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Undergraduate Program

Guidelines for Child Study and Human Development
Senior Honors Theses and Applied Special Projects (ASP)

A&S Honors Thesis form
(Must be completed by date
specified by the Registrar,
in October of senior year)

(Updated: March 2018)

A Senior Honors Thesis and an Applied Special Project give qualified students an opportunity to carry out a capstone project in some area or on some subject related to Child Study and Human Development . As a capstone project, the thesis or ASP can provide experience in doing research, working closely with a faculty member, and integrating courses taken as a CSHD major — all the while building upon and extending past learning in new directions.

Students completing an Honors Thesis or ASP are strongly encouraged to participate in the annual Eliot-Pearson Student Presentation Day, held in April.

The Senior Honors Thesis (CSHD 198)

The Senior Honors thesis in Child Study and Human Development is a project students take on during their senior year, though the planning for it should begin before the senior year begins. Students receive credit for taking the equivalent of two courses spread out over two semesters. To be eligible to do a Senior Honors Thesis students must:

  1. have been on the Dean's List at least twice prior to senior year
  2. have at least a 3.4 GPA
  3. write a short proposal during junior year which outlines the thesis topic, methodology and gives a sense of what the literature review will include
  4. find two faculty members to serve on his/her thesis committee as first and second readers. The first reader must be secured by the end of junior year; the second reader can be added later. The first reader must be a member of the Child Study and Human Development faculty; the second reader may be either within or outside the department.
  5. make sure that if original research will be conducted that any necessary IRB approval is cleared; IRB approval is also required for students doing analyses as part of a larger project. Note: if a student is doing work that will or might require IRB approval, it is prudent to meet with a member of the IRB committee to discuss the proposed project, and also to undergo the online training that qualifies a student to undertake a project that will require IRB approval.

The Senior Honors Thesis Proposal

The proposal should contain the following information:

  1. topic of the honors thesis and the research question or questions
  2. some discussion of why the topic is significant — with significance being determined by theoretical or methodological issues, topicality, and/or social/political/economic relevance pertaining to children, youth, and/or families
  3. an outline of sources for the literature review. A literature review is meant to situate work within what others have done before.
  4. an outline of the proposed methodology and a proposed data analysis plan
  5. a list of the two or more faculty members who have agreed to serve on the thesis committee; the second or third reader can be from outside the department.
  6. The proposal should be 5-8 pages long.

Types of projects that can form the basis of a Senior Honors Thesis

There are many types of projects that can form the basis for a Senior Honors Thesis including case studies, arts-based research, secondary analyses of data, content analyses of children's media/arts, and empirical studies.

Timetable for a Senior Honors Thesis

  • Junior year

    • discuss ideas with potential faculty committee members
    • do preliminary research
    • write thesis proposal (5-8 pages) and submit to committee members
    • meet with committee members to discuss proposal and make any recommended changes
    • Initiate IRB training and review, if applicable
    • Consider applying for the Summer Scholars program

  • First semester senior year

    • Register for CSHD 198 (This is a two semester commitment; at the end of the first semester, students get a "Y" grade and at the end of the second semester, they get a letter grade and credit equivalent to having taken two courses.)
    • Fill out the honors thesis form in October, and submit to the Registrar's Office
    • finalize methodology
    • write literature review
    • complete IRB review if applicable
    • begin data collection if applicable

  • Second semester senior year

    • register for CSHD 198
    • complete data collection
    • data analysis
    • writing and editing thesis
    • arrange a one hour defense with all committee members by the third week of April
    • submit a copy of the Senior Honors Thesis to Digital Collections and Archives in Tisch Library before Commencement, and a copy to Eliot-Pearson

At the recommendation of a student's thesis committee, the senior thesis may merit either honors, high honors, or highest honors. These are different from Latin honors (cum laude, magna cum laude, summa cum laude) in that are determined solely by the evaluation of the thesis and not by a student's overall GPA.

The Applied Special Project (ASP) (CSHD 98)

The Applied Special Project is a semester-long one credit project in Child Study and Human Development. The ASP is different from a Senior Honors Thesis in that it is only one semester in duration, and it need not take the form of a written project (although it could). The ASP might take the form of a film, a play, artwork, performance pieces, music, photography or multimedia. The ASP could also take a written form, with a minimum of 35 pages in length. The ASP might be an applied extension of a project a student has undertaken as part of CD fieldwork, a spinoff that complements and extends a project undertaken in another course or a non-empirical outgrowth of an ongoing research project. Any ASP must contain a written component, but if it is paired with an audiovisual element, the written portion may be less than 35 pages.

To be eligible to do an ASP a student must:

  1. write a short proposal during the semester prior to carrying out the ASP, a proposal that outlines the ASP topic, methodology and that gives a sense of what the literature review will include
  2. find two faculty members to serve on their ASP committee; one can be from outside the department
  3. make sure that if original research or interviews involve human subjects that any necessary IRB training is received and approval is cleared

Timetable for a Senior ASP

  • Junior year

    • discuss ideas with potential faculty committee members
    • do preliminary research
    • write ASP proposal (5-8 pages) and submit to Senior ASP Committee Chair (or committee members)
    • Initiate IRB training and review if applicable

  • First or second semester senior year

    • Register for CSHD 98
    • finalize methodology
    • write literature review
    • complete IRB review if applicable
    • data collection
    • execute project
    • arrange a one hour defense with all committee members by the third week of April
    • submit a copy of the ASP to Eliot-Pearson

Note: A Child Study and Human Development ASP does not make a student eligible to receive thesis honors, although qualifying students might be eligible for nomination to receive summa cum laude.

Tisch Library offers an 8 week, 1/2 credit class designed for students who are planning to write a senior thesis: Research 4 Success: Using the Library for Thesis and Capstone Projects (EXP 19). This is not required, but is a resource available for students.