Department of Education


Students may apply for honors in the concentration by meeting requirements including completion of a strong senior thesis.

Concentrators seeking to graduate with honors must fulfill the following requirements: have a minimum grade point average of more As than Bs, receive approval for their thesis proposal (completed in the sixth semester), and most importantly research and write an original Senior Thesis that meets or exceeds the standards established in the Department Rubric.

Honors are awarded on the basis of thesis quality. Writing a thesis does not guarantee that a student will receive honors. At the same time, students may elect to write a Senior Thesis and receive course credit even if they do not qualify for honors so long as they follow the procedures below.

Thesis Application

Frequently Asked Questions

In your junior year, you must secure a Thesis Advisor, develop a research question and research plan that you will investigate during your senior year, and apply to write a thesis by the first Friday in May. You will work on your senior thesis as part of the Senior Seminar (EDUC 1900) in the fall. Then, you will enroll in EDUC 1991 for independent study credit in the spring (this must be above and beyond the 10-course minimum requirement for education studies concentration). You will also meet regularly with your Thesis Adviser who will supervise your research and writing. 

Senior theses are due on the second Friday in April.

Most senior theses do receive honors but writing a senior thesis does not guarantee it. The thesis must meet or exceed the standards set forth in the Department Rubric for Honors and you must meet the minimum grade point average (more A’s than B’s in education studies courses). Your thesis will be evaluated by your Thesis Advisor and an additional faculty reader and who will provide you with written feedback. Even if you do not receive honors, you can still receive course credit for EDUC 1991. 

Any full-time teaching member of the Education Department faculty can be a Thesis Advisor if they are on campus for the year. Faculty on sabbatical cannot serve as a Thesis Advisor. Part-time or non-teaching faculty may serve as a Co-Thesis Advisor but may not be the sole director for a senior thesis.

Regularly—once every other week or even once a week. At the beginning of the year, you should set up a schedule that establishes a regular meeting time. It may not always be necessary to meet in person—emails and telephone are often helpful—but it is always good to have a date and time set aside when you know you can talk to your Thesis Advisor. 

Absolutely. You should seek out and consult faculty inside and outside the Education Department who have expertise on your topic, preferably early in the project, and their advice and help should be acknowledged in the preface of the thesis’ final draft.

You are required to write a progress report for the Director of Undergraduate Studies (DUS), signed by your Thesis Advisor by the end of the fall semester that outlines your progress. You may also be required to meet with the DUS to discuss that progress at this time. Furthermore, in May you will be invited to present your thesis to the Education Department faculty and students.   

An electronic copy of the thesis is due the second Friday in AprilWorking backward from the specified due date should help you and your Thesis Advisor set up a schedule for research and writing across two semesters.

An Honors thesis must ask an original research question, answer it with appropriate evidence, and place that work within relevant scholarly literature. An unorthodox format is unlikely to be able to do these things and satisfy the requirements of the Department Rubric for Honors and will consequently not be approved. A senior thesis cannot be a normative question, creative project, or policy advocacy, and it must do more than summarize what scholars already know; it must conduct original research. If you are interested in doing a different kind of project or an unorthodox format, you should consider doing a capstone project instead. 

You should contact the Director of Undergraduate Studies.

  1. Start thinking about a Senior Thesis early. It takes time to design a good research project. Choose classes your junior year that help you prepare for a senior thesis by introducing you to topics, methodologies, and/or faculty with which you might like to work. Start thinking in terms of research questions instead of topics. 
  2. Spend time and energy creating a good research design at the beginning. This means that you should refine your question, identify and begin reading relevant scholarship on the topic, identify your data source and make sure you can access and use it (and look at it—make sure it has the info you think it does), and think carefully about your methodology—how you will answer your question and the strengths and weaknesses of that approach. This should be done before the start of senior year—preferably during junior year but at least by the end of the summer right before senior year.
  3. Establish a clear work plan and timetable that gives adequate time for revisions in partnership with your Thesis Advisor. Make sure that your writing schedule allows the Thesis Adviser enough time to read the penultimate draft and get final suggestions to you. (In other words, get it to your adviser AT LEAST two weeks before the final draft is due and closer to a month if possible).
  4. Start writing early! Don’t wait until the spring semester to start writing. Writing can help clarify your thinking and reveal holes in your evidence and arguments. Writing is also hard work and to do it well requires some time and a lot of feedback and revision.  Even if you are still collecting data, try to start writing in the fall. Write the literature review or the methodology section. If you are writing an education history thesis, aim to write a draft of the first chapter before winter break.
  5. If there is even a slight possibility that you will need IRB clearance for your research, get started on obtaining it IMMEDIATELY. Your Thesis Adviser will help you to determine whether IRB approval is necessary and should guide you through the process if it is. 
  6. Winter break is a crucial time to make progress on your thesis. Don’t waste it! 

Helpful Tips

  1. Students apply to write a thesis at the end of their sixth semester.  They must secure a Thesis Adviser, develop a research question and a plan to investigate it in consultation with their adviser and submit the application form to the Department Honors Adviser by the deadline in early May. Students will be notified within two weeks whether their proposal has been approved, denied, or provisionally approved.  In the event of provisional approval, students will have to further develop their research proposal and re-submit an application by September 15 of their senior year. 
  2. In the Fall of senior year, students enroll in the senior seminar, meeting regularly with their Thesis Adviser (weekly or biweekly) as they research and begin writing the thesis. The student and adviser should develop a work plan and timetable from the outset (see recommended timetable below) and file it with the Honors Adviser by October 1. Students should also meet with other faculty with expertise in their topic, research methods, and/or scholarly literature for advice and feedback.
  3. At the end of the fall semester, students must submit a progress report to the Honors Adviser signed by their Thesis Adviser that details their progress on the thesis, including the research they have undertaken, their preliminary findings, the work they have left to do, and plan for completing it, and any challenges they have encountered. A meeting with the Honors Adviser may also be required.
  4. In the Spring, students will enroll in EDUC 1991 for credit with their Thesis Advisor and continue to meet regularly. It is recommended that students submit preliminary drafts for feedback to their Thesis Advisor and build in time for significant revision before the final thesis is due.
  5. The Senior Thesis is due the second Friday in April. The thesis will be evaluated according to the Department Rubric by the Thesis Advisor and by one other faculty member chosen by the Honors Adviser for their expertise.  If these faculty members recommend Honors and all other requirements are met (more A’s than B’s, all concentration requirements satisfied), students will receive Honors in the concentration. They will be notified in the first week of May. 
  6. Students are invited and encouraged to share their research by presenting their thesis to Education Department faculty, fellow students, friends, and families in May. 


Fall semester
Begin thinking about a research topic. Choose courses and/or design an independent study that helps you build the knowledge and skills to undertake a senior thesis, and introduce yourself to faculty with whom you might want to work. If you haven’t already done so, take a methodology course.   

Spring semester
Work to transform a research topic into a research question. Start reading the scholarly literature around your topic/research question. Approach a professor to be your Thesis Adviser and work out a research plan. If your project requires IRB approval, begin the process. 

By Friday of the first week of May
Submit your application to write a senior thesis to the Honors Adviser with a strong research plan, a preliminary bibliography, transcript, and the signature of your adviser. 


Over the summer
Conduct your literature review and refine your research plan.  If you are able, identify and begin working with your data. Secure IRB approval. 

Meet with your Thesis Adviser and develop a work plan and timetable for the year, working backward from the due date. Create a tentative outline and plan a schedule for writing that builds in substantial time for multiple revisions. Submit a copy of this work plan to the Honors Adviser by the end of the month.

Conduct research and meet regularly with your Thesis Adviser (weekly or biweekly) to discuss your progress. Start writing! 

Continue research and submit a draft to your Thesis Adviser of chapter 1 and/or the literature review. Submit a progress report to the Honors Adviser.

Research, data analysis, and writing! Submit a draft of chapter 2 to your Thesis Adviser by the end of the month.

Finish research and analysis and submit chapter 3 to your Thesis Adviser by the end of the month. 

Revise chapters according to your Thesis Adviser’s feedback and produce a penultimate draft, including introduction and conclusion, by the end of the month for final feedback from the Thesis Adviser. 

Finish final revisions on the thesis and submit an electronic copy to the Education Department by the second Friday in April. 

The thesis is evaluated by two faculty members, your Thesis Adviser, and one additional faculty member chosen by the Honors Adviser based on expertise. The readers submit a written evaluation and determine whether to award honors.

Early May
Thesis presentations to the Education Department faculty and fellow students. Friends and family are invited to attend.  

  1. “They Want One Thing But In Reality, They Make it Impossible:” A Case Study on Immigrant Adolescents in the French Public School System"

  2. "Justice-Oriented Pedagogy: A Study of Three ‘Badass Teachers’"

  3. “To Fix a Broken City:” Home Rule and the Origins of School Choice in Washington, D.C.

  4. "To Intervene Or Not To Intervene: Supporting Preschoolers’ Social Play in a Public Setting"

  5. "Exploring the Educational Pathways of Teen Mothers: Understanding Young Women’s Perceptions and Navigations of School and Motherhood In Urban Rhode Island"

  6. "Relationships in Transformation: A Study of Teacher Buy-In to Turnaround Efforts at Central Falls High School, Rhode Island"

  7. "Reframing the 'Does Money Matter?' Debate: A Look at Spending on Professional Development and Non-Cognitive Outcomes"

  8. "In Thirty Miles and Thirty Months: A Comparison of the 1968 Black Student Walkout at Brown University and the 1971 Administration Building Takeover at the University of Rhode Island."