Check back on September 1 for the fully revised Health Science Scholars Handbook!



Welcome to Health Science Scholars! This Handbook has been prepared as an introduction to the program. You will learn about important people, activities, policies, dates… in fact, much more than you can remember, so bookmark it.

Please take the time to learn about us. You may find that HSS is the most important facet of your university experience. The other honors students you meet may very likely be your friends for life. Through our network of contacts, you will also meet faculty, research supervisors, and health professionals who will be important mentors for you during your careers at UT-Austin and beyond.

Lastly, please notice the wide range of activities the program offers: mentoring, sports, social events, lectures, and much more. You have a unique opportunity to have a hand in making Health Science Scholars all that you want it to be. Without question, performing well in your classes is of paramount importance. However, there is so much more to a university education than what happens in classes. You may look back later and say this was the most enriching period of your life — make up your mind now to get as much as you can from it.


TO sig
Dr. Terry O’Halloran
Director, Health Science Scholars 

Faculty Steering Committee


Under the leadership of Dr. Terry O’Halloran, Associate Professor of Molecular Biosciences, members of the faculty steering committee determine program policy, review applications, and serve as informal mentors to Health Science Scholars.

Members are:

Karen Browning
Professor, Department of Molecular Biosciences

Ruth Buskirk
Distinguished Senior Lecturer, Biology Instructional Office

Shannon Cavanagh
Associate Professor, Department of Sociology

Clarence Chan
Associate Professor, Department of Molecular Biosciences

Arturo De Lozanne
Associate Professor, Department of Molecular Biosciences

Johann Eberhart
Associate Professor, Department of Molecular Biosciences

Karen Fingerman
Professor, Department of Human Development and Family Sciences

Brad Love
Associate Professor, Stan Richards School of Advertising and Public Relations

George Pollak
Professor, Department of Neuroscience

Inder Saxena
Lecturer, Biology Instructional Office

Dee Silverthorn
Professor of Medical Physiology, Dell Medical School

Jason Upton
Assistant Professor, Department of Molecular Biosciences 

2017-18 Student Leadership

The Health Science Scholars (HSS) Council aims to enhance the HSS student experience. Our four committees host social events, a mentorship program, Friday Lunch speakers, the Distinguished Lecture Series, and volunteer opportunities. We help connect HSS members to clinical and non-clinical activities, health professionals, and our alumni network to guide our students through their pre-health years in college. It is HSS Council’s goal to create a welcoming, supportive, and educational environment for our members. Elected officers are chosen by each class to represent their interests on our 12-member Council. The 2017-2018 Chair is Jessica Tom.


Tom Jessica

Jessica Tom is a fifth-year public health and Plan II double major from Austin. Her thesis explores the effects of a physician’s communication skills on treatment adherence in non-verbal patients with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Outside of Health Science Scholars, Jessica is involved with a non-profit literacy organization called Reading Aces, volunteers with the UT Informal Classes for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and works as an undergraduate teaching assistant for microbiology. In her free time, she enjoys cooking for friends, tending to her plants, live music, and reading. After college, Jessica hopes to attend medical school and stay involved with public policy.

Nina Dasari is a second-year Biology major and Business minor from Austin, Texas. She is a part of the Special Projects Committee on council. Ultimately, Nina hopes to attend medical school. Outside of Health Science Scholars, Nina is involved with volunteering at the local hospital and research with the FRI stream Antibiotics. In her spare time, Nina enjoys hiking around Austin, playing with her puppy, painting, playing the piano, and traveling!





Cyrus Daruwalla is a senior pre-med Biochemistry major, minoring in philosophy and government. He is considering doing his thesis on opioid clinical trials with a focus on medical ethics and government policy. His interests in medicine also include social epidemiology and patient-interaction skills. He is a member of a doctor shadowing program, the engineering chamber orchestra, and volunteers with adults with disabilities. Outside of academics, Cyrus enjoys stuffing his face with sushi, binge-watching shows, and listening to live music. 


Ly Anh

Anh Ly is a third-year chemistry major from Austin, Texas. In addition to her major, Anh plans to pursue the Social Inequality, Health & Policy Certificate. Outside of HSS, she is involved with the Natural Sciences Council, conducts bio-inorganic chemistry research in the Rose Research Group, and works as an organic chemistry teaching assistant. During her free time, Anh enjoys volunteering, gardening, and spending time with her family. 




Punjabi Shireen

Shireen Punjabi is a second-year Neuroscience major from Frisco, Texas. She loves working with children, and plans to attend medical school and ultimately pursue a specialty in pediatrics. Outside of Health Science Scholars, Shireen dances for UT Saaya (a Bollywood-fusion dance team), volunteers with Reading Aces, and enjoys cross-stitching, reading, and spending time with friends.




Lauren Rahman is a second-year Biochemistry major pursuing a certificate in the Business of Health Care. She currently does research in the Antibiotics FRI stream. When she isn't being a nerd, she enjoys taking naps, exploring Austin with friends, watching The Bachelorette, and attempting to work out everyday. She looks forward to being part of the Social Committee and planning fun events for the HSS community!


Jarrett Headshot 
Jarrett Rong is a second-year Biology major from Memphis, Tennessee. At UT, Jarrett is a part of the Natural Sciences Council and a part of the Functional Genomics FRI lab. Outside of school, he enjoys playing sports, listening to music, and cooking. As a part of the HSS council, Jarrett is a member of the volunteer committee, and he hopes to enjoy fun and enriching volunteer events with his fellow HSSers!


Srinivasan Tarika
 Srinivasan is a third-year double major in Biochemistry and Philosophy also pursuing a minor in Hindi. An undergraduate researcher in the Gray Lab at Dell Medical School, her research focuses on the genetic regulation of idiopathic scoliosis in zebrafish. However, her passion project stemmed from her domestic and international observerships in clinical medicine; she plans to investigate truth-telling patterns and the role of dishonesty in physician communication. Tarika is involved in Learn To Be, a non-profit online tutoring organization for underprivileged youth, and Chinmaya Mission Austin, where she teaches children’s classes on Hindu philosophy. When given the time, she enjoys music, long road trips, and Austin’s vibrant coffee scene. In the summer of 2018, Tarika will bike from Austin to Anchorage, AK with Texas 4000 for Cancer.



Caitlin Stanley is a senior pursuing a BSA in Neuroscience with a minor in French and a Business Foundations Certificate. Originally from El Paso, TX, she is interested in how the functions and potential of the human mind contribute to behaviors such as addiction. Her Senior Capstone therefore investigates the relationship between addiction in families and child development. In addition, her Mexican-American background has made her interested in global cultures and health. For this reason, she has studied abroad in Oaxaca, Mexico, where she learned about the many ways in which resource-poor communities thrive to provide quality healthcare. Overall, Caitlin feels that HSS has has become her family, and she hopes to share any advice with other HSS students during her last year. 

Admission Criteria

 Application to HSS is separate from, and in addition to, application to the University. Application materials and information about deadlines are available under the How to Apply menu for prospective students. Students may enter the program as freshmen or as college transfers prior to their fourth long semester.

Factors in the admission decision are the student’s high school and/or college grades, class rank, the rigor of the courses the student has taken, the quality of the required application essays, a strong recommendation from a math or science instructor, standardized test scores, and the student’s interest in science, health and service as demonstrated by extracurricular activities. Admission is highly selective.


Program Requirements

Health Science Scholars complete a Bachelor of Science and Arts degree plan from a department within the College of Natural Sciences. The BSA combines a science emphasis with sufficient electives to create a truly cross-disciplinary undergraduate curriculum. Students can augment their science coursework with study in the humanities, communication, business, education, social sciences, or the arts. They can also use their elective hours to pursue research for course credit in or outside their major. After graduation, the student’s transcript will reflect receipt of a BSA-Honors degree if the student has completed the curricular and extracurricular requirements of HSS.

Curricular requirements

All students must complete

  • UGS 303 / Originality in the Arts and Sciences, a first-semester Signature course. Students admitted to HSS after their first semester may substitute a different Signature course.

  • NSC 110H / HSS First-Year Seminar (fall and spring, year 1). Students admitted to HSS after their first year are exempted from this requirement.

  • six credit hours in honors-level coursework in one or more sciences

  • NSC 110H / CNS Honors Seminars (fall, year 2; fall and spring, year 3)

  • NSC 109 / Planning Your Capstone Project (spring, year 2)

  • a Capstone project, which consists of two elements:

    • a substantive health- or service-related learning project — a practicum, internship, or extended volunteering stint of no fewer than 200 hours — or 200+ hours of laboratory research, undertaken in the third year; and

    • an honors thesis, written in the student's final year, that emerges from their third-year project.

See below for course descriptions and a typical timeline.

Extracurricular requirements

All students must

  • contribute at least 3 hours of logged community service each semester in their first year and 6 hours each semester in their second

  • participate in at least one HSS-sanctioned service event each semester of their first and second years.

You can read more about the service requirements here.

Students are also required to graduate with a cumulative 3.5 grade point average to receive the BSA-Honors degree.

Placement credit

In general, HSS does not accept placement credit for science courses that are required for a CNS degree. The CNS honors courses challenge our very best students. These courses are integral to the experience of an honors education. Beyond this, medical schools in Texas recommend that their applicants not claim placement credit for biology, chemistry, and physics.

Students may use AP tests to receive credit for lower-division mathematics and physics courses if they wish to be placed in higher-level math or physics. But all students should first discuss this with their advisor before claiming the credit.

HSS does accept placement credit for history, government, social sciences, fine arts, foreign languages, English composition (RHE 306), and the core Humanities requirement (E 316L, 316M, 316N, or 316P). These are the only exceptions to the placement credit rule. Even here, however, whether students should or should not claim a particular credit can be complicated. Many placement tests do not translate as credit for non-elective UT-Austin courses. Again, students should speak with their advisor before claiming credit.

Honors coursework

Health Science Scholars take coursework designed for honors students. Some of these courses are honors versions of courses that are part of the BSA degree plan; others are seminars that count as electives and are required for completing the program.

The following is a typical course timeline, with Honors- and HSS-specific coursework included. Many HSS students elect to take courses during at least one summer, but completing the BSA-Honors degree by itself in four years does not require this. Remember that the pre-health professions path you choose involves courses in addition to degree and HSS requirements, and because there are eight of these, we’ve not listed them here. (By the way, the Health Professions Office maintains a tremendously helpful and user-friendly website that almost certainly contains answers to whatever questions occur about readying yourself for professional school.)

"BSA degree coursework" below refers to either or both major and non-major courses. 

Year 1

  • BSA degree coursework (fall and spring)
  • UGS 303 / Originality in the Arts and Sciences (fall)
  • NSC 110H / HSS First-Year Seminar (fall and spring)

Year 2

Year 3

Year 4

  • BSA degree coursework (fall and spring)
  • NSC 109 / HSS Thesis Preparation Seminar (fall)
  • One of the following:
    • Option 1: Departmental research/thesis seminars (fall and spring)
    • Option 2: NSC 371 / HSS Capstone Thesis Seminar (spring)

Course descriptions

  • UGS 303 / Originality in the Arts and Sciences
    Students in HSS, Dean's Scholars, and Polymathic Scholars are automatically admitted to the Freshmen Research Initiative, and this course, restricted to students in these programs, satisfies the research methods course requirement for the FRI. As its name implies, the course prepares students to undertake original research in both the hard sciences and the humanities. The final project is a competition that requires students, working in teams, to develop an idea for a grant, consult with relevant faculty on constraints, cost projections, and current research in the field, and deliver their proposal to the class. 

  • NSC 110 / HSS First-Year Seminar
    Throughout their first year, HSS students participate in a seminar lead by the program's faculty director that acclimates them to the rigors of a demanding college curriculum, exposes them to guest speakers from the health care professions, and introduces them to some of the College's faculty in an informal setting.

  • NSC 110H / CNS Honors Seminars
    One of the advantages of being a CNS honors student is having access to these unique small seminars, which connect students with the university’s best teachers and top researchers. The format of NSC 110H seminars is simple: Faculty select a topic they're passionate about, lead discussions organized around a few readings, and let each student lead part of a class on one of the readings. The seminars foster the honors community by bringing together students in each program and fomenting lively, productive exchanges. 

  • NSC 109 / Planning Your Capstone Project
    The culmination of the HSS curriculum is a two-year research and writing project. Starting in their third year, students spend at least one year in either laboratory research or a practicum related to health, health care, or community service. Both experiences become the foundation of a senior-year Capstone Thesis that itself takes a year to develop and write. The preliminary planning begins in this second-year spring semester course, which is organized around two simple questions: What do you want to do for your Capstone experience, and what do you want your Capstone experience to do for you?  Students write reflective essays, interview faculty and community professionals, read and respond to great writers' thoughts on great writing, conduct independent research, and develop a plan for the work they'll undertake in their third year.

  • NSC 109 / HSS Thesis Preparation Seminar 
    Taken in the fall semester of the student's last year, this seminar walks students through a series of steps intended to guide them toward successful completion of a substantial honors thesis based on either no less than a year of laboratory research or a practicum in the community. Most of the planning and last-stage research occurs in the fall; most of the writing occurs in the spring. 

  • NSC 371 / HSS Capstone Thesis Seminar 
    While working individually with a faculty mentor with expertise in their thesis topic, students simultaneously enroll in this course in their final semester. Students read a number of essays on the presentation of research and complete a series of assignments designed to keep them on track. The goal is timely completion of a substantial honors-quality thesis. They also present their findings at one of several research symposia near the end of the semester, among them the faculty-moderated CNS Honors Symposium, which coincides with the university's Research Week.

Degree Plans

Health Science Scholars complete the BSA-Honors degree. Requirements specific to HSS can be found in the Program Requirements section above. Following are BSA degree plans for each CNS major that offers a BSA, organized by Undergraduate Catalog year. Students are assigned by default to the current Catalog when they enter UT-Austin but may elect to change to a later Catalog. Students should consult their advisor if they are considering changing Catalogs.

2016-2018 CATALOG

2014-2016 CATALOG


The HSS Honors Thesis


Traditionally, students completing an honors degree accomplish something special beyond coursework requirements. The Capstone experience (usually begun in the fall semester of the third year) and research thesis (usually begun in the fall of the fourth year) satisfy this tradition while providing opportunities for external recognition through publications or prizes. The Capstone experience and thesis are also valuable additions to applications to professional schools, graduate schools, internships, and professional jobs after graduation.


All Health Science Scholars complete a Capstone experience and a written research thesis. The Capstone experience should begin no later than fall of the third year. Typically, formulating and writing the research thesis begins no later than fall of the fourth year. The Capstone experience/thesis requirement for HSS can be satisfied in two distinctly different ways. Keep in mind that, if they have the time and energy, students can pursue activities associated with both options: they can complete requirements for departmental honors (Option 1) and pursue Option 2 as well.

Students must register their Capstone experience with the Director of CNS Honors & Scholarships by securing their lab mentor's or supervisor's signature no later than October 31 in the fall semester of their third year. 

Any change in Capstone plans needs to be approved by Dr. O'Halloran. Changes in the senior year will only rarely be approved by the faculty Director and only with the evidence that the student has a strong foundation and strong mentorship in place. 

Option 1: Departmental Honors Research + Thesis

Completing the requirements for departmental honors in your major can satisfy the HSS program Capstone experience/research thesis requirement. It is crucial that students understand departmental honors requirements if they are to make an informed decision about whether this Option 1 path is for them. Requirements for graduating with departmental honors depend on the discipline (e.g., biology vs astronomy vs chemistry), but all departmental honors distinctions require that students conduct original research with a faculty member. Students must find their own faculty mentor and a lab to work in, and submit a proposal describing their plans to the instructor of NSC 109 / “Planning Your Capstone Project,” which students take in the spring of their second year.

The research students do that satisfies departmental honors requirements also satisfies the HSS Capstone experience requirement. Students are expected to be involved with their thesis mentor and lab by fall of their third year. Their Capstone experience is expected to involve a time commitment of no fewer than 200 hours.

Their research (i.e., “Capstone experience”) forms the basis of their thesis.  A thesis is typically a substantial piece of written work that conforms to discipline-specific conventions of scholarship. Usually, the thesis takes the form of an empirical journal article that students are expected to submit for publication in a peer-reviewed journal. Although specific thesis requirements vary by department, completion of any CNS department’s thesis requirement for departmental honors also satisfies the HSS program thesis requirement. Students must understand their major’s thesis guidelines so that they know the appropriate scope and timing for their project. These guidelines also are important because students often need to take certain seminars that students who are not pursuing departmental honors do not need to take.  

Typically, the faculty mentor must be a UT faculty member with an active research program. Exceptions must be approved in writing by the HSS Director. Students should remember that the most important considerations to keep in mind when searching for a mentor are (a) whether his or her research area interests them, (b) how they feel about the kinds of tasks, activities, duties, or responsibilities that are apt to characterize their involvement in the lab, and (c) whether their major department requires their mentor to be in their major department (or just a select few other CNS departments). During the fall semester of their third year, students will be asked to identify their faculty mentor online with the Director of CNS Honors & Scholarships.

Students must research possible mentors by talking to fellow students and professors with whom they’ve had classes, and by consulting UT’s Eureka database and departmental webpages. Almost all of UT’s department webpages summarize each faculty member’s research and teaching interests; many departments also provide links to faculty members’ labs and/or personal academic websites. A student’s thesis project will necessarily be closely related to ongoing work in the lab, so we recommend they do their homework so they know what they’re getting into! 

We also advise students to meet with several possible mentors. In introductory emails and meetings, students should show that they are acquainted with, and interested in, their work. Students should be prepared to share their related interests. Even professors who cannot supervise additional students are apt to help them think through their research interests and identify leads to follow. Students should bear in mind that it can take months to line up a mentor.

Once again, students who wish to pursue the departmental honors option need to familiarize themselves with departmental honors requirements. Students should do this no later than their second year; it can take a lot of time to find an interesting research opportunity and a faculty mentor.

Option 2:  Practicum/internship/project + thesis; or research outside your major + thesis

The HSS Capstone experience requirement can also be satisfied either by participating in a practicum, internship, or project rooted in health sciences, health policy, or service, or by conducting and writing about research in a lab outside your major. For example, students may line up a position doing intake interviews at a neighborhood primary care clinic or helping organize events and activities for patients with Alzheimer’s. Or, the Capstone experience for Option 2 might take the form of a substantial long-term project with a clearly defined outcome. For instance, a student might spend a whole semester developing a healthcare-related app for an iPhone. Option 2 is also well-suited for a student who wants to perform an original data collection project in the lab and/or field, but whose major department will not recognize this kind of research project and/or faculty mentor for receipt of departmental honors. Whatever the case, students must have a mentor or supervisor associated with their Capstone experience. Each student is responsible for identifying this person. During the fall semester of their third year, students will be asked to register their Capstone experience and supervisor online with the Director of CNS Honors & Scholarships.

Students who pursue the internship/practicum/project Capstone experience are responsible for (a) finding their position and determining their project, and (b) proposing their plans in writing in NSC 109 / Planning Your Capstone Project by the end of their second year. The spring NSC 109 seminar for second-year students will assist them with this process. Students will attend a series of workshops in their third year to help them stay on track. Their Capstone experience is expected to involve a time commitment of no less than 200 hours. The same time commitment is required of students choosing to conduct and write about research outside their major.

The internship/practicum/project (i.e., “Capstone experience”) should inform the topic chosen for the thesis. For instance, during an internship at a health clinic, a student might have noticed that men and women seemed to report symptoms differently. For her thesis, she might synthesize and analyze the scholarly literature relevant to this topic. As with departmental honors theses, the practicum/internship/project-inspired thesis must be a substantial piece of written work. Thesis guidelines are given in the section below. These specifications apply only to Option 2. Students who pursue a departmental honors thesis should follow the department’s specifications, which we do not provide here.

The thesis mentor — not necessarily the Capstone experience supervisor — should be a faculty member with expertise in the student’s subject. However, with written approval from the Honors Center Director, the mentor may have other qualifications. The most important considerations for students to keep in mind when searching for a mentor are whether (a) he or she has expertise in their thesis topic area, and (b) has time to mentor them. Only then can a mentor really help a student conduct research, critically evaluate data and sources, and think productively about a topic.

We advise students to research possible thesis mentors and meet with several professors no later than spring of their third year. Students can get leads from UT’s Eureka database and from departmental webpages. Almost all of them summarize each faculty member’s research and teaching interests; many departments also provide links to faculty members’ labs or academic websites. Even professors who cannot supervise students are apt to help them think through ideas and identify leads. All students choosing Option 2 will enroll in NSC 109 “HSS Thesis Preparation Seminar” in the fall of their senior year and NSC 371 / “Capstone Thesis Seminar—HSS” in the spring.

We counsel students to not worry about this process. However, they should be aware that it can take months to secure a commitment from a faculty member who is not only on campus when they’re taking NSC 371, but who also has the time and expertise to work with them. Students must plan ahead so that them can find a great match.

Students who wish to pursue the practicum/internship/project option need to familiarize themselves with the thesis guidelines provided below. They should do this during their second year, because it can take a lot of time to find an experience of interest. In addition, students must build in enough time to find a faculty mentor to guide their thesis work. The student’s Capstone experience supervisor is not necessarily going to be available or appropriate for the student’s thesis. Students therefore have some extra planning to do for Option 2. (For Option 1, the same faculty member usually serves as the Capstone experience and thesis mentor.)

Option 2: Thesis guidelines for the practicum/internship/project/non-major research

Note that these guidelines apply to Option 2 only. Students should check with their major department for guidelines for departmental honors theses (Option 1).

Topic SelectionThe thesis should be related in some way to the student’s Capstone experience or research and draw upon areas that he has training or experience in. We know from experience that one or two semesters isn’t long enough for students to find and master a new field and write a thesis on it.

Although topics vary widely, every thesis is expected to pose a question and propose an argument to answer it. The argument should be supported with evidence appropriate to the discipline(s) involved with the student’s topic. So, as students begin their thesis, they will know the question they want to ask but not the answer. The thesis is that answer.

Finding a topic takes time. Talking about ideas with friends, professors, and advisors, as well as reading independently and thinking critically, often reveal great ideas. Students will also find it helpful to explore resources at libraries beyond the PCL, such as the Ransom Humanities Research Center, the Texas History Center, the LBJ Library, and the Benson Latin American Collection. The library staff are always happy to help students brainstorm about how their holdings can be used in new and unique ways.

Often, students settle on a topic in the process of finding a faculty mentor for the thesis. To secure a commitment from a faculty member, many students find it helpful to involve them in the topic narrowing process so that the project is of interest to both individuals. Students will not be permitted to enroll in the required NSC 371 Capstone Thesis Seminar until they have selected an appropriate faculty mentor to work with them.

Students should keep in mind that in general, their thesis (or any information in it) cannot be kept confidential. Each one is apt to be posted on the program website for other students or visitors to read. Beyond that, students are also required to attempt to publish their thesis by submitting it to a reputable peer-reviewed publication. Students should write about topics and ideas they are willing to share with others.

Appropriate Research Methods. All theses are submitted in writing. All of them should provide evidence-based answers to well-formulated research questions. However, their content, format, writing style, and methods of data collection can differ substantially. Below, we lay out different methodologies a student might consider using to uncover ideas and evidence related to his or her topic. Then, we discuss the ways in which all Option 2 theses, irrespective of their dominant disciplines or methods, should be similar.

Secondary Research Theses

Theses based on secondary research are most common among students who go with practicum/internship/project-based thesis Option 2. These papers involve the systematic review and synthesis/analysis/interpretation of existing primary sources (e.g., empirical journal articles, white papers), secondary sources (e.g., literature reviews, books), and/or other text-based materials typically gathered from brick and mortar libraries and digital databases. Students pursuing these theses do not collect their own data, for instance, by conducting a survey study or experiment. However, theses based on secondary research do need to contain original ideas. Students’ own thoughts, backed up by their research, should be front and center in secondary research theses. These thoughts can be structured in any one of a variety of paper formats (e.g., argumentative, analytical, compare and contrast, interpretative).  

Primary Research Theses

Laboratory/Survey/Field Projects. Students are likely to take this path if they are doing original research/data collection with a faculty member (or an Honors Center-approved non-faculty member), but are not seeking departmental honors. Primary research theses often involve designing and conducting original laboratory, survey, or field research under the attentive guidance of a UT faculty member and member(s) of his or her research group.

If students want to conduct a primary research thesis project involving humans or animals, they must get University-level approval before they collect any data. Even if they just want to interview fellow students on campus, they must complete and submit documentation and forms for approval from the University’s Institutional Review Board (IRB). The student’s thesis supervisor must be involved in this process. Students must then wait for IRB to approve their research design and materials before they can begin their research. Approvals can take just a few days or several months, depending on the nature of the project. For more information on this process, refer to the Human Research website or contact them by dropping in, calling, or e-mailing:

Peter T. Flawn Academic Center (FAC) Suite 426
2400 Inner Campus Drive
Office Number: (512) 471-8871

Archival Research Projects. Primary research theses can involve seeking data from archival records. This is a rich source of data for Option 2 students. The Harry Ransom Center is a repository of archival evidence that can take just about any form, from historical photographs and clothing to personal letters and government records. The National Archives in Washington, D.C. is another repository of archival material relevant to a researcher’s topic of inquiry. Archival research is typically more complex and time-consuming than secondary research; it can be extremely challenging to find, organize, and interpret the relevant materials. Archival research is also difficult because much archival data were not originally intended to be used for research, unlike books and journal articles. However, archival research gives one the opportunity to create a truly unique and original paper. Students are strongly encouraged to learn more about what archival research entails. They can start by consulting the Wikipedia entry on archival research at

Thesis Standards. Different disciplines have different standards. Consider standards of evidence, for example.  Numeric data and inferential statistical analyses back up many sociology professors’ arguments about the nature of poverty in America. However, archived photographs of the poor — combined with subjective interpretations of their meaning — constitute evidence for many American Studies professors. Different disciplines also have different conventions for writing style, style guide usage, formatting, and argumentation. Students must work with their faculty thesis mentor to determine the standards specific to investigating and writing about their topic.

However, every Option 2 thesis should reflect the general guidelines shown below. Students should read these before they decide on a topic and a methodology. If the intended project is not apt to satisfy these criteria, students should ask the NSC 371 instructor for approval before they begin work.


The thesis should be a persuasive, evidence- and reason-based paper that answers a question (or set of interrelated questions) related to or inspired by their Capstone experience. The question should be a good one: it must position the student to offer an answer that adds something new to the conversation on the topic. The answer to the question should take the form of an argument — an original argument that is not a rehash of existing published work. The paper should not parrot others’ insights, perspectives, or analyses. The student’s perspective, original insights, and powers of analysis should be front and center in their Capstone thesis.

In addition, the thesis should reflect an attempt to draw connections across disciplines to address the question. Students do not have to “force” connections among different disciplines. It is important, though, to show that they did due diligence to consider how different disciplines might be brought to bear on their question.  


Write this paper for well-educated, intelligent people who are not necessarily experts in your particular topic area.


The thesis should reflect conventions typical of the main disciplines(s) to which the topic connects. The student and her supervisor should agree on what her methods should be and how to communicate them accurately and effectively. For instance, if she is synthesizing a large, complex literature on a topic, she needs to develop and implement clear rules for when she includes or excludes sources to answer her research question(s). These decisions must be made apparent to the audience so that they know how the writer arrived at her answer.


The thesis should have a conclusion. That is, the thesis, as a whole, answers a question or a set of interrelated questions based on evidence.


Our guideline is 30-40 pages (1” margins, double-spaced, 12-point standard font), excluding cover page, figures, tables, bibliography, and appendices. Students and their mentors should agree on whether the length of the thesis must be altered in order to adequately address the research question.


Students must use notes that cite the sources of their information and give credit for ideas and phrases that are not their own. Footnotes, endnotes, and parenthetical notes are all acceptable. Again, students must talk to their faculty mentor about his or her preferred method of citation/style guide.


In addition to citations, the thesis needs a list of works cited in accordance with a style guide the student and her supervisor have agreed to use. The appropriate number and type of citations depends on the topic and research question. Everyone’s goal should be to conduct a complete, unbiased search for sources.


A thesis should meet the following baseline requirements:

  1. Neatly laser-printed (printed on both sides of the page to conserve paper)
  1. Numbered pages
  1. One-inch margins
  1. Follows a style guide that is in use in its field (determined in consultation with the thesis mentor)
  1. Proofread. A thesis with more than a few errors in spelling, grammar, or punctuation will not be accepted.


Thesis Courses

All students completing Option 2 must enroll in the following two courses during their last year.

NSC 109 / HSS Thesis Preparation Seminar 
Taken in the fall semester of the student's last year, this seminar walks students through a series of steps intended to guide them toward successful completion of a substantial honors thesis based on either no less than a year of laboratory research or a practicum in the community. Most of the planning and last-stage research occurs in the fall; most of the writing occurs in the spring. 

NSC 371 / Capstone Thesis Seminar—HSS
Students work on the thesis and take the NSC 371 Capstone Thesis Seminar concurrently in spring of their fourth year. Seminar meetings will help them stay on track with thesis deadlines and requirements. Although the majority of the thesis course consists of independent work and meetings arranged between the students and their faculty supervisor, mandatory seminar meetings are held as per the NSC 371 syllabus for the semester during which they are completing their thesis. The syllabus will provide more information about when and how students submit their thesis.


Honor Code

“The core values of The University of Texas at Austin are learning, discovery, freedom, leadership, individual opportunity, and responsibility. Each member of the university is expected to uphold these values through integrity, honesty, trust, fairness, and respect toward peers and community.”

This Code of Conduct was created by University of Texas at Austin students, staff, and faculty and was adopted by the university in 2004.