Q. Can I do a thesis based on a review of the literature on a topic that interests me?
A. No. In Psychological and Brain Sciences, we require that all theses be based on some form of empirical work. This empirical work could take one of many different approaches (e.g., behavioral testing, anatomical or histological analysis, field observation), but our expectation is that the final product will represent new, original information.
Of course, virtually all studies are grounded in previous knowledge, so you will need to do a literature review to provide the background for your own studies.
Q. What do you mean by a "regular member" of the Department faculty?
A. Regular members of the faculty are those who hold the appointments of Professor, Associate Professor, or Assistant Professor (also sometimes referred to as tenured/tenure-track faculty). At least one person on your Thesis Committee must be from this group. Nonregular members of the faculty have titles that include terms like "adjunct," "visiting," "lecturer," and "research." These faculty members can certainly make important contributions to your thesis, including serving as either primary advisor or second reader, but the nature of their appointment does not allow them voting privileges.
Q. How long should a thesis be?
A. There is no set length of a thesis in Psychological and Brain Sciences, because the types of studies done by our students can be very different from one another. For example, one thesis may require a lengthy description of complex methodology; another may have extensive statistical analyses; and yet another could be relatively straightforward in methods and results but produce unexpected findings requiring far-reaching discussion.
It would be worth your while to look over some past theses (available in both the department and the library) to get a sense of what successful theses look like.
A related question is "how many experiments should my thesis have?" and the answer is, once again, it depends on the topic. You should discuss with your advisor his or her expectations about what constitutes an acceptable body of work on that area.
Q. What if my hypothesis is not confirmed or my results aren't very good?
A. That's ok! The point of an Honors thesis is to grapple with a question. If your hypothesis was reasonable and your methodology sound, then your results are what they are. Of course, you will want, in your discussion section, to consider the impact of any potential flaws in your methods and the possibility that alternative hypotheses would be more consistent with your findings.
Q. I have been working with my advisor for some time (e.g., as a Presidential Fellow or Benner Fellow or work-study), can I use data from that experience for my thesis?
A. Yes and no. You can certainly include data you gathered before enrolling in Psychology 89 in the thesis; however it would usually be in the form of findings you cite in the Introduction or as a Preliminary Study. The thesis needs to have empirical work that was conducted during the terms of enrollment in Psychology 89. If you are going to be basing some of your thesis on previous work you did with your advisor, you should make clear in the Prospectus what portion of the work is new (i.e., part of the Psychology 89).
Q. Can you suggest a time-line for completion of the thesis?
A. Start at the end (the date the final draft is due to the thesis committee) and work back. You will want to give yourself time to write the Results and Discussion, so make sure your statistical analyses are done early enough to have time to think about what you have to say in those sections. If you have complex analyses, you will want to have all the data collected in time to do them. If your methods are difficult to learn or your subjects hard to get, you will want to put adequate time on your calendar for that. Do the literature review for your Introduction as early as you can and write up your Methods as you go along, so you don't have to rush to do these in the end (and don't risk forgetting important details).
The dates for completion of various requirements for Honors are detailed on the checklist. In consultation with your advisor, you should set realistic deadlines for intermediate steps to reaching completion of the project.
Q. Where can I get funding to support the expenses of doing a thesis?
A. Begin by checking with the office of Undergraduate Advising and Research. Many of our honors students have also been funded through programs overseen by their residence halls and other organizations to which they belong. Finally, if you have not yet entered your senior year, consider applying for one of the Department’s fellowships, the Benner and the Filene, which provide a stipend of a term of research, typically leading up to admission to the honors program.
When seeking funding, don’t forget that you are likely to incur expenses for copying and binding the thesis and for producing the poster presentation. In recent years, these costs have been in the range of $75-125.