Writing a Senior Honors Thesis & Graduating With High/Highest Honors

Get involved in the exciting world of research in the UCD Psychology Department! if your GPA qualifies, you can also earn high or highest honors from the UC Davis Department of Psychology. To earn high or highest honors, these two items must be completed:


Please note that you can graduate with honors just based on whether your GPA qualifies (Look at the College of Letters & Science website here to see the yearly cutoffs). To graduate with high honors or highest honors, you must complete these steps.


1.   You must take 6 units of course work specifically dedicated to the honors research project. Writing a senior honors thesis is a year long commitment that you must undertake with a faculty sponsor within the psychology department who agrees to work with you.  If you think you are interested in completing a senior honors thesis, first make sure that you will (or are likely to) qualify for the GPA requirements for honors!  Please see this page for the specific GPA cutoffs.  Then, you should be in touch with a faculty member with whom you are already working OR contact (via email) one of our many faculty in psychology and express your interest in doing an honors thesis with her/him. Our faculty research descriptions and contact info is listed here and any faculty within the department may supervise a thesis.  

Once you have worked with your faculty sponsor to come up with an honors thesis project, you must register for the 6 units of coursework, PSC 194HA and 194HB. NOTE: if you do not meet the GPA requirement, you will not be able to complete an honors thesis, per University requirements. HOWEVER, other upper-division courses can be taken to achieve the same goal, including PSC 199, with the approval of your faculty sponsor. In the case of non-194H courses, the Instructor must be aware that the units are dedicated toward completion of the Honors requirements. Undergraduates are encouraged to take advantage of all the exciting and groundbreaking research taking place here in the UCD psychology department. Whether or not you do an honors thesis, contacting a professor whose research interests match yours is a great way to get started. Based on discussion with a UCD Psychology faculty member, you and your potential sponsor can then decide, based on any subsequent discussions, whether it makes sense for you to do a thesis.

2.   To obtain high or highest honors, you must complete a thesis. This will entail an original empirical investigation designed and executed by the student. A review of the literature on a subject does not count. You should write up the thesis in the style of a scientific journal article (preferably using style of the American Psychological Association - APA). You may collaborate with a professor and even another student, but you must be the first author and primary investigator. By implication, only one person can gain credit for a single Honors Thesis. This work should be primarily your contribution and ideas; “wrapping” up a graduate student’s existing project, for example, would not be an appropriate honors thesis.  However, building a new set of experiments from an existing project, based on your discussions with your faculty sponsor, is certainly appropriate, as long as there is evidence of your input and ideas in the process.


NOTE: If you do NOT qualify for the GPA requirement (please see https://lettersandscience.ucdavis.edu/deans-honors-list-and-graduation-honors), you will *not* be able to complete an honors thesis through the honors program.  However, in conjunction with your faculty sponsor, you can still perform senior research and write a thesis.  If you decide to go this route, you should work with your faculty sponsor on this issue, as she/he would be responsible for assigning you the 199 course credit and evaluating your thesis.




What is the difference between Honors, High Honors, and Highest Honors?

Students can graduate with honors based solely on their GPA. (Find the GPA cutoffs here). Whether you receive High or Highest Honors depends on the quality of your thesis. Each thesis is read and evaluated by a committee of Psychology faculty at the end of the quarter in which you filed to graduate. The final decision will be the result of the application of a uniform criteria across all submitted theses. If a thesis is unacceptable, or if no thesis is submitted at all, and a student still meets the College of Letters and Science Honors GPA, they will earn Honors by default.

Who will be reading my thesis?

The professor who supervised your research will submit a recommendation on your behalf to the honors thesis adviser (interim adviser is Simona Ghetti) - though, this recommendation is not binding on the final decision. Your paper will be evaluated by both your sponsor and other departmental faculty, with the interim adviser playing a role in administering review of your thesis through the department.

When is my thesis due and how do I submit it?

The theses are due no later than the last day of instruction for the quarter you petitioned to graduate. Please submit the electronic version of your thesis to  - preferably as a pdf. Also attached to that email message should be a completed "Honors Thesis Cover Sheet" (see link below). Your supervisor's comments and recommendation may be included on that sheet or sent to Prof. Ghetti separately at the same email address. All attachments should include your last name in the file name (e.g., [Last Name]HonorsThesis.pdf and [Last Name]CoverSheet.pdf). This helps avoid potential confusion, especially if your supervisor submits a separate evaluation and recommendation.

How will my thesis be graded?

Highest honors: A well-written thesis with a clearly described problem that the student focuses on addressing throughout.  There should be ample evidence of original work, in the form of new data collection and/or new analyses addressing a problem in the literature.  The statistical approach should be suitable to the problem at hand.  The data should be of sufficient quality and sample size to show convincing positive or negative effects.  Most or many appropriate controls should be included.  The data should provide clear and unambiguous support for the main conclusions in the discussion (with some additional caveats and speculation allowable based on the subject matter). The placement of the findings within the context of any relevant literature should be as complete as possible.  Overall, this should be a thesis that is about 70% (or more) of the way to being ready for submission for publication based on the standards set by a respected low to mid impact journal in your field.

High honors: Some of the conditions described above are true but not all, e.g., 1) the thesis is addressing an interesting and novel problem but some relevant control conditions are lacking, thereby complicating interpretations somewhat, AND/OR 2) there is evidence of novel data collection and/or analyses but not of sufficient quality or sample size to make firm interpretations without additional work AND/OR 3) the analyses make use of some appropriate statistical techniques but in some cases are not appropriate AND/OR 4) the data support many or some aspects of the interpretation but not all AND/OR 5) some relevant discussion of the literature  is present but other work may be missing or overlooked; nonetheless, the student has framed the problem within current work in the field adequately.  This should be a thesis that is overall compelling, novel, and interesting but may not be ready for publication any time soon; it should represent a strong effort overall.

Honors: A thesis with significant flaws, e.g., no evidence of original data collection and/or analyses, a poorly defined problem with minimal controls and analyses to address it, insufficient data quality of sample size to address the problem in any meaningful way, AND/OR a misunderstanding, in some form, of a issues basic to the field that renders the thesis difficult to interpret and problematic.  Overall, this is not a passable thesis.



Sample Theses in manuscript form are available in the Advising Office room 101 Young Hall

Sample Theses that received Highest Honors are available online here: 20062011.

Still confused? If you have any other questions, please ask. The advising staff as well as the thesis adviser will help in any way they can. You can also email the faculty adviser, Dr. Simona Ghetti (), who can provide answers over email or in person.


Good luck and have fun with this exciting opportunity!