Honors thesis

Practical Advice

  • Students normally contact a potential advisor early in their junior year.
  • Students writing an honors thesis often work on their project with their advisor during the summer between their junior and senior year.
  • A list of W&L math majors who have previously written an honors thesis can be found here.

Math Department's Honors Thesis Policy

Students wishing to pursue an Honors Thesis in Mathematics must receive permission from the Head of the Mathematics Department by the Spring term of their junior year. Before permission can be granted, the student must have

  1. demonstrated an exceptional ability in mathematics,
  2. chosen someone to direct them in their thesis, and
  3. chosen a topic.

The thesis may be expository, may contain original theoretical work, may contain data analysis, may contain new proofs of old theorems, or any combination thereof.

The thesis director of the student will choose another researcher (at W&L or elsewhere) to serve as a second reader of the thesis. The director will give a progress report to the head of the department at the end of the fall term and again during the Washington Break in February.

A copy of the thesis will be given to the second reader by the last day of class of winter term. The student will then defend their thesis during the spring term. A copy of the thesis should be given to each faculty member at least one week before the thesis defense. The thesis must be typeset in TeX or LaTeX. In addition, a permanent copy of the thesis must be deposited in the Leyburn Library.

Note: There are LaTeX templates for math majors writing an honors thesis. Please contact Professor Michael Bush or Professor Mitch Keller to be added to the Sakai site where the template and some other useful resources are hosted.

W&L Policy for Honors Students

In addition to the above policy, potential honors students are strongly advised to see the section Honors in the Major in the University Catalog section Requirements for the Degree.

Please note the following:

  • A prospective honors student applies in writing to the departmental head or major adviser. In general, application must be made by May 1 of the junior year.
  • Minimum eligibility for honors candidacy is a 3.000 cumulative grade-point average by the time of enrollment in the honors thesis courses (numbered in the 490s). 
  • All honors programs require an honors thesis during the senior year, involving six credits (no more, no less).
  • The final finished version of the thesis is due by May 1 (or by the end of the Winter term in certain departments). A permanent copy of the thesis must be deposited in the Leyburn Library.