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Information for Biology Students in the Schreyer Honors College

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Departmental Requirements

The Honors thesis will be read by both the thesis mentor and the honors adviser.  The student should contact the honors adviser at the beginning of the graduation semester to arrange when the scholar will submit the thesis for review.  The scholar should give the adviser adequate time to read the thesis prior to the Schreyer Honors College deadline, usually TWO WEEKS before the thesis due date in the Schreyer Honors College. No exceptions will be made!


Freshman and Sophomore Years

  • Take a total of 21 honors credits over freshman and sophomore years. The split can be 12 credits in freshman year and 9 credits in sophomore year.

Freshman Year

  • Enroll into ENGL/CAS 137H in the fall and ENGL/CAS138T in the spring.
  • Take an additional 3 to 6 honors credits. An academic year starts in the fall and continues through the summer session.  This requirement can be fulfilled by taking Biol 110H in the fall semester and either Biol 220M or Biol 240M in the spring semester.
  • Begin looking for a research laboratory to do your honors thesis.

Sophomore Year

  • Take at least 3 to 4 honors courses for a total of 9 to 12 credits honors credits during the academic year. (An academic year starts in the fall and continues through the summer session.) Honors credits may be accumulated by enrolling into regular Honors courses, taking a 400-level course as a sophomore, turning a course into an honors option, or conducting honors independent study or research.  The student can meet the honors requirement by taking Biol 230M in the fall semester and either Biol 220M or Biol 240M in the spring semester whichever course was not taken in the freshman year.
  • Start thinking about a topic for your honors thesis and find yourself a thesis supervisor. Please be aware that only full-time, tenure track faculty can function as thesis supervisors.
  • In your 4th semester at the latest, start working on your thesis project.

Junior Year

  • During your junior and senior years combined take a total of 14 honors credits. Up to 6 honors credits may be earned for thesis preparation.
  • File your Senior Honors Thesis Proposal Report in the Schreyer Honors College by May 1 (check this date with Schreyers, subject to change)!
  • Conduct your thesis research.
  • The Department strongly encourages students to present a poster with the data of your thesis research at the Annual Undergraduate Research Exhibition.  This is an excellent opportunity to get feedback about your research.

Senior Year

  • During your junior and senior years combined, take a total of 14 honors credits. Up to 6 honors credits may be earned for thesis preparation.
  • The Honors thesis will be read by both the thesis mentor and the honors adviser.  The student should contact the honors adviser at the beginning of the graduation semester to arrange when the scholar will submit the thesis for review.  The scholar should give the adviser adequate time to read the thesis prior to the Schreyer Honors College deadline, usually TWO WEEKS before the thesis due date in the Schreyer Honors College. No exceptions will be made!
  • The deadlines for submission of the honor thesis can be found on the Schreyer Honors College Web page.

Honors Thesis Guidelines

Modified 4/4/18, SWSchaeffer

The Honors thesis is an important aspect of your Honors work in Biology. Normally, this will involve presenting original research results that you have performed over the previous semesters. The usual format for presenting this work is outlined below. Keep in mind these are guidelines only. If another format is more appropriate, this will be considered upon consultation with your honors thesis supervisor and the honors academic adviser. The length of each section is dependent upon many variables, but in all cases the work is to reflect the highest quality of scholarship.

The honors thesis will be prepared by the student and the honors thesis supervisor.  Once completed, the thesis will be read by the honors academic adviser.  The honors thesis supervisor and academic adviser are specified at the end of junior year in the Thesis Proposal Report.


A thesis format review is due in the Schreyer Honors College two months before the end of the graduation semester.  The final draft of the thesis should be prepared with the honors thesis mentor.  The thesis draft should be submitted to the honors academic adviser at least two weeks before the submission deadline.  The student should contact his or her honors academic adviser at the beginning of the graduation semester to determine the best timeline for review of the thesis.  It is not uncommon for faculty to travel off campus at critical times during this process so the student must plan accordingly.  It is inappropriate for a student to provide the thesis to the honors academic adviser the night before the thesis is due in the Schreyer office and expect the faculty member to drop everything to read the thesis.  The honors academic adviser is within his or her right not to accept the thesis at this point.  The completed thesis, with the research adviser's signature, is due in the Schreyer Honors College a month before the end of the graduation semester.  Please, plan accordingly. You will be contacted early the following week by the second faculty reader who may request changes. After the final thesis is approved, and signed, you may submit the hardcopy to the Honors College.






Contact Thesis Mentor and Academic Adviser about the timeline for thesis review

Beginning of graduation semester

Thesis Format Review by Schreyer Office

Two months before the end of semester

Finish thesis draft, this should be in near final format

Two weeks before the thesis is due

Submit thesis to honors academic adviser

Two weeks before the thesis is due

Revise thesis

Once you have received comments back from your honors academic adviser

Submit thesis and signature page

One month before the end of the semester.


Suggested Thesis Format (Click here to Download the thesis template from the Schreyer Web Site)


The introduction should discuss the research problem in sufficient breadth to be understandable by any biologist. It should also contain the most current references that are available. Textbook information is considered common knowledge and therefore only current review articles and primary research articles should be cited. The introduction should contain a clear statement (preferably a hypothesis) that describes the goal of the research.

Materials and Methods

This section should include sufficient information so a biologist trained in that area could repeat the work. However, it must be understandable by any biologists and all technical terms should be defined.


The data that are directly relevant to the thesis should be presented using journal standards. Strive for concise prose. It is not necessary to present multiple graphs on separate pages, or to present multiple plots on separate graphs. Raw DNA sequence data without analysis is inappropriate. Digital photographs should be printed on high quality paper and all micrographs should contain scale bars. All figures should contain a separate description legend. The text, describing the data, should be limited to the presented information. It is not acceptable to mention results without showing the data (i.e., you may not cite a statement with "data not shown"). It is permitted to present negative data.


The Discussion should review the significance of the data in a clear, concise, and scholarly manner. You should interpret your findings directly to what is already known and published in the field. If your results provide new insight in an area, clearly and explicitly discuss the importance of your results. If your results confirm what is already known, then state this and supply a current citation. Students are encouraged to conclude with a statement of hypotheses that they feel could be tested as a result of their work. It is acceptable to combine the results and discussion section.


Cited literature should be the most current that is relevant to the work and be supplied in a format used by a journal of the student's choice. Do not mix format styles. Use standard journal abbreviations (the reference desk of the Life Science library can help you with this).  The easiest citation format is the (Author, Date) format.  For example,

The third chromosome of Drosophila pseudoobscura is polymorphic for over 30 gene arrangement that were generated through a series of chromosomal inversions (Dobzhansky and Sturtevant 1938).  The frequencies of inversions vary among populations showing gradients or clines across the southwestern United States (Dobzhansky 1944).

Dobzhansky, T., 1944 Chromosomal races in Drosophila pseudoobscura and Drosophila persimilis. Carnegie Inst. Washington Publ. 554: 47-144.

There are bibliographic computer programs available (some free) that make this process quite easy.


Each figure should have a caption that provides a short description (a title sentence, followed by several descriptive sentences). Remember to label axes.  These can be supplied as a list at the end, or can be printed onto the figure itself.  Figures should have a legend if multiple graphs are included in the found in the graph.  Example,

Figure 1

Figure 1.  Genetic drift in nine replicate populations.  The change in the frequency of the A allele is shown over 100 generations.  All replicate populations started at a frequency of A of 0.25.


If you use previously published figures, you should obtain permission from the journal to reprint the figure.  This is fairly easy to do.  Most journals have a link on their web site that allows you to ask for permission to reprint the figure for free.  This is because your honors thesis will not bring in revenue and is for academic purposes.





Tables should have a caption above the table and all column labels should be self-explanatory.  One can use footnotes to explain abbreviated column headers. For example,


Table 1.  Levels of variation in proximal, inverted, and distal regions of the third chromosome.


Nt (Mb)



Tajima’s D
















Nt, number of nucleotides in megabases; S, the number of segregating sites; and p, nucleotide heterozygosity.


General Comments


Never start a sentence with a number unless it is explicitly spelled out.

Correct: Twenty five people…

Wrong, 25 people…

If you would rather use the number, consider rephrasing the beginning of the sentence, i.e., A total of 25 people…

Spell out numbers less than 10 even within the middle of a sentence.  Remember to include units when talking about your data.


Large tables, nucleotide sequence data, or other large sets of information are often placed in an appendix so that the main body of text flows better on the page.  An appendix is an appropriate place to put additional information not directly related to the thesis, but would be helpful to other researchers in the laboratory.

Annual Undergraduate Research Exhibition

Biology scholars who were admitted into the Schreyer Honors Program as of Fall 2000 are encouraged to present a poster displaying preliminary data for their honors thesis at the Annual Undergraduate Research Fair in March during their third/junior year of undergraduate education. Please realize that this means that you need to start planning your thesis project and conducting research in your fourth semester at the latest.

Schreyer Honors College Website

The honors program in Biology stems from The Schreyer Honors College. Visit their website via the link above to find information on honors courses, news and events, advisers, scholarships, your Honors Thesis and many additional topics.

Honors Advisers

Honors Classes

  • BIOL 110H
  • BIOL 220M
  • BIOL 230M
  • BIOL 240M

The honors option permits a Schreyer Scholar enrolled in a regular University course to make it an honors course and to receive honors credit. The student and the instructor, in advance or early in the semester in which the course is offered, arrange for a portion of the work of the course to be done as a project of honors caliber or plan significant alternative work for the honors student. In an honors option, the honors work should not be an add-on, but should be done within the course syllabus, or as an alternative to what is required of regular students. It should go more deeply into methodology, structure, and theory, attack more sophisticated questions, and satisfy more rigorous standards. Carried out successfully, it should be more rewarding. Recommended primarily for work in one's major, an honors option is an excellent way to make contact with an instructor in your department whose work particularly interests you. Many thesis projects begin with an exciting honors option experience.

Please note that honors options are usually not appropriate in skills courses such as ESACT and ROTC courses.

To honors option a course

Please remember, the Schreyer Honors College website will have to most update information about this subject.

  • Contact the course instructor to discuss the possibility of turning the course into an honors option and to plan a project for the honors option. Be aware of the fact that honors options must be supervised by members of the regular faculty (i.e., ot a graduate student, part-time faculty, or member of the University staff who is not on the faculty). To help you design a plan for your honors option, an Honors Option resource File is available for your review in the Scholars Office. This document contains project descriptions and evaluations from students who have previously completed honors options and may be inspirational to you.
  • Obtain an honors option form and clearly outline the work that you are proposing to do. Sign it and obtain the signatures of the honors option supervisor as well as your honors advisor.
  • Submit the completed form to the Schreyer Honors College NO LATER THAN THE THIRD WEEK of the semester in which the course is taken.
  • Register for the course without the H designation. The Schreyer Honors College will add the H credit for all courses for which honors options forms have been filed.

Note: In order to receive honors option credit, students may not receive monetary compensation for the work to be done. Moreover, a course may not revert to non-honors status without the permission of the honors option supervisor. The Schreyer Honors College must receive written notification of such a change NO LATER THAN THE END OF THE SIXTH WEEK of the semester. After the sixth week, dropping the honors commitment without dropping the course involves University Faculty Senate action.

(Text reproduced with permission from the Schreyer Honors College.)