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Honors Thesis in Environmental Studies

Students who maintain an overall grade point average of at least 3.2 and an average of at least 3.5 in their Environmental Studies course work may apply to the Honors Program in Environmental Studies. Honors are achieved by completing an honors thesis during the senior year. The thesis reports on an independent research project conducted under the supervision of a faculty member. Honors is a good option for students planning to pursue graduate studies in Environmental Studies because it helps to develop research and writing skills that are valued by graduate schools, and will help students develop the skills necessary to prepare theses and publications in the future.

Requirements and guidelines

There are two requirements for graduating with honors in Environmental Studies:

  1. You must be accepted into the Honors Program.
  2. You must successfully complete an honors thesis, which is written during the senior year. The thesis research is usually done during the fall semester of the senior year during which the student registers for ENVI 497 (Independent Work), and the thesis is written during the spring semester when the student is registered for ENVI 499 (Senior Honors). 

Each of these requirements is described below.

Acceptance into the Honors Program

If you decide that you want to pursue honors, begin by talking with a faculty adviser or the undergraduate director. Ideally, you should do this no later than the end of your junior year. Discuss possible thesis topics and identify possible members of a thesis committee. If you are unsure of a thesis topic, meet with faculty members who focus on topics of interest to you.

Your committee will consist of two faculty members, one called the "principal reader," and the other called the "second reader." Their job will be to help you develop your thesis topic, provide advice while you are writing, and evaluate your thesis once it is finished. In choosing your committee, identify people who specialize in your area of study. At this point, your topic need not be very specific or well developed -- all you need is a general idea about the kind of research that you would like to pursue.

Once you have identified potential committee members, you should approach each of them individually, beginning with the principal reader. Tell him/her about your topic and ask if he/she would be willing to work with you. Ask for advice on your proposed topic, for the readers may be able to help you focus your research and assess whether your plans are realistic.

Once the topic is set and the two faculty readers are identified, you should apply for admission to the Honors Program by filling out the application form and returning it to the Undergraduate Director. The Undergraduate Committee will then meet and decide whether you qualify for honors. Though two faculty members have expressed their willingness to work with you, admission to the Honors Program is not guaranteed. Unfavorable decisions may be appealed in writing to the department chairperson, whose judgment on the matter will be final. Ideally, you should apply for admission to the Honors Program at the end of your junior year. Producing an honor's thesis is a time-consuming process. If you don't apply to the program in your junior year, you may not have enough time to finish a thesis before graduation.
We expect students in the Honors Program to have an overall grade point average of at least 3.2, and an average of at least 3.5 in environmental studies courses. Exceptions can be made if a student shows other evidence of academic potential (such as recent improvement in grades, extracurricular intellectual achievement, etc.)

The Honors Thesis

An honors thesis is a long essay that describes the results of an original and independent research project. Although there is no specific length requirement, a typical undergraduate honors thesis contains 40-100 pages of text (double-spaced and typed), a bibliography, and often illustrations and tables. To get a sense of what is expected, take a look at theses on file in the department office. Consult with your committee regarding issues of style (i.e., regarding format of bibliography).

An honors thesis is more substantial and takes more work than a term paper written for a course. It requires that the student master a certain body of knowledge. This cannot be done in a few weeks. You should plan on several months of intensive research, followed by several months of writing and preparing the manuscript. If your thesis involves data gathering, you may need to initiate your research during the summer before your senior year.

Once you have been accepted into the Honors Program, you should register for ENVI 497 (Independent Work) during the first semester of your senior year. Register for this course with your principal reader. This time should be devoted to intensive research. Stay in touch with your principal reader so that he/she knows of your progress. Ideally, you should meet with your reader on a regular basis to discuss your research.

During the second semester of your senior year, you should register for ENVI 499 (Senior Honors). Most of this semester will be spent writing, preparing illustrations, and editing. A first draft of the manuscript should be given to your committee by early April. Consult with your committee, which may wish to set firm deadlines. Your committee will then read the draft and suggest improvements. It is very likely that you will be asked to make some revisions. The final version of the thesis should be in the hands of your committee no later than the end of the final week of classes.
Based on the quality of your thesis, the readers will decide whether honors will be awarded at graduation. If they agree that the thesis merits honors, they will decide the level of honors to be awarded: honors, high honors or highest honors.

Do you need research money?

You will incur expenses during the course of your honors research. You may want to travel to visit collections, or you may need to purchase supplies for your research. The Dean's Office provides Undergraduate Research Awards up to $200. Apply for these early in the first semester of senior year. Applications are submitted through the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs in the Harpur Dean's Office (LN-2430), or contact the Environmental Studies Director/Advisor for information.

Filing the Thesis

Give your readers ample time to read and comment on your thesis, and you should anticipate revisions following their initial reading. Check with your committee members to find out when they want your first draft. Once you have completed revisions and your readers have accepted the thesis by signing off on a signature page (see below), you will deliver two clean copies of the thesis to Ginny Howell at the Bartle Library (ask at the Circulation Desk for directions to her office).

Your thesis should include a title and signature page. The page should give the thesis title, your full name, a line that indicates that this the thesis is "Submitted in partial completion of the requirements for Honors in Environmental Studies, Geological Sciences and Environmental Studies, Binghamton University," along with the month and year of submission. Below this you should identity the committee members, along with a line for their signatures. See examples of honors theses in the department office.

Honors thesis binding

All copies of an undergraduate honors thesis should be submitted for binding to the Library's Circulation desk between 9 am and 3 pm Monday-Friday. Contact the Physical Processing Dept. (607-777-6454) to have necessary brief paperwork completed.
A minimum of TWO copies of a thesis are required: one for the student's department, and one for the Library's collection. These are bound at no expense to the student. Students may submit copies for personal use at the same time, but each personal copy will cost $10.00 USD payable at submission. Payment must be in the form of cash or a personal check made payable to: LIBRARY I.F.R. ACCOUNT #90405. Students should arrange for their personal copies to be forwarded to them through their department upon return from the bindery.

It is recommended that undergraduates utilize the Binghamton University Graduate School's "Guidelines for Preparing a Thesis or Dissertation". This is not mandatory, merely a good model to follow.

Theses may be submitted on any quality paper (8 1/2" x 11") desired by the student, but each copy should be made from the same paper ream to ensure consistent color and weight.

An ideal timetable

  • Spring semester, junior year: Decide whether you would like to pursue honors and discuss research topics with faculty members.
  • End of spring semester, junior year: Apply for admission to the Honors Program; work with your principal reader to schedule research activities such as background research, data gathering, analysis,and write-up.
  • Fall semester, senior year: Register for ENVI 497 with your principal reader. Pursue thesis research, keeping in touch with your thesis advisor (principal reader). Prepare and discuss thesis outline with committee.
  • Spring semester, senior year: Register for ENVI 499 with your principal reader. Focus on writing, staying in touch with your principal reader. Budget your time, allowing sufficient time to prepare illustrations and tables, and to allow time for revisions.
  • Early April: Submit a draft of the thesis to your committee. Your committee members may wish to set a firm date, so consult with them in advance.
  • Late April: Reserve some time for revisions.
  • Early May: Hand in the final version to your committee for its approval. Deliver two clean copies of the final version (with signature pages) to Bartle Circulation for binding

Last Updated: 11/2/17