Honors Thesis


An Honors Project is usually more substantial than an independent project. It spans two semesters and leads to a Senior Thesis. Successful completion of an Honors Project is required to receive Honors in Computer Science.

Honors work is overseen by a college-wide committee, the Committee on Curriculum and Instruction. Many of the requirements regarding Honors Projects are in the Articles of Government, Book II, Article IV.

Additional Honors information can be found at the Registrar’s website.

The following rules are specific to the Computer Science Department. In some places they are more restrictive than campus-wide legislation, but they are not intended to contradict legislation.

Honors in Computer Science

In order to receive Honors in Computer Science upon graduation, students must complete an Honors Thesis successfully. The department does not offer the option of an Honors Examination.

To begin an Honors Project students must have a GPA of 3.5 or more in all work above the 100 level in the major and the recommendation of the department. In some cases a student with a GPA below 3.5 but above 3.0 will be allowed to begin an Honors Project if they have exceptional qualifications.

The Honors Project requires two semesters of work, one unit per semester. Most often these semesters fall during the student's senior year; in any case they should be consecutive. At the end of the second semester, the student must submit a Senior Thesis.

To start an Honors Project, the student should find a faculty advisor and a project by the end of their junior year. Use this form to begin the process. They should then submit a written request to the faculty advisor to pursue an Honors Project, and upon approval, the faculty member will register them for CS360, Senior Thesis Research. Both CS360 and CS370 must be taken for a letter grade. If possible, the student should do preparatory work during the summer before their senior year, or earlier.

First Semester

Early in the first semester, the topic and scope of the project should be resolved. The student should start or continue work on the project and meet regularly with their advisor during the semester. At this stage, project work often involves reading and development of skills.

By the 4th week of the first semester, the student and advisor should choose two readers from the computer science faculty. The faculty advisor and the readers, along with a representative from the Committee on Curriculum and Instruction (to be chosen in the second semester), comprise the Honors Project Committee.

Some time around the 6th week of the semester the student should schedule a meeting with the committee. The student should be prepared to present the project briefly. The committee should work with the advisor to provide feedback and guidance.

By the 10th week of the semester, the student should write a report describing the project and progress so far. The student should distribute the report to the committee.

By the 12th week of the semester the committee should meet to discuss the project and either

  • Approve the project as presented
  • Approve the project subject to specific modification
  • Disapprove the project.

The committee uses the following criteria to determine whether a proposed project should be approved:

  • Does the project involve a significant component of independent work by the student, or is the work guided excessively by the faculty member or existing materials?
  • Does the project involve a significant component of creativity and originality on the part of the student?
  • Is the project academic in nature, and related to the computer science curriculum or an interdisciplinary topic related to computer science?
  • Does the project comprise a body of work that is neither too big nor too small?
  • Does the student have the appropriate background to take on this project, and have they made sufficient progress on the project during the first semester?

If the committee judges that the project is not appropriate for an Honors Project, or that the student is not making sufficient progress, they may terminate the project. The student may choose to continue work in the form of an independent project, and may register for CS350 or CS360 during the following semester.

The decision to terminate a project does not mean that the project is not worthwhile; the committee may believe that the project is valuable but not appropriate for Honors in Computer Science. A terminated Honors Project may receive a good letter grade. The faculty understand that plans and circumstances change; there is no stigma associated with this kind of conversion.

If the project is approved and the student wants to continue, they should register for CS370, Senior Thesis, in the following semester.

At the end of the first semester the faculty advisor assigns a grade based on the quality of the report presented to the committee, the student's progress on the project, and any products the project has produced so far.

Second Semester

The student should continue work on the project and meet regularly with their advisor. The deadline for submission of the Senior Thesis is chosen by the Registrar and appears on the calendar for the year. It is often three weeks before the last day of classes. Students should note the date and plan accordingly.

By the 6th week of classes, the student should distribute a progress report to the committee, including an outline of the thesis and a draft of some sections (background, etc.). Committee members should read the outline/draft and make suggestions for improvement of the thesis. If, for any reason, the student does not want to stand for honors, they should inform the committee at this time.

By the end of the 8th week of classes, the committee should meet to decide whether the student will be recommended to the CCI as a candidate for honors. If so, the CCI and faculty advisor appoint a visiting member to the committee.

The student should complete the thesis, incorporating the suggestions of the committee and satisfying their requirements, if any, and submit the final version of the thesis by the deadline. At the same time, they should distribute copies of the final version to the committee.

As early as possible, the student should schedule a meeting of the entire committee during the reading period, where they will give a 30 minute presentation of the project, and be prepared to answer questions from the committee. If the committee judges the thesis work to be of honors quality, the student is awarded honors in Computer Science, and the 370 is noted on their record as Senior Thesis-Honors. If the committee decides that the thesis is not of honors quality, the student may still complete a CS370 successfully, but their transcript will not include the additional Honors designation. If a thesis is not completed, the student's transcript will be changed to a second semester of CS360.

At the end of the second semester the faculty advisor assigns a grade based on the student's work during the second semester.