With a few exceptions, like Math and Computer Science, graduation with Honors requires the completion of a Senior Honors thesis. This consists of detailed, original research in your chosen field. It is normally completed during the senior year. Length and format requirements vary by department. Thesis research and writing is normally done under the direction of a professor who shares the student's areas of interest.

Many departments require their honors majors to register for special seminars and independent study research courses. Other departments don't have these courses, so their students can choose to enroll in Honors 490. Since thesis research and writing often extends beyond one term, your advisor may assign you a "Y" grade for the term or terms prior to completion. This simply means "extended course" or "work in progress." Upon the completion of your thesis, one letter grade will be assigned for all the terms involved. Unlike an "I" (for an incomplete), the "Y" does not remain on your record.

Honors students have the option of using their senior theses to fulfill the Upper Level Writing Requirement (ULWR). If the student intends to use this option, an Honors Thesis Intent Form must be filled out by the student and their thesis advisor. The form is available in the Honors Office, on the Forms page of the Honors website, or at the Sweetland Center for Writing. Return the completed form to the Honors Office for approval and it will be forwarded to the SWC for processing, completed by the third week of the term in which you plan to complete your thesis. Completion of the requirement hinges on satisfactory completion of the thesis itself, so you may want to select another ULWR course if there is any possibility you will decide not to complete your work.

Deadlines and procedures for evaluating senior theses also vary by department. Some departments have a committee that evaluates all theses, whereas others are based primarily on the judgment of the student's advisor and the departmental honors advisor.

Once the thesis has been evaluated, The department will send one of four possible recommendations to the Honors Office: No Honors, Honors, High Honors, or Highest Honors. "No Honors" is given for work that does not meet departmental standards, and for students with cumulative GPAs under 3.4. The other three will be posted on your official transcript and diploma. These are separate from the Distinction awards, which are also posted on graduates' diplomas and transcripts. "Distinction" is awarded on the basis of the student's final cumulative GPA. "Highest Distinction" is given to the top 3% of the graduating class, "High Distinction" is given to those in the 4-10% of the graduating class, and "Distinction" is given to those in the 11-25% of the graduating class.