Honors in Research

CALS students can earn an Honors designation by participating in the university’s great research tradition


  • Learn the background and methods of the discipline.
  • Identify an interesting and tractable problem or question for study.
  • Learn to draft a proposal defending the relevance and appropriateness. of specific research efforts
  • Demonstrate appropriate skills in working on that problem in a manner appropriate to a professional in the discipline.
  • Analyze and interpret the results of their effort.
  • Present these results as a thesis and in an approved public forum.

Monitoring Progress

By May 1st of each year, Honors students submit a form with documentation to the Honors Dean in the Office of Academic Affairs that describes their accomplishments during the academic year. This must be signed by the student’s faculty mentor.


  • Be admitted to the CALS Honors Program.
  • Maintain a 3.25 GPA.
  • Identify a research mentor.
  • Complete introductory (one semester) research project and presentation.
  • Complete three seminar courses (one credit each) – Inter-Ag 288, 388, and 488*.
  • Enroll in Senior Honors Thesis credits (681 and 682 or 699 in the mentor’s department) for two semesters at a minimum of two credits each semester.
  • Complete a Senior Honors Thesis research project and presentation.
  • Submit the Senior Honors Thesis and related documentation.

Failure to maintain satisfactory progress toward the program requirements will result in removal of the student from the Honors Program.

*Students who started at UW-Madison prior to fall 2017 are required to complete two substitution forms in lieu of enrolling in Inter-Ag 388 and Inter-Ag 488. The activities that substitute for 388 should occur during the student’s junior year, while the activities for 488 occur during the student’s senior year.


First Year >>

Identify a mentor.

Identify a general area of research.

Begin to become familiar with common research tools, language, and processes through engagement in a research activity (such as reading, lab work, field work, etc).

There should be frequent interactions with the mentor or the research group associated with the mentor. If interests change, consult with an academic advisor or the Honors Dean about finding another research mentor.

Take INTER-AG 288 Introductory CALS Honors Seminar (only offered in spring).

Maintain a 3.25 GPA.

Submit the First-Year Requirements Form with required documentation to the Office of Academic Affairs by May 1st.

Second Year >>

Conduct an introductory research project.

Take INTER-AG 388 CALS Honors Interdisciplinary Junior Seminar (only offered in spring).

Continue development of research skills. For experimental sciences, primary emphasis is on developing laboratory skills through interaction with the faculty & other scientists. In the social sciences, it might involve reading the literature, as well as developing data acquisition & analysis skills.

Interact frequently with the mentor or their research group. The mentoring arrangement can be documented by credits in a 299-like course, though this is not a requirement.

Near the end of the year, present the research results in an appropriate research forum to an informed audience such as a poster session at a local meeting or symposium, or an oral presentation to the mentor’s research group.

Maintain a 3.25 GPA

Submit the Second-Year Requirements Form with required documentation to the Office of Academic Affairs by May 1st.

Third Year >>

Continue research and identify a specific problem or interest for the Senior Honors Thesis.

Prepare a thesis proposal suitable in content, length, and format to the field in which the research is being conducted.

Take INTER-AG 488 Honors Research Colloquium (only offered in spring).

Apply for funding to support the senior honors thesis research. CALS and campus deadlines are typically in mid-February of each year and are posted on the CALS Honors website along with application materials. Off-campus funding may be available in certain cases. Applications for funding are not strictly required, but are strongly recommended.

Maintain a 3.25 GPA

Submit the Third-Year Requirements Form with required documentation to the Office of Academic Affairs by May 1st. The Honors Dean and/or Committee will either accept the proposal or identify concerns that must be addressed by a specified date, if the student is to receive a degree with honors.

Fourth Year >>

Continue research.

Take Senior Honors Thesis credits (681 and 682; or 699 in the mentor’s department) for two semesters at a minimum of two credits each semester.

Produce a thesis. The thesis should document the following: (i) The demonstration of a problem or question, with sufficient background about that problem to inform the reader; (ii) Evidence of demonstrated skill in research methods; (iii) The critical analysis of the proper interpretation of results or experiences; (iv) A summary of the impact and results of the research on the original question or issue that was analyzed; (v) Works cited.

Senior Honors Thesis example

Present the results in a public forum, such as the CALS Undergraduate Research Symposium, the University Undergraduate Symposium, a conference, or a professional meeting in their discipline.

Electronically submit the thesis signed by the mentor to CALS Academic Affairs along with the following documents:

  • Cover Sheet — Complete one. Those choosing to make their theses public and give permission to post on Minds@UW, use Cover Sheet (with Permission). Those choosing not to make their theses public should use Cover Sheet (No Permission)
  • Abstract Page — Requires an abstract of not more than 150 words and must be signed by both the student and mentor.
  • Presentation Form — Requires student and mentor signatures with attached documentation of the presentation.

Additional Information

If the thesis is made available to the public, Steenbock Library uploads the thesis to the CALS Honors and Undergraduate Research Program section of Minds@UW. This is an excellent way to showcase work to employers, graduate schools, family, and friends, and to provide examples of Honors theses to future Honors students.

Students are encouraged to submit their written work from the introductory project and/or the senior thesis for publication in the UW-Madison Journal of Undergraduate Science and Technology after consultation with their mentor.

Upon successful completion of program requirements and graduation requirements, students are awarded the Bachelor of Science degree with Honors.

For more information contact Honors Program Manager, Heather Mialik at heather.mialik@wisc.edu.

Office of Academic Affairs

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For current & prospective student general inquiries:
Phone: 608.262.3003
Email: academicaffairs@cals.wisc.edu