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Honors Projects: Honors 496

Congratulations! You've successfully completed your first semester of work on your Honors project. Your Honors advisor has determined that you can complete the project on time, and that the quality of your work meets Honors standards. Well done. 

Register for Honors 496

Charles Center staff will create all of the appropriate Honors sections and administer overrides for Honors 496. You will get an email once that process is complete (either January or August) and then you may register for Honors 496.

Examining Committee

Just after the end of add/drop each semester, the Charles Center will send department chairs and program directors a link to an online form for submission of Honors Examining Committee recommendations. Committee recommendations must be submitted by the stated deadline for students defending that semester. 

The Examining Committee is the group of faculty members who will read your thesis and conduct your oral defense. They determine if your project achieves Honors, and if applicable, which level (not all departments have more than one level of honors). Each examining committee consists of three or more faculty members, with representation from at least two academic departments. Any current W&M faculty member who is eligible to assign grades may serve on an Honors committee, including visiting and adjunct faculty. 

Departments/programs have different methods of selecting faculty for committees. Your Honors advisor will know the procedure for your project. Regardless of the selection method, the department chair or program director will recommend committee members to the Charles Center. Recommendations from anyone else will not be accepted.

Once the committee recommendations are submitted, the Charles Center will email the committee chair with formal committee appointments. You and the other committee members will get copies of that notification.

Thesis Submission

As you write your thesis, make sure that it conforms to the specifications of your department. Your advisor should check it as you go to avoid unwelcome surprises.

Send a copy of your completed thesis to each member of the Examining Committee no later than two weeks before the last day of classes of the second Honors semester.  Your department or program may specify an earlier deadline.

The committee members will read your thesis and either grant provisional acceptance or determine that it does not merit honors. If it is granted provisional acceptance, schedule the oral defense. If it does not merit honors at this stage, your Honors advisor will change Honors 495 and 496 [Office] to appropriate alternatives and assign your grades for the alternative courses.

Learn about licensing and embargoes

If your Honors project is successful, you will submit an electronic copy of your Honors thesis to Swem Library. As part of that submission, you will complete a License and Embargo for Honors Thesis form. You don't need this form until you submit your thesis, but the decision to embargo your work or not is an important one. Read about Honors Embargoes and discuss these issues with your Honors advisor before your defense. You will need time to consider all implications and be prepared to make an embargo decision that is right for you when submitting your thesis.  

Oral Defense

If your Examining Committee determines that your thesis is provisionally acceptable, you may schedule your thesis defense. You are responsible for coordinating with all the Examination Committee members and scheduling the defense location, date and time. The Charles Center does not schedule Honors defenses.

Your oral defense should occur sometime between the deadline for thesis submission and the deadline for the level of Honors report.  Your Examination Committee needs time to review your thesis, and may recommend some minor edits after your defense. You may make only minor edits to your thesis after your oral defense, but it would be wise to allow time for that to meet the Swem archiving deadline. 

The defense will consist of an oral examination lasting at least one hour.  The main purpose of the examination is for you to answer questions about your thesis, but it may also cover related topics. Check with your advisor about the protocol for oral exams within the department or program.

Before your defense, print out a cover sheet (example [Google Doc]) for your thesis. If your defense is successful, members of the Examining Committee will sign it. The signed cover sheet will be part of your archive.

After the defense, the Examining Committee will determine if an honors designation will be awarded, and if so, at what level (Honors, High Honors, or Highest Honors). In reaching its decision about awarding honors, the committee will be guided by the quality of the honors thesis and by your performance on the oral examination.

Some programs do not specify levels, but only assign Honors:

  • Applied Science,
  • Art & Art History,
  • Biology,
  • CAMS,
  • Chemistry,
  • Computer Science,
  • Economics,
  • English,
  • Environmental Science and Policy,
  • Film & Media Studies,
  • Government,
  • International Relations,
  • Kinesiology & Health Science, 
  • Linguistics,
  • Mathematics,
  • Neuroscience,
  • Philosophy,
  • Physics,
  • Psychological Sciences,
  • Public Policy, and
  • Religious Studies

Geology awards Honors and High Honors to successful projects.

If your Examination Committee determines that the thesis does not merit honors after your defense, your Honors advisor will submit this form [Office] to change Honors 495 and 496 to appropriate alternatives and award your grades for these courses.