Guidance for CHC Primary Thesis Advisors

Introduction to the CHC Thesis

The CHC thesis project is an opportunity for students to combine the knowledge and skills they have gained in their major or minor with the critical reasoning and communication skills they have developed through their core education in the CHC. Since CHC students are enrolled in every major and minor on campus, the CHC’s thesis requirements accommodate different disciplinary norms and expectations, as well as diverse career readiness goals. Theses can encompass creative and professional projects as well as scholarly research. The length and format of a student’s thesis will depend on their project, although we encourage primary thesis advisors to be mindful of the fact that their advisees are completing honors theses and not master’s projects. The CHC relies on the expertise of the primary thesis advisor, who can help ensure that a student’s thesis project is an appropriate senior capstone for their field of study. Please see this comprehensive overview of the CHC thesis process.

Each CHC thesis project is supervised by a two-person committee, consisting of:

  • The Primary Thesis Advisor:  a tenure-related or career faculty member at the UO who is a specialist in the student’s field of study. The primary thesis advisor mentors them throughout the thesis process, providing regular guidance and feedback.
  • The CHC Representative:  a member of the CHC core faculty who typically provides a non-specialist perspective on the project and assists with process related questions and issues.

Committees may include a third committee member. Addition of a third committee member is ultimately at your discretion as primary thesis advisor (except in the case of students enrolled in the 3+3 law program, which requires a committee member from the law school). Third members are frequently graduate students or post-doctoral scholars who have worked closely with the student. In some cases, the major department requires a second faculty member from the major department to ensure simultaneous fulfillment of departmental honors requirements.

Overview of Primary Thesis Advisor Responsibilities

As an expert in the field of study, primary thesis advisors are responsible for ensuring that student projects employ project design, methods, and frameworks appropriate to the thesis field. They guide the student in focusing their project and preparing a thesis prospectus, meet with the student regularly, provide feedback on the project, participate in the oral defense, and approve the final version of the thesis.

The Thesis Prospectus Class

 CHC students are required to recruit a primary thesis advisor prior to registering for HC 477H Thesis Prospectus (a 2 credit P/NP required class). They work with their primary thesis advisor while enrolled in the class. As primary thesis advisor, you will be asked to:

  • confirm your willingness to work with the student by electronically signing their authorization form to register for HC 477H prior to the start of the term
  • meet with the student during the term and provide feedback on their prospectus
  • attend an in-class oral prospectus presentation (~30 minutes including Q&A), or, if you are not able to attend the presentation, consult with the HC 477H instructor on alternative options
  • sign-off on the final version of the prospectus at the end of the term

While the CHC faculty member teaching the course will provide generalized guidance on the writing of the prospectus, the student will need your disciplinary expertise to ensure that their planned project is well-conceived, contextualized within the field, and appropriately scoped.

Mentoring the Thesis

The CHC recognizes that different fields have their own expectations and norms around the mentorship of student thesis projects and that faculty have different mentoring styles. As a baseline, we expect that primary thesis advisors will:

  • early in the thesis process, share expectations around topics such as preferred modes of communication, meeting frequency, and lead time needed to provide feedback on drafts
  • meet regularly with their advisees
  • provide clear expectations and substantive intellectual and practical guidance for the project
  • ensure the student obtains any needed research permissions (e.g., human subjects)
  • review the thesis draft and provide feedback prior to circulation of the thesis to the full committee for the defense

Students may also ask you to supervise independent study credits related to the thesis, which can be offered through your home department or the CHC. Scheduling of regular meetings, follow-through on faculty guidance, provision of drafts with sufficient time for feedback, and completion of the project is ultimately the student’s responsibility (see Thesis Committee Roles and Responsibilities). However, please keep in mind that for most students this is their first time completing a project of this scope; your patience and mentorship are appreciated. If a student stops communicating, please contact the CHC representative on the committee.

The Thesis Defense

The CHC thesis defense serves as both an evaluation of the thesis and an opportunity to celebrate the student’s accomplishment. It consists of a 20-30 minute presentation from the student, Q&A from the committee and audience, and private deliberation by the committee with immediate conveyance of the result to the student. The thesis defense must take place by the Friday of Week 9 in the defense term. The thesis defense typically takes place from two terms to a full year after the HC 477H term.

The primary thesis advisor is expected to:

  • mentor the student in their preparation for the defense (presentation and Q&A)
  • read the thesis and provide feedback at or immediately following the defense on needed final changes to the text
  • attend and participate in the defense, including evaluation of the thesis in accordance with disciplinary standards and the CHC thesis evaluation criteria
  • review and sign off on the final version of the thesis

Scheduling: Students are responsible for scheduling the date and time for their defense as well as reserving a room (or setting up a zoom link). We encourage students to consult with their primary thesis advisor as to whether there is an available space for the defense in their department; if not, the CHC will assist in identifying a location. The Academic Thesis and Programs Manager will send an email confirming the defense date, time, and location approximately 20 days in advance of the defense. The student should circulate a final copy of the thesis which has been formatted according to the CHC’s specifications to the committee and to the Academic Thesis and Programs manager 10 calendar days before the defense. If the student has not circulated the defense draft of the thesis in that timeframe, the primary thesis advisor and CHC representative may ask the student to postpone the defense.

Confirmation: Following circulation of the draft, the CHC representative will initiate an email conversation re-confirming the date, time, and location of the defense, communicating about logistics, reminding the committee of the CHC evaluation criteria, and ensuring that the thesis will meet CHC requirements for completion. This not only ensures a smooth process (e.g., Who will facilitate? Who will introduce the student? Will the audience or the committee ask questions first?), but also gives committee members a chance to ask questions and surface any concerns in advance of the defense. If there are serious concerns that that the student will not pass the defense, the CHC representative will consult with the CHC Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies. Defenses in which a decision of “Not Completed” is expected should not go forward.

Evaluation: During deliberations, the committee will determine whether the student has successfully completed the thesis requirement. The primary thesis advisor will bring their disciplinary expertise to the evaluation of the thesis following the CHC thesis evaluation criteria. Keep in mind that all students, even those whose thesis is considered “Complete” at the time of the defense, may make minor revisions prior to submitting the final document. “Decision Withheld Pending Revisions” is only for situations in which the committee determines that the thesis requirement cannot be considered complete unless the requested revisions are made. If revisions are needed, make sure there is a clear plan in place to communicate them to the student; typically, the primary thesis advisor takes the lead in supervising revisions.

If the thesis is of a particularly high caliber, we encourage you to nominate the thesis for a CHC thesis award. The CHC will send you an email with a link to the nomination form within a week of the defense.

Following Up: Following the defense, the CHC representative will send an email with the other committee member(s) and the student cc’d notifying the CHC’s Academic and Thesis Programs Manager of the outcome. The primary thesis advisor will typically meet with the student shortly following the defense to convey any suggested or required edits to the thesis. Unless the committee decides otherwise, the primary thesis advisor is solely responsible for reviewing revisions and signing off on the final thesis.

Final Submission of the Thesis

The student will electronically submit their thesis to the CHC by noon on the Thursday of Week 10 in the term in which the defense took place. The student should share the final version of the thesis with their primary advisor prior to submitting it. An electronic form will route to the primary thesis advisor for final sign-off once the student has uploaded the document.

The CHC encourages students to archive their theses on Scholars’ Bank, where they may opt to make the thesis publicly available or restrict access to those on the UO campus.

When You Have Concerns/Questions

  • The CHC website has detailed information on the thesis including an overview, defense and submission instructions, and an extensive FAQ.
  • If you have questions about procedural aspects of the thesis, please contact or refer students to the CHC’s Academic and Thesis Programs Manager Miriam Jordan ( Miriam can also connect you with the CHC representative on the thesis committee or with a student’s HC 477H Thesis Prospectus instructor.
  • If you have questions or concerns related to academic and student success topics such as difficult student situations, clarification of CHC evaluation criteria, clarification of committee roles, etc. please start by consulting with the CHC representative on the committee. You may elevate concerns to Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies Daphne Gallagher (