students walking in graduation caps and gowns

Pursuing Honors in PNP

Many students choose to pursue an Honors degree in PNP. The pursuit of honors in PNP is built around a long-term major research project of your design, researched and written under the direction of an expert in PNP. You’ll do original interdisciplinary work, get a taste of what life is like as a graduate student and academic, and face a novel kind of intellectual challenge.

These pages can help you decide whether you should write an honors thesis and, if so, how to go about doing so.


To be a candidate for PNP Honors, a student must:

  • meet any requirements for Latin Honors (including GPA requirements) set by the College of Arts & Sciences in the Bulletin
  • have their project approved by the PNP Honors Program Coordinator

After approval is received, a section will be created for you in WUCRSL, connecting you to your primary advisor.

Students enrolled in PNP 499 design and implement an interdisciplinary research project under direction of two faculty members, one of whom must be a core PNP faculty member. The results of the project are written up in an Honors Thesis — typically 30 – 60 pages.

PNP 499 is meant to be taken over the two semesters of your senior year (for 6 units of credit, which can count towards the depth requirement in your chosen track). This is the only route by which students in PNP can be awarded Latin Honors.

In order to first register for PNP 499, you must complete the PNP Honors Application Form and submit it by the end of the last week of classes in the spring semester of your junior year for spring graduates or by the second Friday in December of junior year for fall graduates. You must also submit an Honors Prospectus by the end of the first week of class in the fall of your senior year if you plan to graduate in the spring, or by the end of May in the summer prior to your senior year if you plan to graduate in the fall. In order to continue on with an honors thesis, you must submit a Progress Report by the end of the fall semester of your senior year if you plan to graduate in the spring, and by the Friday before Fall Break of your senior year if you plan to graduate in the fall.


In the course of the project you will need to meet seven (7) official Deadlines. Separate deadlines have been created for both spring-of-senior-year graduates and for fall-of-senior year graduates. If you are graduating some other semester, please contact the PNP Honors Coordinator for deadlines and advice.

Download a printable version of these PNP Honors Deadlines

PNP Honors Application

Initial Project Proposal. Provides topic, brief description, and preliminary reading list. Also lists Primary Advisor. Must be signed by your Primary Advisor. Student is responsible for getting the application signed and for submitting it. Submit to PNP Administrative Assistant in hard copy (Wilson Hall, Room 208).

Due date:
              Spring graduates: by end of last week of class, spring semester of junior year
              Fall graduates: by the second Friday in December of junior year

Download Application Form

PNP Honors Prospectus

Elaborated Project Proposal. Provides longer description, outline of project, and updated reading list. Also lists your Secondary Advisor. Email to PNP Administrative Assistant.

Due date:
           Spring graduates: by end of first week of class in fall semester of senior year
           Fall graduates: by Friday before Memorial Day in summer before senior year

Download Prospectus Form

PNP Honors Mid-Project Evaluation

Indicates whether or not you are on target to complete your Solid Draft by the Solid Draft deadline. Must be signed by your Primary Advisor. Student is responsible for getting the report signed and for submitting it. Submit to PNP Administrative Assistant in hard copy (Wilson Hall, Room 208).

Due date:
            Spring graduates: by second Friday in December of senior year
            Fall graduates: by the end of the first week of class of senior year

Download Mid-Project Evaluation Form

Solid Draft

The Solid Draft is a polished draft of the complete paper. This is the first draft that your Secondary Advisor must receive. (They may request to see earlier versions as well.) They must have time to read it and provide you with feedback on it, which you use in creating your Defense Draft.

Due date:
            Spring graduates: by end of the first week of spring semester of senior year
            Fall graduates: by the Friday before Fall Break of senior year

Defense Draft

This is the version that your advisors will evaluate at your thesis defense. Submit to them by email or in hard copy, whichever they prefer.

Due date:
            Spring graduates: by first Friday in March of senior year
            Fall graduates: by Friday before Thanksgiving of senior year

Thesis Defense Form

The Thesis Defense Form indicates whether or not the student has successfully defended their Honors Project. Must be signed at your defense by both your advisors. Student is responsible for bringing the form, getting it signed, and for submitting it afterwards. Submit in hard copy to PNP Administrative Assistant (Wilson Hall, Room 208).

Due date:
            Spring graduates: by end of first week after spring break of senior year
            Fall graduates: by December 15 of senior year

Download Thesis Defense Form

Final Version

This is the paper that you will submit to the PNP Program after making any revisions requested by your advisors at your defense and after formatting the document to meet the formatting requirements for a PNP Honors Thesis. Email to PNP Administrative Assistant.

Due date:
            Spring graduates: by April 15 of senior year
            Fall graduates: by January 7 of senior year

Honors Thesis Checklist

This checklist runs you through everything you will have to do to successfully complete and defend and receive recognition for your Honors Thesis. In the course of the project you will need to meet seven (7) official deadlines. The checklist itself does not provide these deadlines but gives a coarser timeline for completing each portion of the project. Please consult the deadlines FAQ above for a precise official timeline of your Honors Project.

Note: If you are studying abroad during your Junior year, it is vital to plan ahead carefully. Secure the agreement of a Primary Advisor prior to your departure. Face-to-face discussion is both more efficient and more likely to be successful than is email communication.

Your fourth-to-last semester

  1. Brainstorm topic ideas. Download our Choosing a Topic Guide for help.
  2. Speak with potential Primary Advisors.
    Each Honors Thesis Project must be completed under the direction of two advisors, a Primary Advisor and a Secondary Advisor.  Both advisors must be WUSTL faculty members. In the ordinary case, an Honors Thesis Committee consists of one core PNP faculty member and one (non-core) affiliated faculty member. Your Primary Advisor should be someone you're comfortable working with, someone who shares your interest in your topic. Primary Advisors must be faculty members (e.g. no lab managers or Post Docs).
    1. Other advisor Options: A PNP postdoc may also serve in the place of a core PNP faculty member, but only as a secondary advisor. It is sometimes possible to have one non-affiliated faculty member serve as one advisor if the second advisor is a core PNP faculty member. It is also sometimes possible to have two (non-core) affiliated faculty members serve as advisors, with no core PNP faculty advisor. Please contact the PNP Administrative Assistant if you would like to pursue any of these options. 
  3. Make your decision. Undertaking an Honors Thesis is a serious commitment. Your interest in your chosen topic must be supported by self-discipline, organizational skills, and a willingness to work independently. Because writing an Honors Thesis is a massively cooperative effort, you must follow PNP policies closely. To fully weigh your options, download our Should I write an Honors Thesis Guide.

Your third-to-last semester

Secure a Primary Advisor, research Secondary Advisors, and complete the Honors Application, including the Timeline and Reading List.  

  1. Secure a Primary Adviser. Your Primary Advisor will be your chief contact on the thesis.
  2. Research a Secondary Advisor. Your Secondary Advisor may choose to be more or less involved in the project, as they wish. The minimum commitment on their part is to a) read and provide feedback on your Solid Draft and b) read your Thesis Draft and c) attend your Thesis Defense. Note: Your committee members — your Primary Advisor and a Secondary Advisor — must agree to be available to hold the defense prior to the defense deadline. 
  3. Develop your topic. An Honors Thesis might be predominantly theoretical, or it might involve a substantial empirical component, but it should have more of an interdisciplinary focus than an Honors Thesis in Philosophy, Psychology, or another of the component disciplines. A PNP Honors Thesis would normally be 30 – 60 pages, divided into chapters, although theses that are more empirical in their orientation could take a different form.
  4. Apply for funding and authorization. Students performing original research may need to acquire funding and authorization for their experiment.
    • You should talk with your Primary Adviser about whether you will be required to acquire funding for your project, and, if so, what funding resources might be open to you. The Office of Undergraduate Research can be helpful in this regard as well.
    • If your thesis involves human participants, you will need to obtain prior authorization from the Human Research Protection Office. You are urged to plan ahead and factor in the significant lead time this process involves. You will need to take a brief Human Subject Education course, submit a complete description of your experiment, and await approval before you can begin collecting your data. This process can easily take two months or longer, especially if revisions are requested. Faculty in the Medical School and the Psychology Department are typically well versed in these procedures and might be able to give you some guidance on filling out and submitting these forms. Do not assume that you do not need to get permission even if your Advisor tells you it is unimportant. Washington University policy is clear on this: students who do not follow these procedures "will not be allowed to use the data in an Honors Thesis, presentation, or publication of any sort. Blatant violations may be referred to WU academic integrity or research integrity review boards."
  5. Complete and submit your Honors Application. This application asks for the working title and topic of your thesis and for a brief project description. It also requires that you provide a timeline demonstrating when and how you will complete the work as well as a preliminary reading list for the project.

The summer before you graduate

  1. Work hard. Once the semester begins you will almost certainly have less time to work than you do now the semester begins. Note that you do not have the entirety of the semester you defend the thesis in order to work on the project. In fact you only have about half of that semester available to work on the thesis.
  2. Register for PNP 499. In order to register, you must have a section created in WUCRSL with your Primary Advisor listed as the instructor. The PNP Administrative Assistant will create this section for you upon approval of your Honors Application and again upon approval of your PNP Mid-Project Evaluation.
  3. Contact candidate Secondary Advisors. If you are unable to do so, contact the PNP Honors Coordinator.

Your second-to-last semester (or the summer thereafter, for fall graduates)

  1. Submit your Prospectus. This prospectus asks for a longer project description, an updated Timeline and Reading List, as well as an outline for the thesis. 
  2. Submit your Mid-Project Evaluation. This evaluation needs to be signed by your Primary Advisor. It will decide whether you continue on with an Honors project in the next semester or whether the work you have done so far is converted into an independent study instead. (Note: for fall graduates, this may be submitted at the very beginning of the student’s last semester.)

Your last semester

  1. Schedule your defense. People are busy. Faculty members are especially busy. We recommend that you schedule your defense as early as is feasible.
  2. Complete your Solid Draft. A polished and complete draft of the entire thesis must be submitted to your Secondary Advisor (and to your Primary Advisor if they request) early enough in the semester for them to provide substantive critical feedback on the draft and for you to revise in light of that feedback.
  3. Complete your Defense Draft. After substantively revising the Solid Draft, student must submit the draft to-be-defended to both Primary and Secondary Advisor, sufficiently in advance of the defense date.
  4. Defend your thesis. Be sure to have all committee members present complete the Thesis Defense Form. No external viewers are allowed at the oral defense. Expect your defense to last about an hour. You will be asked to deliver a brief overview of the thesis, then face questioning from the committee. At the conclusion, you will be asked to leave the room, while the Thesis Committee determines a grade for the thesis. When you return, you will be informed of the result.
  5. Submit your Thesis Defense Form.
  6. Create your Final Version. After revising your Defense Draft in light of any requests made by your advisors at the Defense, please modify it to meet all Formatting Requirements. Submit to the PNP Administrative Assistant. The PNP office (Wilson Hall, Room 208) is willing to print up to 4 bound copies for you; you can make an appointment with the PNP Administrative Assistant (314-935-4297) for help binding the thesis.
  7. Graduate with Honors!

Formatting Guidelines and Content Guidelines

Your Defense Draft can be modified after your defense to meet most of these guidelines, though you should consult with your committee members in advance of submitting to them your Defense Draft in order to see whether there are any formatting, style, or citation guidelines that they would like the Defense Draft to adhere to.

Please consult the Deadlines above to ensure that you have submitted the Final Version of your Honors project by the necessary time.

Please consult the PNP Administrative Assistant for help with creating a bound copy of the Final Version of your Honors thesis.

Formatting of Final Version

  1. STYLE: You should consult with your committee members to determine your discipline's preferred documentation style, including the presentation of footnotes/endnotes and the manner in which references are to be cited.
  2. MARGINS: Your Final Version should have these margins: Left ­1.5 inches; Right ­1 inch; Top ­ 1 inch; Bottom ­ 1 inch. The left margin is extra wide to accommodate the binding process.  
  3. PAGINATION: Page numbers should appear centered at the bottom of the page. The page number can fall within the bottom margin of the page. The number should be separated from the text by approximately .5 inch.
    • Every sheet of paper in the manuscript should be numbered except for two: the title page should not be numbered (but is counted as the first page — see below), and the optional copyright page is neither numbered not counted. Letter suffixes (e.g. 10a) may not be used.
    • Lower case Roman numerals are used for the preliminary pages, including the title page and acknowledgements page. Since the title page is counted but not numbered, “ii” is the first number used and appears on the page after the title and copyright pages.
    • Arabic numerals are used for all other manuscript pages. The first page of the main body of the thesis should be numbered “1”. (Note thus that pages with Arabic numerals should NOT continue numerically; e.g. do not move from p. xii to p. 13.)
  4. SPACING: The main body of the thesis should be 1.5­ spaced, except for long quotations, which should be single-spaced and also indented on both the right and the left.
  5. FONT: Font should not routinely be italicized and should never be script or ornamental. Size should be equivalent to 12 ­point Times New Roman.
  6. FOOTNOTES/ENDNOTES: Footnotes and endnotes should be single-­spaced, with a single blank line between each pair of notes.  
  7. BIBLIOGRAPHY/REFERENCES/WORKS CITED: References should be single-spaced, with a single blank line between each pair of references.
  8. ABSTRACT/TABLE OF CONTENTS/EPIGRAPH/ETC.: Anything other than the main body of the thesis should be single-spaced.

Contents of Final Version

The following items should appear in the thesis in the order given. Note that items 1, 4, 5, and 9 are required. The main body of your thesis belongs between items 8 and 9.

1. The Thesis should include a title page that conforms precisely to the instructions provided in Appendix A (below).

2. If you wish to include a copyright page (with or without paying the fee to register your copyright), it should appear as an unnumbered and uncounted page immediately following the title page. The copyright page should have the following information, centered and with a single blank line between each line of print:

copyright by
[full name of author]
[year of degree awarded]

3. If the thesis contains the thesis Abstract, it should appear next. Your Abstract should be page-­numbered in Roman numerals. The Abstract should be listed in the Table of Contents.

4. An Acknowledgments page must be included. In the final copy, it appears immediately before the table of contents. These are professional thanks to those whose support has contributed to your completing your thesis. You are expected to acknowledge sources of financial and academic support; external funding especially requires acknowledgment. You are permitted to thank those whose contribution has been personal, but you should do so in a professional style. Acknowledgments rarely take up more than one page. The dedication, if there is one, should close the acknowledgments.

5. The thesis should include a Table of Contents listing every subsequent section of the thesis, plus the Acknowledgments page that precedes it. Note that the Table of Contents is itself page-numbered using Roman numerals. 

6. If the thesis contains tables, figures, illustrations, etc., a List of Tables (Figures, Illustrations, etc.) should be included, immediately following the Table of Contents. Note that such pictorial material may be laid out either vertically, as is the text of the thesis, or horizontally, with its bottom edge the outside edge of the page. Note also that pages devoted to tables, figures and illustrations should be counted and numbered like all other pages in the main body of the thesis.

7. If the thesis includes a list of Abbreviations it should appear next.

8. The thesis might begin with an epigraph (a quotation from someone else's work); if there is an epigraph, it should appear on page 1 of the thesis, with the thesis text beginning on page 2. If the epigraph pertains only to the first chapter, it should appear between the chapter title and the chapter text.

9. The thesis should include a Bibliography or References or Works Cited section. Although this section is usually placed at the conclusion of the entire thesis, in some cases it might be appropriate to list sources at the end of each chapter. The Tables of Contents should clearly indicate where references are located.

10. Students wishing to include a C.V. should put it at the end.

Title Page Instructions

1. Give the correct name of the administrative unit in which you have been a student. The formal, complete name of PNP is:

Philosophy­-Neuroscience­-Psychology Program

2. List all the members of your Thesis Committee in the correct order, beginning with the primary advisor, identified as such, and proceeding with the others in alphabetical order by last name. You do not need to list their titles, degrees, departmental or institutional affiliation.

3. Provide your full name.

4. Provide the month and year in which your degree is to be conferred. Degrees are conferred only in December, May, and August, so use only one of these three on your title page. Do not put a comma between the month and the year.

5. Center everything on the page.

Copies of past Honors theses are kept in the Philosophy Library. You may consult these as examples or for inspiration.

Evaluation Criteria

The student’s Honors Thesis Committee (normally consisting of just the student's Primary and Secondary Advisors but sometimes of additional committee members as well) determines whether or not the student's Honors Project has been successful.

That determination is made on the basis of:

  •  the quality of the Thesis itself
  •  the quality of the research that lies behind it, and
  •  the student’s performance in the Thesis Defense

Upon learning from the student's Honors Thesis Committee (normally just the Primary Advisor and the Secondary Advisor) that the Project has been successfully completed and defended, the Department of Philosophy lets the College of Arts & Sciences know that the student has successfully completed their Honors Program. 

At that point, the student may be awarded the A.B. cum laudemagna cum laude, or summa cum laude according to the following proportions: the top 15 percent in overall grade point average of Latin honors candidates who complete the necessary requirements of their major departments or programs in the College of Arts & sciences, will graduate summa cum laude; the next 35 percent magna cum laude; the next 50 percent cum laude

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