Honors

Students with a 3.3 grade point average overall and in the upper division major courses may apply for admission to the honors program in their senior year. The awarding of honors is contingent upon submission of a thesis of high quality, based upon independent study with a member of the Cognitive Science faculty and marked by satisfactory completion of at least 3 and at most 6 units of course H195A, H195B or 199. Evaluation of the thesis is the responsibility of, first, the faculty supervisor and then of the second reader, both secured by the student. It is the responsibility of the supervisor and the second reader to decide (1) whether the thesis is of honors quality and (2) if of honors quality, which level of honors is to be assigned: Honors, High Honors, or Highest Honors.

Course

To complete the honors thesis, students have the option of enrolling in Cognitive Science H195A, H195B or 199. Cognitive Science H195A and B are offered for 1-3 units per semester on either a letter grade or P/NP basis. Cognitive Science 199 is offered on a P/NP basis only, 1-3 units.

Procedure

1) To submit a request for H195A or H195B units, the student should download an applicationfrom here .  For questions, students can make an appointment with one of the Cognitive Science advisors. On the application the student will outline the thesis proposal and submit it to one of the faculty of the program who will serve as sponsor.

2) After the document has been signed, the student will visit to fill out an online google form and upload a copy of the form at the end and submit the form.

3) Catherine Byrne will then review it and follow up with next steps including process for adding the course once it has been approved.

Students should maintain close contact with the sponsoring professor to ensure clear communication on direction of the thesis project and expectations of the instructor. It would be wise for the student to submit a draft of the honors thesis to the instructor mid-semester of enrollment in H195B or 199 for criticism and comments before the final copy is produced.

Content

The honors thesis must be an original study of a topic in cognitive science, whch contributes to existing knowledge in the field. The study can take an empirical or a conceptual approach. 

Students electing to do an empirical study using human subjects must submit a research protocol to the Campus Committee for the Protection of Human Subjects for approval. Please allow plenty of time for this process as approval may delay the start of your project for a number of weeks.

Glushko Prizes

Students who successfully complete an honors thesis are eligible to receive the Robert J. Glushko Prize for Distinguished Undergraduate Research in Cognitive Science. At least two (2) of these prizes, of $500 each, are awarded annually at the Spring Commencement. Both empirical and conceptual projects are eligible for the award.

Peer Resources

Based on student experiences, the Cognitive Science Student Association has collected information/tips from students in the program.  To view their information on research and writing a thesis, please visit their website: http://cssa.berkeley.edu/research.html

Frequently Asked Questions about the Honors Program

How do I know if I qualify to write an honors thesis?

In order to begin a thesis project, you will need to be a declared CogSci major with a minimum 3.3 GPA both overall and in your upper division major coursework. You can easily determine your overall GPA through CalCentral.

What do I do if I'm in the 3.1/3.2 range?

If your GPA is slightly below the minimum in either category, you may want to discuss your situation with a Cognitive Science advisor. S/he may ask you to wait until the beginning of your final semester to see if your grades improve, or may suggest you begin your work by enrolling in CogSci 199. If your grades improve you may then be allowed to enroll in H195 during your final semester. The advisors are not required to grant exceptions and cannot override College rules (see final question.)

How do I get started?

Some major programs have thesis courses for their students. CogSci does not. Students work independently under the sponsorship of a faculty sponsor, with final honors consideration aided by a second reader. You should plan to devote at least two semesters to your project. Many projects will need to begin in the second semester of your junior year.

How do I find a faculty sponsor?

Ideally, you will have become excited by a particular area of research after taking courses from a number of CogSci professors. Don't hesitate to approach a faculty member and ask if he/she would be willing to mentor you. You should be able to formulate a topic of interest through your course work and discussions with that individual. In some cases, students have an idea they'd like to explore, but don't know whom to approach. Usually this issue resolves itself by the time students are seniors, but there are a number of other ways to narrow your search. Faculty research interests are usually described briefly on their websites. Students can begin to acquaint themselves with the scope of cognition-related research taking place on campus by exploring the Institute for Cognitive and Brain Sciences, and by inquiring with the Cognitive Science Student Association.  

How many units/semesters should it take?

You must complete a minimum of 3 units of thesis work but not necessarily in one semester. Some students prefer to spend a semester getting set up: gathering sources, doing library work, applying to work with human or animal subjects. Typically, this will result in a unit or two of credit in CogSci H195A. The bulk of the actual research and writing would then be done the following semester under H195B. (Both courses are offered for 1-3 units so your thesis will range between 3-6 units of credit by the time you have finished.) If your topic is very organized and you don't run into any problems, you could finish the 3 units in a single semester of H195A; if it is very complex or you need to budget your time and spread out the work you may need two semesters of several units a piece. Every student's research is different.

What do I need to know about working with human or animal subjects?

Plan ahead! If you will be involving people as participants in your research, or doing lab animal research, check with your faculty advisor before you begin. In many cases, you will be required to complete paperwork which can take several weeks to process, and which must be processed before you can begin collecting data. Trying to fit this into a one semester project at the last minute is generally impossible - so do take care of this ahead of time.

How can I get financial support for my project?

Most honors theses are done in individual faculty members' laboratories, and receive support through faculty research funds. Occasionally, however, such support may not be available.

What happens when my thesis is done?

When you've completed your work you will submit it to your faculty sponsor. (Plan to do this no later than the beginning of finals. You may be asked to do revisions which could delay the grade and your graduation.) He/she will read and assign a letter grade to your work. You should also submit a copy to your second reader and one to the Cognitive Science advising office in Stephens Hall. The two faculty members who read your thesis will deliberate on the level of honors to be awarded: honors, high honors, highest honors. In CogSci, honors levels are based on the quality of the thesis, not GPA.

How is honors awarded at the end?

Honors in the major, as explained above, is the result of faculty deliberation. However, if you fail to complete your degree with a 3.3 GPA overall, the College will not allow you to be awarded departmental honors, regardless of how well you do in your major or on your thesis.