commonwealth Undergraduate Research Conference at UMass Amherst. All graduating Commonwealth Scholars are required to present their projects in poster format at Honors Convocation in May. The Convocation poster presentation alone is sufficient to meet the Honors Program’s requirements, but your supervisor may require an additional presentation. In practice, most Commonwealth Scholars present their work in more than one public venue prior to graduation.


The Process

The Faculty Supervisor

You should begin by identifying a faculty supervisor. Your supervisor or advisor (the terms are used interchangeably) must be a member of the UMass Dartmouth faculty, and most often will be a member of your major department. At this stage of the process, you should also begin reading and conducting preliminary research as you refine your ideas for the thesis or project.

Please keep in mind that faculty members are not obligated to serve as thesis/project supervisors, and that they will usually do so only when they have some interest or expertise in the topic at hand. You should therefore be prepared to modify your topic in consultation with potential supervisors.

Thesis/project credits

When you enroll for the first semester for which you plan to earn credit, you should register for Honors thesis/project credits or independent study credits. The norm is three credits per semester for two consecutive semesters, but individual cases vary. There are two methods for earning thesis/project credits:

  • Many departments have 400-level course numbers set aside for theses, projects, and/or independent study. Credits earned in this way may also count toward your department's graduate requirements. The thesis supervisor serves as the course instructor and assigns a grade at the end of each semester.
  • If you are undertaking an interdisciplinary project, or if your major department does not have suitable thesis/project or independent study courses, you may register for Honors 490 (first semester) and 491 (second semester). You must request a permission number from the Honors Director in order to enroll. The Honors Director serves as the formal instructor of record, but the grade is determined by your thesis/project supervisor.

Please note:

  • Credits earned for work on the thesis/project cannot be counted toward the minimum 15 credits of Honors coursework required for graduation as a Commonwealth Scholar.
  • Departmental thesis/project and independent study courses are not normally listed in COIN until a student expresses the intention to take one of them and finds a faculty supervisor willing to serve as instructor. Once you have identified a faculty member willing to supervise the course, your supervisor or department chair will ask the registrar to create a section for the relevant semester and place you in that section. This can be done after the end of the normal add/drop period.
  • The grade for the first semester of a two-semester project is most commonly "in progress" or "IP." The "IP" is later replaced by the grade assigned at the end of the second semester, when the thesis is complete. For example, if you earn a grade of "A" at the end of your second semester, then the "IP" entered for the first semester will turn into an "A" as well. This does not happen automatically—the instructor of record must request a grade change!

The Six Steps of the Process

  • Thesis/Project Proposal. By the appropriate deadline (see the timetable below), you must submit a brief description of your proposed project to the Honors Director. The proposal must be approved by your supervisor.
  • Thesis/Project Prospectus. This step requires a much more detailed description of your proposed project and a detailed timetable for its completion. This step also requires that you identify at least one additional member for your thesis/project committee. The second committee member must be a faculty member at UMD. He or she need not be from the same department as your primary advisor. You may add additional committee members if you wish, and they need not be UMD faculty members. (This is very useful if you wish to encourage an outside expert to read your work.) The prospectus form must be signed by all committee members and your department chair prior to submission to the Honors Director.
  • Progress Report. By the appropriate deadline (see timetable below), submit a progress report to the Honors Director, signed by your supervisor.
  • Completion of the project. You and your supervisor should agree upon a detailed timetable for the completion of your project and for the submission of sections or drafts. Unlike most papers or projects that you will have undertaken in your courses, the "final draft" that you submit to your committee in advance of your defense is very unlikely to be the final version. Instead, committee members typically demand further revisions before approving the final version of the thesis or project. It is therefore very important that you submit your thesis/project to your committee members well before the end of the semester!
  • Public presentation of the project. As you near completion of the work, you must undertake at least one public presentation or performance of your work, to take place no later than the last day of classes.
  • All graduating Commonwealth Scholars are required to present a professional conference poster of their work at Honors Convocation in May. This poster presentation is sufficient to meet the requirements of the Commonwealth Honors Program, but your supervisor may require other public presentations of your work in addition.
    The single most common form of presentation is the "thesis defense": a meeting with the project committee, during which the committee members ask questions about the project and then decide what revisions, if any, are required before approval.
    Your supervisor may require a different form of public presentation, such as a conference presentation or performance, instead of, or in addition to, a thesis defense.
    The timing and scheduling of all presentations other than the poster at Honors Convocation is your responsibility.
  • The Director and/or Associate Director of the Honors Program should be invited to attend any defense, performance, or other presentation.
  • Submission of the project to the Honors Director. Finally, once your thesis/project has been evaluated and approved by your committee, you must file a copy of your thesis/project with the Honors Program, together with the original copy of the signed approval sheet. If your project is not primarily a written document, then check with the Honors Director to see what other materials (recordings, photographs, etc.) to include. These materials remain the property of the UMass Dartmouth Honors Program. Publication rights are reserved to the author unless research contracts, patent rights, or other agreements made with other departments of the university prohibit such publications.


Downloadable Documents and Forms


Timetable for the Honor Thesis/Project Process

In order to remain in good standing in the Honors Program, students must file their Honors proposals by the end of their sixth semester at UMass Dartmouth, or by the end of the semester at which they pass the 90-credit mark, whichever comes first. Exceptions may be made as appropriate at the discretion of the Honors Director.


Semester(s) when credit will be earned for thesis/project work


Fall 2013 and

Spring 2014

Spring 2014 only

Spring 2014 and

Fall 2014

Fall 2014 only

Step 1: Submit proposal to Honors director.

By 3:00 PM on Wednesday, May 1, 2013

By 3:00 PM on Tuesday, December 17, 2013

By 3:00 PM on Tuesday, December 17, 2013

By 3:00 PM on Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Step 2: Submit prospectus to the Honors director.

By 3:00 PM on Wednesday, November 13, 2013

By 3:00 PM on Wednesday, February 26, 2014

By 3:00 PM on Tuesday March 25, 2014

By 3:00 PM on Tuesday October 7, 2014

Step 3: Submit progress report to the Honors director.

By 3:00 PM on Wednesday, February 26, 2014

By 3:00 PM on Tuesday, April 8, 2014

By 3:00 PM on Tuesday, September 16, 2014

By 3:00 PM on Thursday, November 13, 2014

Step 4: Submit draft for evaluation by supervisor and committee.

According to the timetable established by the supervisor

According to the timetable established by the supervisor

According to the timetable established by the supervisor

According to the timetable established by the supervisor

Step 5: Make defense or other public presentation of thesis project.

No later than Honors Convocation

No later than Honors Convocation

By 5:00 PM on Tuesday, December 9, 2014

By 5:00 PM on Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Step 6: Submit final text and signed thesis project approval form to the Honors director.

By 3:00 PM on Wednesday, May 14, 2014

By 3:00 PM on Wedndesday, May 14, 2014

By 5:00 PM on Tuesday, December 9, 2014

By 5:00 PM on Tuesday, December 9, 2014






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