Business & Economics Department Honors

Objective: An opportunity for highly motivated students to engage in a scholarly research project or original empirical project.

Note: You do not have to be a member of the University Honors Program to write a departmental honors thesis. Students completing an honors thesis in their major department and who are enrolled in the University Honors Program receive University & Department Honors. There is no separate thesis required for university honors.

The Scholarly Research Honors Thesis:

This deeply researched thesis will be at least 15,000 words in length. Honors students doing a scholarly project typically read and consult 30+ published sources. These sources must be scholarly, rigorous, and up-to-date (APA method of citation). The scholarly project must represent new and original work. As long as the project significantly reframes and further develops past work, it may grow out of previous research completed in an advanced course. A Scholarly research thesis must explicitly show how the student’s work contributes to knowledge in the discipline.

The Empirical Honors Thesis:

This thesis will be based on observed and measured phenomena and derive knowledge from actual experience motivated from theory. For example, students will use shelf data or conduct their own surveys to statistically analyze. A typical empirical thesis will include an Introduction (literature review, rationale for current study, and hypotheses), Method (with subheadings for data source and procedures), Results, Discussion (including limitations and future directions), and References. The project should be at least 7,000 words in length and include 10+ scholarly, rigorous, and up-to-date sources (APA method of citation).


In order to submit a proposal for departmental honors, students must have completed at least half of the credits required for their major including Busn 212, Research methods or Econ 300, Econometrics.  Students must have a cumulative and major GPA of at least 3.5. The 3.5 cumulative and major GPA’s must also be met at the end of the student’s overall academic program to earn honors.

In the spring semester of the junior year, qualified students will:

  • Consult with a possible faculty director regarding possible thesis topics, bearing in mind that the department expects faculty to direct no more than ONE honors thesis per year. The student should assemble a three-person committee including a director to supervise work on the honors project, another member of the department, and one person from outside the department.
  • Submit a short proposal to the faculty director by March 1st. Proposals should also include a timetable for the completion of the project. Faculty directors will email their decision by March 31st.

In April of the junior year approved students will:

  • Submit to the department administrative assistant the 499 HONORS THESIS COURSE PROPOSAL AND REGISTRATION and a one page thesis proposal that includes a preliminary bibliography by the last day of the spring semester. An honors thesis can count for 0 to 10 semester hours (can be split over two semesters). Of these, only 4 semester hours can be applied toward the requirements for the major.

In March of the senior year, qualified students will:

  • Schedule the oral presentation and defense of the thesis by April 15, contacting all members of the thesis committee and finding a common meeting time. Submit their completed manuscript to all readers on their committee a week prior to the scheduled defense.
  • Participate in an hour-long question and answer discussion (i.e., the honors defense) with their faculty panel.
  • The Honors committee will then determine whether the student has achieved honors after the student leaves the room; usually honors will correspond to a grade of A or A- on the work. If the committee decide that the quality of the work does not reach the threshold for awarding honors they will convert the 499 into a 490 (independent study). The faculty director will notify the department administrative assistant on the decision.
  • After the defense honors thesis students will have the option to make substantive changes or edits to the manuscript (sometimes students will be awarded provisional honors upon the promise of subsequent changes). A final copy should be submitted to the department administrative assistant by the first day of final exams.

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