Thesis Advising for Faculty
Thank you for your support of excellent students doing excellent work!
Below are some basic FAQ's about the duties of a Thesis Project advisor. For more detailed information regarding the scope and timeline of the Honors Thesis project, please refer to the 'Your Thesis' portion of our website.
What is an Honors Capstone Project?
The Capstone Project allows students to pursue, in depth, an independent project of the student’s own choosing in the major under the close supervision of a faculty advisor. For many students, the project results in a written academic thesis. Some students in professional schools may undertake works of other kinds: engineering projects, works of art, screenplays, performances, documentary films, or architectural designs, for example.
While these Projects provide invaluable preparation for graduate or professional work, students report that the primary rewards are intrinsic: the opportunity to follow one’s curiosity, to take ownership of a work and see it through to a successful conclusion, the intellectual and creative pleasure of independent learning, and the invaluable mentorship by one’s advisor.
An Honors Capstone Project is expected to go well beyond typical coursework. It must meet four standards:
- it typically must be in the student’s major;
- it must be worthy of academic credit;
- it must involve independent student work extending over more than one semester;
- it should address a subject that the student finds compelling.
An Honors Capstone Project need not make an original contribution to the knowledge base of a discipline, although many do.
What are the responsibilities of a Capstone Advisor?
The Advisor supervises the student’s work from start to finish, helping the student refine a topic, develop an approach to it, and produce a polished creative work or piece of undergraduate scholarship of which both the advisor and the student will be proud. This could include involving the student in the faculty member’s own research. The advisor guides the student through the research, creative or experimental process, suggesting avenues to investigate and questions to explore, pointing out relevant resources, imparting the relevant technical skills and knowledge, and commenting thoroughly on iterations of the work, from initial drafts to the final product.
What does the final product look like?
These are not masters theses, but they ought to be distinguished undergraduate projects. They should also be excellent pieces of writing. It is part of the advisor’s role to assure that the final written project reads extremely well: that it is unusually articulate, stylistically strong, and free of technical flaws in writing.
One week prior to final turn in of their Capstones, students will be required to upload their written work for review by an editor.
Projects submitted for editing that do not meet standards will be returned for re-writing, and Honors will also notify you - the advisor - that the Capstone has been flagged for writing quality.
Clearly, it is preferable to have the careful editing take place before the work is submitted to Honors. We seek your help in this, and offer you our help also. The Honors Program Writing Consultant, Emily Luther, is always willing to work with students on writing problems, and will review drafts carefully and thoughtfully. If your student needs additional assistance beyond what you can provide, refer students to Emily at any time — as early as the fall semester if that seems useful.
Who can be a Capstone Advisor?
Any full-time member of the Syracuse University faculty can be a Capstone Project advisor. The advisor must be a faculty member in the student’s major. Occasionally, under special circumstances, part-time or adjunct faculty members serve as Capstone Project advisors with the prior approval of the Chair of the Student’s Program of Study and of the Director of the Honors Program. Occasionally, faculty members at SUNY Upstate Medical University serve as advisors.
What is the role of an Honors Reader?
The Advisor and student together select the Honors Reader, who is usually in the student’s major or a thematically related field. The Honors Reader, although not as deeply involved as the Advisor, plays three important roles:
- The Honors Reader reviews an early draft/iteration of the project and gives the student useful comments on its strengths and on any weaknesses that need to be addressed, and communicates these to the Advisor as well. The student works with the Advisor to incorporate these suggestions into future drafts.
- The second role is to review the first draft of the Executive Summary, which is aimed at a general (not expert), educated audience. Because the Reader is less directly involved than the Advisor, the Reader is well-positioned to judge whether the Summary is effective.
- The third role for the Honors Reader comes in April of the senior year, after the student and Advisor together have reviewed many drafts of the project, and the Advisor is satisfied with the entire work and ready to give final approval to the project and the written components. the draft; then both the Advisor and the Honors Reader approve the complete, final text by signing the title page. The student then submits the entire project to the Honors Program on Capstone Turn-in Day.
Honors may require an additional reader for any Capstone Project — in the case of an interdisciplinary Capstone Project, for example. Final approval of the project remains the responsibility of the Director of the Honors Program.
Do you support distinction programs?
If a student’s major has a departmental “Distinction” program or required capstone project, the student will, in most cases, participate in that departmental program. The Honors Program fully supports such programs; they provide excellent preparation for the Honors Capstone Project. Whenever we can, we coordinate the student’s Honors Project topic with the work in the departmental major capstone or distinction process.
Many such programs include a fall semester research seminar. For students who do not have the benefit of such a seminar, we recommend that students register for an independent study in the fall of the senior year (assuming spring graduation). This helps give them the time they need for thorough research. (Newhouse students do not have this option.) We also strongly recommend students select appropriate graduate or upper-division courses in the major that will support the Capstone Project. Please work with your student to select appropriate courses.
How does presentation day work?
After turning in the completed project, the student gives a 15-20 minute presentation of his or her work during Capstone Presentation Day. Capstone Project advisors are urged to make every effort attend. We typically will send the schedule out to advisors about a week prior to presentation day via email.