Honors Expectations in Mathematics

Receipt of Honors in Mathematics is a special distinction reserved for those students who have excelled in their academic accomplishments throughout their time at Bates and have completed a thesis with certain distinguishing characteristics and features. The distinction of Honors requires that the student and the thesis meet all of the criteria specified below. An outstanding performance in several of the expectations for Honors may offset a less than exemplary performance in another area. A significant deficiency in any one expectation is sufficient grounds to deny Honors. The oral examination panel members, who may consult with the advisor, have final authority for judging whether the student has satisfactorily met the criteria for receipt of Honors.

  • The thesis must explore a novel question or topic, or it may be an original synthesis of existing knowledge.
  • The student must demonstrate a high level of self-motivation, independence and continuous engagement in the project over the entire two semesters.
  • In the written thesis and oral defense, the student must be able to demonstrate a deep and thorough understanding of the topic, background material, and the topic’s position in a larger context.  Theses should be self-contained, with citations or references to other works when appropriate.
  • The student must demonstrate that considerable progress has been made in the actual topic of the thesis. Depending on the nature of the thesis topic, this means new research results in the field, a new interpretation of the topic, or a comprehensive expository examination of the topic.  The student must have advanced the topic to the stage where new or enlightening conclusions can be drawn.
  • The thesis must be well written and accessible to expert and non-expert audiences. A high quality written thesis is well organized, concise, grammatically and mechanistically correct, coherent, and logical in its arguments and development of ideas. Language must be precise, sophisticated and incorporate terminology appropriate for the topic of the thesis.
  • During the oral exam, the student must be able to answer questions posed by the examination committee and engage with members of the committee in a scholarly discussion of all facets of the project.  The student must also recognize the limits of his or her knowledge and be able to identify appropriate next steps.


Honors Nomination Process in Mathematics

Primary steps in the Honors nomination process:

  • The student discusses the possibility of doing Honors with possible advisors and indicates his or her interest on the thesis proposal form in the winter semester of the junior year.
  • The student submits an acceptable thesis proposal by the last day of classes in the winter semester of the junior year.
  • The student gives an oral presentation on the thesis topic late in the fall semester of the senior year.

Winter semester of the junior year:
Students should discuss the possibility of conducting Honors with potential advisors during the thesis proposal process that occurs in winter semester, junior year. Students indicate their possible interest in an Honors thesis on the thesis proposal form. When assigning an advisor, the department will indicate whether the student has met the basic requirements (usually a GPA over 3.5 in mathematics and excellence in academic accomplishments in previous work at Bates) to be considered for the Honors program.

Summer between junior and senior year:
Students intending to pursue Honors often further develop their thesis topic prior to the start of the fall term of the senior year. This may involve consulting with the thesis advisor during this time period.

Fall semester of the senior year:
Students intending to pursue Honors will give an oral presentation to the department and the public late in the fall semester of the senior year. The presentation should provide the department with an organized overview of the project, a description of progress made to date, and future plans including plans for completion of the project. The student must exhibit poise and confidence during the seminar. The student must be able to answer questions posed by members of the audience and engage with members of the audience in a scholarly discussion of the project.

The department will judge the quality of the presentation, the quality of the project to date, and determine whether the student is making satisfactory progress toward completion of an Honors thesis. The department, in consultation with the advisor, will make a decision whether to formally nominate the student for Honors.

Winter semester of the senior year:
The department submits Honors nominations to the college at the end of the first week of the winter semester.

If, at any time prior to the submission of the written thesis, the thesis advisor feels that the student is not meeting the expectations of the mathematics department for a satisfactory Honors thesis, she or he has the authority to withdraw the student from the Honors program, in consultation with the mathematics department.

A student formally nominated for Honors can withdraw from the program at any time prior to the thesis submission deadline or oral exam date.