Capstone/Thesis Projects

Honors Program students conclude their Saint Mary’s experience by designing, executing and presenting an original thesis or capstone project.

If a student’s discipline already demands a thesis or capstone project, he or she will not be required to complete another for the Honors Program.  He or she will, however, be required to submit an Honors Thesis Proposal by the appropriate deadline, to submit an electronic copy of the finished thesis to Honors Program Director, and to give a formal presentation of the thesis/capstone at one of several possible venues including:

  • State, regional or national Honors Conference
  • Undergraduate conference in the student’s field
  • Saint Mary’s Spring Symposium
  • Departmental or School Thesis Showcase

Thesis or capstone projects must be approved by the Honors Program Director to fulfill graduation requirements for the Honors Program.

To receive academic credit for a capstone/thesis a student must enroll in their department’s capstone/thesis course.  If a student is enrolled in a department that does not require a capstone/thesis the student may a) enroll in an Honors Independent Study (198 and 199 in the catalog) or b) enroll in a related department’s thesis course.  Students are not required to receive academic credit for their thesis.

Keys to Success

Start Early

Begin to brainstorm possible thesis projects no later than the spring of your junior year and utilize thesis workshops to solidify and focus your ideas.

Cultivate relationships with mentors and advisors:

In the fall and spring of junior year, you should begin to seek a primary and a secondary reader for your thesis.  Your primary reader will also be your mentor and should be a full-time faculty member versed in the discipline you wish to pursue, willing and able to advise you in the planning and proposal stages, as well as the in execution and documentation of the project. The secondary reader, though perhaps actively advising you, will be responsible only for assessing the finished product.  If your capstone project integrates more than one area academic interest, the second reader might be chosen for his/her expertise in this other area.

If you are pursuing a Social Justice Emphasis (SJE), you must begin identifying, contacting, and forming relationships with the constituency with whom you will be working by the spring of your junior year.  Utilize resources on campus (CILSA, Mission and Ministry, the Career Center etc.) to help you contact willing organizations. 

Craft a Detailed Proposal

Like your Honors Contract Proposals, your Thesis Proposal must articulate a clear and focused objective, a series of assessable outcomes, and a well-considered, detailed methodology appropriate to the discipline. Don’t be afraid to integrate an allied discipline (math with history for example) when constructing your proposal.  Also feel free to integrate internship, research, work experience as well as coursework into your project, and to use your contract courses to explore possible areas of interest.

Creative Thesis Projects

All creative thesis/capstone projects (e.g., novels, choreographed shows, play productions, fine art exhibitions) must also meet the academic demands of a traditional thesis. Therefore, the same template may be used for creative thesis/capstone projects.

Get Feedback Throughout

Use your mentors as sounding boards for your ideas, frustrations and inspirations.  Share your experiences with your fellow honors students and you are always welcome to speak with the Honors Program director about any concerns you have.  Don’t labor in a void!