All students planning to graduate with honors must submit to the Honors College an Application to Candidacy Form with a thesis/project proposal by the deadline the semester PRIOR to the semester in which they expect to complete the thesis/project. This process includes review of the proposal by Honors Faculty and sometimes requires revisions. Plan ahead and contact your honors program director in your junior year to facilitate this process; he or she, as well as your thesis advisor and any reader(s), must review the proposal and approve it via signature before submission. This Application to Candidacy process is required before taking any honors thesis/project courses on campus. For more information, including the form, deadlines, and guidelines, see: Students who fail to complete this required step will not be able to proceed with the thesis/project, nor graduate with honors.

More than two semesters before graduation:

  1. Meet with Dr. James to determine your eligibility for Honors in Philosophy
  2. If you are eligible, you will need to fill out the top 1/3 of the front page of the Application for Admission to Candidacy (AAC) Form.
    • So far these are only processed on paper. You need to print up a copy of the form and give it to Dr. James. She will hold on to it for you.
  3. Determine which Honors course(s) to take to meet requirement 2a above.
    • Once you have completed the course, email Dr. James so she can put this information on your AAC form.

At least two semesters before graduation:

Honors Thesis Project Proposal – this needs to be completed the semester before you register for PHIL 3791.

Your project proposal must include:

  • A 3-5 page topic proposal/project narrative. This includes:
  • A basic statement of the thesis’s proposed argument. This should be accessible to philosophers who are not necessarily experts in your particular subfield.
  • A discussion of the project’s significance or relevance (what contribution does it make to scholarly literature, public discourse, etc.?).
  • A discussion of methods and resources
  • For example: what sort of philosophical lenses will the student use to analyze the topic or make the proposed argument? Why are these lenses the best way to approach the topic/argument? What texts will the thesis use, and why?
  • Resources should be listed on a separate page as a bibliography.
  • A schedule for completion of both research and writing.

Ideally students should use 3791 to write their thesis. Reading and research should ideally be done either over the summer, or the preceding semester as an independent study. Proposals that follow this structure are more likely to be approved.

Though it is very, very difficult to both research and write a thesis in one semester, proposals that make a convincing case that the student can accomplish this will be considered. (For example, an Honors Thesis could expand on work done in Senior Seminar.)

The project proposal must be reviewed and approved at the departmental level (by Dr. Sullivan and your thesis committee), and at the University level (by the Honors Council).

Department Deadlines:
  • To complete and defend thesis in MAY, forms are due to Dr. James and thesis committee by the Wednesday following Fall Break in the preceding OCTOBER.
  • To complete and defend thesis in DECEMBER, forms are due to Dr. James and thesis committee by the Monday classes resume after Spring Break in the preceding MARCH.
University Deadlines:
  • To complete and defend thesis in MAY, forms must be received by the second Tuesday of the preceding NOVEMBER (see UHP website for specific due date).
  • To complete and defend thesis in DECEMBER, forms must be received by the second Tuesday of the preceding APRIL (see UHP website for specific due date).
  • The University Honors Council deadlines are hard and absolute. It is essential that you plan ahead to meet these deadlines. No exceptions will be granted.
  • Your application to candidacy is not official until your proposal has been reviewed and approved by the Honors Council Subcommittee on proposals.

Semester of Anticipated Graduation (but can be earlier)

PHIL 3791 Honors Thesis
  • Student will register for this course the semester s/he intends on completing and defending the thesis.
  • The thesis director will be instructor of record.
  • The director will contact the philosophy admin to make the course available in Banner.
Oral Thesis Defense


  • The student is responsible for coordinating a defense date and location.
  • The defense must include all members of the thesis committee, and must be made open to other philosophy faculty and students.
  • The defense consists in:
    • A 15-25 minute oral presentation about the thesis. This should focus on what the main argument of the thesis is, and why this is an interesting/important argument. Think of it as the highlight reel of your thesis.
    • After the oral presentation, the director and each committee member will ask the student questions about either/both the presentation and/or the thesis itself. Questions can ask for clarification, further explanation, context, for the student to defend claims against criticism, etc. The Q&A with the committee should generally be between 15 minutes and an hour.
    • After the Q&A with the committee, audience members may ask the student questions.
    • After all Q&A is complete, the student and audience will exit the room so that the committee can deliberate in private. The student shouldn’t stray too far, because…
    • After the committee has finished deliberation, they will invite the student back into the room to deliver their results, and to take care of signatures on the AAC form.
    • As a result of the defense, committee members may request revisions be made and handed in to them before they assign a final grade or before they sign the AAC form.


The thesis defense must be scheduled no later than two weeks before the end of classes. This allows for students to make any requested revisions before the grade submission deadline for honors theses, which is slightly earlier than the regular grade submission deadline.

The thesis committee must receive a completed copy of the thesis at least a week before the scheduled defense date.

Honors College links to important documents, including application for admission to candidacy, and rundown of important dates.