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Honors Thesis

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The Honors College Academic Plan culminates in the thesis, a required advanced research or creative project completed either in the student’s undergraduate degree program or in the Honors College. The thesis project will promote focus, depth, and independence and will develop creativity, resiliency, and patience. By completing the thesis students will be demonstrating the ability to become producers of knowledge and will create thoughtful and impactful interpretations of provocative questions in their disciplines.

Key Contacts for Honors Thesis Policies and Paperwork

Honors Thesis paperwork and advisement are handled by the Honors Advisement Office in KH D145.
The two primary contacts within this office are:

Dr. Alison McCurdy
Honors College Associate Director
[email protected], ext. 3-5963

Ms. Jessica Rodriguez
Honors Thesis Coordinator
[email protected], ext. 3-5964

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an Honors College thesis/culminating project?

It is a faculty-mentored undergraduate research project or creative activity characterized by “intellectual engagement using established scholarly processes to make a meaningful contribution to a project, question, or problem where the outcomes are presented or performed with review, critique or judgment, and both the process and product are based upon disciplinary standards” (University of Oklahoma). The project promotes focus, depth, and independence and develops creativity, resiliency, and patience. By completing the project students demonstrate the ability to become producers of knowledge or creative products, and to create thoughtful and impactful interpretations and analyses of provocative questions in their disciplines.

What are some benefits of doing this?

  • Exploring something you are passionate about, defining your career goals and direction
  • Building a lasting relationship/network with a faculty member or research team. This can lead to very meaningful letters of recommendation if you apply to internships, scholarships, fellowships, graduate or professional programs, or positions in the workforce
  • Working with and learning from regionally, nationally, or internationally known scholars
  • Learning more about the newest technologies, methods, issues, or debates in your field of study
  • Building experience that is valuable to your career or your next educational steps. This experience helps your application or resume stand out when searching for educational or employment opportunities
  • Sharing the excitement of discovering and communicating clearly about something new

A direct benefit of participating in undergraduate research or creative activity begins in the classroom. When investigating any phenomenon in the classroom or in a discussion, it is easier to understand and to form your own hypotheses or contributions if you have experienced the thought processes involved in discovery or creative work.

Turning your ideas into a project design can be difficult. The Honors College is committed to helping you make the most of this experience and has many resources to help you.

Developing an Idea - What should my culminating project explore?

Think about what interests you, what you would like to learn more about, or what you would like to create. What will enhance your learning experience here at Cal State LA or what will prepare you for your future career or graduate or professional school?

  • Create some lists and write down areas that you would like to explore further (from coursework, your own interests, talking to others, scanning scholarly databases in the library, internet searches).
  • Ask others what they know and what questions still need to be pursued in your field of interest. These people can include faculty from whom you have taken a class or those you have searched for on the Cal State LA website; students in your classes or in student groups can also provide you direction as to which faculty to speak with about a particular research specialization; or people outside Cal State LA, including people at other educational institutions, industry, non-profits, museums, governmental, or non-governmental agencies.
  • Be flexible and receptive to input! This culminating project involves more than just you, so as you find and work with a faculty mentor, your project topic may narrow or even change completely.

How do I find potential faculty mentors?

It is important to be proactive in your search for the best faculty mentor to work with. There are many opportunities on the Cal State LA campus and there is no magic system to match students with faculty mentors. Find the opportunity that best fits you. Some good ways to find potential mentors include:

  • Review faculty websites that detail their scholarly interests, list their publications, and provide other pertinent information on their programs. Look at faculty in your major, minor, or related disciplines.
  • Talking to students currently conducting research or creative projects with faculty.
  • Reading scholarly work by faculty you may be interested in working with. Much of this work is easily accessible online via the library.
  • Faculty mentors on campus may not have an expertise in the specific area you are interested in, so it is important to be flexible and open-minded.

How should I contact faculty to narrow down my list of possible mentors?

Once you identify one or more faculty who might be a good fit as your mentor (or be able to refer you to someone else after you talk to them), a conversation with the faculty member is a good idea. Steps on contacting a faculty member:

  • Introduce yourself in a formally written e-mail that demonstrates your interest in the faculty member’s area of expertise;
  • Identify your major (and minor, if relevant), note that you are an Honors College student about to start working on the Honors College thesis, and state your expected graduation term;
  • Attach your resume to your e-mail (or bring it with you if you plan to visit during his/her office hours).
  • Ask for an appointment to discuss project opportunities in more detail.

 

Be prepared and professional when contacting and meeting with every faculty member. Your interactions with faculty members should be considered to be as important as a job interview. Read up on the faculty member’s website and several of their recent publications. The following are a few of the questions that you should be prepared to answer when you meet with a faculty member:

  • Why do you want to do research/project? (Something different than it being a requirement of Honors College!)
  • Why are you interested in the faculty member’s area of expertise?
  • What are your future educational or professional goals?
  • How does this thesis project fit into your career goals?
  • How much time do you have to devote to your culminating project? (per week?)
  • Have you taken any courses relevant to the proposed project(s)? If so, which one(s)?
  • What are the expectations that the Honors College has of me, as your Honors College thesis mentor? (Please share the Honors College Guidelines for Students and Faculty Advisors.)

 

You should also prepare a short list of questions to ask the faculty member, such as:

  • What led you to decide to do work in X? [or some other question that shows you have made the effort to learn a bit about their work]
  • If you have an idea about a specific project, briefly outline it to the potential faculty mentor. Ask for feedback, or whether or not they recommend another faculty mentor with different expertise.
  • What are some possible opportunities for undergraduates related to your scholarly work?
  • How many undergraduate projects have you mentored? What did these students do? What kinds of careers/jobs/professional/graduate training have they gone on to do?
  • What are your expectations for your students? (How frequently will you meet with them? How much guidance will you get?)
  • How could I (the student) prepare for doing research or creative work under your mentorship?

Thank the faculty member for taking the time to discuss research or project opportunities with you.

How do I select a faculty mentor?

After you have finished meeting with one or more potential faculty mentors, it is now time to select the one who best fits your project and personal style. In general, choose a faculty mentor who:

  • is engaged in a topic that best fits with your interests;
  • has a strong track record of mentoring, and possibly even publishing with, undergraduate students like yourself;
  • has a communication style with which you feel comfortable;
  • is accessible;
  • seems genuinely interested in you and your success at Cal State LA, and;
  • has the time, space, equipment, or instrumentation needed for you to successfully complete your project.

What are some paper and presentation opportunities at CSULA?

The Cal State LA Student Symposium on Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activities is held annually to recognize student accomplishments in research, scholarship, and creative activities, and provide a local forum for our students to gain experience in delivering a professional presentation. Three winners will be presented the Gamma Epsilon Chapter of Phi Kappa Phi Awards for first, second, and third place. Also, the top 10 presentations will be selected to represent Cal State LA at the Annual CSU Student Research Competition. The Symposium is open to all majors and to both undergraduate and graduate students. All students who are engaged in scholarly research or creative activities, including term projects and independent study endeavors, should participate. Students can participate in the Symposium in two ways: 1) delivering a 10-minute oral presentation or 2) delivering a 5-minute poster presentation. The subsequent statewide competition is limited to oral presentations. https://www.calstatela.edu/orsca/annual-student-symposium-rsca

Philosophy in Practice is a yearly, student-run philosophy journal featuring essays from both Cal State LA undergraduates and graduate students. https://csulaphilosophyclub.wordpress.com/

Perspectives is written and edited by students in the History Department and members of the Eta Xi Chapter of Phi Alpha Theta at California State University, Los Angeles. Since 1973, the journal has published the historical projects of undergraduate and graduate students. https://www.calstatela.edu/centers/perspectives

Colloquy is a journal of the Department of Communication Studies, funded through Instructionally Related Activities at California State University, Los Angeles. Colloquy aims to represent the variety of scholarship conducted in the Department of Communication Studies as well as representing different types and levels of academic thought. Writing style varies with students’ experience with writing as a scholarly enterprise. The editorial board is comprised of students in the Department of Communication Studies and supervising members of the Communication Studies faculty. https://www.calstatela.edu/colloquy

Statement Magazine is Cal State LA’s journal of literature and the arts. https://www.calstatela.edu/statementonline

University Times has been the official newspaper for California State University, Los Angeles since 1948. It’s the most popular news organization on campus, reaching thousands through Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. University Times remains one of the most influential sources of news and commentary at Cal State LA because of the collective work of both students, faculty, and staff. https://csulauniversitytimes.com/

California Anthropologist is a scholarly journal edited and published by students in the Department of Anthropology at California State University, Los Angeles. The California Anthropologist publishes timely articles dealing with the physical, natural, and social sciences which deal with human biology, cultural behavior, archeology, and the development of the study of anthropology. https://www.calstatela.edu/academic/anthro/california-anthropologist

What are some national and regional paper and presentation opportunities?

The Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR), founded in 1978, is an organization of individual, institutional, and affiliate members from around the world. CUR members share a focus on providing high-quality and collaborative undergraduate research, scholarly, and creative activity opportunities for faculty and students. CUR believes that faculty members enhance their teaching and contribution to society by remaining active in research and by involving undergraduates in research, and that students engaged in undergraduate research succeed in their studies and professional advancement. The National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR) is dedicated to promoting undergraduate research, scholarship, and creative activity in all fields of study by sponsoring an annual conference for students. Unlike meetings of academic professional organizations, this gathering of student scholars welcomes presenters from all institutions of higher learning and from all disciplines. Through this annual conference, NCUR creates a unique environment for the celebration and promotion of undergraduate student achievement; provides models of exemplary research, scholarship, and creative activity; and helps to improve the state of undergraduate education. Each conference hosts 3,500 to 4,000 students from across the globe, presenting their research through posters, oral presentations, visual arts, and performances. Their faculty mentors also attend, often presenting in the Faculty-Administrator Network (FAN) sessions. Student Presentations are welcome in all fields and disciplines from the creative and performing arts to biomedical, engineering, and social science research. The National Conference on Undergraduate Research is a wonderful opportunity to meet peers and faculty from around the country and the world who are working in similar research fields, learn about the conduct of research and scholarship in fields very different from your own, learn about graduate school and employment opportunities, and develop your presentation skills. All abstracts and applications will be reviewed by faculty members. Student participants in NCUR may present in one of the following formats:

  • Oral
  • Poster
  • Visual Arts
  • Performing Arts

https://www.cur.org/what/events/students/ncur/info/ | https://www.cur.org/engage/undergraduate/presentation/ | https://www.cur.org/engage/undergraduate/journals/

Southern California Conferences for Undergraduate Research (SCCUR) is an organization of Southern California faculty, administrators, and interested members of the community who share the common goal of improving education for college and university students through hands-on experiences of undergraduate research, scholarship, and creative activity. SCCUR supports inquiry-based education, in which students learn while doing, working closely with faculty mentors on significant academic projects, and presenting their results to audiences in a professional manner. The Conference is hosted by a local institution and always occurs on the Saturday before Thanksgiving. Students present their work in the form of oral presentations, posters, and creative exhibits and performances. Participants come from approximately 80 institutions in Southern California and the rest of the nation, with some international presenters. https://www.sccur.org/

The National Collegiate Honors Council (NCHC), founded in 1966, is a unique educational organization designed to support and promote undergraduate honors education. NCHC has nearly 900 member institutions and several hundred individual members, impacting over 330,000 honors students. NCHC provides its members with resources, training opportunities, and collaborative events to build and sustain honors programs and their curriculum. Students also have access to honors scholarships and exclusive events through NCHC and its members. The NCHC Annual Conference solicits student poster presentations. https://www.nchchonors.org/about-nchc

UReCA: The NCHC Journal of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity is the official undergraduate journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council. Submissions are accepted from students currently enrolled in an undergraduate degree program. UReCA fosters the exchange of ideas between undergraduate students, providing a platform where students can engage with, and contribute to, the advancement of their individual fields. https://nchcureca.com/

The Western Regional Honors Council (WRHC) is a professional organization of faculty, administrators, and students dedicated to the promotion and advancement of undergraduate honors education. The WRHC represents honors programs and honors colleges at institutions of higher learning across the 13-state Western Region through an annual conference, newsletters, and email communication, and through biannual business meetings at our regional conference and at the national NCHC conference. The WRHC Annual Conference solicits student presentations. In addition, for over 30 years, the multiple-award-winning Honors undergraduate literary and artistic journal Scribendi has been the flagship publication of the Western Regional Honors Council. Enjoy the latest issue and learn more about how you can submit your original content. https://wrhcouncil.org/conferences/ | https://wrhcouncil.org/scribendi/