Graduating with Research Distinction

There are two options for students in the College of Arts and Sciences (ASC) interested in pursuing graduation with research distinction:

  • The graduation honor with research distinction (in the major field) recognizes those students who demonstrate excellence in the study of a discipline both through major course work and by completing an independent research project culminating in an honors thesis.
  • The graduation honor with research distinction recognizes those students who complete and successfully defend an honors thesis in a discipline other than the major.

To graduate with research distinction, you must satisfy the following requirements:

  • Identify an Ohio State faculty member to serve as your project advisor. The project advisor will provide guidance to you throughout the research process.
  • Submit the Thesis Application upon enrolling in 4999, at least one term before your graduating term.
  • Apply to graduate, early in your final term, with Ed Quinn.
  • Complete a minimum of 60 graded hours at Ohio State.
  • Complete a minimum of four semester hours (a maximum of 10 hours) of 4999 research credit in the relevant discipline.
  • Successfully write and then defend the thesis during an oral examination conducted by 2 faculty members (includes project advisor), typically in the final term.
  • Meet any department-specific requirements, which may include a minimum grade point average within the field of distinction.
  • Graduate with a minimum 3.0 cumulative grade point average.
  • A table of minimum requirements can also be found on the Undergraduate Research Office website.

Examples of Theses

Abstracts and copies of past honors theses completed for graduation with research distinction are available for examination online through the Ohio State Libraries' Knowledge Bank and in the Mortar Board Room (room 202) of the Thompson Library. They are valuable not only as examples of research undertaken in various disciplines but also as sources of information.

Contact Ed Quinn with questions at 614-292-6961 or

Frequently Asked Questions for Students

  1. What is the value of writing a research thesis, above and beyond giving a final presentation or performance on campus?

    1. Presenting your research/project in a written document sharpens your writing skills, deepens your expertise, and ensures that your findings are available to others via the OSU Knowledge Bank. Graduating with "Research Distinction” makes your resume stronger, which may make you more competitive for future grants, scholarships, and jobs.

  2. How can I learn more about what is involved in completing an undergraduate research thesis?

    1. The Undergraduate Research Office offers resources, advising, and programs to help you get started in research, find funding, and present your work as a thesis and/or poster. You can also contact peers and advisors in your discipline for advice.

  3. Can I complete my thesis requirements before my final year as an undergraduate?

    1. Yes. This is a great idea if you are applying for post-graduate positions and fellowships.

  4. What if I can’t find a faculty member to serve as my research advisor?

    1. Consult with your major advisor and keep looking. OSU faculty are not required to serve as undergraduate research advisors and they may have too many students or other commitments to be able to help you. The Undergraduate Research Office (URO) can help you with strategies for finding a good fit with a faculty research advisor. Start by attending a URO Information Session or exploring the URO website for suggestions. With perseverance, you should be able to find a faculty member who can serve as your research advisor.

  5. Can a graduate student, instructor, or off-campus researcher serve as my faculty research advisor?

    1. No, not alone, but they may be able to co-advise you with a regular OSU faculty member (including clinical and research faculty). Check with your academic unit for details.

  6. What should I do if the procedures for completing an Undergraduate Research Thesis in my discipline are not clear?

    1. If you are just getting started, meet with your academic advisor and ask for assistance. If you have already started doing research (or a creative project), your faculty research advisor should also be able to help you. As a last resort, make an appointment with staff at the Undergraduate Research Office for advice about how to find answers to your questions.

  7. If my major already requires a senior thesis, can I automatically graduate with “Research Distinction”?

    1. This is not automatic, but if you meet all of the requirements in your discipline for the new Undergraduate Research Thesis you may apply to graduate with “Research Distinction.”

  8. How many hours per week should I work per credit hours of research?

    1. You should work out with your advisor the expectation that s/he has for undergraduate students working on a project. The expectation is normally in the range of 3 to 5 hours per week per credit hour, similar to the time required for lab or studio courses.