Honors Program

Honors Program

Taking on a Cognitive Science honors thesis can afford you the opportunity to learn how to put together a major research paper that contributes to existing knowledge in the field. Writing an honors thesis takes a lot of time and effort... but it can be an exciting challenge!

Good reasons for writing an honors thesis:

  • Enjoy the pride that comes with creating something new and wholly your own
  • Develop critical thinking, research, and writing skills employers and grad schools love
  • Develop a meaningful intellectual relationship with a professor

Before deciding to embark on an honors thesis you may want to start thinking about the following:

  1. Do you have the time and energy to put into it? Consider your schedule and other goals for your senior year…will you need to make sacrifices complete the project? Is that ok with you?
  2. Do you have, or can you get a Cognitive Science Affiliated Faculty Member to commit to support your project (this person will act as your First Reader)? If you don’t already have a relationship with a Cognitive Science Affiliated Faculty Member, start going to their office hours to build a relationship before asking them to help you.
  3. Do you have an idea? A spot in a lab to help your ideas come to fruition? Start thinking about concrete research questions and bring those into discussions with your (potential) First and Second readers.

Honors Program Overview

  • 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 your First Reader (who must be a Cognitive Science Affiliated Faculty Member) and marked by satisfactory completion of at least 3 and at most 6 units of course H195A, H195B or 199.
  • Students must work independently to select and secure the consent of the First and Second Readers to serve as their thesis mentors and readers, and to secure all required signatures. 
  • Evaluation of the thesis is the responsibility of the First and Second Readers.
  • It is the responsibility of the First Reader 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.

Honors Units

  • To complete the honors thesis, students have the option of enrolling in Cognitive Science H195A, H195B or 199. These are units of independent study; there is no Honor's course to attend. The project is conducted as an independent research project, and so the First and Second Reader set attendance and assignment requirements.  
  • Cognitive Science H195A and H195B 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.

Application Procedure

  • To submit a request for acceptance into the Honors program and enrollment in the required H195A or H195B, or 199 units, the student should download an application form 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 the First and Second Readers for signatures. 
  • After the application has been signed, the student will fill out an online google form(link is external) and upload a copy of the application and submit the form.
  • An advisor will then review it and email you the next steps including how to add the units.  


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


  • The honors thesis must be an original study of a topic in cognitive science, which 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 (link is external)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.
  • NEW POLICY Starting Spring 2019:   CogSci thesis advisors will nominate students who they believe have completed/will complete an exceptional Honors Thesis at the end of March and the CogSci Department will reach out to those chosen students via email in the beginning of April with instructions on how to complete the application process. 

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(link is external).