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An honors thesis is your chance to conduct in-depth, original, academic research on a topic you are passionate about.

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Why Write an Honors Thesis?

Students who do honors work are able to investigate and write on a subject of interest to them while working closely with a faculty member. Such a project requires a high degree of initiative and dedication.  It also requires significant amounts of time and energy, as well as demonstrated skills in research and writing. It can be one of the most challenging, and rewarding, experiences of an undergraduate’s career.  The skills that students gain and demonstrate in writing an honors thesis -- including conceptualizing, researching, organizing, and writing -- are valued by many employers and graduate program.

Applying to the Honors Program

Before being accepted to the honors program in Urban Studies, a student must:

  1. Declare a major in Urban Studies and complete at least 30 of the 70 required units including all prerequisites and core classes;
  2. Complete URBANST 202A (offered Winter Quarter);
  3. Have an overall GPA of 3.3 and a GPA of at least 3.5 in Urban Studies;
  4. Submit an application, including an unofficial transcript, a one-page abstract, and the signatures of an adviser and, if applicable, a second reader. If the adviser is not a member of Stanford's Academic Council, the student must have a second reader who is an Academic Council member. The application must be submitted to the program office no later than the end of May in the junior year, and it must then be approved by the Director of the Urban Studies honors program. 
Honors Program Policies

Units and Registration:

  • You must register for a total of 5-10 units for honors work URBANST 199, Senior Honors Thesis during your senior year, in addition to 5 credits of URBANST 203, Senior Seminar. If you are a Public Service Scholar, you should also register for URBANST 198, Senior Honors Research in Public Service, which is 3 units in the autumn, 3 units in the winter, and 1 unit in the spring.
  • You may spread the 5-10 units of URBANST 199 out however you wish during senior year; most students take 5 units in the winter of senior year, and 5 units in spring (URBANST 203 covers their thesis work during the fall). To register for thesis units, use the “Independent Study Search” in Axess. If your advisor’s name is not listed, notify the Urban Studies Student Services Specialist.
  • Honors students are expected to make progress on their thesis in URBANST 203, Senior Seminar, offered fall quarter of senior year; the credits for this seminar count toward the 70 units required for graduation. However, URBANST 198, Senior Honors Research in Public Service, and URBANST 199, Senior Honors Thesis, do not count towards the 70-unit requirement for graduating with a B.A. in Urban Studies. This aspect of honors work is expected to be above and beyond regular standards for graduation.
  • Honors students should apply in Axess to graduate with honors. Once an application is accepted by the program, the Student Services Specialist will approve the student on Axess.

Advisers and Second Readers:

  • You must have an adviser who approves your proposal before you are accepted to the honors program in Urban Studies. If your adviser is not a member of Stanford’s Academic Council, you must also have your proposal approved by a second reader who is an Academic Council member.  You should consult regularly with your adviser (and second reader) throughout the period in which you are working on your honors thesis.

Required Courses:

  • All juniors who plan on writing honors theses must take URBANST 202A, Junior Seminar: Preparation for Research. Sophomores who plan to be away during winter quarter of their junior year should take URBANST 202A in the winter of their sophomore year. Students who wish to write an honors thesis and cannot fulfill this requirement must petition the Director of the Urban Studies Honors Program in writing, explaining the circumstances and describing how they will acquire the necessary research skills.


  • There is no fixed minimum or maximum length for an honors thesis. The typical honors thesis in Urban Studies is 50-100 pages, plus notes and bibliography.


  • To graduate with honors, you must receive at least an “A-” in your honors work and have a GPA in Urban Studies courses of at least 3.5 at the time of graduation.
  • You will receive an “N” (“Continuing”) grade for URBANST 199, Senior Honors Thesis, until you have submitted the final version of your honors thesis and a letter grade is assigned. Axess then automatically changes the earlier “N” grades to the final grade.
  • Your adviser and (if applicable) your second reader assign the final grade on your thesis. The Director of the Urban Studies Honors Program will arbitrate any disagreement.
Submitting Your Thesis

Submit an electronic pdf copy of your thesis to the urbanstudies [at] stanford.edu (Urban Studies Program office) by noon on the Monday two weeks before Memorial Day. 

Please submit an electronic copy of the thesis (as a Word document or pdf) to the mkahan [at] Stanford.edu (Director of the Urban Studies Honors Program) at the same time. Please note that this is a SINGLE DEADLINE FOR ALL HONORS THESES. Urban Studies will forward the completed thesis to your adviser(s) for grading, along with a form indicating whether the thesis was submitted on time and recommending grading penalties for lateness (1/3 of a letter grade for every day late). Your advisers may set earlier deadlines at their discretion.

Please complete the Urban Studies thesis submission form to submit your thesis.

Your final draft should include:

  • A table of contents (if the thesis is divided into chapters or major sections) and a bibliography or list of works cited. 
  • The pages should be numbered. 
  • Other matters of form, such as footnotes vs. endnotes, and the method of presenting figures and tables, should be decided in consultation with your adviser.
  • The first (front) page of your thesis should be the TITLE PAGE. It should provide your name, your adviser's name, the title of the thesis, the date you are submitting it, and should indicate that it is an honors thesis in Urban Studies at Stanford. It does NOT need spaces for signatures.

You are encouraged to submit your thesis as well to the Stanford Digital Repository, which will archive your thesis and make it available through the Stanford Library website.

Senior Colloquium

Honors students present their work orally to advisers, faculty, students, friends, and family at the annual Urban Studies Senior Colloquium. This event is held the week of end-quarter period in the spring. Based on the presentations, the Urban Studies program may nominate a student to receive the Award for Excellence in Honors Thesis Presentation from the Center for Teaching and Learning and the Undergraduate Research Programs.