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Thesis Requirements

In order to graduate as a Commonwealth Scholar, students must complete an Honors thesis or project. This 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. Completing this project will demonstrate your ability to work independently, which is a quality valued by employers and graduate school admissions committees.
There are several things to keep in mind about the Honors project, including:

  • All students will take HON301, a class designed to guide you through the process of developing an idea, finding a faculty supervisor, developing an idea into a project, and proposing your project.
  • All projects must be supervised by a member of the UMass Dartmouth faculty who is likely, but not required to be, a member of your major department.
  • Work on the project typically begins in either the second semester of the junior year or the first semester of the senior year.
  • Students can take one or two semesters to complete the project and usually earn 3 credits per semester of work (although this can vary by department).
    Note that these credits do not count towards the 15 credits of Honors coursework.
  • Honors project credits can be taken through a major department (e.g., PSY490 and PSY491 for psychology) or through the Honors Program (i.e., HON490 and HON491).
  • The thesis/project may simultaneously fulfill a college or departmental thesis or capstone project requirement.

All Honors projects must meet minimum requirements, including:

  • The project should be written in the style that is characteristic of your discipline (e.g., psychology theses should be written using APA guidelines).
  • 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.
  • ALL projects, even if it is a performance or exhibit, require 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 (e.g., literature review, analysis of previous artistic work/traditions or products that set the stage for your project
    • A written description of your individual work, which may include illustrations or photos
    • An explanation and discussion of your individual contribution to your field, implications of your results/final product, and suggestions for future work
  • All projects must be presented at least once in an appropriate public venue. At a minimum, all students are required to present a poster at the Honors Convocation at the end of the Spring semester.

The Process—Your Honors Project in Four Steps

Step 1: Detailed Thesis Proposal

The thesis proposal is the completed draft of your research project from your HON 301 course. Your supervisor, your HON 301 instructor, and the Honors Director need to approve your proposal. Please attach a signed, completed form to a copy of your proposal and submit it to the Honors office.

Step 2: Progress Report

A progress report is due to the Honors Center at 5pm on the Friday of the 8th week of each semester you are taking thesis credits (e.g., HON490, HON491). This means that if you complete your project in one semester, you need to turn in one progress report. If you work on your project for two semesters, you will need to submit two progress reports. The progress reports should include any changes to the project and progress made since the proposal or last progress report. Your supervisor and the Honors Director need to approve each progress report.

Step 3: 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!

You must file a copy of your thesis/project with the Honors Program, together with the original copy of the signed approval sheet by 5pm on the last day of classes of the semester. 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.

Step 4: 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. If your thesis or project does not fit a poster format (for example, a sculpture or 3D design project), please contact the Honors office, and we will find a table or other suitable way of displaying your work. This poster presentation is sufficient to meet the requirements of the Commonwealth Honors Program. However, many students also present their work in other settings, such as:

  • A traditional thesis defense before the student's committee.
  • A public performance or display.
  • A presentation at a professional conference.
  • A presentation at the annual Commonwealth Undergraduate Research Conference at UMass Amherst.


The grade for HON 490 (and 491) is awarded by your supervisor in consultation with your committee. The grade is then sent to the Honors Director, who is the instructor of record. For other research courses, such as BIO 440, your supervisor directly enters the grade in COIN.

If you do not finish your thesis project within a particular semester and need to continue the next semester, the Honors director can give you the permission number for HON 491 or your supervisor can give you permission for non-HON 491 courses. Your transcript will show "IP, " In Progress. The notation used in special cases to indicate that academic progress covers more than one term; e.g., that a grade will be assigned on the completion of the task involved. The “IP” notation is replaced upon receipt of the official grade. Until or unless replaced by an official final grade, the notation “IP” will remain on the transcript. Academic Recognition (Dean’s or Chancellor’s List) cannot be considered until all “IP” grades have been replaced with the final grades.

In addition, please contact both your supervisor and the Honors Director if you will be unable to complete the project prior to the Withdrawal deadline to discuss your options. You will be unable to graduate with "IP" on your transcript (it will need to become an F).


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