Honors Thesis Guidelines

Honors Thesis Guidelines

The Schreyer Honors College has a description of the honors thesis and offers advice about how to choose a topic, find a thesis director, and budget one’s time.

The Honors College describes the thesis as “a scholarly piece of writing in which the writer is expected to show a command of the relevant scholarship in his (or her) field and contribute to the scholarship. It should confront a question that is unresolved and push towards a resolution.”

The thesis is likely to be one of the most challenging and rewarding assignments of your undergraduate career. It is an opportunity to actually engage in scholarly analysis at an advanced level. In the process of pursuing a topic, conducting independent research, and formulating, articulating and crafting a sustained argument, you will build on what you have learned in coursework, gain insights into disciplinary scholarship and methodology, and develop your talents as a writer and thinker. Having completed your thesis, you will have the satisfaction of knowing that you have produced a work of scholarship that will be permanently archived in the Schreyer’s (electronic) thesis archive and the Penn State Library system.

The Department of Asian Studies expects honors theses to be based on thorough research and to offer an original interpretation. You are required to undertake a meaningful degree of primary source research in crafting the thesis.

The nature and extent of the primary research may vary according to the question pursued and the field of study. You are also expected to situate your research and analysis within the scholarship of the field and to clearly articulate and support the significance of your project and its contribution. Be careful not simply to present a narrative or an inventory of your sources, but rather center the thesis on the analysis and interpretation of your research in such a way that you make an argument. Advisers should help determine the appropriate balance between primary research and scholarly contextualization, between the presentation of the evidence and interpretation.

Who writes an honors thesis?

Those in the Schreyer Honors College are required to write an honors thesis before graduation. Students may write their theses in their major (Chinese, Japanese, or Asian Studies) or in certain cases, their minor (such as Korean). 

What is the process for starting an honors thesis?

  1. Find a topic that interests you. For example, you may have written a paper for a class that could become the basis for an honors thesis.
  2. Identify a faculty member in Asian Studies to direct your thesis. It is best if you choose someone who works in the area you have identified as your topic. You may want to keep in mind some of the faculty members you have worked with in classes. Ask the individual faculty member if he or she is willing to serve as your thesis director. If you are unsure whom to ask, you may want to discuss this with the Asian Studies honors adviser.
  3. Gain approval of the Asian Studies honors adviser, who will be a second reader for your thesis.
  4. Read over the section on thesis writing on the Schreyer Honors College website.
  5. Complete a thesis proposal to identify your thesis director and give a basic outline of the topic you intend to address in your thesis. Honors College deadlines apply for the submission of the thesis proposal, which is typically one year before you intend to graduate.
  6. If you are writing an interdisciplinary thesis (in two departments), you will need a thesis director, an honors adviser reader, and a second reader from the second major to approve your thesis.

What is the honors thesis writing course and how do I register for it?

Register for the honors thesis writing course appropriate for your major. This may be CHNS494H, KOR494H, ASIA494H, or JAPNS494H (all 3 credit courses). You may register for this course in either or both the fall and/or spring semesters of the academic year in which you intend to graduate, for a total of six credits.

What is the procedure and timeline for developing the thesis?

A thesis proposal is due to Schreyer Honors College in the spring of your Junior year. The proposal outlines the scope of the proposed research and should include a preliminary bibliography. The proposal will have to be approved by the honors adviser, your thesis director, and the Schreyer Honors College.

You and your thesis director will then create a calendar of meetings during the two-semester writing process. It is recommended that you register for your 494H course.

  1. Checkpoint 1: By mid-September of your senior year, you must submit an expanded thesis proposal (which includes in-progress bibliography identifying substantial primary and secondary sources and an outline of the structure of your thesis, as well as a schedule for chapter completion dates) to the honors adviser. Your thesis director must have signed off and agreed to your expanded thesis proposal.
  2. Checkpoint 2: In the week prior to the last week of the semester, you must submit to your thesis adviser a polished, credible draft version of one chapter (ca. 15-20 pages) and a detailed outline of the following chapters to your thesis director. This is a firm requirement; permission to repeat 494H is contingent upon completion of this benchmark. Your grade for 494H will be based on the quality of these materials.

You must submit a full draft of the complete thesis to your thesis director and the honors adviser, as well as to the Schreyer Honors College, by mid-March. This is a hard deadline; failure to do so may result in not having your thesis approved.

The last weeks before final submission to Schreyer Honors College should be used to revise the thesis according to the thesis director’s comments. The final approval signatures are not automatic and are subject to the discretion of the thesis director evaluating your work. You should allow at least a week for the thesis director and the readers to sign your final approval page. 

File the final version of your thesis, as well as the signatory page with the signatures of the thesis director and the honors adviser, with the Schreyer Honors College by their formal deadline in early April. If you are not able to submit your honors thesis by the April deadline for graduation in May, it is possible to delay your graduation until August and use time over the summer to complete your thesis. However, thesis directors are not always available over the summer, so be sure to consult your thesis director before you make this decision.

What are the parameters for a thesis under the Department of Asian Studies?

  • 50-80 pages in length.
  • A topic focusing on any aspect of your requisite major, as covered by the teaching and research program of the Department of Asian Studies.
  • Use at least some primary and secondary sources in the language of your major (ex: Chinese, Japanese, Korean) in addition to sources in English
  • Simple and generic overviews are not analysis and will be considered insufficient for an honors thesis. You are expected to engage in an analytical and theoretically/conceptually informed approach to your topic and your sources.

Once you have taken all the necessary steps and identified your honors thesis director, please download and sign the appropriate form to indicate you understand the requirements. You will present this form to your thesis director.