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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at CU Boulder chapter.

I was a wreck. Walking through the winding hallways, each step I took made me nauseous. The sound of my heels clicking against the tile was no match for the beating of my heart in my ears — a year. One year of my life had been spent on this, and now it was coming to an end. 

April 2023

Near the end of my junior year, I took the first official step toward beginning the honors thesis process. I knew I wanted to do it from sophomore year, but actually starting the process was more simple than I thought. All it took was asking one of my favorite philosophy professors if they wanted to be my thesis advisor. I went to office hours a couple of times during the semester and tried to speak up in class as much as possible so he at least knew my name. Given how many of my arguments would get thoroughly confronted in discussions, I knew this professor would be a good fit. Although I only have experience in the philosophy department, I think finding a professor that you’ve spoken to and are comfortable with is the best course of action once you decide to pursue an honors thesis.

The next thing I did was try to figure out a general subject matter. I was interested in drug policy in the U.S. and how it interacts with paternalism. So, I met with my thesis advisor with a general idea of what I wanted to focus on in mind. Once you have an idea, your advisor can help you flesh out the idea or provide some of their expertise to point you toward narrowing down what you want to do. This step is more flexible, but it helps guide your research. 

May 2023 

The research process for my thesis was interesting but also extremely stressful. In philosophy, the research is based on reviewing literature and formulating arguments based on what you learn about the topic. For example, I researched paternalism extensively before using it as part of my ultimate argument for rehabilitation as a replacement for incarceration. Reading so many papers and a few books for what would end up being a 30-page paper was quite different from my normal reading load. Thankfully, I started researching over the summer so I wouldn’t have as much to do come senior year. Although this put a slight damper on my vacation, it was worth it to not be as stressed as I rounded out my college career. 

During this process, there was a lot of back and forth, both in terms of my ideas and meeting with my advisor to share my thoughts. Just when I thought I had something concrete and I was sure I wanted to discuss it, I would find another source that offered a superior argument to the previous. And I’m sure my advisor was starting to get sick of the weekly progress emails during summer vacation.

As I neared the end of the bulk of my research, I had to register my thesis with the Honors Council. This process wasn’t that scary, as I knew what I wanted to do, and I had a good preliminary bibliography started. After reviewing everything with my advisor, I was ready to submit the registration form and start writing. 

November 2023

At this point, I finally started the actual writing part of the process. It felt like it took me forever to get there, but I was having fun. I started with a really detailed outline with sections and subsections filled with bullet points. From there, I just started writing from the top of my head about what I wanted to say. It was very bare-bones, but I found that that helped me the most at this point. The first draft was only 13 pages — which was almost comically short for an honors thesis. But that was okay; drafts are for mistakes and piecing things together. 

At this point, I also asked two other professors if they would be willing to be a part of my committee. These were professors with whom I had multiple classes or kept in touch with after the class was over. That way, my defense wouldn’t be as scary.

April 2024

My defense was one of the most nerve-wracking experiences of my college career — right up there with that really big sociology research project from sophomore year and the intricate philosophy paper I had to write for my advisor’s class during junior year. 

I showed up 45 minutes early, as I heard it was best practice to get familiar with the room. It was a conference table with some chairs around it, and I elected to sit at the edge, facing the open door. As I watched the door anxiously, I calmed my nerves by listening to the students across the hall discuss some math problems. Everything seemed so surreal that I barely noticed the first professor enter.

After they had all trickled in, it hit me that this was happening for real. 

My advisor told me to give a brief overview before we got into an informal Q&A. I answered their questions the best I could, with a couple of difficult ones here and there. The best part was that I had overthought about the questions they might ask, and I guessed right about most of them. The defense felt more like a laidback discussion than anything, which made me feel a lot better. 

Since they couldn’t tell me if I received honors or not, I walked out feeling good but also unsure. As I walked back to my car, all I could think was, I did it

The Aftermath

From this process, I finally learned how to take criticism without feeling like I wasn’t smart. The back-and-forth aspect of this project really helped me understand this, as the criticism I received was incredibly constructive, and I was able to separate my work from myself. I also learned a lot about asking for help and being okay with not having an answer for everything. 

Upon the completion of this project, I’ve fallen even further in love with philosophy as a discipline, and I’m excited to continue studying it as senior year draws to a close. 

As I await my honors designation, I’m at peace. This was a crazy feat, and I’m happy I did it regardless of the outcome.

Samantha is an Editorial Assistant and Contributing Writer for CU Boulder's chapter of Her Campus. In her editorial position, she edits articles for clarity and provides guidance to other writers so they can improve their skills. As a contributing writer, she submits two articles per month, often writing in depth about social phenomena. Aside from Her Campus, Samantha is a senior at CU Boulder, double majoring in philosophy and sociology. She's currently working on an Honors Thesis in philosophy and hopes to go to law school after graduating in May 2024. She is involved in campus organizations like the Miramontes Arts and Sciences Program, the CU LA Program, and the Honors Program. This semester, she’s a mentor for learning assistants as an LA Mentor. Outside of a school setting, Samantha enjoys crocheting, reading, and writing. Overall, she’s very quiet, and her hobbies reflect that. She can usually be found with heaps of yarn or her nose buried in a book, silently enjoying her time alone. In addition to writing as a member of Her Campus, she enjoys writing short stories and pieces about her life. One of her biggest goals is to publish a book of stories and pieces that almost act as a memoir.